Ubuntu for Android
February 21, 2012 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Canonical's Ubuntu for Android offers a full Ubuntu Linux distribution running on a dual core Android smartphone when placed in a docking station. (photos)

See : Mark Shuttleworth's Blog, Android Central, ExtremeTech, etc.
posted by jeffburdges (100 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Developed for someone, somewhere.
posted by timshel at 1:11 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]



Ubuntu dropped Gnome for Unity so that they could have one unified desktop environment for all platforms, from desktop to mobile device.

Now that they're on portable devices though, we have is an Android OS when the phone is mobile, and Ubuntu/Unity kicking in when it's docked.

So what is the advantage to Unity? They've adopted a mobile graphical environment that only runs on workstations.

To make this doubly silly, Gnome 3 has gone the mobility route too and looks an awful lot like Unity.

Does Canonical have any idea at all what the hell they're doing?
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:12 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the year for Linux on the palmtop!
posted by narcoleptic at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Developed for someone, somewhere.

While I think their push in the direction of tablet / mobile stuff is probably behind the reasons I've stopped using Ubuntu (recent releases have been horribly broken on my hardware, and the default desktop UI stuff is profoundly irritating), the notion of turning the phone into a primary computing device doesn't strike me as an intrinsically bad one. I already spend quite a lot of time on my Android phone, and it's certainly a more capable piece of general-purpose computing hardware than at least the first half dozen computers I ever owned, lack of keyboard and full-size display aside...
posted by brennen at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Something like this, where you carry the (no pun intended) canonical version of your computing environment in your pocket and dock it at home or work for use with a real keyboard and monitor is what I've been waiting for for a long time.

That said, I'm lukewarm at best about Android and Unity and not at all sure this particular execution will scratch that itch.
posted by Zed at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Developed for someone, somewhere.

People who don't want to shell out for a desktop PC, but want a bigger monitor? People who'd like to have their PMP and their HTPC in the same box to avoid sync issues? It's actually pretty cool - and I'd like a vendor to make a laptop dock where the phone's touchscreen was actually the trackpad, and it could show alerts and notifications and the like...
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:16 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why would anybody want to run a badly re-skinned Debian off of a telephone?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:16 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I fucking love Ubuntu. They make me run CENTOS at work and it pisses me off. X under CENTOS is so damn ugly and disfunctional compared to X under Ubuntu. I don't know quite what Ubuntu does to make their GUI so pretty and functional, but I wish CENTOS would do it.

Fucking CENTOS.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is the year for Linux on the palmtop!

So, like, Wikipedia:
Android was listed as the best-selling smartphone platform worldwide in Q4 2010 by Canalys with over 200 million Android devices in use by November 2011. According to Google's Andy Rubin, as of December 2011 there are over 700,000 Android devices activated every day.
posted by brennen at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2012


It's interesting, but in a lot of ways it seems strangely trapped in a much older way of looking at technology. More and more, users and services and products are moving towards the ideal of a personal data cloud, with lots of devices dipping into it as needed and giving context or device appropriate modes of access.

Jamming a desktop OS into a tiny little phone, and letting someone tether it to a monitor, is an interesting and cool trick from a hardware perspective, but I'm not sure that people are going to get jazzed about actually turning the phone into the dockable work machine that these demos seem to imply.

I could be wrong, of course, but I think the first project (or company) that manages to nail user-owned/controlled cloud data will really break things open.
posted by verb at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


(although that annoying sidebar thing that Ubuntu installs by default is ugly and awful and horrible. but they let you choose Ubuntu Classic, and that's wonderful and lovely and awesome)
posted by Afroblanco at 1:18 PM on February 21, 2012


Motorola Atrix 2.0
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:19 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does Canonical have any idea at all what the hell they're doing?

Throwing themselves at any market and platform they can and seeing where they stick.
posted by Talez at 1:21 PM on February 21, 2012


Seems like a neat idea to me, on the other hand I think I'd sooner have a dock that gave me an Android desktop to do desktopy things with.
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on February 21, 2012


This smells like it will be a fail outside of bleeding edge early adopters, but it may position them very well for 3-4 years down the line when 1080p displays and 2+Ghz quad-core processors are ubiquitous in phones.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:25 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]




Throwing themselves at any market and platform they can and seeing where they stick.
posted by Talez at 1:21 PM on February 21 [+] [!]


That's where I'm really confused.

Linux does certain things very well and has a strong following of people that want those things. But instead of focusing on what *nix systems do well, Canonical is trying to do what Apple does well.

A bird in the hand being worth two in the bush and all, I worry about that. I was really excited about what Ubuntu was doing a few years ago, but it's been really disappointing lately.

Luckily they're not the only distro out there.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:25 PM on February 21, 2012


But instead of focusing on what *nix systems do well, Canonical is trying to do what Apple does well.

Isn't the point of Linux that people can try to make it do everything, by people who want to go to the trouble to do so?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something like this, where you carry the (no pun intended) canonical version of your computing environment in your pocket and dock it at home or work for use with a real keyboard and monitor is what I've been waiting for for a long time.

I haven't had time to fully delve into this yet, but my understanding is that this was performed on an Atrix 4G. If you are not familiar with the phone, it was built with exactly this idea in mind, and in fact already had its own stripped down OS for docking purposes. I have this phone, but I have not had a chance to really try out this capability for a couple reasons: 1) the laptop dock, which amounts to an LCD screen and a keyboard in a laptop form factor (i.e., no real brains) is way too expensive for what it is, and 2) docking the phone is considered tethering, according to AT&T, which means they require an extra subscription to use it outside of Wifi! I already have a desktop computer at home, so the non-laptop dock isn't much use to me in comparison, and probably has the same annoying "tethering" issue.

Given that my phone has similar functionality to what is offered by the FPP, I fail to see why this is so important, other than it's a branded Linux distribution.
posted by mysterpigg at 1:30 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of tired of Ubuntu's direction as well. What's the best server-oriented Linux distro going today? (OK, flame wars commence)..
posted by xmutex at 1:32 PM on February 21, 2012


Isn't the point of Linux that people can try to make it do everything, by people who want to go to the trouble to do so?

