back to article Canonical reveals next Ubuntu's touchy side

Touchy tablets are hogging the headlines and giving Steve Ballmer sleepless nights, but Linux netbooks are the focus of Canonical's latest push. Ubuntu's chief sponsor has released uTouch 1.0, a multi-touch and gesture stack for the Maverick Meekat release of the Linux distro coming in October. The stack comprises an open- …

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Stop

Strange comments from a directionless leader

“I have a tablet, and it's a nice lazy computing device, but I wouldn't use it as my only device. [The iPad] creates new opportunities,”

Likewise, you wouldn't use a netbook as your only computing device. So what's his point?

And the iPad creates new opportunities? For netbooks? I don't think so.

“Our focus is the netbook because there’s still quite a bit of innovating left — we’ll see whether tablets are hot in a year.”

...by which stage everyone will have moved onto the next big thing, leaving Shuttleworth trailing far, far behind feeding off a declining tablet market. Sigh...

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Pint

Canonical

...are they still here? From all the media, you'd think Android was the only Linux left. (Well, I do use RHEL on the Enterprise side of life. In the IT circles at least you do hear quite a bit abotu Red Hat still.)

Good on them for innovating! Soon they will catch up to Android/Sense in terms of UI, but be an actual real Linux distro to boot! Now if only they had a decent marketing budget to take advantage of the fact that Microsoft's ability to execute anything recently has gone walkabout. The window of opportunity is now, and it won't be open long...

…eventually they’ll wise up and replace Ballmer.

Good luck Canonical!

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Linux

Ballmer: disease or symptom?

"Now if only they had a decent marketing budget to take advantage of the fact that Microsoft's ability to execute anything recently has gone walkabout. The window of opportunity is now, and it won't be open long...

…eventually they’ll wise up and replace Ballmer. Good luck Canonical!"

Do you mean "execute" in the sense of taking products to market, or more literally in the sense of waning backward compatibility? The former increasingly seems to apply, but the latter is also becoming a problem in my experience, and it is/was the reason to stay with Microsoft. Years ago, I promised myself I would not port from Windows to Windows. Canonical is not perfect, but I credit them with having placed a lot of pressure on other distributions to bring Linux to a point of remarkable ease of use and giving me choices in the process.

Back to Ballmer, my growing suspicion is that he personifies Microsoft's biggest problem: they have to churn the market in order to keep selling new stuff, but the more they churn, the less they provide a stable platform for mature products. They're damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't Blame Ballmer or MS

No really. Much as I detest both I don't think the MS business model is anything unusual. It is a disease in modern business that you have to have new "product" coming out all the time. It seems to stem from an inability to know what the market actually wants.

Remember when a new flavour of crisps was so rare it would almost make the six o'clock news? These days most crisp manufacturers just keep on banging out new flavours in the hope that some will be popular. They have even tried such nonsense as having "limited edition" flavours and elections for which is the most popular new flavour. The amount of money they spend on all this probably eats any potential profit they might get from any new flavour that proves popular.

The same is true of software companies. They release more and more applications in the hope that one of them will be popular, rather than actually spending some time finding out what people actually need. Furthermore they massive amounts of money on major version upgrades when they simply are not needed. MS actually did such a good job with XP (yes really) that all but the worst "new stuff" obsessives have realised that they don't need to upgrade. And this is applying to more and more software. For example, I know plenty of photographers still using CS3 because they haven't seen anything in later editions that they need enough to justify the upgrade cost.

The business model of always having to have new product is broken. It's a relatively new idea that in my personal experience seemed to start in the eighties in Japan. Maybe everybody copied that because Japan in the eighties was booming and didn't notice when the model stopped working so well in Japan. Unfortunately it seems that it has so much momentum that most businesses simply can't stop. I can imagine board meeting that begin; "Gentlemen, we are £15bn in debt, the bank is about to foreclose, we will almost certainly have to go into liquidation, unless we can come up with a new product by next wednesday."

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Re: Balmer and failure to execute.

I don't believe that Microsoft's business model absolutely requires high churn. I do believe it requires the ability to promptly react to threats from competitors or new markets. That requires nothing more than a strong R&D and probably a few isolated skunkworks projects in addition to that. Microsoft has the talent to go “oh, Apple released an iPad,” and then turn around 8 months later and absolutely wreck them.

The failure to do so is a failure to execute. There should have been Windows CE based ARM Microsoft Tablets making the rounds this July showing what hot shit they are in preparation for ruining Apple this Christmas. Do not bullshit me that it isn’t possible, the entire group that worked on the Kin project they just binned was available, and perfectly capable of taking their Kin OS to the next level, even if the Windows Phone 7 team were a being a giant sacks about keeping their code to themselves.

Windows Phone 7: To little too late. Microsoft should have seen that coming YEARS ago, but simply failed to devote the necessary resources. They didn’t have to act FIRST in this market, but they will be pummelled for acting LAST.

Microsoft’s failure to execute is huge. Vista? Office 2007? Exchange 2007 (festering pile of shite that it was, and so much more. A whole generation of products were released from this company, all of which left me deeply wanting to boil some people in oil.

Microsoft is broken into warring fiefdoms that are unable to co-operate with eachother, lack a single unifying vision and don’t have the ability to rapidly respond to change. There needs to be a slow, steady advancement of technology within the company that moves the colossus forward with frightening inevitability. There also needs to be a series of outlier R&D and consumer electronics groups the run around making REALLY COOL stuff that doesn’t quite have the enterprise polish on it yet. The version one guys.

These groups would produce something aimed at the consumer. It would have less features than a full blown enterprise product, but it would get out in time to match Apple, Google or whomever else was getting mindshare. That version one product then goes back to the “serious business” departments for Enterprise treatment and gets some serious polish. It gets rolled into the “frightening inevitability” update group by version three and becomes simply another cog in the Microsoft machine.

