Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

October 8, 2012

3 Min Read
Canonical Responds to Complaints Over Amazon Search

In an effort to appease users, Canonical has pushed out some updates to its Unity interface in the upcoming Ubuntu 12.10 release that include a simple turn-off function for the controversial “lens” feature. But will this be enough to calm an unruly community in near revolt over the company’s original plans to push this functionality on users?

The “fix” for the much-berated Amazon feature comes among a slew of updates, most of them simple bug fixes, that landed with version 6.8 of Unity. It was uploaded into the development version of Ubuntu 12.10 Oct. 5.

Appeasing Users?

In Unity 6.8, users will be able to choose not to display search results from the Internet in response to queries in the Unity “lens,” a part of the system interface designed to make it easy to find files, applications, services and other local and networked resources. Internet results will still be included by default, but they can be switched off.

The solution Canonical is now offering to the controversial feature does not appear to be sitting perfectly well with all users, however. Some have noted that the process for turning off Internet search results is less than obvious.

Perhaps more problematically for Canonical, other users have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of fine tuning provided when disabling Internet search results. Currently, the feature disables all network-based content in the Unity dash, not just the search results that generated controversy in the community. The ability to turn off the Amazon feature specifically, according to Canonical, won’t be available until Ubuntu 13.04 appears in April 2013.

Personally, I’m a bit skeptical as well of that claim. Without a doubt, it’s extremely difficult for Ubuntu developers to make any changes at all to Ubuntu 12.10 at this point in the development cycle. The final release is only weeks away, and adding features now requires extraordinary testing and documentation.

Still, it doesn’t seem as though it would be that difficult to implement support for disabling the results only. We’re not talking here about a total revamping of a major application or software subsystem. The issue is about merely adding slightly more granularity to a feature that already exists.

Moreover, even if it would be impractical or irresponsible to create a more granular version of the feature before the official release of Ubuntu 12.10 on Oct. 18, Canonical could still plausibly have planned to include it in a software update to be distributed as soon as the feature is tested. Waiting until next April seems a bit drastic.

That said, Canonical may have good reasons for implementing the new Unity functionality in the way it has chosen. And those reasons, I hope, have to do with more than a simple effort to discourage users from disabling the Amazon results altogether, which would mean less revenue for Canonical.

But in any case, Ubuntu developers certainly deserve credit for responding to user feedback on this issue as quickly as they did, and offering a solution — albeit one that may be something less than completely ideal — at this difficult stage of the development cycle. Whatever one might say about Canonical, the company does not ignore its users.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like