Every time there is something we would like to share about Wiki and Documentations of Ubuntu GNOME, we tend to always remind the world of the huge, excellent and great job that Ubuntu GNOME Wiki and Documentation Team had achieved in very short period of time (less than 6 months). We have the right to be so proud of ourselves and for what we have achieved. Out of nothing, we have everything now.
Today, we are glad to announce and share with you one of our great achievements that should give the users of Ubuntu GNOME all the resources and help they do need or may need in order to use Ubuntu GNOME and enjoy it to the maximum.
As a respect to each and every Ubuntu GNOME User around the world and for those who might use Ubuntu GNOME in the near future and/or those who might migrate from Windows to Linux soon, we would like to present you a ‘Full Guide’ or ‘HOWTO’ Install Ubuntu GNOME
We highly believe that a good and a successful software project should have a strong, helpful and useful documentations and that is exactly what we do at Ubuntu GNOME Team. We simply work hard to make your life easier. Despite the fact we are few volunteers dedicated to this mission, we do believe in our skills and the quality we could offer.
Today, we are proud to share our work with everyone around the world.
Meanwhile, we also ask everyone who read this to please give us your feedback/notes/suggestions/opinions about Ubuntu GNOME Installation Guides. Yes, it is not just one guide, it is 4 in 1 if we could say that
Please share your feedback and send it to Ubuntu GNOME General Mailing List. You need to ‘subscribe’ first ‘before’ sending any email so our Mailing List Moderators don’t have to approve your email.
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Ubuntu GNOME Contacts:
As always, please refer to the Contact Us Tab on the top of this page or simply visit this page.
We highly appreciate and value your time and we would like to thank you in advance for your feedback. We are looking forward to read from you soon!
Thank you for helping us to make Ubuntu GNOME better and better and thanks to everyone who put so much efforts into all this, specially Ivan Ivanov and James Vorderbruggen. I have enjoyed working with them. They are so smart and learning quickly, not to mention they do read my mind and know what I want sometimes before I say it. I’m so glad to work side by side with such gifted and talented high quality contributors.
Waiting for your emails
Founder and Team Leader of Ubuntu GNOME Wiki and Documentation Team
I have asked Ubuntu GNOME Team Members to give their vote for a new proposal that I think it will improve our experience and our users’ experience as well.
Everyone voted so far has agreed and was so interested about this new proposal.
You’re still welcome to share your feedback/opinion about such proposal
I’d like to announce that, since no one has disagreed yet, Ubuntu GNOME Team is ready and will start this new idea to share our news with the world either as weekly reports from all Ubuntu GNOME Sub-Teams to be published on our website and our social media channels or just news/updates to be published on the same mentioned sites. Either way, stating from now, we shall share each and everything with everyone and we believe that this will make our system, our community and everyone’s experience as good as it gets.
Looking forward for a bright future with more achievements and news to share.
Thank you for choosing and using Ubuntu GNOME and for taking the time to read more about us. We hope you will enjoy
This year the 8th German Ubucon takes place in Katlenburg, which is a rather small city next to Göttingen. The last Ubucon took place in Heidelberg and that was the first time that I joined the organization team. So this year I am also a member of the organization team of the Ubucon. Personally I attended two Ubucons: 2012 in Berlin and 2013 in Heidelberg. Last year we hade the slogan „Build your conference“. Everybody was invited to make requests for talks. The actual list was quiet long. Many speakers picked up some topics, so a big part of the Ubucon was built by the attendees. This worked out very well, so we do it again! :-) Nevertheless we have another slogan for this years Ubucon: „10 years Ubuntu, 10 years Community“.
We started the organization at the end of last year. The Ubucon starts in eight months, so we have plenty of time to organize everything. We already started our „Call for Papers“ and we also got our first submission for a talk.
I am really looking forward to this years Ubucon. The team in Katlenburg, who organizes the local parts of the event, are really motivated. There will be some cool stuff, which I cannot announce now ;-). The location of the event is a primary school, which is rather unusual. The last Ubucons usually took place in a public or private university. An interesting fact is, that this primary school has an „open source background“: They migrated the schools computers from Windows to Ubuntu. :-)
For the last few months there has been an ongoing murmur about Canonical’s intellectual property assertions. What I find interesting is that while people accuse Canonical of violating the Open Source Ethos they say nothing of other companies. Before I go any further, I need to state that I am not a lawyer and have not played one on TV. The thoughts and opinions are nothing more than my thoughts and opinions.
