Tag Archives: Jeremy Bicha

Ubuntu Gnome Remix 12.10 Review

The first stable release of Ubuntu Gnome Remix has arrived with a lot of promises for long-time Gnome users. Ever since Ubuntu switched to Unity, it became harder for Gnome users to get the pure Gnome 3.x experience on top of their preferred operating system. Quite a lot of users moved to other distributions and we saw the rise of derivatives like Linux Mint which seems to have become the favorite distro of seasoned GNU/Linux journalists like Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.

As a long time Gnome+Ubuntu user, I was personally excited about this release. However, before I picked this review, I reminded myself that ‘this is the first release of Ubuntu Gnome Remix’ so treat it as the first release. At time tend to start judging things in their beta or alpha stages, which is simply unfair. So, before we bring UGR under the microscope keep in mind that this is the very first release and Gnome 3.x is still going through heavy development so my criticism of this release should be taken too seriously.

I have been dabbling with this release and Gnome 3.x on Fedora/openSUSE for a while so there was not much in this release that would excite me. It offers the latest (almost) and greatest from Gnome barn.

Touch Ready
I have been a Gnome user till early this year when I switched to KDE so it was comforting to see pure Gnome Shell experience on top of Ubuntu. It was fresh (compared to the Gnome that we have been using for almost a decade now). Gnome teams are doing an incredible job keeping in mind the ‘touch’ based devices which Windows 8 will bring to the market. KDE is prepared for such devices with their plasma active and so is Gnome 3.x.

I am not sure about how Ubuntu will perform on such devices as despite its focus on keyboard it is not at all optimized for touch-based devices. It will be very hard to navigate using tiny Global Menus when using Unity on such devices.

On the contrary Gnome’s Global Menus are large and designed keeping in mind the touch-based devices and thick fingers. Gnome 3.x looks extremely polished and pleasing. It looks like a DE which you will enjoy if put on a touch enabled tablet.

Not Happy With Default Software Manager
UGR comes with default Gnome applications so you can start using your PC as soon as you are finished installation, which is quite easy. However, I did not feel very comfortable with the Software Manager of UGR. It was slow and looked unfriendly when compared with Software Center (or even Synaptic) so I resorted to terminal and installed Synaptic.

What I don’t like the most about Package Manager is that when you search for an item it doesn’t show the item you searched for on the top. It’s not intelligent enough. For example I searched for Synaptic and the actual packages was buried at the bottom of the list. This will make it very hard for a new user to install anything in Gnome. And looking at the traditional audience of Gnome, it must be extremely easy to find and install applications using the default software manager.

The goal of UGR is to satisfy the Gnome users who want pure Gnome experience with less and less of Ubuntu specific packages. So you can’t complain if it’s missing Synaptic Package Manager of Software Center. Gnome 3.x is still under heavy development an we can see some stability improvement with 3.8.

What’s Ugly
Gnome icons are ugly. This is one are feels like you are dropped in some dirty getto. Gnome icons look out of place and are eyesore. I think the team needs to change the default icon-set.

What’s Hard To Do
Since Gnome is still going through transition and active development a lot of things are still under ‘construction’ so it will be unfair to point out half-baked stuff. It’s still cooking. From design perspective, Gnome retains its ease of use. It has dropped some functionality which an average user may not miss but can be a deal breaker for an advanced user. Nautilus is extremely stripped down and it painful to be used as a decent file manager. There is not much that you can do in Nautilus.

Comparison KDE’s Dolphin vs Gnome Nautilus

Taking complete control of your system is also harder under Gnome. Changing things like themes and icons has become Herculean tasks under Gnome 3.x. KDE on the contrary offers complete control over your desktop.

Comparison KDE’s Desktop Settings vs Gnome System Settings

What’s Missing
Gnome teams have their own set of popular applications, and I don’t understand this duplication. However, the default web browser Web doesn’t support Flash under Ubuntu and if you want to use Flash you will have to install Firefox or Chromium.

