Unity’s Sticky Monitor Edges in Ubuntu 12.04 beta1

A couple months ago, the Canonical Design Team asked for feedback on a new multi-monitor Launcher set-up on their blog. People had complained that if you had a whole bunch of monitors, mousing all the way over to the top-left one to access the launcher was kind of annoying, so they wanted to do something about it. Fair enough.

I tried out their prototype. Their solution involved putting a launcher on every monitor. Okay, sure. But what surprised me was by default they caused the mouse to stop at the monitor boundary unless you move the mouse above a certain speed.

I didn’t like this very much. Good thing I was involved in the design process and caught it early! They asked for feedback in blog comments, so I left one.

Please, I asked, provide a way for me to disable this feature. I don’t use the launcher very much and it’s more important to me that I can move smoothly and seamlessly between applications on different monitors. I like Unity because it gets out of my way and lets me work. This will get in my way.

I upgraded to beta1 today for the Global Jam. I was disappointed to see my request seems to have been ignored. So I’ve posted a bug. And I’ve changed the request slightly: please just give me a config setting somewhere that allows me to pass between monitors without being hindered. Maybe it’s really hard to implement an option to turn off per-monitor launchers and that’s why my suggestion was ignored. Who knows?

To illustrate the issue (since it’s easier to show than to explain), I made a short video using a two-monitor setup. It’s a bit rambly and could probably use editing, but I think it eventually gets the point across. Also, you probably want to watch it in at least 720p and full-screen.

Click here to watch video on YouTube.

PS: To the Unity hataz: I know that by posting something like this I’m going to get a tonne of “Unity/Canonical/Ubuntu/all y’all sucks!” and “You should use $FAVOURITE_WINDOW_MANAGER!” comments. I use Unity and I like it. I want to keep using Unity. Thanks, though. If you’ve found something you like better, great! Keep using it! I’m glad you’re happy with it. I’m aware of the alternatives. But maybe you could post your on your own blog saying that $FAVOURITE_WINDOW_MANAGER has some cool feature or other or some annoying bug you don’t like, and I can learn more about it that way. Maybe even with a cool video! That’d be great!

A Video Lens for Canada: My new goal for the Global Jam

The new video lens in Ubuntu 12.04 features searchable content from across the Internet. It also shows region-specific content, like the BBC iPlayer if you’re in the UK.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the video lens gave Canadians access to videos from the CBC, CTV, NFB animations and documentaries or Comedy Channel shows like The Colbert Report? I think it would!

Now, I foresee a number of possibly insurmountable problems from the start.

  1. I have no idea how the Ubuntu video lens project is managed or how welcoming they are of contributions.
  2. Or what sort of guidelines they’re looking at for adding content channels.
  3. Or how ridiculously complicated they’ve made it to add new channels.
  4. I will be very surprised if any of the above-mentioned sites have publicly-accessible APIs I’d likely need to support this.
  5. Or what policies they might have that would that prevent using their content in this way.

Other than that, it should be easy!

Does anyone out there in Ubuntu Planet land have any suggestions or insight that might help overcoming the difficulties above? Comment here! Or poke me (dscassel) in #ubuntu-ca on Freenode.

Ubuntu Global Jam this Saturday!

This Saturday, join the Jam!

The Waterloo Region Chapter of Ubuntu Canada will be jamming at Kwartzlab in Kitchener

What’s an Ubuntu Global Jam, you ask? Well! This video may help give you an idea:

Or you can read this interview I did with Charles Proffitt of the New York LoCo Team.

Basically, we’ll be trying out the first Ubuntu 12.04 beta (to be released this week!), triaging bugs, fixing things, working on artwork and promotional materials and anything else that we feel can help Ubuntu be better than ever. If you don’t have a computer you can bring, we have some at the lab you can test with.

We’ll also have drinks for sale, order out for food and maybe break out a game of Hedgewars or Teeworlds. Because games need testing too!

See you there!

SOPA/PIPA is a symptom

Larry Lessig is something of a hero of mine. He’s a Harvard law professor who started out campaigning against modern intellectual property extremism that is locking up our culture and making creativity and innovation more and more difficult and more and more expensive. He created the Creative Commons to give artists a way to contribute to a free culture that they benefit from, despite laws which make that increasingly difficult.

A few years ago, though, he stopped fighting the battle against copyright extremism.

He stopped because he realized that increasingly overreaching copyright laws were merely a symptom of a much larger problem. It, along with inaction on climate change, pizza being classified as vegetables, ruinous deregulation and subsequent bail-outs of the financial industry and hundreds of other dysfunctions in American government were going to continue unless it is addressed.

The problem, as he sees it, is that people in government spend nearly as much time seeking campaign contributions as anything else. That large contributions grant access to the political process that ordinary citizens can’t hope to have. And that cynicism about this is so widespread, no-one in America believes that government can solve any real problems anymore.

I’d encourage you to watch the video above. He makes a very compelling argument.

And if we’re feeling smug as Canadians, well, we do do at least some of this right. The Harper Government has already erased some of the Crétien era campaign finance reform, however. And the US State Department exerts considerable sway in Ottawa, enough to get US-style copyright legislation like Bill C-11 passed. We are not immune.

Even if SOPA and PIPA are defeated, it’s inevitable that something like them will be passed eventually. Because Congress will eventually obey their paymasters as soon as it politically expedient to do so. It’ll happen unless the system is changed. Unless we are persistent and vigilant.

Unity and Daisy-Weaving

I’m giving a talk on Unity at KWLUG tomorrow (Monday) night. I was going to say something, but I really couldn’t do it any better than Paul Nijjar‘s announcement on the KWLUG mailing list:

Just like every other desktop environment recently, the GNOME desktop environment has been looking to update its WIMPy interface. GNOME 3 brings with it two prominent options: GNOME-Shell and Unity. Which interface will be the ultimate victor?

In the left corner, wearing orange trunks, is the Unity Upholder, Darcy Casselman. In the right corner, wearing aubergine trunks, is the GNOME Shell Gorilla, Chris Irwin. In this desktop deathmatch, Darcy and Chris will battle to the.. wait a minute. They aren’t fighting! They’re standing together weaving daisies into each other’s hair! (Where did they find daisies in January?) They aren’t going to fight at all! Instead, they will be demonstrating the strengths of the two desktops, discuss their goals, and address some common complaints. They will start spreading the love at 7pm.

If this sounds too touchy-feely for you, how about using your brains? This month’s FLOSS Fund nominee is MusicBrainz, a project to develop an encylopedia/database of music information, all released under open licences. You can use MusicBrainz to tag music or build website that play with data via web services. If you are so inclined, you can make a donation at the meeting, or by getting in touch with me.

The meeting will be held at our usual location

St John’s Kitchen
97 Victoria Street North
(Corner of Victoria and Weber Streets)

There is some Hippie Bus parking in the Worth a Second Look parking lot, and if you are crazy you can park your bike along the side of the building. Photos and maps of the location are on the website.

I don’t think I have enough time to grow my hair long enough to get daisies in there. Come out and watch Chris and I sing the free software desktop environment equivalent of Kumbaya tomorrow night.