Here are some of the claims Red Hat makes in regards to intellectual property:
2. Intellectual Property Rights. The Programs and each of their components are owned by Red Hat and other licensors and are protected under copyright law and under other laws as applicable. Title to the Programs and any component, or to any copy, modification, or merged portion shall remain with Red Hat and other licensors, subject to the applicable license. This EULA does not permit you to distribute the Programs or their components using Red Hat’s trademarks, regardless of whether the copy has been modified. You may make a commercial redistribution of the Programs only if (a) permitted under a separate written agreement with Red Hat authorizing such commercial redistribution, or (b) you remove and replace all occurrences of Red Hat trademarks.
I think that clearly asserts that a copyright over programs. I will make the assumption they mean both the binary form and source code. They also prohibit redistribution unless all of the trademarks are removed unless you enter in to an agreement with Red Hat or you remove and replace all trademarks.
Here are some of the claims made by Canonical:
You can redistribute Ubuntu in its unmodified form, complete with the installer images and packages provided by Canonical (this includes the publication or launch of virtual machine images). Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries. This does not affect your rights under any open source licence applicable to any of the components of Ubuntu. If you need us to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will require a licence agreement from Canonical, for which you may be required to pay.
The disk, CD, installer and system images, together with Ubuntu packages and binary files, are in many cases copyright of Canonical
Canonical owns intellectual property rights in the trade dress and look and feel of Ubuntu (including the Unity interface), along with various themes and components that may include unregistered design rights, registered design rights and design patents, your use of Ubuntu is subject to these rights.
From what I read here anyone can redistribute Ubuntu in unmodified form, but if you are going to modify it and retain the trademarks you must seek approval from Canonical. You can redistribute it if you remove all trademarks and recompile. If you need Canonical to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will need a license agreement.
The Case of Mint:
I want to remind everyone that this is my opinion only and that I am not a lawyer, nor have I played one in a movie. If I am to take the case of Linux Mint and apply what I have read from both Red Hat and Canonical what would Mint have to do? What I understand Mint does:
- Uses Canonical’s repositories
- Specifically claims that it is based on Ubuntu (and Debian)
If Mint was based on Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® they would need to remove all Red Hat® trademarks or enter in to a license agreement with Red Hat®.
In the actual case of Mint being based on Ubuntu they have the option of removing all Ubuntu trademarks and recompiling, or entering in to a license agreement with Canonical.
The only difference I see is that Canonical has explicitly claimed that one would have to recompile binaries. I am not a package guru nor a kernel developer… but I am under the impression that in order to remove trademarks and copyrighted art that the binary would need to be recompiled. This leaves me wondering what all the noise is about since it would appear recompiling would be necessary in the case of a distribution being based on Red Hat®.
One more thing:
To date I think Canonical has an outstanding record of being working with redistributions of their software. They encourage such endeavors and want them to grow. They do have to protect their IP though.
Among all the icons I make for software throughout the community (or for my own devices) are those for Ubuntu Touch applications –which, given the publicization of the new style, I'm doing more of recently
So think of this post as an offering of my abilities. As such, I've created a small Google form wherein you can request an icon (or several) from me for your app.Ubuntu Icon Requests
Alternatively, ping me (snwh) on Freenode IRC or mention me on Google+Sam on Google+
After the initial bumpy morning I have released 0.17.6 and opened 0.17.7 for development. The release was built with launchpad, using a this packaging recipe and is available in both testing and stable PPAs. The daily development PPA is already tracking 0.17.7 builds. The release is tracked on the 2014-feb-14 milestone on launchpad.
This was a rather uneventful release but the release process was anything but. It is the first release built entirely on tags and merge requests. The release candidate 0.17.6c1 was branched from trunk , built from the release branch into the testing PPA. The recipe there is particularly interesting. Here is the relevant text:
# bzr-builder format 0.2 deb-version 0.17.6~c1~ppa
merge checkbox-packaging lp:~checkbox-dev/checkbox/checkbox-packaging-release tag:packaging-checkbox-v0.17.6c1We are taking the release candidate tag from the lp:checkbox/release branch and a similar tag from the release packaging branch. This is mechanism allows us to release follow ups. Previously we could just not release if the release had serious issues. Now we can fix issues and release another candidate version.
