What's New (and What's Not) in Ubuntu Raring Ringtail: Page 2

The latest version of Unity mirrors the increasing conflicts within Canonical and Ubuntu.
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Similarly, typing "system" while searching for "system settings" offers the choice of a text editor, the class of tools generally used by administrators for editing configuration files.

However, although the feature is talked about online as being able to correct typos, that ability will presumably be added—or at least perfected—in a later release. In 13.04, entering "steting" for "setting" only puzzles dash search. So does "flieroller" for "fileroller," the compression and archiving utility. Apparently, the feature still has a ways to go.

However, while typing completion may be non-controversial, the dash is enhanced by additional lenses and scopes, which potentially compound the privacy problems created by the Amazon search results.

The trouble is, many of these scopes and lenses draw on other online sources for search results. Some are commercial. Because there are dozens, some of which are installed by default and some that aren't, the challenge of keeping track of them is vastly compounded. Users who might not object to using the dash to search online manual pages or even LibreOffice documentation are likely to get peevish when they understand that data from their searches is potentially going to even more corporations. What's worse, Ubuntu is not providing the controls that might help users administer their privacy.

Admittedly, the 13.04 release does not have the promised smart scopes that are supposed to provide better results based on past searches—but that is only because smart scopes were not ready for the release.

Meanwhile, 13.04 does include an ominous hint or two. In particular, the default installation is configured to send Ubuntu error reports, while in the 12.10 release this feature was turned off by default. Similarly, the 13.04 legal notice and privacy statement continue to assert Canonical's right to personal data unless users specifically opt out.

To skeptical eyes, it looks as though, after making a few changes, Ubuntu and Canonical are set on expanding online dash searches despite the objections to it. Given that Ubuntu continues to enable online dash searches by default, rather than leaving them as a feature that users can opt in to, it is difficult to believe that many of the changes in the latest version of Unity are designed with the best interests of users in mind.

Such issues continue to overshadow more innocuous changes, such as the verbose new confirmation dialog that opens when you log out of 13.04.

When Principles Collide

The more you examine Ubuntu 13.04, the more it seems the victim of confusion.

On the one hand, Unity is now a mature interface, much simpler than most by design. At this point, not much remains to change cosmetically, except perhaps when fashions in modern interfaces change. Yet for the better part of four years, Canonical has become obsessed with design. Although little is left to do, it looks as though parts of the development team are simply unable to let go and are obsessively making changes solely for the purpose of making changes.

On the other hand, Canonical seems divided between its original principle of simplicity and efficiency and its new priority of profitability. Too often, what is good for making money from Ubuntu is simply bad for users. Instead of standing up for users and either protecting or—better yet—educating them out of their ignorance, Canonical seems increasingly focused on its own interests.

The fact that Shuttleworth and other key Ubuntu figures continue to use the catchphrases about being responsible towards users only highlights the perceived discrepancy between their words and their actions.

The result of these dilemmas is a release like Raring Ringtail—one that is by no means inadequate, but one whose design suffers from mixed motives that simply cannot be reconciled.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, desktop, Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth

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