It is, but this is on an Android phone. So replace "people who want to go to the trouble to do so" with "Your telco when they get around to doing it."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:33 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canonical's Unity push is why I've basically made LinuxMint my go-to distro, as so many others have.

I do find this project interesting, in a gee-whiz sort of way, and if my first gen Google Galaxy S phone with ICS can handle it, I may just try it out just to see how it plays. Canonical is certainly going off in odd directions these days though.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:35 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Anyway, I think Ubuntu Unity looks beautiful. I don't really use it for anything though at the moment. I installed it on some hardware I have running as a server, but other then the occasional restart if the power goes out I only ever SSH in anyway.

That said, it does seem like right now everyone is chasing the mobile ball, when it would make more sense for Ubuntu to focus on providing a great mouse/keyboard experience.
This is the year for Linux on the palmtop!
You realize that Android is Linux right? That's why they can do this, unity just runs on the same kernel, alongside the Android UI.
Linux does certain things very well and has a strong following of people that want those things. But instead of focusing on what *nix systems do well, Canonical is trying to do what Apple does well.
Okay, you realize OSX Is a Unix system, right? Obviously Linux can work as well as OSX, if you have enough resources to spend working on the system.
It is, but this is on an Android phone. So replace "people who want to go to the trouble to do so" with "Your telco when they get around to doing it."
Uh no, you can mostly do whatever you want with an android phone if you root it. People who have the patience to install alternative operating systems on their phone are the same ones who are going to be comfortable rooting it and installing cyanogen mod or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 1:35 PM on February 21, 2012 [5 favorites]




Isn't the point of Linux that people can try to make it do everything, by people who want to go to the trouble to do so?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 PM on February 21 [+] [!]


Yeah, it's a criticism of the direction that Ubuntu and some of the other major distros and not a criticism of the Linux kernel itself.

Canonical is well within their rights to do things that I think are a terrible, terrible idea, and I'm within my rights to complain on the internet. :)
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:35 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]



I'm kind of tired of Ubuntu's direction as well. What's the best server-oriented Linux distro going today? (OK, flame wars commence)..
posted by xmutex at 1:32 PM on February 21 [+] [!]



FreeBSD obviously. The best server-oriented Linux distro isn't Linux, it's Unix. :)
But I'm a fan of Debian if you want stability more than you want bells and whistles.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:36 PM on February 21, 2012


So when you get one of these things, how do you go about hooking up a keyboard and a mouse?
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:36 PM on February 21, 2012


Gentoo forever! And by forever I mean how long it takes to do a damn update.
posted by kmz at 1:37 PM on February 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


So when you get one of these things, how do you go about hooking up a keyboard and a mouse?

The Atrix has overpriced docks for this, which use the USB/HDMI ports that are on the phone itself.
posted by mysterpigg at 1:39 PM on February 21, 2012


I really don't get the Unity hate. It's like Docky and Do all rolled into one, which is great. It is different than what you are used to, but I believe that's the point. My only issue with it is stability, which has improved somewhat and will probably continue to improve.
posted by wierdo at 1:39 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ubuntu has been my OS of choice for netbooks for some time. TBH I don't use it for much more than writing, web-browsing and some file management, and it's been perfect for those. Recently though it's seemed like they want to push it in a bunch of directions that just don;t seem to have much to do with my needs, and I'm considering dropping it. Also the instant-on factor of something like the ASUS transformer looks tempting.

Oh, and there's Android and HTML5 ports of LibreOffice on the way.
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on February 21, 2012


So when you get one of these things, how do you go about hooking up a keyboard and a mouse?

Bluetooth would be the sexy option, tho I imagine USB would be an alternative on some devices. A few years down the road where wireless HDMI is standard, you could cruise on an ubuntu workstation without taking it out of your pocket...
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:43 PM on February 21, 2012


I actually wasn't even aware of this whole Unity push, but a year or two ago I started getting fed up with Ubuntu for a number of reasons I couldn't articulate. Guess that's why. Now I've got Debian on my main laptop and #! on my netbook, they're both very basic and do everything I need them to. Don't see myself returning to Ubuntu any time soon, if ever.
posted by mannequito at 1:44 PM on February 21, 2012


The Atrix has overpriced docks for this, which use the USB/HDMI ports that are on the phone itself.

I've used the Atrix 'lapdock' and it's a device without a purpose. The Motorola webtop user interface is generally unresponsive, and unusable when you've got a couple of tabs open. The rest of the system is stock android phone blown up 2x, BUT you now get to use a mouse instead of your fingers! If you want to make a phone call and look something up on the 'lapdock' at the same time, you're outta luck. Absolutely awful when used as a laptop, but not a bad phone when used as a phone.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:46 PM on February 21, 2012


I'm just a dude with an Android phone and thought this looked pretty cool -- I don't understand 95% of the comments in here. My questions are: would this run on my G2, and how much for a dock and monitor?
posted by muckster at 1:47 PM on February 21, 2012


wierdo: "I really don't get the Unity hate. It's like Docky and Do all rolled into one, which is great. It is different than what you are used to, but I believe that's the point. My only issue with it is stability, which has improved somewhat and will probably continue to improve."

I used to be able to run Ubuntu on my family laptop and not have to explain to my wife, (who mostly uses windows machines at work,) where everything was and how to fix minor networking/printing issues. She could do it herself. There were menus and a dock that felt intuitive to use, and when she wanted to run a less-frequently used program she could simply pull it up on a menu.

The Unity interface is simply not user friendly to those folks who are looking to change OS's but are used to working on Windows machines. It is only slightly more friendly to Mac users -- and then I would argue that it's more intuitive for iOS users than old school mac desktop users like myself, who grew up before the age of OSX and are still running Snow Leopard.

I switched my aging Dell laptop to Mint 12, at the suggestion of shakespeherian, mccarty.tim and others. Never looked back.
posted by zarq at 1:48 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gentoo forever! And by forever I mean how long it takes to do a damn update.

What a dark, dark time. Remember all of the people online in Gentoo forums that were just like... WOAH. They reminded me of the kinds of people that install NOS kits into really shitty Hondas, covered with fake sponsor and "TYPE-R" stickers and such. Trading some ultra 'experimental compile flags' and whatnot. Such a cult.