The release was tested using our standard testing process (full certification run on reference hardware) and after reviewing results, was green-lit for final release.
Still on the release branch, a version bump was committed (to final release version), a new tag was added (using the improved releasectl script) and another version bump (to next development version) was committed. A similar operation was performed in the packaging branch. Both changes were pushed and merged to their respective trunks (for code and for packaging). Those merges kicked off one more build, this time just to have final version everywhere where it matters, using the new pair of tags using the stable release recipe the relevant portion of which you can see below:
# bzr-builder format 0.2 deb-version 0.17.6
merge checkbox-packaging lp:~checkbox-dev/checkbox/checkbox-packaging tag:packaging-checkbox-v0.17.6The situation is very similar to what was quoted above for the release candidate. The essential difference is that now the final tags are being looked up in trunk. This ensures that we have actually merged the tags back to trunk and that the release can be reproduced later.
The release process is a little bit heavier than before, due to the extra builds and the extra tagging of the candidate version. We will be working to improve the automation around releases to alleviate that cost and make it a derivative of the fact that a specific tag was placed in trunk. Everything else is just a side effect of that.
This process has some very nice properties. It naturally prevents, at source control level, anyone from releasing duplicate version. It allows multiple releases to be in flight (in testing, preparing for release). It ensures that anyone can rebuild a release or branch off the relevant tag and add a bugfix and release again.
Since this was all pretty much experimental, we haven't written the instructions down in our release policy document but I plan to work on that early next week. We found only two actual issues during this experience. One is easy to fix, that tarmac is not merging or propagating tags. This seems easy enough to fix. The bigger problem is that launchpad is not showing tags in merge requests. In a process where you rely on tags this is a real issue as it requires trust that nobody is sneaking tags behind your back and that all the tags are placed on appropriate revisions.
So this is it, this is the new release process, what do you think? What would you change to make it better?
In 2012 I was porting OpenEmbedded to target AArch64 so I can say that I did first OE builds for that architecture.
But today I did kind of reverse thing:Build Configuration: BB_VERSION = "1.21.1" BUILD_SYS = "aarch64-linux" NATIVELSBSTRING = "Fedora-21" TARGET_SYS = "arm-oe-linux-gnueabi" MACHINE = "genericarmv7a" DISTRO = "nodistro" DISTRO_VERSION = "nodistro.0" TUNE_FEATURES = "armv7a vfp thumb neon callconvention-hard" TARGET_FPU = "vfp-neon"
Yes — I did build on AArch64 machine targeting ARMv7a system. Had to edit one patch (pseudo-native was set to use very old glibc symbols which are not available on 64-bit ARM) but after that build was running just fine.
I did not tested resulting binaries.
Early last year the Linux Mint developer told me he had been contacted by Canonical's community manager to tell him he needed to licence his use of the packages he used from Ubuntu. Now Ubuntu is free software and as an archive admin, I spend a lot of time reviewing everything that goes into Ubuntu to ensure it has freedom in its copyright. So I advised him to ignore the issue as being FUD.
Later last year rumours of this nonsense started appearing in the tech press so instead of writing a grumpy blog post I e-mailed the community council and said they needed to nip it in the bud and state that no licence is needed to make a derivative distribution. Time passed, at some point Canonical changed their licence policy to be called an Intellectual property rights policy and be much more vague about any licences needed for binary packages. Now the community council have put out a Statement on Canonical Package Licensing which is also extremely vague and generally apologetic for Canonical doing this.
So let me say clearly, no licence is needed to make a derivative distribution of Kubuntu. All you need to do is remove obvious uses of the Kubuntu trademark. Any suggestion that somehow compiling the packages causes Canonical to own extra copyrights is nonsense. Any suggestion that there are unspecified trademarks that need a licence is untrue. Any suggestion that the version number needs a trademark licence is just clutching at straws.
From every school in Brazil to every computer in Munich City Council to projects like Netrunner and Linux Mint KDE we are very pleased to have derivative distributions of Kubuntu and encourage them to be made if you can't be part of the Ubuntu community for whatever reason.In more positive news Ubuntu plans to move to systemd. This makes me happy, although systemd slightly scares me for its complexity and it's a shame Upstart didn't get the take up it deserved given its lead in the replace-sysv-init competition, it's not as scary as being the only major distro that didn't use it.
