Ubuntu 12.10: The Controversies Continue: Page 2

The latest version of Ubuntu is showing the first signs of conflicting design goals.


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To be fair, the criticism has caused Ubuntu to alter the implementation, and results of such searches are now sent encrypted through Ubuntu and not directly to Amazon. In addition, the main pane of the dash now includes a Legal Notice (that changes to an innocuous-looking information icon after being read) that explains how to turn off the feature from System Settings -> Personal -> Privacy -> Search Results. Apparently, too, results are also filtered to reduce the chances of pornography being included in the results.

However, the legal notice does little to respect the rights of users. In a manner reminiscent of end-user license agreements for Windows, it tells users that they consent to the collection of information simply by "searching in the dash" -- never mind if they do so before glimpsing the legal notice. It also states that users consent to information being shared by Canonical and "such third parties" as Canonical chooses.

Under these conditions, the Amazon search results are simply another feature that many users will want to turn off immediately after installation. At least they can do without using the dash, since System Settings are on the launchpad by default.

The On Going

Ubuntu 12.10 sees the continuation of concerns from previous releases. For instance, while development of the look and feel of the Unity interface has quietened down, the sharp-eyed may still notice some minor tweaks. Specifically, boxes in dialogs are more rounded in this release, and the slider bars thinner -- proof that such concerns are not altogether a thing of the past.

Even more importantly, Ubuntu has moved away from earlier attempts to provide for those whose video drivers lack hardware acceleration. Instead of an older version of GNOME or a 2-D version of Unity, the 12.10 release uses LLVMpipe pipe driver for Gallium 3 -- essentially, a software emulation of hardware acceleration.

This change makes sense from a developer's viewpoint, since it gives Ubuntu developers one less code base to worry about. However, on some machines, the result is so sluggish as to make Unity barely usable. Probably, support will improve in later releases, but I can't help thinking that Ubuntu could have made things simpler for everyone by designing a 2-D desktop in the first place.

Somewhat surprisingly, the 12.10 release includes no noticeable enhancements to the Head-Up Display (HUD), which was one of the main innovations of the 12.04 release. Given that Ubuntu's founder, Mark Shuttleworth, implied in his blog that the HUD had yet to equal traditional menus in being a map of an application's functionality, I can only assume that this design challenge has yet to be met. Or perhaps the HUD has been de-emphasized in 12.10 in favor of features with more immediate priority.

The New

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Take away the controversies and the ongoing improvements, and what other changes are users likely to notice? Apart from the obligatory updatings of the kernel and other applications, only a few modest enhancements. However, that's not to say that some of these enhancements aren't welcome.

To go along with the Amazon results, Ubuntu 12.10 also includes other new lenses for the dash, including ones for Gwibber, Shopping, Photos, and Help. The Help lens also includes several new scopes (filters) for man pages, LibreOffice, Mozilla, and Ubuntu in general.

Many of these new lenses include the ability to search online accounts as well as local devices, which makes a local apps filter a logical addition.

Click System Settings on the dash, and you will find under the Personal settings a new dialog for controlling online accounts for social media. Click the Workspaces icon on the launcher, and you will find that it alone of all the icons can be repositioned.

Why the other icons lack this ability seems a mystery, since it would be useful for all of them. Still, if only one is movable, Workspaces seems a logical choice, given that its default position is so low on the launcher that it is easily hidden, and many users will want it handy.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu

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