Almost as bad as the Android "IT IS OPEN SOURCE EXCEPT WHEN IT ISN'T" cult.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:50 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


zarq - how easy is Mint to install? I might just give it a try.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2012


how easy is Mint to install? - off of a USB, that is.
posted by Artw at 1:54 PM on February 21, 2012


My questions are: would this run on my G2, and how much for a dock and monitor?

The G2 has an 800 Mhz Snapdragon single core CPU. You'd probably need at least a dual core, if not a quad core mobile CPU to get decent performance as a desktop.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:54 PM on February 21, 2012


posted by zarq at 1:48 PM

Part of the problem with Unity is that it's designed to accommodate portable devices, so it uses your screen space like it's built for a phone. Everything is full screen, single window, the icons hide themselves, and so on. It wastes screen real estate that previous systems used. It's clunkier, because it's not built for a desktop. My lady friend had no problem jumping to it on her laptop at all, but it's not terribly good on a desktop.

You can fix all of that with a lot of tweaking. (well most of it.) or move to Gnome or KDE or whatever, but at some point you're better off just finding a distro that actually does what you want out of the box. Or go Arch Linux and build your way up from the ground?

@Artw

Moving to Mint shouldn't be any harder than installing Ubuntu really. Use Unetbootin for your usb stick if they don't have a usb installer, which they probably do. Run the LiveCD first and see how you like it. It's basically Ubuntu for people that don't like Ubuntu, you know?
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:56 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've been planning on ditching Mac OS X for Ubuntu Unity ever since I noticed their new direction that everyone keeps bitching about, probably I'll install it on my Mac Book Air this year.

And I've been planning on ditching my N900 for a dual core Android phone ever since I found guardianproject.info last year.

I'd frankly never touch a BSD sever after owning Mac OS X laptops, Stagger Lee. Mac OS X's kernel sucks compared to Linux, presumably the same holds for every BSD. Afaik, there is no other OS that expends anywhere near the same developer hours on performance tuning as Linux.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:57 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went from Ubuntu to Arch. It's pretty nice. It's transparent in how it does things, and the packages it installs are relatively uncustomized so the basic program documentation makes sense. (As opposed to Ubuntu where you have to learn how Canonical structures their crazy rc.d scripts and upstart and whatever).

Is it user friendly? Depends on the user. The Unofficial Beginner's Guide gives you an idea of what you're in for.
posted by sixohsix at 1:58 PM on February 21, 2012


Mint it is, next time I get some free time to mess around. Or maybe... Android?
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on February 21, 2012



I'd frankly never touch a BSD sever after owning Mac OS X laptops, Stagger Lee. Mac OS X's kernel sucks compared to Linux, presumably the same holds for every BSD. Afaik, there is no other OS that expends anywhere near the same developer hours on performance tuning as Linux.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:57 PM on February 21 [+] [!]


OSX is unix based, but it sure isn't FreeBSD. It's built for servers and it's got a very solid reputation for doing what it does well.

As long as you have the right hardware. :-/
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:59 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd frankly never touch a BSD sever after owning Mac OS X laptops

I'll never touch an Android phone after owning Linksys WRT54G's.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:00 PM on February 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I really don't get the Unity hate. It's like Docky and Do all rolled into one, which is great. It is different than what you are used to, but I believe that's the point. My only issue with it is stability, which has improved somewhat and will probably continue to improve."

I don't mind Unity overmuch. There are things I would change, but.. It's been really popular with the college kids in the lab.

That said, Ubuntu is on my shitlist for breaking things like LDAP authentication and other nonsense.

As for this... I dunno man, I need to win the lottery or something so I can make a linux distro that doesn't suck.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:01 PM on February 21, 2012


It's interesting, but in a lot of ways it seems strangely trapped in a much older way of looking at technology.

I agree – at best this resembles a bizarro world take on the Windows 8/Metro separate-but-equal "no compromises!" thing, with a touch of RIM's we-got-to-the-game-four-years-too-late Android piggybacking. A chintzy solution to a problem that does not and will never exist except to the very few who truly care about Ubuntu and/or like making their Android do "serious" things.

Canonical's objective has always been to create and retain first-time Linux users, right? How many dozens of people will this actually convince? What does Canonical want to achieve, ever?
posted by timshel at 2:06 PM on February 21, 2012


Artw: "how easy is Mint to install? - off of a USB, that is."

I installed it off of a cd/dvd (using the iso file at linuxmint.com and that was super easy. (No idea about usb installs, sorry.)

It actually was an easier install for me than Ubuntu, in that it recognized the laptop's ancient wifi hardware without my having to plug the machine into a wire connection to download drivers. It also recognized my webcam's microphone and sound hardware -- Ubuntu never identified the former, and the latter took some creative acrobatics. Most apps installed more easily in mint as well, including Skype, which was a pain in the ass to run on Ubuntu 11. Damned thing kept crashing.

Mint looks less polished than Ubuntu. But it does exactly what I need it to: intensive internet work, viewing videos, sorting/editing photos, office apps (it comes with Libre Office built in) and skype with my kids' grandparents. ;)
posted by zarq at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is a good chance the Mach+BSD mix could be blamed for Mac OS X's kernel issues, making my previous derision of FreeBSD unfair. There is way more effort poured into Linux though, like that whole scheduler showdown.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2012


I have a couple of friends who are liking Mint.

When I gave up on Ubuntu, around the release of 11.04, I switched back to stock Debian. Haven't regretted it; Debian Stable's in that part of its cycle where everything is pretty much usable and the few newer packages I need on a desktop machine can be built from source pretty trivial-like.

I'd frankly never touch a BSD sever after owning Mac OS X laptops, Stagger Lee. Mac OS X's kernel sucks compared to Linux, presumably the same holds for every BSD.

Linux is much easier to use on the desktop these days than *BSD, for various reasons, but this is a fairly broken chain of reasoning.
posted by brennen at 2:08 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm finding myself agreeing with Apple folks in this thread. *off to check for raining frogs and flying pigs*

I've never used any of the BSDs extensively myself but by all accounts they're perfectly fine and stable systems. And the Linux kernel has had its share of performance issues at various times. (Desktop latency, battery drain, etc.)