While testing the developer versions in any way possible is a great idea, there isn’t much benefit in messages telling us Xubuntu works on machine X, or there were no problems with upgrading machine Y.
Why? It’s not measurable.
The following sections will explain the kind of figures we would like to measure, why those figures are important and will hopefully give you some motivation to start running and and reporting tests.Measuring success or failure
Bugs that are being reported. The number and quality of bugs help us measure how smooth the user experience is. In addition, since the bugs are found when running specific testcases, reproducing them is usually trivial, which in turn allows us to get working on them and get them fixed faster.
Of course, doing exploratory testing helps us find bugs that our usual routines do not catch. This is why it’s also important to do tests that go beyond the testcases. If you find such bugs while running a testcase, please report them as well.
The amount of testing that has been done. While quantity doesn’t replace or imply quality, it’s important to know how thoroughly the tests have been run. This is all the more true when people are able to run tests with varying hardware and not just virtualized environments.
The number of people testing. Usually, more eyes find more bugs. Along with the number of tests run, this helps us get a sense of how thorough the testing was.
Furthermore, the last two figures also help us decide whether we need to run more calls for testers as we prepare for the next milestone or cadence testing.Bring out your results
Simply put, reported results are the only reliable way we have to gauge these figures. In the ideal situation, the number of bugs reported is going down while the number of testers and tests run is going up.
However, if the reported results we are currently looking at are the reality, then on average Xubuntu gets released after being tested by somewhere in the region of 20 people. After the release, the version in question is used by thousands. We’re sure that you’d not like to think that!
As you might gather, reporting tests is almost as important as your testing in the first place. Starting reporting will be an extra step or two for you, but don’t be afraid – we will help you to get started and help you throughout.Getting started
If you are one of those unsung heroes who is regularly out there testing for us – let us know, we’ll be looking, as always, for new names on the trackers. Reports are made at each meeting on how testing has gone in the preceding week.
To get started, subscribe to the Xubuntu development mailing list – you’ll see all the calls from QA that way.
If you have any questions about how to get involved, then members of the Xubuntu QA team can usually be found in #xubuntu-devel on Freenode and will be happy to help, as will most that you’ll see in there.
Again, please remember that Xubuntu is a completely community driven project. If you are reading this and are running Xubuntu, consider giving back. Thank you!
The Ubuntu Doc team is proud to present Ubuntu Documentation Day 2014! On this day, which is March 2 at 1600 UTC, we are offering classroom sessions on #ubuntu-classroom and the place to ask questions on #ubuntu-classroom-chat. These rooms are both on irc.freenode.net.
I will be teaching the session on the Wiki (docs) part of the team which is at 1900 UTC.
More info HERE
We hope to see you guys there and hopeful you all learn how to help the Ubuntu Doc to grow.
I am just quite finishing my computer science degree. So I have finally time.
Its being a lot since I am a little sleepy in the Ubuntu Comunity. I have been a little active in Ask Ubuntu and some local events at my city.
But I finally decided that my contribution this year is going to be to develop apps for Ubuntu Desktop/Mobile.
I have being reading a lot of posts here in Planet Ubuntu and checking the website http://developer.ubuntu.com/
I am quite excited in beginning. Planning to write a lot about my experience, examples and possible issues I find.
Beside this I am planning to learn Node.js
I hope that at the end of the year, I can write an article saying this two goals were completed.
With Bdale Garbee’s casting vote this week, the Debian technical committee finally settled the question of init for both Debian and Ubuntu in favour of systemd.
I’d like to thank the committee for their thoughtful debate under pressure in the fishbowl; it set a high bar for analysis and experience-driven decision making since most members of the committee clearly took time to familiarise themselves with both options. I know the many people who work on Upstart appreciated the high praise for its code quality, rigorous testing and clarity of purpose expressed even by members who voted against it; from my perspective, it has been a pleasure to support the efforts of people who want to create truly great free software, and do it properly. Upstart has served Ubuntu extremely well – it gave us a great competitive advantage at a time when things became very dynamic in the kernel, it’s been very stable (it is after all the init used in both Ubuntu and RHEL 6 and has set a high standard for Canonical-lead software quality of which I am proud.
