Ubuntu Studio Leaves GNOME; Moves To Xfce

In a surprising development, the Ubuntu Studio developers have decided to switch over from GNOME to Xfce.  Ubuntu Studio is an official Ubuntu derivative which is developed mainly for multimedia works. Unlike Ubuntu, it comes installed with a number of applications for video, audio and image editing etc.

In an email to the Ubuntu Studio mailing list, Ubuntu Studio developer Cory K announced that from the next release – that is Ubuntu Studio 11.10 – they will not be using GNOME. Instead of GNOME, they have decided that they will use the light weight Xfce desktop environment. Unity and the GNOME Shell are cited as the result for leaving GNOME. The developers feel that neither Unity nor GNOME Shell is a good choice for their target users.

After various discussions, investigation and tinkering the Ubuntu Studio team have decided to re-base the project on XFCE. The team simple feel that Unity and GNOME-Shell do not fit our target audience or intended workflow.

From the next release, we will see Ubuntu Studio with Xfce with a custom user interface. The new user interface will be based on Avant Windows Manager while keeping Xfce as the base.

The biggest challenge for the Ubuntu Studio developers could be providing a smooth upgrade path for the Ubuntu Studio users when the next release come. Because of the change in the desktop environment, creating a smooth upgrade path from Ubuntu Studio 11.04 to Ubuntu Studio 11.10 is going to be challenging for the developers. Cory K addressed this issue and said that they will ensure a smooth upgrade.

Personally, I feel that the Ubuntu Studio deleopers made the right call. While Unity could be a great idea for normal users, for the target users of Ubuntu Studio, it seems a bit too gimmicky. Besides, the workflow change in Unity and GNOME Shell could be a little challenging to get used to.

source:  Ubuntu Studio Mailing list

The Case Of LibreOffice And CD Space Restriction At UDS-O

Last week, we talked about the constrain of the CD size and the need for Ubuntu to move to a DVD ISO. Well, today at the Default Apps Discussion, something happened which further supports the need to move to a DVD image.

As usual, the disk space is a big constrain for Ubuntu 11.10. Before any new applications or packages are approved, the council has to make sure that there is enough free space to put them. The way to get free space generally is to drop applications and packages that are no longer in use – like PiTiVi and Computer Janitor that had been dropped from Ubuntu 11.10.

Believe it or not, one of the application that was brought up for removal during the Default Apps Discussion was none other the LibreOffice. Yes, LibreOffice the office applications suite. The rationale behind it was that removing LibreOffice will free up some serious disk space (around 60MB) and “we aren’t office workers”. It was suggested that a desktop file that offers to download and install LibreOffice after the OS installation be included.

It is just amazing that there was even a discussion on removing applications as important as LibreOffice just because of the CD space constrain. Common sense, however, prevailed and it was decided that LibreOffice will be kept as a default application in Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”.

This further strengthens the call for Ubuntu to leave the CD image and switch over to a DVD image as soon as possible. While it might be possible for a lot of people to install new applications; in many places where Ubuntu is trying to get a foot hold, proper internet connections are not available to install all the applications needed. Besides, the default applications are what almost all the new users will use.

Read more here.

Video Editor PiTiVi And Computer Janitor Dropped From Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”

At the Ubuntu Developer Summit – Oneiric at Budapest, the Ubuntu developers have decided to drop two applications from the default installation – PiTiVi and Computer Janitor.


PiTiVi is a video editor that was first made a default application in Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”.  Although  PiTiVi had a lot of potential when it was first included, the Ubuntu developers at UDS-O have decided to drop it from the next realease – Ubuntu 11.10 – because it is “poorly maintained”. PiTiVi is a decent video editor but it also has a problem of crashes and is not considered ready for normal users. Another thing that went against PiTiVi is that video editing is not something that a lot of people does.

PiTiVi will still be available in the main Ubuntu repository, though. If you want it, you can install it with:

$ sudo apt-get install pitivi

Computer Janitor

Computer Janitor, as the name implies, is an application for cleaning up the system. It cannot be exactly called a user friendly application – it has a bad user interface and could be  dangerous  for new users. Packages inadvertently removed using Computer Janitor by a new user could break the system. Because of this it has been decided that Computer Janitor will also be removed from Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”.

