Canonical Targets Unity Shell Maintenance for 13.04

Your humble author.

Your humble author working hard at UDS in Copenhagen.

Last October at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Copenhagen Canonical decided it would dedicate a team of developers exclusively to the task of maintaining and enhancing the Unity desktop shell for the next official release, codenamed Raring Ringtail, scheduled for April of 2013.  I was asked to lead that effort.

Over the last several Ubuntu releases I heard and read a lot of comments to the effect that Canonical was always pushing new features into the Unity desktop shell and ignoring the existing problems.  This was not really true, a good deal of effort was devoted to fixing bugs and in fact two squads (an internal organizational unit within Canonical) spent a mini-cycle doing just that for the 12.10 release, but because a whole lot of new features landed the fact that the old features were working better was lost in the noise and dust.

Dedicated Unity Maintenance Team for 13.04

For 13.04 this has all changed.  Oh, there’s still ongoing feature development work, there’s no reason to stop that, but for the first time we have a full team dedicated exclusively to the goal of fixing problems in the existing Unity desktop shell software.  We’re not working on adding new features.  We’re making what’s there work and work better.

Of course, Unity in 13.04 will not be perfect:  there have been hundreds of problems reported and many of them are unreproducible by any of my team and the original reporter may not follow up with additional information when requested.  It’s also a fact that although we are a full and dedicated team we do not have unlimited resources so we have of necessity triaged and prioritized bugs with the desktop and design teams, and there may be someone’s favourite bug that is just going to go unloved for this cycle.  It’s also true that some consider some designed features of Unity to be bugs and we’re not going to “fix” those, so don’t expect Unity to suddenly start working like Microsoft’s Windows XP user interface come next spring.

All of the work we’re doing is fully in public view, managed through Launchpad.  We have ongoing involvement by community contributors and of course we welcome as much help as any of you can give use (there are always more bugs to fix, code to review, automated test cases to write, and interactive testing to do). We’re proud of what we’re doing, and we’re excited to be able to do it.  I’m looking forward to a smooth, better-than-ever Ubuntu desktop in 13.04.

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14 thoughts on “Canonical Targets Unity Shell Maintenance for 13.04

      • Actually the intellihide feature of the Unity launcher was removed since 12.04 if I remember vaguely. It was removed since it was found to be confusing to new users during user testing. However there are 3rd party solutions which reimplement the behaviour.

        • System Settings > Appearance > Behavior > Auto-hide the Launcher

          Switch this to ‘on’. It’s not on by default because it was founf to be confusing to folks who are not used to it. It’s easy to enable for those of us who want as much of our own screen space as possible.

          • That’s something different. There used to be an intellihide feature (which was also on by default). It hid the launcher online when you had maximized windows and displayed it otherwise. I also vote for this to be brought back.

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  2. Very good. I hope that will improve resource consumption / performance also, because it is very important for games (Steam).

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  5. This is a really nice initiative! I only hope that those bug fixes get backported to 12.04 LTS. I feel that though users are recommended to install LTS releases, the bug fixes backports are not given enough priority though.

    • Most of the functional bugs are getting backported to 12.04 and 12.10, but some of the bugs considered ‘design bugs’ don’t qualify for backporting. Ubuntu is very conservative about what qualifies as a backportable bug in favour of maintaining stability.

    • Not true, in my experience bug fixes are always backported unless they are too invasive. If you are referring to more of new features applied to 12.04 file a bug so we can look at backporting it or there is always -backports if the package doesn’t exist in 12.04

      • I did not say that they are not considered for backports, but rather the fixes take a long time before they land as an SRU for 12.04. There are so many compiz bugs that I know of which are fixed as of now in Quantal but are yet not even “fix committed” for precise. But I am assuming that this is to allow for more testing time.

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