Nevertheless, the decision is for systemd, and given that Ubuntu is quite centrally a member of the Debian family, that’s a decision we support. I will ask members of the Ubuntu community to help to implement this decision efficiently, bringing systemd into both Debian and Ubuntu safely and expeditiously. It will no doubt take time to achieve the stability and coverage that we enjoy today and in 14.04 LTS with Upstart, but I will ask the Ubuntu tech board (many of whom do not work for Canonical) to review the position and map out appropriate transition plans. We’ll certainly complete work to make the new logind work without systemd as pid 1. I expect they will want to bring systemd into Ubuntu as an option for developers as soon as it is reliably available in Debian, and as our default as soon as it offers a credible quality of service to match the existing init.
Technologies of choice evolve, and our platform evolves both to lead (today our focus is on the cloud and on mobile, and we are quite clearly leading GNU/Linux on both fronts) and to embrace change imposed elsewhere. Init is contentious because it is required for both developers and system administrators to understand its quirks and capabilities. No wonder this was a difficult debate, the consequences for hundreds of thousands of people are very high. From my perspective the fact that good people were clearly split suggests that either option would work perfectly well. I trust the new stewards of pid 1 will take that responsibility as seriously as the Upstart team has done, and be as pleasant to work with. And… onward.
And, as promised in the last liberation campaign, the French translation has been published as a paperback by Eyrolles (see the cover above).
Check out the article on debian-handbook.info for more information.
I would like to take the opportunity of this special day to express how much the influence of Free Software to my life is.
Back in 2005 I started to use Linux and because I had no clue I looked for support in the German-language Kubuntu community. This is how I jumped into and got an idea about Free Software. Kubuntu and the people were fun, after some time I was able to give support and not only take it. I helped out with other things, started to attend conferences (usually also in combination with a Kubuntu community booth). I met amazing people who became really really good friends.
An outstanding position does have the LinuxTag in Berlin, because there I made my most important contacts. It was the first time, I met my friends from the German-language Kubuntu community in person. It was the place, where I first met Frank, founder of ownCloud. The later founded company behind the ownCloud project now gives me the chance to make a living with free software. I cannot deny it was a dream.
Most important however was that at the same conference I met my beloved wife. Yes, personally the I Love FS day has more in common with the Valentine's day than you might guess.
Needless to say that LinuxTag was also the first conference, my son attended – at the age of 9 months ;)
Happy I Love FS day!Tags: BlizzzPlanetUbuntuPlanetOwnCloud
I spent the last weekend of 2013 doing major cleaning. I straightened up the half of my bedroom that counts as my home office, got my printer set up in its rightful space on top of the end table/bookshelf by my computer desk so I can use the scanner, bought new ink cartridges, moved around inspirational and educational books to the office bookshelf, and mounted my whiteboard again. I also bought a check holder rail to mount under my whiteboard. With a clean desk, easy office supply access, and a big whiteboard with a ton of dry-erase markers, I was ready to plan for the year.
One of the big problems with freelancing is time management. There are a lot of things to do, but there are also a lot of pictures of cats to look at on reddit. Between the two, it’s easy for important goals to slip between the cracks. In 2014, I decided to go back to a paper-based time management system that worked so well for my first private IT job years ago. It was invented by David Seah and is called the Printable CEO. This system is a collection of mix and match forms which allow you to track time in a variety of ways. You can use any form on its own or combine them to track various projects. It has its foundation in the Getting Things Done method of time management.
When I first started working in IT after graduating, my boss was quite busy with a lot of things, and asked me to keep track of my time and send him a weekly report of the things I worked on. I had never needed to do this before and was able to find the Printable CEO series through searching for time management forms. The Resource Time Tracker was the perfect tool to track my tasks throughout the week, and I actually used the short weekly form on its own week after week. Not only could I see where my time was going, but after a couple of weeks I could actually use it to plan out new projects. When I started writing business reports in Python, it was very useful to know how much actual work I needed to do and how much time I could spend automating. I’ve started a long-term project with a friend that seems just right for these forms and I’ve put it into practice for the first time this month.
For my own day-to-day planning, what I really need is accountability. Every working day since the last week of December, I’ve used the Emergent Task Planner. It’s a single-page sheet that has three work periods (separated with one-hour breaks) where you can list three (or more) major tasks for the day, estimate the time they will take, and then plan when you’ll work on them. There’s another large section for notes and other things. The nice thing about this form is that it was meant to work with the Pomodoro technique, where you work in set intervals. These forms use a 15-minute interval. This means that for every 15 minutes you work on a task, you get to fill in a bubble marking your time spent. This is a silly but addictive reward for getting things done and I’ve found that it works really well for me. I use this for single-day tasks that I know I can finish as well as planning to work on multi-day tasks.
