Unity Quality in Ubuntu 11.10: Help Make It Rock

On Thursday 28th April 2011 we released Ubuntu 11.04, the Natty Narwhal. It was a big release for us. It was the first desktop release that shipped Unity; our new desktop interface designed to bridge the chasm to get Ubuntu and the Free Software it encompasses to the masses.

Unity in this release was very much a first cut. I am hugely proud of the accomplishments of the Desktop Experience Team, Design Team, and Ubuntu Platform Team in delivering Unity in 11.04, but we all acknowledge that there is lots to be done. Quality has to come first and foremost in the Ubuntu experience, and Mark Shuttleworth affirmed that fit and finish is going to be a key goal for Ubuntu 11.10, the Oneiric Ocelot.

In Search Of Quality

As part of this focus on quality, the Canonical Design and Desktop Experience teams are committing their time to fixing some of the design and software bugs that have been reported since the Natty release. As is usual with software teams, bugs have been identified and assigned to respective developers and these bugs will be merged into future Unity releases.

In addition to this, serious bugfixes (such as crashers) are being released as Stable Release Updates for Natty. Currently the first Unity stable release update release is currently in the proposed archive and should be released to 11.04 users over the next few weeks. The team are also focusing on a second SRU update that will resolve further issues. Of course, these bug fixes will also make it into Ubuntu 11.10 too. These stable release updates will ensure that current and future Ubuntu 11.04 users will get an even more stable experience and the Ubuntu 11.10 release will set off on the right foot when it comes to stability.

Of course, there are many software bugs open for Unity (software defects, problems, and oddities), but there are also design bugs open too. Unity was not just a first cut of a software release, but also a first cut of a design delivered in a desktop edition of Ubuntu. As such, since 11.04 there have been lots of design problems and bugs reported too. We are really keen to ensure these issues are also resolved as the Unity design continues to mature and evolve.

John Lea, fearless designer on the Design Team, has worked with the team to process these design bug reports, work with the team on proposed solutions, and get these solutions signed-off. As such, we now have this list of design bugs that are focal points for being resolved in 11.10. Some of these bugs are assigned to Canonical developers, but not all are.

To help with this work, Jason Smith from the Desktop Experience team has been going into these design bugs and providing instructions on what needs to be done to fix them. This is hugely helpful for community volunteers to fix these bugs and help improve Unity.

How You Can Help

So let’s get to the heart of the matter.


This really has nothing to do with this post, but…well, I just love ducks, and they are clearly the badasses of the waterfowl world.

Quality is something we can all improve. Whether you are interested in writing documentation, programming, testing, translating…there is a way in which you can help improve the quality of Unity in 11.10. Canonical is certainly investing in this, but we are an Open Source community and such the wider community we can all help.

If you are a developer and know some C++, you can make Ubuntu better for millions of people. A few hours of your time working on some of these bugs could bring great quality of experience to Unity and Ubuntu and help us to take Free Software to even more users as a stable, secure, feature-packed, and well-designed platform.

To get started, take a look at Jorge’s first post about Unity contributor plans in 11.10 – this post explains where to find the bugs, how to get started, where to find help and more. Jorge will be posting every week with new opportunities and bugs to work on and showcasing the great work of our community.

With the Desktop Experience team working on some bugs and also new features, and the community working to help bring an even higher-grade of quality and fix more bugs, together we can deliver a rocking 11.10 release!

I will be talking more in later posts about other ways of helping, such as documentation, translations and testing. I look forward to see the Unity contributor family growing, and don’t forget to come and join us in #ayatana on freenode.

  • http://reticulidesigns.co.cc Risket

    I love the random duck picture.

  • http://wahreroftheworlds.blogspot.com/ Zach Wahrer

    +1 for the ducks! :-)

  • http://libertus.co.uk Alan Bell

    chickens > ducks

  • http://www.gnulinuxtips.com.ar OzK

    I do not think that Unity needs to be fixed. I think that Unity need to dissapear. Unity has many design problems. You need to do more work to to the same as on Gnome 2.

    This apply to Gnome3 too.