Generally I'm satisfied with Ubuntu. But then I'm still on Lucid Lynx on my desktops. (Thank god for LTS.) When it finally comes time to upgrade, I think I'll give Mint or Arch a try.
posted by kmz at 2:09 PM on February 21, 2012


I'll never touch an Android phone after owning Linksys WRT54G's.

Not everyone can get busted for using GPL code and then compelled to open up their firmware. Note that over time, Linksys slowly shrank the amount of stock memory available on the WRT54 family of routers to make it harder to run DD-WRT or any other open firmware variant.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 2:09 PM on February 21, 2012


BTW, since it's been brought up a couple of times... does anybody else have serious stability problems with LibreOffice? Had this problem back before it forked from OpenOffice, and still have it now... four times out of five, if I've had a spreadsheet open for a while, doing just about anything (including opening a new file, exporting to a CSV, etc) is liable to make it crash. Annoying as fuck.
posted by kmz at 2:14 PM on February 21, 2012


What does Canonical want to achieve, ever?

I think the real problem is that they had achieved a stable, friendly desktop distro that my parents could use (and I really didn't mind), and then somehow managed to lose sight of how important a thing this was, right around the time they'd become essentially the default. I have a lot of respect for just how much they accomplished up until that point, but what's happened since does a lot to highlight the problems of a single organization being so responsible for that default choice.
posted by brennen at 2:21 PM on February 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Linksys slowly shrank the amount of stock memory available on the WRT54 family of routers to make it harder to run DD-WRT or any other open firmware variant.

I suspect that's just shaving some pennies off their cost. DD-WRT et al also runs on lots of subsequent Linksys WRT routers offering beefier memory and CPUs.
posted by Zed at 2:24 PM on February 21, 2012


kmz: "BTW, since it's been brought up a couple of times... does anybody else have serious stability problems with LibreOffice? Had this problem back before it forked from OpenOffice, and still have it now... four times out of five, if I've had a spreadsheet open for a while, doing just about anything (including opening a new file, exporting to a CSV, etc) is liable to make it crash. Annoying as fuck."

No. But I had problems with OO.
posted by zarq at 2:28 PM on February 21, 2012


@brennen around 10.04 when family or friends asked me to fix their computers I'd just put Ubuntu on for them, and they'd never even notice the difference. That was part of my excitement. Free, stable, and the computer illiterate could jump right in.

People that identify as Mac or Window users have issues because they have a stake already of course. But as "The Cloud" becomes bigger, Linux should have a stronger base than ever if they played their cards right.

It's the disappointment in something that was exciting that's so frustrating.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:30 PM on February 21, 2012


Did Canonical ever make an earnest attempt at developing an Ubuntu mobile OS?
posted by timshel at 2:33 PM on February 21, 2012


Once upon a time I ran Gentoo on everything, and it took forever to do updates, but I learned a ridiculous amount about linux internals from the experience. I originally got into Gentoo because it had by far the most useful forums at the time. And indeed, all but twice in like five years of use, every problem I ever had was covered _well_ by the Gentoo forums; the actual gurus in Gentoo-ville knew their shit cold, and their responses shaped the threads...

Eventually I got a netbook and migrated over to Ubuntu. The forums aren't nearly as good, but the updates happen quickly and usually painlessly, and it's been pretty smooth sailing. I install fluxbox pretty much as soon as I do an install, and haven't run into the Unity interface as a result. I'm kind of mystified by people complaining about Unity, actually, since you're always a 'sudo apt-get install your-favorite-wm' away from an entirely different experience...
posted by kaibutsu at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2012


I think the real problem is that they had achieved a stable, friendly desktop distro that my parents could use (and I really didn't mind), and then somehow managed to lose sight of how important a thing this was, right around the time they'd become essentially the default.

Canonical has always been a for-profit company. I don't think Shuttleworth ever cared whether they were the default choice of people seeking a free Linux distribution, but has always been after being the default choice of hardware manufacturers looking for an OS provider to partner with.

Having made little headway in the desktop, laptop, or netbook arenas, the push has been toward tablets and new portable devices.

Did Canonical ever make an earnest attempt at developing an Ubuntu mobile OS?

The Unity desktop first shipped in the Ubuntu 10.10 netbook edition, and what became the default desktop since 11.04 is their earnest attempt at an Ubuntu mobile OS.

(While there are any number of decisions by Canonical in and out of the software that I'm not wild about, I've been using Ubuntu for about 7 years and, last I looked in detail a few months ago, it still seemed like the best choice for a well-maintained, well-supported Debian Unstable derivative. But I haven't checked out Siduction yet.)
posted by Zed at 2:38 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm finding myself agreeing with Apple folks in this thread. *off to check for raining frogs and flying pigs*

Well, if it's any comfort, I tend to think of myself as a cross-platform person who uses and respects Apple's solutions for what it focuses on; builds and promotes Open Source Software because it increases the freedom and potential that people have; maintains a variety of Linux machines because they're great at a lot of things; and has a Windows box or two sitting around because there's a pile of useful software that runs on that OS.

A lot of the energy and excitement in the world of open source, linux development, and non-Apple, non-Microsoft computer culture gets wrapped up in expanding the capabilities of the hardware and the software available to users. Compelling narratives around how technology will be used, clear visions of how those capabilities will fit into the lives of those who aren't primarily technologists, and easy-to-articulate explanations of how "Cool Stuff" plays out in the real world are often missing.

I'm not saying that this is an example; there are doubtless people who say that it is PERFECT for them, and it's cool that they're getting something they want and need. At least to my eyes, though, this kind of 'Use your X as your Y' sales pitch feels like a hardware demo in search of a compelling story.

