Five months ago, I wrote an article about the next version of Ubuntu’s roadmap for Hardy Heron 8.04 LTS, with my own personal ideas of ideas were most interesting that had been proposed.
Let me itterate something important: these are just my ideas, I’m just a spectator. Nobody called me up and said, “Hey Wayne, thanks for the heads up on dual monitor support, we’ll get right on that!” I’m pretty sure Ubuntu developers know that dual monitor support is pretty important for those who have two monitors.
That article generated over 60 thousand unique visitors since it was published, which means roughly 450 people per day on average have been looking at my thoughts on the roadmap. With approximately one more month to go in the Hardy development cycle, I’m extremely curious – of the 28 items on that list, what has been accomplished, and what hasn’t? We’re about 10 days away from the Beta release, which should be feature complete.
Now for a little background: Many of the items scheduled on the Ubuntu roadmap were discussed at the Boston Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS), and it seems at least a few of the Blueprints were scribbled on napkins. According to the Ubuntu Wiki, the summits are “an opportunity for Ubuntu developers — who usually collaborate online — to work together in person on specific tasks.”
The most interesting improvements I noted at the time were in three key groups: User Experience, Networking/Security and Support. A grand total of 28 ideas that had been proposed that I thought were worth mentioning.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Human Theme: Received a minor touch up. Less brown, more white. Nice abstract penguin desktop background. The major overhaul for the Ubuntu Human Theme has been delayed for 8.10.
2. Make Adding Third Party Apt Repository Easier: GUI still in the Software Sources application, but no .APT file format has been finalized or work started other than a guideline. I guess it will still remain difficult (if you call adding a line to sources.list difficult) to add third party software repositories like WINE to get the latest releases.
3. Upgrade to X.org 7.3: Done. We’ve got bullet-proof X, compositing by default, “themed” unlock screen, and a disabled CTRL+ALT+Backspace? Ugg… I liked the ability to kill X when it crashes.
4. Automatix Collaboration: Not sure on this, there isn’t a package available for Hardy Heron on their website yet, but it’s marked as being “started” on the blueprint. Your guess is a good as mine.
5. Dual Monitor Suport: Untested (I don’t have two monitors), and as of yesterday, was marked as deferred on the Blueprint. However, the developer of this posted on his blog in late February that he had uploaded a new GUI for Xrandr. And there’s been an update today on the blueprint, it’s now marked as Beta Available, if you’re interested, hit the link above. Great progress! This recent progress is a indicator that this update is a bit premature in the Alpha stage, but I think it’s a good thing to update people on what’s happening so far.
6. Super-Slick-Boot: “Pending Approval” status on Launchpad, not implemented. This is one of the cooler things that I thought would add some flair and polish to Ubuntu – but there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed first. It would be fantastic to have a smooth transition from BIOS into window manager, kinda like how Macs boot up – you turn on the system, get a nice loading sound and splash, and then everything smoothly loads up in the background. We’re not getting that just yet for Ubuntu.
7. Don’t Overwrite the /home partition during new installation: This appears to be superseded by a new spec called “Ubiquity Preserve Home” which is linked above, and there is a beta available. Didn’t see it in action when I installed Alpha 6.
8. Warn About Impending
DOOM Full Disks: Also linked to a blueprint regarding Making Free Space Wizard, does not appear to be implemented, yet.
9. Prefetch: There has been a beta available for quite some time, this has been worked on since April 2007. Deferred until 8.10.
10. Easy File Sharing: Appears like this will be merged with Easy File Sending, marked as low priority. I don’t know about most of you, but I’ve got more than two computers in my house, and this is highly desired. OpenSUSE uses Giver, which looks like a good option.
11. Single Click Install: Still being discussed at this point, nothing appears to have been coded yet – this is in the same boat as 3rd Part Apt repositories, and I would imagine at some point would be merged.
12. Add/Remove Programs “Storefront” with featured applications: Not implemented. The main point is that Add/Remove programs is not nearly as robust as Synaptic (which is a little bit “kludgey” in my opinion). The idea is to add in a ratings system (votes up/down), and use some sort of web front-end to create a “Featured Applications” screen when loading up the Add/Remove application. Sure would be nice!