Gnome introduced their own implementation of virtual box as Boxes but its missing from UGR as it was not working under Ubuntu. Another notable Gnome application Documents (which allows you to fetch Google Docs for viewing) is also missing as it depends on LibreOffice and UGR doesn’t offer LibreOffice by default.

So, a bit of Gnome 3.x is missing from this release, but this is the first release of Ubuntu Gnome Remix and we can expect things to get better with each release. As a Gnome user one can than Jeremy Bicha for taking the challenge and bringing pure (almost) Gnome experience to Ubuntu users.

With Ubuntu Gnome Remix Jeremy is trying to walk on a tight rope as Ubuntu doesn’t use the the default or latest Gnome packages and patches them for Unity (Gnome Control Center is one such example). So even if UGR wants to offer pure Gnome experience it is stuck with those old packages used by Ubuntu.

Jeremy Bicha

What’s Old
Ubuntu Gnome Remix is still using the old Nautilus 3.4.2 instead of the latest 3.6 in addition to the older versions of System Settings and Totem.

Upgrade Them To Latest
If you want to upgrade to the latest versions of these applications you can try Gnome3PPA.

As a long time Gnome user I am happy to see the ‘return’ of pure Gnome experience on Ubuntu. This release is definitely great news for long time Gnome users. Now you have more choices if you are looking for a Gnome-based distribution. You have vanilla Gnome experience through Fedora or openSUSE or extremely customized Gnome experience via Linux Mint or you also have Ubuntu Gnome Remix which is the first release to offer (as close as possible) pure Gnome experience on top of Ubuntu.

Am I impressed with Ubuntu Gnome Remix?
Yes, I am truly impressed with the job Jeremy has done there. There are quite a lot of wrinkles there but I want to highlight that this is the ‘first’ release of Ubuntu Gnome Remix. I will not judge the future or quality of UGR based on this release. The baby has just born, let’s not get touch on him.

Personally, I have started using KDE as it offers more control and customization which I needed and 4.9 is extremely stable. But not everyone needs that level of customization. Gnome has been known for ease of use and simplicity and this release lives up to that reputation. Gnome has enjoyed a decent user-based and Ubuntu Gnome Remix will satisfy those Gnome users.

I liked everything about Ubuntu Gnome Remix. Jeremy and the team have tried their best to stike a balance between Ubuntu and Gnome 3.x experience. It’s a great, stable release, and once you install Gnome3PPA you will get the latest versions of applications like Nautilus. If you are a Gnome user and want to try pure Gnome on top of Ubuntu, you can download and install it from this link.

Ubuntu Gnome 12.10 Beta Released, Impressive Gnome Flavour

Jeremy Bicha announced the second beta of Ubuntu Gnome Remix 12.10 yesterday. This release is another step towards bringing the pure Gnome experience to Ubuntu. This beta will definitely please the long time Gnome-Ubuntu users who felt left out when Ubuntu switched to Unity. Now Gnome users have more choices, they can use Ubuntu, openSUSE or Fedora for pure Gnome experience; those who want a tweaked version of Gnome Shell can always try Cinnamon on Linux Mint.

What’s New? It’s Still Beta
So, what’s new in this beta and is it ready for the ‘prime’ time? Ubuntu 12.10 brings Gnome 3.6, which was released just a few days ago. So what you get with Ubuntu 12.10 Gnome Remix is the ‘pure’ and the latest Gnome Shell experience on top or the ‘consumer’ grade Ubuntu. Jeremy Bicha and the team has ensured to stay as close as possible to the ‘stock’ Gnome.

Ubuntu 12.10 is using Grub 2 so the boot menu is cleaner than before, all you see is the names of the installed distributions.

All the apps you need
Ubuntu Gnome Remix comes with the stock Gnome apps which includes Empathy for instant messaging, Evolution as an email client, Disk a refined disk partition manager, Files (Nautilus file manager), Web (teh default web browser) and Boxes (a Virtual Machine app). There are whole lot of other applications available on the 800+MB CD image.

Installed aps can be accessed from Activities which you can trigger by hitting the super key and then accessing it from ‘show application’ icon on the launcher. [check out the image gallery]Here you can access the app from particular category which is listed neatly.