One of the reasons that Smartphones are really interesting as a product category (at least to me) is the growing number of people who only access the internet via handheld device. Either they can't or don't want to buy a desktop computer, and their primary experience of the digital world is palm-sized. For that group in particular, "Buy a dock and a large monitor and you can run desktop-style software on your phone" seems less than compelling. On the other hand, I could very easily be wrong. I thought the iPhone was going to be another RAZR-V3i.
posted by verb at 2:51 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Write me down as another person who thinks unity and gnome3 are steps in the same wrong direction. (disclaimer: I haven't used unity, and I've used gnome3 for all of 2 days)

Sometimes it feels like they're just f—ing with you, like the decision in gnome3 to orient desktops vertically instead of horizontally by default, and to create desktops dynamically instead of statically. For years (how old is fvwm?) I've statically partitioned tasks by desktop, switching to a given task by keyboard shortcut (ctrl-alt-1...7; for ten+ years ctrl-alt-4 has meant "I'm'a browse the web now", for instance). gnome3 won't permit me to work that way anymore, and it's hard for me to discern what I've gained.

Another WTF is window switching. I broadly consider all windows equal, without regard to whether some of them are part of the same program. So I don't like the way gnome3 groups applications in the alt-tab window switcher. This is a step in the wrong direction (towards application-centric and away from document-centric), because suppose you have a text document and a spreadsheet document open and want to switch between them. You have to know whether they're "the same program", to know whether to press alt-tab or alt-anotherkey to switch between them. But "are they the same program" is very much an implementation choice that the user doesn't care about. (on the other hand, tabs like in firefox are fine since there's a huge f—ing visual clue on the screen all the time that tells you which keyboard shortcut to use, ctrl-tab or alt-tab)

(sorry, I could grar all day about just how much I hate even the smallest changes…)

On the other hand, they did copy half-maximize from windows7 to gnome3, which is nice. But not so nice that I didn't switch to the "basic" experience or whatever it's called and set the window manager back to openbox.
posted by jepler at 2:54 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]



I'm finding myself agreeing with Apple folks in this thread. *off to check for raining frogs and flying pigs*


I would distinguish between unix and Apple though. They are not the same thing at all. I wasn't recommending an Apple server, I was recommending FreeBSD specifically.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:56 PM on February 21, 2012


I think the real problem is that they had achieved a stable, friendly desktop distro that my parents could use (and I really didn't mind), and then somehow managed to lose sight of how important a thing this was, right around the time they'd become essentially the default

Not only that, they'd pretty much cracked the 'parents could use' thing without driving proper nerds away. Now, parents are mystified, nerds are leaving in droves.

I don't follow Ubuntu super-closely, so this just seems incredibly sudden and strange, as if they spent many years making incremental improvements only to go mental and trash everything in a weird bid to make a jack of all trades, master of none OS. Thankfully Mint are picking up the slack - Cinammon looks really promising, I think - so there's still a nice operating system I can recommend to not-so-techy people (who can't use OS X).

I've been planning on ditching Mac OS X for Ubuntu Unity ever since I noticed their new direction that everyone keeps bitching about, probably I'll install it on my Mac Book Air this year.

If you're worried about that new direction, I defo wouldn't go with Ubuntu - it's much further down the 'turn your computer into a giant telephone' path than OS X.

I'd frankly never touch a BSD sever after owning Mac OS X laptops, Stagger Lee. Mac OS X's kernel sucks compared to Linux, presumably the same holds for every BSD.

OS X uses the XNU kernel from NeXTSTEP, which incorporates stuff from the Mach kernel - a project originally intended as a complete replacement for the BSD kernel - plus a layer of stuff from 4.3BSD and (later on) FreeBSD sitting on top.

So, you're right in thinking there are links, but dismissing the various BSDs based on experience with a Mac laptop doesn't really make much sense.
posted by jack_mo at 3:02 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh, I was referring to Threeway Handshake's sarcastic comment invoking Linksys routers.

Sometimes it feels like they're just f—ing with you, like the decision in gnome3 to orient desktops vertically instead of horizontally by default, and to create desktops dynamically instead of statically. For years (how old is fvwm?) I've statically partitioned tasks by desktop, switching to a given task by keyboard shortcut (ctrl-alt-1...7; for ten+ years ctrl-alt-4 has meant "I'm'a browse the web now", for instance). gnome3 won't permit me to work that way anymore, and it's hard for me to discern what I've gained.

Oh, what the shit? Fuck that.
posted by kmz at 3:03 PM on February 21, 2012


For years (how old is fvwm?) I've statically partitioned tasks by desktop, switching to a given task by keyboard shortcut (ctrl-alt-1...7; for ten+ years ctrl-alt-4 has meant "I'm'a browse the web now", for instance). gnome3 won't permit me to work that way anymore, and it's hard for me to discern what I've gained.

I've been pretty happily using xmonad for ages now. The recent-ish crop of modern tiling window managers fit this workflow beautifully. (They're not something I'd ask my mom to cope with, but if you're sufficiently nerded out they're a really nice approach.)
posted by brennen at 3:07 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


have their PMP and their HTPC

what is a "PMP"? I can't find any probable definitions on The Google.

I could be wrong, of course, but I think the first project (or company) that manages to nail user-owned/controlled cloud data will really break things open.

I'm looking forward to seeing the first project or company that even attempts to provide user-controlled cloud data. That just doesn't seem to be what anyone in the "cloud" world wants to do, which is one reason I'm staying far away from it.

Keeping all the data on my phone and docking it whenever I want to actually get some work done makes a lot more sense to me than uploading all my data to some big server owned by someone else, protected by someone else's unknown and unverifiable security decisions, and subject to someone else's arbitrary, unaccountable policy changes.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:32 PM on February 21, 2012


what is a "PMP"? I can't find any probable definitions on The Google.

PMP = Portable Media Player.
posted by kmz at 3:37 PM on February 21, 2012


oving to Mint shouldn't be any harder than installing Ubuntu really. Use Unetbootin for your usb stick if they don't have a usb installer, which they probably do. Run the LiveCD first and see how you like it. It's basically Ubuntu for people that don't like Ubuntu, you know?

I had trouble installing it from usb drive with a machine with ATI graphics (X completely failed mysteriously)... for what it's worth and Ubuntu installed fine on the same machine.

re: Unity. It was extremely unresponsive on my netbook and the interface solves problems I didn't have and created problems I didn't realize I could have. Am now running Xubuntu and Mint Debian/Xfce of which I would recommend Xubuntu as the best "used to be how linux was" + "just works" experience. Though, why anyone wants a fucking music player integrated into their desktop is beyond me.

