Ubuntu 12.04 will hit its first beta release today in a few hours. We will be reviewing the beta release in detail when it is officially out. But what can we expect from this beta? Well, all the features planned at the Ubuntu Summit should already be in place and only hunting and fixing bugs is left. This part is important and requires the help of the entire Ubuntu community.
So the million dollar question is “How can I contribute to pixel perfecting Ubuntu 12.04 LTS ?” At this stage it is not possible to introduce new strings or make changes to the user interface since we are past the feature and user interface freeze. However, we can test out Ubuntu 12.04 and report any other bugs that we might experience. In this article, I will go over how do you install Ubuntu 12.04 without affecting your existing installation, how to report useful bug reports and contributing back to Ubuntu.
Trying out Ubuntu 12.04 Safely
Since Ubuntu 12.04 is still in its beta, you might be reluctant to install it on your production computer. But that's fine. You can try out Ubuntu 12.04 without touching your existing installation by using VirtualBox to virtually try out Ubuntu 12.04. VirtualBox creates a virtual hard drive on your system where it virtually simulates the installation of Ubuntu. This way the existing installation stays unaffected. If otherwise you do not want to go through the hassle of trying out virtualbox, you can always use a Live CD.
Bug reports inform the developer of an existing bug in their code. However, we need make provide sufficient information if you want your bug to be solved. Bug reports for Ubuntu need to be submitted to Launchpad. Instead of writing a huge paragraph about this process, I would rather just share a video made by Jono Bacon that I saw in youtube.
Here are a few essential tips that we expect from a bug report. And I say this from experience. When I try to confirm a bug, I look for the following in a bug report.
- Try to always submit bugs using Apport as explained in the video above. It collects all the information about your system which will prove handy to the developers to quickly find a solution to your bug.
- Mention “Steps to reproduce the bug”, “What is expected to happen” and “What actually happens”. Other information like system info is automatically added by Apport.This will help Ubuntu Developers to quickly close in to the problem and focus on fixing it.
- Also try to reply to any further questions that they might have. You are automatically signed up to the bug report and will receive any updates which are made to it.
Contributing to Ubuntu 12.04
Bug reporting is one way to contribute back to Ubuntu. However, if you ever thought about doing more but couldn't because you are not a developer and are not that familiar with programming, that's still fine. You are in the same situation as me! There are other areas where we can contribute. Ubuntu 12.04 will be released with the Unity desktop environment as its default. And Unity requires some help to further improve the user experience. What exactly? Well, application require quicklist support and also the new keywords syntax. I'll explain a little more about keywords.
I am sure you would agree with me if I said “the dash search is an important feature of Unity”. Well at present, if you are searching for Totem Video Player and you search for it by typing “video player” or “audio player” it does not show Totem Video Player because Unity does not know this search term. So, the developers upstream have come up with a way to solve this. And that is by adding keywords support to applications. By adding keywords which describe the application, we can make sure that the application show up in the dash search when searching for it generally than specifically.
How exactly can we add keywords to applications? I can describe it here but there is a blog post about exactly this, which you can find here. This blog post starts from the basic (getting the source, editing the desktop file) to pushing it to Ubuntu and upstream. By doing this, you will improve the experience of millions of Ubuntu users worldwide.
If you have any questions regarding keywords, you can comment on this post or in the blog post link above.