For tasks that need to be tracked over multiple days, I use a form called the Task Order Up. This is like an order check used in restaurants around the world. I write down a task and break it into discrete steps. Then I work on each step and fill in a bubble every 15 minutes. I printed a page of each available color and keep green for direct freelance work, orange for Ubuntu work, and black for anything else. I actually ordered a check rail holder just for these slips. Having them in front of me beside my monitor is a great reminder of my progress.
For its own part, Ubuntu has been a big help in keeping me productive. I’m a big fan of Unity, and with the Launcher hidden, Unity really makes it easy to focus on my work at all times. When I need quick information, the Dash search in Ubuntu 13.10 lets me quickly find not just applications, but also the files and folders I’ve recently worked on for each application. I can do a search and find the folders and files I’ve been working on and open them quickly. Occasionally I’ll put on background music, and the Dash is up to snuff with music searches as well. Meanwhile the messaging indicator keeps me aware of incoming emails without diverting my attention. And the date indicator keeps track of any appointments I enter into my Google account via my phone. There are a few Pomodoro apps for Ubuntu, but I don’t use them personally. I prefer to keep track of start and stop times myself. Still, Ubuntu is one of the major reasons I’ve been productive this year! Well, if you don’t count the time I’ve spent playing Kerbal Space Program via Steam, anyway.
This year I set out to renovate the way I do business, and I found some wonderful, clean time management forms I can use on paper. Ubuntu continues to be the perfect fit for my desktop and laptop computers. Thanks to this combination of organization and accountability, I’ve been able to really get work done and adjust my schedule for my strengths and weaknesses. A month and a half into 2014, the year’s looking bright. I’m grateful to combine the best of legacy time organization and the best software in computing to create a powerful foundation to build on.
The day will start off at 16:00 UTC with a session by Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph (pleia2) consisting of a quick tour of all the Documentation resources available, including Desktop, Server, Wiki and Manual.
The next five sessions will give potential contributors an overview of contributing to each of the resources (all times UTC, click on time for link to time conversions.
- 17:00: Getting started contributing to Desktop docs by Kevin Godby (godbyk)
- 18:00: Getting started contributing to Server docs by Doug Smythies (dsmythies)
- 19:00: Getting started contributing to the Wiki docs by Svetlana Belkin (belkinsa)
- 20:00: Getting started contributing to Manual by Kevin Godby (godbyk)
- 21:00: Ubuntu Manual versions explained by Thomas Corwin (tacorwin) and Patrick Dickey (patrickdickey)
So come learn how to contribute to documentation with us!
Sessions all take place on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). If you want to participate, you just need to join #ubuntu-classroom and #ubuntu-classroom-chat on irc.freenode.net in your IRC client, or just click here for browser-based webchat. The instructor will give the class in #ubuntu-classroom and attendees can chat about the class and ask questions in #ubuntu-classroom-chat.
If you’re unable to attend, logs of each session will be made available following the event.
We hope to see you on Sunday, March 2nd!
Among all the icons I make for software throughout the community (or for my own devices) are those for Ubuntu Touch applications –which, given the publicization of the new style, I'm doing more of recently
So think of this post as an offering of my abilities. As such, I've created a small Google form wherein you can request an icon (or several) from me for your app.Ubuntu Icon Requests
There have been quite a few entertaining discussions on the interwebs about Ubuntu and concerns around privacy. This topic comes and goes on a regular basis, today it has come up because Mozilla are planning on putting some fairly harmless adverts on the blank tiles of new tabs and this is being compared to the Dash search in Ubuntu. Whenever the topic is raised it tends to be a fairly heated discussion, mostly focussing on the Amazon search results in the dash, mostly calling that adverts or spyware. It is a discussion that is mostly overblown and underinformed, with so much time spent freaking out about “adverts” that the real problems have been completely missed. Lets go through a bit of history, and I will try and explain the difference between the real problems and the FUD.