I would recommend Xubuntu over stock Debian, unless you want to have some nostalgic post-install configuration/fiddling fun.

In general, no one seems to get the lesson of web/mobile interface era which (IMHO) is that users don't actually care that much about the OS as long as they can run apps that obey certain very simple conventions (but can have radically different and often broken interfaces). Think of the html web as a vast experience in user interface design and I think that's what you get. The OS gui should just get the fuck out of the way (and no not literally i.e. Unity's magic hiding top menu bar)
posted by ennui.bz at 3:37 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to seeing the first project or company that even attempts to provide user-controlled cloud data. That just doesn't seem to be what anyone in the "cloud" world wants to do, which is one reason I'm staying far away from it.

Yeah, that's the kicker. I'm thinking less of the traditional "cloud storage/cloud hosting" though, and more of the idea of a personal data cloud. Whether it lives on an ISP's server or an always-connected desktop machine in your basement or whatever, a device-neutral repository for one's data is a compelling idea. The problem is that making it easy to use is lots and lots and lots of work; that tends to mean that it's locked into vendor specific solutions both for expediency and to monetize the considerable work that goes into it.


Keeping all the data on my phone and docking it whenever I want to actually get some work done makes a lot more sense to me than uploading all my data to some big server owned by someone else, protected by someone else's unknown and unverifiable security decisions, and subject to someone else's arbitrary, unaccountable policy changes.

Yeah, and this is where I readily admit that it's a diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks kind of thing. Putting all my eggs in the basket of a pocket device that can easily be lost, stolen, or broken strikes me as equally chancy.
posted by verb at 3:41 PM on February 21, 2012


I believe that all the UI teams for Linux more or less simultaneously went insane. Instead of keeping their users happy, they decided to fuck those users over totally to go chasing people that DIDN'T use Linux.

The desktop has been rewritten for stupid people, but stupid people won't use Linux because it doesn't come on their computers to start with. The only time they'll use it is when a power user either convinces them to, or actively installs it on their computers. But the major desktop teams have thoroughly pissed off the power users and made Linux an uncomfortable, unfriendly place to be, at least if you were happy with the old Gnome and KDE environments.

So, to chase people that DON'T use the platform, they drive away people that DO, when it's precisely those people that convince non-users to switch. Pissing off the existing users, for free software, is like taking your marketing team out back and shooting it. Maybe that could work... if you decided that you didn't want the geeks selling your product anymore, sure, maybe you could get rid of them. But you need some kind of replacement, some other method of marketing, and they don't have anything. Word of mouth has been the primary marketing for free software since its inception, and what they're getting now from the nerds is screeds like this one, with no offsetting marketing messages from elsewhere.

It reminds me of what Brad Wardell said over at Stardock, in reference to piracy. You can either focus on the people that actually pay you real money, the customers, or you can spend time and effort chasing people who won't give you money, the pirates. I think of the desktop developments in the Linux world as being the same thinking that drives DRM -- make the system unpleasant for existing users, in the hope that more people who are non-users will be convinced to switch.

I don't think this strategy is working.
posted by Malor at 3:51 PM on February 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


There is a good chance the Mach+BSD mix could be blamed for Mac OS X's kernel issues, making my previous derision of FreeBSD unfair. There is way more effort poured into Linux though, like that whole scheduler showdown.

You really think that wasting thousands of hours on an ideological shitfight constitutes "effort"?

I'm now morbidly curious as to your opinion of Congress.
posted by Talez at 3:56 PM on February 21, 2012


The desktop has been rewritten for stupid people, but stupid people won't use Linux because it doesn't come on their computers to start with.

If only... then Unity would look like Windows 7, which would be a huge improvement. Stupid people don't understand, they follow rules. "Searching" for an application is much more complicated and requirs more thought than "pull down menu and go 8 lines down in the list." Combine that with "clippy" style ai-prediction of what you want and the Unity "global menu" is a user interface clusterfuck for stupid people. I've gone from not really recommending Ubuntu for my parents because of nagging hardware bugs and media playback issues (totem sucked ass on old ubuntu) to not even considering it.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:05 PM on February 21, 2012


The desktop has been rewritten for stupid people, but stupid people won't use Linux because it doesn't come on their computers to start with.

People like software and hardware that satisfies their needs and reduces the work required to accomplish goals they care about. Catering to stupid people is rarely the problem: building the kinds of things a technologist imagines a stupid person would want is much more common.
posted by verb at 4:26 PM on February 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


The thing that is ruining Ubuntu is the same thing that's afflicting the upcoming versions of Windows and OSX - it's the bloody tablet plague. "Oh, the iPad is selling so many units, it's going to replace the computer, that's what the users want!" No, the iPad took over a previously underutilized niche in computing. Most people are not using them to replace 'real computers' and you do NOT need to cripple your desktop or laptop operating system to make it more like a tablet. The whole key to making the iPad take off was figuring out that a tablet isn't a desktop and shouldn't have a desktop operating system; now, people are trying to force the tablet operating system onto the desktop, because apparently they learned nothing.

If you look at the upcoming Windows 8, Microsoft is working every bit as hard to ruin the interface as Canonical, they just have a slower update cycle. Even OSX is kind of pushing in that direction.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:05 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm just a dude with an Android phone and thought this looked pretty cool -- I don't understand 95% of the comments in here. My questions are: would this run on my G2, and how much for a dock and monitor?
I have a G2. I like it, but there's no video out. You can use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, but without video out it's not going to work well. The G2 is a bit out of date, no front camera and no video out :(

Ah well.
Almost as bad as the Android "IT IS OPEN SOURCE EXCEPT WHEN IT ISN'T" cult.
*Yawn* All the android stuff is open source at this point. They did end up releasing the source for Honeycomb (the tablet only version) along with 4.0
Part of the problem with Unity is that it's designed to accommodate portable devices, so it uses your screen space like it's built for a phone. Everything is full screen, single window, the icons hide themselves, and so on.
Unless something's changed since version 11, normal windows like firefox or the terminal are still normal windows. The file explorer used normal windows, and Icons stayed present. The only noticeable aspect was the weird launcher, which looked nice but was somewhat impractical. The only real annoyance was the fact that you couldn't right click on anything, which was kind of a drag.