Ubuntu Gnome Remix Image Gallery


Apt-Get Install
However, I don’t use the stock apps so I grabbed Synaptic Package Manager and installed Firefox, LibreOffice, ThunderBird (as it allows to change the location where you want to keep your folder), GIMP and the rest of the lot.

I would have preferred the popular applications pre-installed (such as Firefox, LibreOffice and GIMP) so that a new user gets a familiar out-of-the-box experience.

The choice of pre-installed applications depends on what is the goal of Ubuntu Gnome Remix – to simply offer Gnome on top of Ubuntu or to offer a complete desktop experience with Gnome. However, as we know the goal of developers is to stick to pure Gnome experience.

Speed and overall experience
I found Ubuntu Gnome Remix to be fast (I have not tried Unity for months so I can’t talk about the Unity experience on 12.10), it’s as fast as openSUSE 12.2 is. I did notice that openSUSE 12.2 was a bit faster to boot when compared with Ubuntu as it has switched to systemd 44.

The new lock screen is elegant and shows the time in big fonts with your default desktop wallpaper in the background. To stay closer to Gnome UGR is using GDM instead of its own LightDM. Both look great and it’s more about preference.

How an old Gnome user feel?
I have been a long-time (and loyal) Gnome user ever since I switched to GNU/Linux in 2005. I have been a Gnome user all these years until Ubuntu came with Unity. I tried Unity, liked it, but somehow I felt more in control with KDE and switched to KDE. OpenSUSE has become my preferred distro.

Prior to UGR, the Gnome experience under Ubuntu was broken and there was no unbruised way of using Gnome with your friendly OS. UGR brings that comfort back, which a Gnome-Ubuntu user expects – it’s simple, and works out of the box.

After using it for 2 days it felt extremely stable (there were no crash reports, which I surprisingly see often on Ubuntu 12.04 running Unity whenever I try it).

Beta bugy?
There are few annoying bugs such as Dropbox won’t link to any folder other than the default /home/dropbox folder where as all my data sits outside home on different partitions.

The overall Gnome experience was fine unless you want to use extensions, which pivotal for a ‘useful’ Gnome experience. Most extensions stop working after upgrading to the latest version of Gnome. Under UGR I was not able to use a majority of extensions I was using under Gnome 3.4.

Gnome team need to fix this problem as it leaves a user with a PC which he can’t use anymore. When you visit the extensions site all these ‘incompatible extensions appear grayed out which can’t be installed and used.

Gnome also needs a built-in tool or some kind of integration with the Gnome Tweak Tool which allows a user to install and manage extensions without having to open a browser. Currently Gnome Tweak Tool does give a link which opens the extension site so that a user can install them. Management of extensions needs a lot of work given Gnome’s focus is on ease of use and out-of-the box experience.

I was unable to use the extensions which I was using with Gnome 3.4 which left me bruised.

Great gnome experience
Beyond these glitches, Ubuntu 12.10 offers a great Gnome 3.6 shell experience. Jeremy Bicha has done a commendable job by creating a solid Gnome flavor of Ubuntu. I know quit a lot of Ubuntu users who moved away due to the lack of stable Gnome Shell edition of Ubuntu. I think UGR will bring those users back. Ubuntu Gnome Remix is healthy for the growth of Gnome as Ubuntu is a major distribution and the Gnome project will definitely benefit from this user-base.

You can download and test Ubuntu Gnome Remix 12.10 from this link.

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First Images Of Ubuntu Gnome Remix 12.10 Arrive For Testing

It’s here. We have been writing about the ‘official’ edition of Ubuntu Gnome for almost a year now and it’s finally here. The first ISO (alpha) images of Gnome Shell edition of Ubuntu is now available for download and testing, Jeremy Bicha just told me on Google+.

Ubuntu Gnome Remix

What Is Ubuntu GNOME Remix?
According to the project page, “The Ubuntu GNOME Remix is a mostly pure GNOME desktop experience built from the Ubuntu repositories. The Quantal Quetzal Alpha Release of Ubuntu GNOME Remix 12.10 is a developer snapshot to give you a very early glance at the next version of Ubuntu GNOME Remix.”

