Linux

Ubuntu 12.04: Three new features sneak in to make things interesting

Jack Wallen highlights the three features in the next Ubuntu release that he thinks are the most compelling. Are they enough to win over Unity-haters?

I've spent a lot of time knocking Ubuntu -- mostly for the Unity desktop. But Unity alone can't take down what has been, for nearly a decade, the most user-friendly Linux desktop distribution available. For all the media has railed against Unity, it does work and works well. And now, with the feature-freeze in place for 12.04, it looks like there are some nice features that should make Precise Pangolin a front-runner to reclaim that prized spot at the top of the heap.

And although the new features won't win everyone to Unity, it will at least raise the curiosity level just enough to bring some people back to the Ubuntu fold. But just what are these new features I speak of? Let's take a look.

Privacy Settings

This is not necessarily a huge breakthrough in system security, but more a move ahead in account privacy. As you know, both Unity and GNOME 3 have outstanding desktop search tools. The problem with previous iterations of the desktops is that every file and folder appeared in a desktop search. So if anyone had access to your account, they could easily search for files and folders. With 12.04, it is now possible to easily specify what file types and folders you would like to leave out of the search. The following file types can be excluded from search indexing:

  • Text documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Audio
  • Instant Messaging
  • Video
  • Email
  • Image
  • Presentation
  • Website

For all intents and purposes, this brings a pseudo-incognito mode to the desktop. Your user history can be completely bereft of entries, should you choose.

The only caveat to this is for those that want to include file types, but not specific files. There is a way around that. Create a folder and save all the specific docs to be excluded in search results in that new folder. Now, exclude that folder from search results and you have effectively hidden specific folders from desktop history.

Video Lens

If you're unfamiliar with the idea behind Ubuntu Unity Lenses, it's simple. When you open up the Unity Dash you can select from specific Lenses, specifying what you want to view. Previous iterations of Unity already included an Audio Lens, and now add the Video Lens to that ever-expanding Dash. This is becoming more and more important to a media-heavy audience. This new Lens will allow you to easily search Youtube, Amazon, Shows, ABC iView, Sci-Fi London, TED Talks, and more.

MyUnity

Finally, a configuration tool for Unity has arrived. This tool handles the configuration of the Dash, the Panel, and Unity Launcher. MyUnity can help you configure such things as:

  • Transparency
  • Launcher resizing
  • Show/hide devices in Launcher
  • Change behaviors of Launcher
  • Change fonts
  • Change backlight settings
  • Show/hide various icons
  • Turn on/off Dash blur

I would like to see theming included in this tool, but that's probably asking a bit much.

I have to admit, although I'm not a fan of Unity, Ubuntu is starting to make it's desktop hard to resist. It won't be long before Ubuntu creates the right mixture of features and performance to make their distribution irresistible to users. Will it be Ubuntu TV? Could be. Who knows. What's important is that Ubuntu continues to push Linux forward into uncharted lands for the Linux platform. And whether you like Unity or not, it's impossible to deny that Canonical is doing everything in its power to make Linux as user-friendly as possible.

I have, once again, become excited about the release of Ubuntu. Although I have tried the most recent daily build (and found it way to buggy to use), I will happily have Ubuntu 12.04 installed on one of my machines. I won't be surprised it if once again becomes my primary Linux distribution...in spite of Unity.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

24 comments
edwardtisdale
edwardtisdale

I absolutely love my lucid desktop machine.These newer desktop environments are just toys.

conspiritech
conspiritech

Unity doesn't seem so bad now that the mouse works, however the time when the mouse didn't work sent me eventually to Bodhi Linux, and I prefer Enlightenment to Old GNOME, haven't really worked with New GNOME or Unity enough to learn them. So for all you Unity haters out there, why not give Bodhi Linux or Xubuntu a shot?

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson

You're obviously having better luck than I am with desktop search. The default seems to be a front end to 'find' which is much too slow, and all of the desktop indexing packages I have tried both work and integrate. Lack of a reliable, integrated desktop search is the one thing that stops me evangelising Linux to my non-IT friends.

Odipides
Odipides

Been using Ubuntu for years - loved it to bits till they nerfed the interface. However, the latter (unilateral change) made me jump ship to Linux Mint and I'm thoroughly impressed; wish I'd started using it ages ago - great implementation, very stable (unlike Ubuntu 11.10)

sanyiidh
sanyiidh

For the last 15 day i have been using Ubuntu 12.04 daily builds and i am happy with it. I can even boot into an old 512MB Acer lap to get a happily working machine. I see no problem in unity, apart from our difficulty to change our old way.

d graham
d graham

delete the previous post!

Gerry_z
Gerry_z

I've been using Kubuntu for almost 6 years. I don't see anything in Unity to make me switch from KDE

paulfx1
paulfx1

I was chatting with a guy on IRC last night that updated his system and could no longer start X Window. I told him all he could do was keep on updating it and hope they fixed whatever they'd broken.

water-man
water-man

When first using Unity in 11.04 I had my doubts and after some days I went back to the old ways. Not my wife! I gave here Unity and she just started using it, no comment, no complaint. Upon her request I found out how to add quicklists to the launcher and once she got the taste for that I had to add a dozen or so: Open Gmail directly, launch Chrome in incognito mode, go directly to her pictures folder, all in one click. I even mixed native and Wine applications in one quicklist and she cannot tell the difference. When 11.10 came I also moved completely to Unity. I got my own set of very effective quicklists, I'm getting the hang of using the dash and it's search capabilities and I became very efficient launching apps without taking my fingers from the keyboard. However: creating these quicklists and making sure the right icons are shown in the launcher is a burden. I sure hope MyUnity will take that away. If that's true I can easily forget Gnome.

