I’m writing this blog post in a chair in the ‘Grand Caribe Convention Center’, at the end of the first day of the Ubuntu Developer Summit in preparation of the 11.04 Natty Narwhal release. It’s been a very interesting first day to say the least.
I arrived in Orlando at Saturday evening, after a nine hours and 40 minutes flight from Amsterdam, which was preceded by a two hour car drive to Schiphol. My flight was delayed by one our, but I didn’t have the bad luck of the poor people arriving from Poland who had to circle for two hours in the air above Frankfurt because of heavy mist.
Sunday morning we went with a couple of people to a factory outlet store group nearby. It was at walking distance, but we did have to risk our lives by crossing the busy motorway next to the hotel, and the 30° C temperature made things a bit more sweaty than it would have been in the 8° C there is at home right now. In the evening we took the Mears buses to ‘Downtown Disney’, for dinner. There were three buses, three drivers and three guides for the four of us who showed up. Most people where at the mandatory Canonical-only keynote, or had yet to arrive. If you’re at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, please be aware of the buses Canonical arranged to bring you to either ‘Downtown Disney’, ‘Universal City Walk’ or ‘Point Orlando’ in the evenings!
This morning opened with the kick-off keynote, started by Jono Bacon and finished by Mark Shuttleworth. Jono explained how the UDS works, Mark introduced the plans for Natty Narwhal. I could talk about the funny routine with the fly in the ice cream (morale: one bug can spoil it all) or the ‘cadence, design, quality’ focus line, but of course there is only one thing that everybody is talking about. That is this: for 11.04 Unity will replace GNOME Panel as Ubuntu’s shell for GNOME on the desktop as well as on notebooks.
I’m sure many people will be shocked by this, but it comes as no surprise to me. As ArsTechnica pointed out in their article covering the announcement of this morning, RedHat—which appears to exercising complete control over GNOME Shell development—and Novell are mostly focussed on the enterprise desktop, which is completely different from the end-user’s desktop Ubuntu is focussing on. Take that and the fact that it has been frustratingly hard for Ubuntu Community members and Canonical to contribute to GNOME, it is no surprise that eventually there is some divergence.
Exciting times are ahead, and it will not be easy to make Unity as good as it needs to be, but I have full confidence that we will have delivered a great product when the next LTS release is there!
The sessions I attended today were the Desktop Team Roundtable, the Ayatana Roundtable, App Review Board Review, Ubuntu Development Advocacy and Quickly Widgets.
The Desktop Roundtable made it clear that this will be a very interesting UDS for the Desktop Team. The fallback in case Unity is not supported by the hardware needs to be planned, and there is GObject Introspection, and the default application selection that will be discussed.
On the Ayatana front we will see a merge of the GtkMenu processing code of AppMenu and Application Indicators. This should help a lot to solve bugs that are currently plaguing exotic menu items and mundane submenus in Application Indicators.
During the Quickly Widgets session Rick Spencer gave a nice overview of the great number of widgets that are already available from this neat little project he has been running in his spare time. We probably won’t see Quickly Widgets moving to a full-blown library in the near future, but there will be improvements and exciting new widgets. Rick has been working on a webcam widget, and we briefly discussed video/audio-player widgets as well.
Today’s plenaries were interesting as well. The nicest was Rick Spencer’s plenary on ‘gifting’, in which he reflected on contributing, giving something to someone else, without gaining direct benefit from it for yourself. We should keep in mind that everything resolves around the user: we give to the regular user, not so much to other developers.
The most interesting two plenary sessions were the last two by Matthew Paul Thomas and Evan Dandrea, on the applications available for Ubuntu. Statistics were shown of the number of applications available for Ubuntu, which had grown to about 3000 (*.desktop files) in six years. To show the contrast with other applications, statistics of Android and iOS were shown. Android now has 100,000 applications available in its App Store, iOS 300,000. Both operating systems are younger than Ubuntu’s six years. Clearly, something’s missing.
There is a bottle-neck: Debian and we, the distribution, package most, if not all of the software available on Ubuntu. It takes long for all applications to get updated, some get neglected, a lot of software is never packaged and developers cannot present software to the users as they want it, it has to go via a proxy: the distribution. This does not scale, hence it would be much better (at least according to my personal opinion) to make the developers themselves responsible for packaging and delivering the application to the users. The figure Evan Dandrea showed in his presentation was a circle—instead of DEVELOPER->UBUNTU->USER—with Ubuntu being an upstream for the developers, providing the platform and feedback from the users. The users give Ubuntu the feedback, and Ubuntu provides the channel (Software Centre) for the software to arrive at the user’s doorstep, but the developers themselves would do the packaging.
Of course this would require a lot of automation, but it is something that the App Review Board is very busy with at the moment. We’ve got Mago to do automated testing and there is work going on to write a Python framework for automated testing. Ubuntu is heading in the right direction!
See you all tomorrow!