Similarly, if someone radically shakes up a market, (say tablets,) then Microsoft needs the ability to kick something OUT of the Enterprise steamroller and dump it right back into the hands of the frenetic consumer groups. Here they can pick up the ball and run it through some radical R&D in a short timeframe, reinvent the dochicky or application, release a product to match the competition and kick it back to the enterprise group.

Is Microsoft even REMOTELY capable of that? Hell no. They are disorganised and chaotic with no clue what’s going on. The whole company is completely disconnected from their customers and their reaction time is measured in decades.

Ballmer is the disease. If he wasn’t a complete tool he’d have recognised his company’s failure to execute and reorganised the whole bloody thing in order to compensate. Instead he’s shifted the deck chairs on the titanic a few times to absolutely zero effect. Every “reorganisation” hasn’t really done much to change company culture, and certainly hasn’t dealt with the “warring fiefdoms” issues.

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Coat

A good idea

I have always want to use a hand gesture of the damn compare the meerkat. Simples.

Mines the one with hacked iPad running Linux in the pocket.

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FAIL

Ain't they just adorable?

10.04 "LTS" is shafted nine ways from Sunday - WiFi and Nvidia drivers yet again - and yet he's super-excited about adding yet more half arsed niche bells and whistles that most of the handful of competent devs and testers don't have access to yet. Bless.

Mind you, you have to admire his tacit acknowledgement that it'll never be the year of Linux on the desktop.

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Hmmm.

10.04 with Wifi and Nivida works fine for me.

Although would agree they need to spend a little more time getting what they have working really well rather than adding more and more features. They can do both, just need to get the percentages right.

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Much as I don't want to agree with that...

... I agree with that.

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Anonymous Coward

WiFi?

What's the problem with WiFi in Ubuntu? I've been using it since 6.10 and never had a problem with WiFi.

As for Nvidia drivers that's hardly Canonical's fault is it? Something to do with a certain manufacturer not playing ball with the Linux crowd. I'll leave it up to you to decide why they want to play it that way.

Canonical's biggest failling as far as I'm concerned is the 6 monthly release schedule. The problem there being that they have to find something new to shout about every six months. Sometimes the things they are shouting about are pretty lame. They are also trying to be all things to all people; Tablets, netbooks, etc. etc. They need to focus on getting the desktop and server side spot on before they mess with that stuff. It also doesn't help that their impact is diluted by Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, ???buntu and whatever else is out there. Sure it's opensource and they can't stop people basing distros on Ubuntu, but maybe they ought to think about the naming convention of all those *buntu releases. It dilutes the message somewhat.

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Anonymous Coward

Lone exception?

I seem to be the minute minority. I find using 10.04 netbook remix on a netbook has very few problems apart from the continuous update stream(ignored!). Everything else works and it doesn't crash. I've tried the ipad, the screen was too small for my aging eyes, as was the keypad for my somewhat large fingers. I liked the interface, but it is IMO better suited to a pocket device. Kindle works in daylight, netbooks and ipads don't. I also use only Linux(mainly Ubuntu) on all the home computers except one. The one exception suffers the normal MS application crashes on a regular basis. The biggest obstacle to more Ubuntu uptake is the lack of preloaded, cheap machines of all types in the High Street and a lack of games. It may be that Android will change this, time will tell.

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Linux

10.04 works for me

9.10 (which I affectionately call the Kranky Kangaroo) was a *great* upgrade for my then newly purchased laptop. The older kernel did a terrible job of handling the 1280x800 video mode, and I was tiring of having to reboot the machine two or three times to get it to work. It worked so well that I didn't flinch about installing it on this machine, which it nearly bricked :( I got it most of the way back, but 10.04 fixed many problems on it. I have not yet put it on my laptop because 9.10 has been flawless there.

I keep threatening to try Mandriva or Debian, but I really like Ubuntu. Here's hoping I will have the strength to stay with an LTS on my workhorse machines. 10.10 will almost certainly find its way, if only temporarily, onto an embedded system that should be arriving soon.

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Paris Hilton

Clarification

The story gets a couple of things somewhat mixed together, so to clarify:

What Canonical's doing here is specifically (and only) gesture recognition. Multitouch, strictly speaking, is already implemented in X.org, though it's usually referred to as 'multi-input' - since the ability to handle multiple input devices driving multiple cursors simultaneously, and the ability to do multitouch, are in fact the same thing.

Canonical's written an engine to take those multiple inputs, treat them as gestures, and interpret those gestures. Their current proposal is to implement this as a new X extension that works with the multi-input support in XInput. What Canonical has written is not 'a multi-touch and gesture stack' and it's not really 'for the Maverick Meekat release of the Linux distro coming in October' - much to their credit, it's being proposed as a part of X.org upstream, though they're including a draft implemention in Meerkat / 10.10.

The upstream submission is http://lists.x.org/archives/xorg-devel/2010-August/012037.html .

(Paris - she had a multitouch and gesture-based input system *years* ago...)

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Credit

"much to their credit, it's being proposed as a part of X.org upstream,"

Ah, so I might find this filtering into Fedora later ...

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Yes

"Ah, so I might find this filtering into Fedora later ..."

The underlying X extension, yup, if it's accepted upstream it'll almost certainly show up in Fedora.

What gets built on top of that is more interesting. The other bit of uTouch, which I neglected to mention above, is called 'geis' - it's a sort of abstraction layer that sits on top of the X extension. Canonical intends to write app support for gestures on top of geis, not on top of the X gesture extension directly. It'll be more interesting to see if using geis like this gets widespread acceptance and geis gets built into other distros, or if something else happens.

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