The other thing that annoyed me, I downloaded a bunch of wallpapers, and I wanted to setup a cron job to randomly change them. Turns out... the command lines to change the desktop background are super weird. They have some weird registry-like database and you have to modify specific keys or something in a really non-intuitive way. It kind of annoyed me.

Honestly thought, the OS I'm using for a desktop doesn't really make much of a difference to me. Maybe if I tried using Ubuntu for a while I might find some annoying quirks (like the lack of a right click in some aspects) but so long as I can surf the web, play videos and use Java I should be fine. All of that seems to work fine in ubuntu.

And further more, changing things up every once in a while isn't that terrible. Some of you sound like middle aged office drones having an aneurysm about the ribbon in Office.
I believe that all the UI teams for Linux more or less simultaneously went insane. Instead of keeping their users happy, they decided to fuck those users over totally to go chasing people that DIDN'T use Linux.
If only... then Unity would look like Windows 7, which would be a huge improvement. Stupid people don't understand, they follow rules. "Searching" for an application is much more complicated and requirs more thought than "pull down menu and go 8 lines down in the list." Combine that with "clippy" style ai-prediction of what you want and the Unity "global menu" is a user interface clusterfuck for stupid people.
Uh, isn't that how windows 7 works? I know they changed it from vista, but in vista and from what I've seen of 7 the default list of apps changes based on what you use. If you want something not on the list you can just start typing the name and it will come up. I realize you can also get a complete list but whatever.

And honestly when I'm on Linux I'll just be using the terminal anyway. So the UI doesn't matter that much.
posted by delmoi at 6:09 PM on February 21, 2012


I guess I am the "someone, somewhere" that Ubuntu for Android is being developed for. I kind of like the idea of One Device to Rule Them All, and I will probably try it out at some point. I dunno if it's a good strategic focus for Canonical, and I don't particularly care.

A lot of the dismissals upthread remind me of how I felt about the iPad. At the time, it seemed like a solution in search of a problem use case. But now I see people using them in ways that make a lot of sense to me, even if I don't have any need or desire for one myself.

But then, I'm also cool with Unity (except for the lack of a hierarchical menu system). It took a couple of days to get used to the ways it differs from Gnome, and now it does what I need it to and stays out of my way the rest of the time. I like it a hell of a lot better than any version of OS X I've ever used.
posted by twirlip at 6:44 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could see using this on my Xoom. I don't have a laptop, and it would be nice to be able to hook up to video out via HDMI, use my bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and access a desktop-style interface to work on documents and such.
posted by notashroom at 7:33 PM on February 21, 2012


You know, the thought occurs to me that one big use for this might be as a 'cloud replacement'. That is, rather than depending on other people and other services to do what you need, with all the ancillary problems of your eyeballs becoming a product, and the security issues in having other people storing your critical data.... instead of doing that, you could just carry it all with you, in your pocket.

It's really startling how little space textual data takes. I've archived every email I've sent or received since early in 1998. (I even started archiving a bunch of the spam since sometime in '99, to train my spam filters.) So all that mail, all fourteen years of it, takes about 2.3 gigs on disk, and the non-spam part is 1.4 gigs. I could easily fit that on a phone, with or without spam. On a Ubuntu environment, it would be trivial for me to install an IMAP server and transfer my mail over to it, because that's what I'm already doing. I could just run an IMAP server on my phone instead of, well, a server.

My phone only has 16 gigs, yet I'm pretty sure I could fit every piece of data that was truly important to me on it. I could certainly hold a 'working set' of projects and emails. And if I had all that on my phone, I could either dock and work directly there (and I think my phone, a dual-core 1.4Ghz ARM, is probably fast enough to be comfortable for routine use as a desktop), or I could just join it to a WiFi network, and use it as a cloud server for a desktop machine.

The amount of work this would presently take means it would only be interesting to hobbyists, but once it's been done, I think you could probably sell a 'cloud in your pocket' solution for Android phones. (I doubt Apple would allow anything of that sort on their system, since that smacks far too much of actual user control.) If you're a mobile worker, and don't particularly trust Google or Amazon or Apple, carrying your data with you could be extremely appealing. You could encrypt the files and keep them on a big SD card, and just take it out of the phone before going through checkpoints. Both the US and China have a nasty habit of doing electronic searches of your stuff at their borders, so keeping the sensitive data in your pocket, fully encrypted, would make that very difficult.

Just a thought. This could actually be useful. Your working world... all your data and software, everything you need to be productive in modern society, tucked into your pocket.
posted by Malor at 7:58 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I am the "someone, somewhere" that Ubuntu for Android is being developed for. I kind of like the idea of One Device to Rule Them All, and I will probably try it out at some point. I dunno if it's a good strategic focus for Canonical, and I don't particularly care.
Think about it though. In terms of whether or not it’s a good strategic direction, what matters is how Canonical makes money. They have to do it some way.

Android is Open source, and obviously google makes money off it, probably mainly through ads and the app market. That's probably not a realistic way for Canonical to make money though. I would imagine that part of their revenue stream might be customizing it for various hardware devices.

If you read this page, it's not trying to sell it to the user. Look at the features:
* Easy to integrate with existing Android phones in development
* Drive adoption of 4G handsets since office apps shine with low latency and higher bandwidth
* Drives sales of multi-core phones with faster CPUs
They are selling this to OEMs. If you download Ubuntu and slap it on your desktop, that's good for them, but it's really just advertising. A user at a phone maker might use it personally, and like it. Phone makers know it has brand recognition with power users. But ultimately, if making a change makes it more useful for their paying customers a change is a strategic decision even if random users who are downloading ISOs aren't happy.

But assuming there is a 1:1 correlation between "I don't like this, it's going to make me less likely to use Ubuntu" and something being a "bad strategic move" for Canonical is. I mean come on. People, canonical is obviously spending a lot of money writing this code, It's charitable, but it's not a charity. They're obviously a lot more altruistic then most business, but they still need to make money.