  • Johnsie

    I really wish people would contribute positively instead of just mouthing off with the nasty comments about Unity… I think a large proportion of the community has forgotten the meaning of ‘Ubuntu’. There are real people working hard on this project. If you think ‘Unity Sucks’ then help make it better, using the proper channels and doing it in a polite and respectful manner :-)

  • Lirodon

    Drop the CLA

    then we’ll talk

  • Alex Murray

    I find the concept of the Unity contributors team a little disingenuous – basically a bunch of bugs have been identified during user testing, the ‘right way’ to fix them has been specified by the design team and now you just expect the community to jump in and do the implementation – perhaps involving the community more in the design aspect from the start would be a better way to engage and empower individuals within the community to work on these issues rather than what looks to me like trying to leverage the community for the gain of Canonical – the stability of Unity is clearly a goal of Canonical if they are going to push it to OEMs and it seems to me this is more a move to get the community to do Canonical’s work for them without empowering them from the start.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a long time Ubuntu user and supporter, this all just sits a little uneasy for me…

  • http://www.condoulo.com Condoulo

    I am not a developer, but I will try my best to report on and comment on bugs I do see to help major bugs get up on the list.

    I am also really looking forward to all the updates coming to Unity soon. It was a great first iteration for what the team could do in 6 months, but man, there are some annoying bugs in it, or as I usually say, rough edges.

    Also, awesome ducks.

  • jono

    Great idea. Let’s never innovate. It will be awesome. :-)

  • jono

    Absolutely. :-)

  • jono

    Maybe I miscommunicated – the details about how to fix them are a Unity developer providing some starting points for which source files to work on to resolve the problem.

    As for the design side of things, the community is welcome to participate in the Ayatana project – this is where the design happens. The mailing list is https://launchpad.net/~ayatana

  • jono

    Thanks for helping to report bugs, that is a wonderful contribution! :-)

  • Andrey

    HAHA… good one))) I do agree too, that innovation is #1 key to success. To be honest though I don’t like Unity, well, more the current condition of Unity. I believe that it has a great potential. We just have to combine our efforts and ideas… and it will amaze. So instead of whining, try to make an input and suggest what and why you don’t like it.

  • Lispington

    I have been running Ubuntu alongside other platforms for about a year now. I even managed to get an old 256Mb Toshiba working again with LTS. I really congratulate everyone who has contributed to whole project. My Dell Inspiron 9300 thanks you also, now the built for XP stickers have been removed. I am spreading the word. Quack quack. I will look into the design site, because I would love an option to install this for my Mother, with a ‘let’s say’ cut down interface. Just to do what she requires. And VPN support for me to add anything she needs from a different location. Keep up the good work, and a pat on the back to all you wonderful developers, designers and supporters.

  • Sanderd17

    Since Ubuntu delivers free software, you are free to choose. If you don’t like Unity, you can make it better OR you can switch to something you do like.

    There is indeed no reason to nag about it, but not all users have the knowledge to make Unity better, so if they are not happy with Unity, they need to switch.

    I’m kind of a distro hopper, so I like to try all the different DEs. My opinion for Unity is that it’s looking good, but sometimes it has little hiccups which make the usability less.

  • https://www.anarchylicence.com anarchylicence

    I like Unity, it is a refreshing aproach to the desktop experience, one which I am sure will be copied somewhat by other operating systems. The focus on the search rather than scrolling through menus or folders speeds up most tasks. It attracts attention from Mac and Windows users I know who think it’s pretty cool.

    Keep uo the good work, Ubuntu Community!

  • Samad

    Hi ,

    Really hope that Unity would improve the notification system , its quite annoying at the moment , you hover over it becomes grayish and you cant close it , you have to wait for it go away..

    would love to see a more subtle approach to notifications , especially chat / empathy notificaitons…

    regards Samad

    P.S if there is sum other way to do it , lemme know , im new :)

  • Johan Lindgren

    Read these statements again…

    “As is usual with software teams, bugs have been identified and assigned to respective developers and these bugs will be merged into future Unity releases.

    In addition to this, serious bugs (such as crashers) are being released as Stable Release Updates for Natty”

    It seems very unlikley… don’t you mean that bugfixes are being released as Stable Release Updates for Natty? ;)

  • http://sergiobobillier.blogspot.com Sergio Bobillier

    I think Unity is not a bad idea but it still has issues. As for me, i got tired of it not dodging maximized windows, I tried as much as I could but it really bothers me to close all my windows or logging out just because of it. I think that is the major problem

    And some suggestions would be:

    1. Add a graphical way to manage settings (other than gconf-edit) let me choose if I want it to dodge windows or be hidden until the mouse pointer comes near like Docky.