13. Simple Samba: Reports of Shared Folders upgrades have been greatly exaggerated! Not gonna happen this release.
14. Redesign of “About Ubuntu” Menu: This has been superceeded twice by newer blueprints. This is currently in a beta stage, and I would imagine this is going to be included in Hardy unless something goes terribly wrong. It doesn’t seem like a difficult proposition to create a screen that displays information about the computer and distribution version.
15. Modular /etc/network/interfaces: Splitting the interfaces file into multiple directories or files has been throughly shot down, dragged behind a car for a few miles, burned at the stake, and ashes spread at a landfill. I do genuinely appreciate the input provided by Soren Hansen on this idea, but I’m not surprised on the outcome.
16. Dialup/ASDL Support: I’m confused – only a medium priority for people to get on the internet and manage their connections easily in Network Manager? Same with NDISwrapper – it should be included in the distribution by default. At least 3400 people voted on this idea at Ubuntu brainstorm, and is the 2nd most popular idea on the website.
17. Encrypted FS: Not started, low priority, not going to see it.
18. Live-CD Share This: Manual scripts have been created and floating around for awhile, but as of yet no integration into Hardy. I don’t think we’ll see this.
19. Stop running GKSUDO for Administrative Tasks: Not implemented. “The process of requiring the user to enter a password before they even open the dialog is a bit disruptive.” Agreed! Why can’t this be fixed? It’s not gonna happen.
20: Measure Install Success: Not approved. This was semi-interesting for me since we would have a better idea of how many Ubuntu users are using the latest version. Right now the numbers in the millions keep getting floated around, but how accurate can they be?
21: Locate Local User Groups Upon Installation: I’m really disappointed this was not approved. What should happen is after a successful installation, your local user groups would be displayed to you in an application, or a website – instead of the current About Ubuntu page that nobody actually reads. Poor form. And to top it off, someone decided to add in some horrible “map zooming” function in the time zone selection step during the installer… to explain it better, just think of using a telescope without a tripod to locate your city on a world map from about a foot away. It is difficult to click on the correct city/area since the sensitivity is set very high.
22: Make Use of “hidden” Packaging Forum: This nook of the Ubuntu forums seems like a good place to expand, but it’s not going to happen before Hardy Heron.
23: Screencasts in the Help Menu: Help>Tutorial Videos – Not approved.
24: Forum Content Certification: To date, no team has been created to police forum content and keep original forums posts with how-to instructions updated, however, a “Thank you” system has been implemented – which is a fair compromise for the time being. This is the kind of thing that is taken care of on an as-needed basis.
25: Teacher Input on Edubuntu: You might think that someone asked a teacher about what they needed in Edubuntu before it was created, but apparently that is not the case! Surprised? I was. The blueprint hasn’t been updated, but it’s plausible that it happened at some point.
26: Automatic Bug Reporting: Privacy concerns stopped this idea from becoming the next big brother feature.
27: Ubuntu Mobile Browser: Ubuntu Mobile announced instead. Good judgement call, I say.
28: Install Ubuntu from within Windows: I am very pleased to announce that Wubi installer is included on the installation ISO image now – I’m not sure if it’s integrated into the autorun menu that popped up before, but it’s certainly there.
By my count, there are 9 out of 28 “important” ideas that are at the very least partially implemented. Everything else is deferred or never started. Does this mean that Ubuntu is loosing momentum? I don’t think so. Does it mean people are going to look elsewhere for their Linux fix? Perhaps.
As time goes on, I am of the opinion that Ubuntu needs to buckle down after 8.04 is released and really focus on getting the big features mentioned here implemented as soon as possible. I know that some issues exist upstream, that they have no control over. However, things like the updated Human theme that get delayed are extremely visible to users, especially after being so heavily touted as being a major feature – until 8.10 you get to enjoy a small palette change.
It’s not like I have much to complain about, I’m colorblind. That’s the luxury of being an “armchair critic” – I can sit back and enjoy the show and comment on things as I see it. Am I going to switch anytime soon? Probably not.
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