Initially there was the Gnome 2 application launcher, kinda similar to the Windows start button, it is a way to run applications that you have on your computer. They are nicely categorised so you can find all the graphics related applications on your computer and see Inkscape alongside Gimp and choose what you want to run. This worked well and people were generally satisfied at this mechanism for running local applications. Then along came Unity, this introduced the launcher, a dock bar on the left that shows running applications and has the ability to pin applications so you can start them by clicking on them when they are not running. The launcher is the way to run applications that you have on your computer – but not all of them, and not categorised, just your favourite ones you have pinned to the launcher. Unity also introduced the dash. This has a different scope of functionality, I like to call it the OmniGlobalEverywhere search tool. You type stuff in and it searches in lots of places to find what it is you are looking for. This is not the same scope of functionality as the Gnome 2 application launcher, it could search for local files, videos on YouTube and other streaming services, music, photos, other things. It is an extensible search interface and you can plug in additional search things. I wrote an OpenERP plugin so I could type an invoice number and jump straight to that invoice in a browser for example. It was a pretty cool concept as a jack of all trades search interface – but it isn’t the master of the specialised job of viewing and running applications you have already got installed.
Everyone completely missed the fact that the magic privacy button for a long time did almost nothing – it was just an undocumented flag that some lenses looked at and turned themselves off. Others did not. This was a real big deal and nobody noticed because they were obsessed with calling Amazon search results adverts. Now we have all kinds of odd lenses and search queries possibly going to yelp, zotero, yahoo finance, songster, songkick, gallica, europeana, etsy, COLORlovers and other places. Have you even heard of every single one of these? Do you know they are not evil? Do you know they are financially stable enough not to close the doors and let the domain renewal lapse for someone evil to buy it? Amazon I know and trust to continue existing, I also trust them not to want searches for partial mostly irrelevant words for profiling data when they have my product purchase history. The utter junk that the dash sends is of no value to Amazon compared to everything else they have, but this doesn’t stop people banging on about that one specific, relatively harmless and pointless in equal measure lense.
Firstly the Amazon lens is nothing special, and it is perhaps the internet connected lens I am least worried about. I trust Amazon to do what I expect them to do, I am a customer so they know what I bought, sending them random strings like “calcul” and “gedi” and “eclip” does not give them valuable data. It is junk. I am much more concerned about stuff like the Europeana, jstor, grooveshark lenses which do exactly the same thing but I have no idea who those organisations are or what they do. Even things like openweathermap, sounds good, but are they really a trusted organisation?
So, back to how it works. Your query for “socks” goes to products.ubuntu.com. At that point canonical’s secret sauce server looks at your query and decides that most people who search for socks either want to know about products to buy, or applications to run. They don’t tend to click on the results from the medicines or recipes lenses when we try showing those lenses to the user. So, having decided that the shopping lens and the applications lens are reasonable ones to search in it sends the query to Amazon (being the only shop currently supported, but it is designed to support every online sock vendor in the world) and tells your computer that the applications lens is worth looking in. When it gets the results back from Amazon those go to your computer, as a bunch of json data that is very similar to the Amazon json API, Amazon at this point thinks that Canonical’s server has got cold toes and is in need of some nice warm socks. Amazon does not know you exist at this stage.
That bundle of sock related data goes to the shopping lens on your computer, which then displays the results. It does this by showing some text “stripy socks, only £5.30″ and a picture, which it used to retrieve from Amazons content distribution network – O.M.G.!!! a data privacy leak. Amazon could log hits to their CDN (which I doubt they do), consolidate them globally, and figure out that it was displaying a bunch of sock pictures requested by your IP address, shortly after Canonical’s server searched for socks, so they could theoretically tie this together and infer that the reason you are staring at sock pictures is because you searched for socks via the dash search tool. So this huge and seriously concerning data privacy breach was a problem, so they fixed it. Now when you search for socks, Amazon gets CDN requests for images from products.ubuntu.com. Your computer gets the images from products.ubuntu.com (over https rather than http), it is now basically a reverse proxy for Amazon images, so that amazon is now more convinced than ever that Canonical’s server has got cold toes. As it happens, there is nothing wrong with your toes and you actually wanted to configure a socks proxy all along, and the shopping thing was a pointless overhead because when you want new socks the dash isn’t where you dash to.
There is a conversation on the technical board mailing list here https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/technical-board/2013-October/thread.html and here https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/technical-board/2013-November/thread.html relating to the closedness of the server side app. Having written something a bit similar myself, mine was closed for a while because it contained the Amazon API oauth keys in the source code. There really isn’t much to it on the server side. My server code is here https://github.com/AlanBell/shopping-search-provider/blob/master/server/index.php