    2. Let me choose if I want the mounted drives to show on it or maybe my Nautilus bookmarks.

    3. Please let me choose the order in which things appear on Unity launcher, I never use the Application button nor the workspaces button I would like to move them to the bottom of the launcher or even make them disappear.

  • glo

    In Unity Desk. I am missing:

    • change workspace with mousewheel (or ctrl + wheel )

    • a simple way to change icons (right click, “select icon”)

    • a simple way to re-arrange icons (drag drop)

    • ALT + F2 difficult: for example to start geany editor I have to enter gea + tab + tab + enter there it should suffice to type gea + enter (as long as no other app starts with “gea”)

  • sect2k

    Sorry, but that’s just not even close to the truth, I’ve been, until recently when I gave up, following the ayatana list and no design decision was taken there, almost no feedback was given and most of the raised issues were simply dismissed and even ignored.

    Most if not all of Unity design happens behind closed doors with Mark’s opinion being the final word (his own words) regardless of community feedback.

    So please stop spreading misinformation.

  • jono

    I am not spreading mis-information, but I am not denying the interaction with the community could be improved at a design leve – have you shared your viewpoint with Mark as a goal to resolving it?

  • jono

    Whoops, will fix that!

  • http://gtriderxc.tk gtriderxc

    Bugs are not such a big problem. The problem is Unity itself :/ As You mentioned Unity is a revolution. You made computers working in a slightly different way. Work with Ubuntu is slower. I’m not gonna be the one who is gonna throw empty “unity sucks” slogans. I’d love to point out every single problem that makes me staying away of Unity and using classic GNOME session though Unity spoiled it as well. Work with Unity is slower. Much slower. Working with several windows is a road through pain. I tell You why! Once there was a MS DOS system. then they made 3.1x and then Windows 95 occured which was a real milestone. Mostly because everything was easy and we finally had a user interface which was later developed. Ubuntu goes some other way: all You are doing is cutting out the user interface. Just to make things “simpler”. But simpler for an eye only:(. Will Ubuntu 12.04 be as simply as MS DOS? Will there be no need to use mouse any more? Yes! In Unity we don’t need mouse any more! If You are a professional and like the user interface to work fast You’re not gonna use mouse any more! Is it good? No, it is very bad. In DOS we didn’t have mouse as well. Working on a tiny netbook keyboard with me huge hands hurts a lot. So since 11.04 I can’t use mouse and working with keybord really hurts:( You took me away the lower panel which is called a taskbar in MS Windows. Now Switching between windows is another problem and an another way up the hill. Especially work with graphics often make us switching between several windows. All You did was adding another stones under our legs. WHY OH WHY didn’t You think that some of us, users DO want to see ALL of the open windows ALL of the time!! I do need to see all open windows and their menu so that I didn’t had to wait for the launchbar to appear to see what’s open. Just count how meny steps one have to take to click “File” or “Edit” in not active GIMP window that is [my system just crashed, I'll have to write everything what is after this bracket for the second time:(] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/783889

  • http://gtriderxc.tk gtriderxc

    I do want every window to have its own menu! I do want to see windows!!! https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/781329

    As I described in this bug, for over 17 years the Windows taskbar exists and was developed. As I remember since Win98 they added the “auto hide” function. Now think and count: how many from people You know use the autohide function? Noone? Why? And now why we have to chase the launchbar in natty? Now the last one thing before my session crashes again. In GNOME there were “Places”, Programs and “System” menus. With two fast MOUSE CLICKS we were able to open fast every application i the system. Now You made something similar to MS Win “Control Panel” in a “~~Power (switch off, suspend, etc.) menu”. A very bad idea. Fisrt You have to open it then search. Where are my two clicks? Even GnomeDo doesn’t work properly under Unity to rescue the situation. All in all work with Unity is slower, less intuitive and not only because we were accustomed to something different (better)that worked perfectly but also because Ubuntu was Ubuntu as Windows is Windows and Mac is Mac. Ubuntu is just dead. The new system is not Ubuntu any more. It is Unity. We want our Ubuntu back! We don’t want to work on 17 inch screen with a system that makes its best for a 10inch netbook system! We don’t wanna chase and wait for Launchbars and menus of the windows! Finally we do wanna see windows(bug781329)! Is it an alpha release?!!! I’m going back to 10.04 and if the Ubuntu will not be easy, fast as it used to be till the end of 10.04 support I’ll switch to MS Windows or some other Linux distro because hardly any other system complicates users’ life as You did it the 28 of April.