Like PiTiVi, Computer Janitor will still be available in the main repository for anyone who want it. It can be installed with the command:

$ sudo apt-get install computer-janitor  computer-janitor-gtk

You can get more details of the discussion from the meeting notes.

LightDM To Replace GDM And Dialog Sheets To Make An Appearance In Ubuntu 11.10

As you are probably aware, the Ubuntu Developer Summit – Oneiric is going on in Budapest to decide on the different aspects of Ubuntu 11.10. We have already had a lot of interesting news from USD such as Deja Dup being accepted and Thunderbird almost certainly replacing Evolution.

Well, the excitement has not ended. Here are some more details of the changes coming in Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”:

LightDM Will Replace GDM

The GDM (GNOME Display Manager) is the first thing that greets you when you boot into Ubuntu. It provides the login screen and the option to select different users, sessions etc. In Ubuntu 11.10, GDM will be replaced by a lighter display manager, which is rather unsurprisingly called LightDM.

LightDM provides a lot of improvements over GDM:

  • It has all the features that GDM supports.
  • It has a much smaller codebase. LightDM has 5000 lines of code while GDM is composed of 50,000. This makes LightDM easier to maintain.
  • LightDM is much faster than GDM. GDM requires the GNOME session to start, while LightDM does not have any such requirements.
  • LightDM supports more theming  capabilities  compared to GDM.
  • LightDM is independent of the desktop environment and can be used with GNOME, KDE, Xfce etc.

Here is a mockup of a login screen made using LightDM:

Dialog Sheet instead of Dialog Box

A dialog sheet is basically a dialog box which is attached to its parent window. It is used in both OS X and recently introduced in GNOME 3 as well. With Ubuntu 11.10 adopting GNOME 3, Ubuntu 11.10 will also have the dialog sheet. (Note: Ubuntu 11.10 is using GNOME 3 only, not the GNOME Shell. Unity will still be used in Ubuntu 11.10.)

The beauty of the dialog sheet is that, unlike dialog box, it cannot get lost among a number of Windows. In Ubuntu, though, it will be called Slate Style Dialog.

Here is an example of a Dialog Sheet:

[sources: Digitizor, OMG!UBUNTU!]

Thunderbird Could Become The Default Email Client In Ubuntu 11.10

Today at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, there was a discussion on which application should be shipped as the default email client with Ubuntu 11.10. So far Ubuntu has been shipping with Evolution as the default email client.  Of late, there has been a growing number of people who are not pleased with Evolution and instead asking for Ubuntu to ship with Thunderbird. So, basically the discussion was to decide between Evolution and Thunderbird.

Being a part of GNOME, Evolution integrates very well with the GNOME desktop. But it suffers from several flaws such as an outdated and confusing user interface. Evolution is also fairly slow compared to other email clients.

Thunderbird has a fairly modern tab-based  interface. It is quite fast compared to Evolution and has a lot of extensions to extend its functionalities. However, Thunderbird still has a few critical problems. Thunderbird does not have calender support (although there is an extension for that) and does not integrate well with the GNOME desktop. Another problem for Thunderbird is that it does not work with Microsoft Exchange. Microsoft Exchange support is particularly important as a lot of  businesses  uses it.

Because of these shortcomings of Thunderbird, it has been decided that Thunderbird will become the default email client in Ubuntu 11.10 if these issues are fixed. For now though, development for Ubuntu 11.10 will go ahead with Evolution.

However, work is already going on with Thunderbird to address these issues. Thunderbird is being integrated into Unity and it is getting contact sync with Ubuntu One as well.

You can view the notes from the discussion here.

Lubuntu Accepted As An Official Ubuntu Derivative

The flexibility of Ubuntu (and Linux in general) means that it not very difficult to create derivatives from it – and there a number of derivatives. Ubuntu derivatives could be created for a specific function or created with different desktop environment. To receive support from Canonical, though, the derivative has to be officially recognized by them.