The Ubuntu GNOME Remix offers a mix of packages. The team has tried its best to offer the pure Gnome experience but due to bugs some ‘important’ Gnome applications have been dropped.

  • the first GNOME 3.6 beta, GNOME 3.5.90.
  • Web (epiphany-browser) is the GNOME web browser.
  • Abiword is the GNOME word processor and Gnumeric is the GNOME spreadsheet app.
  • GNOME Classic (gnome-panel 3) is included but GNOME Shell is the default session if your hardware supports it. If you want the – GNOME Classic with-effects session to work, install compiz.
  • Software (gnome-package-kit) is included in this alpha release. It also includes its own update manager. You can install updates by opening Software and clicking Check for Updates in the Software app menu.

Ubuntu One is one of the most important applications/services from Canonical and while it is not pre-installed, Ubuntu GNOME Remix comes with an Ubuntu One installer which makes it easier to install Ubuntu One and use the cloud.

What’s missing at the moment:

  • Boxes is not included as it didn’t seem to be working. Also, qemu-linaro (qemu-kvm-spice) doesn’t built on i386 in Ubuntu. qemu-kvm with spice support does build in Debian though on i386. (928432)
  • LibreOffice
  • Documents as it depends on LibreOffice.
  • Firefox and since Web doesn’t support Flash you will need to install Firefox or Chromium..

But you can easily install applications like LibreOffice (and thus Documents), Firefox or Chromimum easily from the Software (manager).

Some GNOME apps will not be upgraded to 3.6 for the 12.10 release. If you want these, try the GNOME3 PPA.

One may debate the default applications, but in my opinion there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to complain about this alpha. On the contrary a Gnome user will only appreciate the hard work done by Ubuntu developers like Jeremy Bicha to bring out this release.

Since it’s alpha and the first release of Ubuntu GNOME Remix 12.10 it’s only going to get better with time. As a GNOME/Ubuntu user you can help make it better by participating in Ubuntu and Gnome. You can also help the team in squashing bugs as Linus law states, “Given enough eye balls all bugs are shallow”.

The Gnome edition of Ubuntu will bring back a lot of hard-core Gnome Shell fans who were looking elsewhere to get the pure Gnome Shell experience. Both Fedora and openSUSE are doing a great job at offering Gnome 3 Shell experience and the arrival of Ubuntu GNOME Remix will give the project the audience it needed.

The availability of Ubuntu GNOME Remix also fills the missing gap that was created when Canonical embraced it’s own Unity for Ubuntu. With Ubuntu Gnome Remix now there is something for everyone in Ubuntu’s shop.

You can download the ISO images (torrents) of Ubuntu Gnome Remix 12.10 from this link.

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GNOMEbuntu Will Be Available This October

There is good news for all GNOME users. It’s official and GNOME Shell edition of Ubuntu is coming this October.

Ubuntu + Gnome

As a long time Ubuntu user I was essentially a Gnome user but Unity changed everything. Unity did bring a new UI but it also enabled Canonical to drive the development of Ubuntu in the direction they wanted to increase the market share of Ubuntu. We are noticing the results in the market as Ubuntu’s adoption is increasing.

Unity is extremely rich when it comes to new features and services. You can keep an eye on OMG! Ubuntu or our Ubuntu section to see how Unity is shaping up. However, there are Gnome users who are still looking for the pure GNOME experience on top of the stability and app ecosystem of Ubuntu.

We first talked about GNOME Shell edition of Ubuntu back in 2011 when Sebastien Bacher posted a call for contributors on a mailing list. I flirted with Gnome Shell Ubuntu Remix and liked it very much. I also tried an alternative method to get pure Gnome Shell experience on Ubuntu, but all these methods have one or the other shortcoming – random crashes were common.

These experience left me desiring for an official pure Gnome Shell based edition of Ubuntu. One of the reasons behind this desire is that there is no way someone can simply download an ISO and get the pure Gnome Shell Edition supported by Ubuntu teams.