  • Johan Lindgren

    You didn’t fix this part though… “these bugs will be merged into future Unity releases.”.

  • sect2k

    I haven’t spoken to Mark, as from little interaction I’ve had with him and from what I’ve read, he doesn’t strike me as someone who is ready to change his mind and admit he is wrong. I might be wrong, as I don’t really know him, it’s just the impression I get. In my opinion he is the wrong man to be the design lead.

    As for community involvement when it comes to design, it’s a tough nut to crack. If you follow ayatana list closely it’s very similar to early stages of a talent show, lots of wannabe “talents” that have no self criticism and no skill at the same time, the signal to noise ratio is out of this world and involvement from Canonical is staff very limited.

    How to solve the first two issues is beyond me at this time, but I would suggest that Canonical design staff get more involved and try to explain their decisions better and learn to admit that sometimes they are wrong and take community criticism as constructive and not as a threat to their way of doing things.

    To wrap this short rant up, I agree with that doing design in the open is hard if not impossible, but outright ignoring community feedback, because of ones belief that their way is the only right way, is the wrong, if not stupid, thing to do.

  • 2cent

    Just the idea of creating a different desktop experience and offering it to *nix community gets my appreciation. But just a small example, as far as I remember, one idea among new design goals targeted Gnome-panel, which was cluttered with different icons, applets, thus needed a clean-up which introduced indicators and launcher. Long before Mark S. invited users to sent him screenshots. Now he (aka Ayatana team) should repeat the request and take a second view. Why? What are we witnessing in blogs, forums, USE? One indicator (ppa) and launcher quicklist after another are driven and developed by community effort. Result, user desktop displays a bunch of different indicators again and is there such a big difference between over extended quicklists and overlonged Gnome2 menus? Conclusion, the target of a clean desktop experiences a huge design failure when it comes down to what users want. It seems user doesn’t care much about superordinated goals. What is all the thinking, effort and work of a design team worth if it gets repeatedly underminded by community effort afterwards?

  • Andy

    Nice post good idea to call evrybody for help  Unity is not so bad but I hope that the dash will be removed ,i dont’t feel my self free and speddly whit that .It will be nice to give to users the possibility for use a menu like in the past !

  • http://profiles.google.com/lilianftp Moraru Lilian

    I’m using Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 2 and it looks like it has a lot of problems… The special buttons on my laptop don’t work any more and when I try to move the slider of the sound, in the top-right corner it just doesn’t work, doesn’t want to slide. Where can I report bugs on Ubuntu 11.10?

    Btw, it would be great if u make a configuration window for “Unity”, or “Ubuntu Interface”, good start with resizing icons in Unity… Would be great to see an option to move the menu of an application to the window when it is minimized, so u don’t have to go to the top for it and to make the Dash stay there on the left and not hide every time(this one I think that actually exists).

  • Taxesman

    I downloaded 11.10.  I several friends who use Win, OS10 and opensuse.  When each was here to visit, I sat each one to 11.10.  I watched them and low and behold the only one who could figure out what the hell to do was the Linux man.  Not one had a kind word about it.  I have been using Ubuntu for 4 years and I still can’t do any work..  If you ever want new users, get rid of the horrible Gui.  If I had set down to this thing when I first started using Linux, I would still be using windows.  I can’t even figure how the hell to get out of this Gui.  On the 11.04 at the menu you could select what you wanted to use.  I can’t find it on 11.10.   If the is what Ubuntu is becoming I will have to use another.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rayzkevin lol joe

    apt-get remove unity apt-get install gnome is the only way to make unity better.

  • Dieter

    Ubuntu gets worse with every release. On 11.04 Unity 3D worked on my PC, now with 11.10 not anymore. Unity 2D is a nice try, but IMHO still an alpha release. Google Earth does not function on 11.10 and a lot of other things as well. I wish Ubuntu had the quality of the old releases……

  • Guest

    Google Earth works well, just install “lsb_core” and your 3d driver.

  • Rpeinloft

    Google Earth does not function on 11.10 also with “lsb=core” and 3d. The error is with the server conection.