Lubuntu is one such derivative. Lubuntu is based on the Ubuntu but instead of Unity/GNOME, it uses a very light weight desktop environment – LXDE. Ever since the project was started Lubuntu has been quite popular compared to the other non-official derivatives. In fact, during the Maverick Meerkat release cycle, it was considered a very strong contender to receive the official status but missed out at the end.

Today, Lubuntu has been finally accepted as an official Ubuntu derivative. Getting the official status means a lot of things for Lubuntu:

  • Lubuntu packages will be available in the main Ubuntu repository.
  • Users will be able to install Lubuntu over Ubuntu or other derivatives without adding extra repositories.
  • Lubuntu will follow the Ubuntu development cycle.
  • Most importantly, it means that Lubuntu will get more exposure as an official derivative.

The decision was taken at the Ubuntu Developer Summit but no official announcement has been made yet. You can see details of the discussion here.

The addition of Lubuntu brings the total number of official derivatives to six. The other official derivatives are Kubuntu, Xubuntu. Edubuntu, Mythbuntu and Ubuntu Studio.


Deja Dup To Be Included By Default In Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”

We had reported earlier that the backup tool, Deja Dup, has a very strong possibility of being included by default in Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”. In the GNOME mailing list, Deja Dup developer, Michael Terry, has announced that it has been included by default in Ubuntu 11.10.

Michael Terry made the announcement while applying for Deja Dup to be included as part of GNOME. This is what his message said:

Here’s a quick thousand foot view:

  • Homepage here: https://launchpad.net/deja-dup
  • It’s a backup program aimed at non-technical users.
  • It’s a graphical wrapper and policy manager for the backup program duplicity.
  • It’s included by default in Fedora 13 on and will be default in Ubuntu 11.10.
  • It follows the GNOME schedule and best practices already.

The inclusion of Deja Dup in Ubuntu 11.10 is a very good move by the Ubuntu developers. With so much importance being placed on data, a simple backup tool which just works for everyone is a very essential application.  Although accepted, Deja Dup is not yet ready for Ubuntu 11.10. It will have to support Ubuntu One and the CD size issue that we had talked about extensively have to be sorted out first.

Terry also announced some details of the future direction that Deja Dup is taking.  In the next major version (20.0), Deja Dup will be redesigned to make it more invisible and to make it act and look more like a part of the operating system rather than a  separate  application.

You can view screenshots of Deja Dup here.

[source GNOME mailing list, via WebUpd8]

UDS Update – Firefox Remains As Default Browser and Deja Dup Might Be Included As Default

Today the Ubuntu Developer Summit for Ubuntu 11.10 has kicked off in Budapest, Hungary. It will be a while till we get a clear picture of what is in store for Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”. But we already have some interesting details.

Firefox will remain as the default browser

Despite all the talks in various blogs about the strong possibility of Chromium replacing Firefox as the default browser in Ubuntu 11.10, it has not happened.

One of the main advantage that Chromium has over Firefox in Ubuntu is that it is much faster than Firefox. This, coupled with the fact that Chromium has some nifty features that integrates it very well into Unity, are what prompted many to call for the inclusion of Chromium as default browser instead of Firefox.

However, Firefox still remains as the most popular web-browser (behind Internet Explorer). So, it makes sense for Ubuntu 11.10 to stick with Firefox as default. Moreover, Mozilla has recently announced that the Linux build of Firefox will be as fast as that of Windows.

Deja Dup might be included as default

This one has not been confirmed but backup tool Deja Dup is being considered for inclusion as a default application in Ubuntu 11.10. Currently Ubuntu does not ship with any backup tool and Deja Dup could be the front-runner if they do decide to have a backup tool by default.

Deja Dup can backup to the cloud and remote locations and encrypt the backups. However, the advantage that Deja Dup has over other backup tools lies in its simplicity. As Ubuntu is trying to gain widespread usage, this is a very important factor to consider.

Taking the final decision is however more complicated. Because of the CD size restriction of 700 MB, things like disks space is a very important consideration for any new application to be included as default.

[sources: 1, 2]