New Application Stack in Ubuntu 10.04
Ubuntu 10.04, which will appear next April 2010 as Canonical’s long-anticipated third LTS (Long Term Support) release, will feature substantial changes in the lineup of applications installed by default. Here’s a look at the biggest ones, with some thoughts.
Judging by the controversy over the replacement of Pidgin with Empathy, many Ubuntu users do not take kindly to decisions to modify the application stack in a default installation. Even when the change arguably does not compromise important features and despite the fact that 35,000 applications are always just an “apt-get install” away–for those who have the bandwidth, at least–change tends to spawn a lot of ire.
That’s why the revisions in the works for Ubuntu 10.04, listed below, are likely to be a topic of passionate debate.
One of the biggest changes planned is the removal of the GIMP image editor from the default install, on the grounds that it takes up a lot of space and provides functionality that the average user doesn’t need.
Personally, I won’t miss the GIMP much. It’s an extremely powerful tool for those interested in heavy-duty image manipulation. But most people, whose editing needs center around getting the red eye out of their photos, have little need for it.
Moreover, it’s one of the more unfortunately named applications of the free-software world that Ubuntu would do well to disassociate itself from.
Update: although there had initially been discussion of removing F-Spot for Lucid, the developers ultimately decided to keep it. Thanks to Darcy for pointing this out in comments below.
The F-Spot photo manager is also slated for removal, which is long overdue, in my opinion. Written in Mono, the application isn’t doing anything to help resolve the legal and philosophical dilemmas plaguing the Ubuntu community. It also has a habit of failing to detect my camera, and organizes photo collections in a way that makes them difficult to export to other applications or folders.
In addition, like GIMP, F-Spot suffers from a poor name. Beyond not making sense to most people, “F-Spot” is just one letter away from another kind of spot that we can’t discuss on a family-friendly blog.
With all these downsides, the replacement of F-Spot by a more functional, better named, Mono-free application like gThumb will be a welcome change.
Hello, video editing, backup and music store
The removal of the GIMP and F-Spot will open the way for new applications. Currently, these potentially include:
- The PiTiVi video editor
- An as-yet-unspecified application for backing up files
- The Ubuntu One Music Store, whose details remain sketchy but which offers some exciting possibilities for Ubuntu users
None of these changes will hurt. Some might argue that the average user doesn’t need a video editor installed by default anymore than she wants an advanced image editor like GIMP, but even Windows has shipped with a rudimentary application for creating movies for some time now (on the other hand, its native image manipulator hasn’t changed much since 1985). Having one in Ubuntu is not a bad idea.
Similarly, backing up files has long been a weakness of Ubuntu. Unless you like rsyncing from the command line, there’s nothing installed by default for easily and efficiently copying files to external media.
Having a reliable graphical interface for this task would be great. It would also help focus development on whichever particular application Ubuntu decides to ship, instead of the dozens of Linux backup programs currently available, most of which remain half-baked.
Finally, while I don’t want to speculate too much on what the Music Store might entail or how the obstacles to implementing it might be overcome, having a way to purchase songs from within Rhythmbox would address one of the chronic deficiencies of Ubuntu in the eyes of non-geeks, namely, its lack of a complete clone of iTunes.
Currently, Rhythmbox does everything iTunes can do, with the exception of allowing users to purchase songs. Adding that functionality would be great. (iTunes’ other unique features, including taking forever to start and installing other Apple software without asking, can be left out of Ubuntu.)
There’s still plenty of time for Ubuntu developers to rethink or modify the changes discussed above. Stay tuned to WorksWithU in the weeks and months to come for more developments, and for a more detailed look at the new applications slated for inclusion in Ubuntu.