Jeremy Bicha, an Ubuntu developer, gave indications of a GNOME Shell edition during the UDS in May. Recently there were some discussions around what would be the name of the flavor. We now have answers to most of the questions. First thing first. The Gnome Shell edition of Ubuntu may be called GNOMEbuntu! [The domain gnomebuntu.org has been blocked by Ryan Lortie]

Update: Jeremy told us that while GNOMEbuntu was their first choice “GNOME Foundation Board won’t let us use GNOME in a combination word like GNOMEbuntu.”

There is an active thread on Ubuntu Forum started by Stinger (who tipped us about this story) which reveals the GNOME Ubuntu plan. Jermey Bicha is doing an excellent job of bringing GNOMEbuntu to this world. So what will this GNOMEbuntu look like and what kind of packages it will have?

To Be Or Not To Be: What’s Uncertain

LightDM vs GDM: Gnome uses GDM which has a fancy new lock screen whereas Ubuntu uses LightDM which is equalliy polished so it is unclear whether Gnomebuntu will use GDM or LightGDM. Jeremy says, “It might be possible for a LightDM greeter or extension to duplicate this functionality and be a swap-in, but we need someone to create that.”

Control Center: Just like LightDM and GDM there is uncertainty around Control Center. Jeremy says, “Although splitting gnome-control-center and ubuntu-control-center was a goal for this release, no one has stepped up to do it yet.”

Software Manager: Another uncertain area is the default software manager. It’s unclear “whether it’ll use Ubuntu’s Software Center and Updater (update-manager) or gnome-packagekit (which will be called “Software” in the next release).”

Update: Jeremy confirmed that “currently, it’s using gnome-packagekit like Fedora does. gpk has been rebranded as “Software” in GNOME 3.6.”

File Manager: There is an ongoing discussion about how Nautilus (which is now called Files) is stripping features and both Ubuntu and Linux Mint are patching it to keep the functionality intact. While Linux Mint has officially announced its fork called Nemo, there is no official statement from Ubuntu teams. So which file manager will be used in Gnomebuntu?

Jeremy clarifies the status of Files/Nautilus in Ubuntu or Gnomebuntu. “The Nautilus fork for Ubuntu doesn’t exist yet. You could even say it’s a rumor. On the other hand, the rumor did start from the Canonical Desktop Team Tech Lead. But then again, Feature Freeze is this week so it would need a Feature Freeze Exception. If a split were to happen, GNOMEbuntu would obviously stick to the upstream Nautilus.”

What’s Excluded

Gnomebuntu will also exclude a lot of Ubuntu services and applications by default such as Ubuntu One. Jeremy explains the reason as its UI is a bit crazy and it depends on QT libraries which takes up extra space. Gnomebuntu will not include Unity.

To offer the pure Gnome experience, “We’re even working to split out several customized Ubuntu settings to allow for a purer GNOME experience for those that want it,” says Jeremy.

What’s Included

Gnomebuntu will include Compiz, because GNOME Classic is currently included “with the indicators by the way because it makes the session far more useful by default, says Jeremy. The default music players in Ubuntu attracted some controversy lately. Steering clear of any controversy, Gnomebuntu will use Rhythmbox as the default music player. One unpleasant (in my opinion) decision is to drop Firefox and LibreOffice and instead use Epiphany and Abiword by default.

Jeremy gave us the reason behind this selection of apps, “We are trying to ship a pure GNOME experience. Therefore, it includes Epiphany (Web), Evolution, Abiword, and Gnumeric; it does not come with Firefox or LibreOffice pre-installed.”

That said, the fact remains not everything about Gnomebuntu (even the name) is carved in stone. Things can and will change so keep an eye on this thread.

When Can I Test?

Jeremy has confirmed that there will be a 12.10 release, but we won’t be an official recognized Ubuntu flavor this cycle. If you remember correctly Lubuntu recently became the official Ubuntu flavour so G-ubuntu will have to go through the regular process of becoming a recognized flavour.

Alpha will soon be available for testing.

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