Dave.A.Townsend
Dave.A.Townsend

I will wait at least a couple of months after the release before I try it. Unfortunately, from past experience the initial ubuntu releases like 11.04 was full of glitches and bugs in the initial release.

wolsonjr
wolsonjr

So if Apple and Windows are doing it, it must be right. Huh?!

NETech4u
NETech4u

Why bash Unity even in your Poll questions. Even if a few don't like it and may be lose some functionality, Canonical are on the right track. Look at the new Apple OS X Mountain Lion and Windows 8. The trend is cloud services and all major players are trying to unify the user experience accross devices, and this is what Unity is about. Get over it and appreciate the forward thinking Canonical is showing.

kgassmann
kgassmann

The poll asking if you will try it, i said yes and not to my surprise, most people did. I wonder, is this poll asked of just unix users? if so, i'm not sure how valuable it is. I would be interested in seeing a poll of general users.

paulfx1
paulfx1

But what could happen is you could learn enough about Linux so you can accomplish what you wish for yourself. I'd respect that a lot more than you begging others to do for you what you can do for yourself. So until you've developed skills with real software tools you'll just have to amuse yourself with what toys are handed to you. I'm sorry but this is how it is. One avenue that could potentially net you what you desire is perhaps this: http://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/debian-faq/ch-pkgtools.en.html Ubuntu does use the Debian package management system. It is quite rich and flexible. I suggest you try to gain a working understanding of it. Once mastered fine grained control may be achieved over configurations. I wish you good luck.

paulfx1
paulfx1

I slake my thirst from the wellspring, Debian. OK maybe not directly from it, but it is what I start with to brew my special brand of hootch. Right now I'm running the Trinity Desktop on Squeeze. Elite!

paulfx1
paulfx1

I've been running Linux for over 17 years now and I've no idea what you are carrying on about? Desktop search? Ah, if you don't like find try locate? Run updatedb first if you need the freshest results, but be warned building the index does take some time. I've used the Windows search feature and it is tits on a bull worthless compared to Linux. Yeah, I need a dog waving a flashlight around, then finding me nothing. While my opinion on evangelizing Linux may not be popular it is pragmatic, and it is simply this, those that should run Linux do. The rest we need not worry about. I feel we're actually better off without them in fact. Not every user counts in the plus column, not hardly. I wouldn't even put you there based on reading your comment.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

When you flag, the mods get an email. It might take an hour or two, but the offending message (and sometimes, the poster) will be gone as soon as one of us can get to it.

pdxmusl
pdxmusl

I'm still on 11.04 now. That didn't give me much trouble other than my usb wireless g adapter. 11.10 solved that problem, but the two times I tried to install it, it completely hosed my system and I had to rebuild my box. Or... rather... it ended up being easier to do it that way. So, I hear you. I plan on waiting a little bit as well.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

If you don't create the expectation, you must follow it. Users come to expect certain things. In this case, Apple has a lock on the optimal UI. Not to say it's perfect - it's just better than everything else. I have OS X ahead by alot. Like it or not, all desktops are in a race against one another, not just themselves. Humans are in the stands, envying one another over this very subject. Why do you think Windows took the path it did with Win-Vista/7? Because Apple proved out a theory. Doesn't the Droid look suspiciously iPhone like (minus some annoyances)? There's a reason for that. These competitors know that Apple has tainted the pool of user expectation and now they have to keep up in order to stay in the game. I look forward to the day when I'm sitting in the public library and a Mac user looks over my shoulder and sees Gnome 3 on my desktop and says, "Oh, cool"; then the role of envied to envier changes and Apple has some work to do. Until then, we're all in catchup mode with Apple.

pdxmusl
pdxmusl

That's somewhat why I tried to stick with it... I figured, we are heading there. I can either be dragged kicking and screaming or buck up and try it. But it still doesn't change the fact that the first few iterations of unity were practically useless and just painful... like getting a limb slowly cut off or eaten alive and no "feel good" pills painful. Point is, I don't hate it for the direction it's going. I hate it for what it is. I gigantic waist of space and effort. Hopefully some of the changes to 12.04 will resolve at least some of it's problems. The problem with some of these drives is the group think mentality. It's one of the reasons we were stuck with junk like Windows for years. Someone out there thought it was a good idea. Others followed that fool without thinking. So.. yeah.. just because apple does it. And just because 5 people out there think apple is great doesn't mean it is. The question is, will we learn to just tolerate unity and apple like UI's like we learned to tollerate windows, or are they truly ground breaking. So far, i see us learning to tolerate it. I have yet to see ground breaking. I hope that changes.

pdxmusl
pdxmusl

I could be mistaken, but it did look like to me poll numbers were posted with the chart. At least after you voted. So.. you should be able to get some indication at least.

paulfx1
paulfx1

Until you've compiled your own kernel you've never really run Linux. True fact! Now nut up and build a kernel. If you do it the Debian way there is nothing to worry about. Why I'll even give you a link to the instructions: http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/ch08s06.html.en You run Ubuntu so the Debian way is the right way. All of this means that you can download kernels from kernel.org and support later hardware than the version distribution you use. Baby steps though build the kernel packaged with your distro first, don't even try to configure it right away. Bite off more than you can chew and you will choke! Your deepest secret fears will all be realized and you will brick your PC. Take precautions and it'll never happen though. Hint: Pay special attention to how you set a revision number, doing that is the safety net secret.