It's actually kind of hilarious that people are bitching about something they spend, who knows how many programmer hours developing because you, personally don't like how it works when you download a free ISO and install it on your machine.
posted by delmoi at 1:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, delmoi, expecting software to work as well as the prior software from the same company is completely brain-damaged and stupid. You're so right.
posted by Malor at 2:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, too, hate Gnome 3 and Unity. Recently, I wanted to install Linux on my work laptop. I had always heard good things about Ubuntu, so I put 11.10 on there, and it was terrible. I switched to Mint 12 which was a little better, but still pretty unstable and fancy, so I ended up at Mint 11 which is great, but support will end for this version in the fall. My main complaint is how flashy all these new desktops are. It's fine if it's for your tablet or your home computer where social media and multimedia (music, video, games, etc) might be important. But for a work computer, where you're writing reports, doing some data analysis, and making presentations (in formal, professional situations), it sucks. It's difficult to multitask with the windows maximized, and the 3d effects also seem to up the power consumption of my laptop. I did try some of the other distros, but I will say I am not the best when it comes to making computers work, and the Ubuntu/Mint communities are well developed enough to have lots of online support available.

Who is making desktops for people who want to get work done, and who are not super tech savvy?
posted by bluefly at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


*desktop = desktop environment
posted by bluefly at 7:36 AM on February 22, 2012


bluefly, it doesn't have anything to do with whether you're super tech savvy. A fair amount of the gnome3 and unity hate is coming from those who (like me) identify as super-tech-savvy.

In addition to the choices you've mentioned, you might consider debian with xfce as the desktop environment. I think that XUbuntu is also based on xfce.

disclaimer: I haven't used xfce much.
posted by jepler at 7:53 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who is making desktops for people who want to get work done, and who are not super tech savvy?

It's painful to see Ubuntu prematurely embrace Unity (unstable, wonky) and Gnome (once great, now WTF) go the wrong direction. But, there are plenty of other options out there. You can even stick with Linux Mint, but go either the KDE or LXDE route. I have been playing a bit with LXDE, and its major selling points are that it's very fast and zippy, and the people driving it seem to be in no way influenced by the WTF that's been happening in Unity & Gnome worlds. I haven't used KDE for some time. I always thought it's UI looked a lot less professional than Gnome, but YMMV. KDE is much more popular in Europe, probably because SuSE has a bigger footprint there. I know my Euro friends all think it's the bee's knees.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:10 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your working world... all your data and software, everything you need to be productive in modern society, tucked into your pocket.

Just don't drop or lose it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:22 AM on February 22, 2012


Blazecock Pileon: " Just don't drop or lose it."

Yes, but that doesn't have to be an issue if you have proper cloudspace backup.

Friend of mine showed me his Windows phone early last year over lunch. Said, "Watch this." Did a hard reset to factory defaults on the phone. Then punched in his email address and handed me the phone.

As I watched, his phone downloaded everything from cloudspace and reset itself back to the way it was, right before he reset it. Apps. Email. Contacts. Settings. Themes/Wallpaper. Extra sounds files and ringtones. It was a relatively new phone with only a few months of use, but within about 5 minutes, his phone was exactly the way it had been previously. He then showed me that one could easily select which data should be restored and which couldn't. (Say, yes to email, no to certain apps.)

Apple has iCloud (only available for new devices running iOS 5.) Microsoft has whatever that service is called. Does Android have anything similar?
posted by zarq at 8:47 AM on February 22, 2012


I believe Canonical plans on backing up Ubuntu for Android devices using their Ubuntu One cloud storage service, zarq, but ..

There is no end-to-end encryption on Canonical's Ubuntu One, Apple's iCloud, Microsoft's SkyDrive, DropBox, etc. Anyone using these service simply gives said company all their data.

There is no question that Canonical is infinitely less evil than Apple, Visa, etc., heck they might even add more encryption than iCloud, SkyDrive, etc. would ever offer, but I'd hate giving them all my data regardless.

If you want cloud backup, you should be using Wuala or SpiderOak, or maintain an encrypted file system inside an insecure cloud storage provider.

In fact, these device tailored backup services like iCloud, your friend's Microsoft service, and perhaps Canonical's offering, are really the worst offenders, because they actively prevent you from encrypting your data by interacting directly with your applications.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:33 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting. Thanks for the explanation jeffburdges.

I send and receive a lot of sensitive emails. I'll look into Wuala and SpiderOak.
posted by zarq at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2012


Yes, but that doesn't have to be an issue if you have proper cloudspace backup.

Yeah, but that gets us back to the point I was talking about -- your phone isn't the canonical repository for everything, and the central device, if you're pulling stuff down from the cloud and treating the phone as a device that can be wiped as needed.

That brings us back to my dream system: the ability to create and maintain a repository of things like contacts, photos, configuration, ephemera, presentations, personal documents, ebooks, etc... and have every device I own and/or use look at a slice of it.

Treating the document store as something separate from a particular use-tool is important, because someone who wants to use a single handheld device can, but the approach wouldn't presuppose that someone with a laptop and a desktop and a tablet and a phone has to pick one of their devices to be the 'Real' one. Dropbox.com has done this pretty effectively for general file storage, syncing services like iTunes Match do it nicely for media, and Google Docs does an okay-ish job as long as you are happy using a web client rather than a native one to edit your documents.

No one seems to be tackling the unified problem, though, and certainly not in a way that would work outside of one vendor's hardware and software ecosystem. Treating each device's local storage as cache of a larger pool of data owned by a user, rather than a tiny little repository that must be merged with their other stuff lest collisions occur, would be a really big shift -- as significant as the change from moded to modeless document editing.
posted by verb at 10:46 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Verb, why don't you just set up a box as a file server, and access it from your many mobile devices?

The tools are all there, unless I'm totally misunderstanding what you want.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:48 AM on February 22, 2012


Verb, why don't you just set up a box as a file server, and access it from your many mobile devices?

The tools are all there, unless I'm totally misunderstanding what you want.



Got that, and to some extent it's what I'm already doing. The meat and potatoes work would lie in putting together the integration pieces for lots of existing devices and OS's.

For example, syncing your personal contacts isn't just a matter of moving files around. It also involves resolving the many disparate ways that things like "Contacts" are represented from OS to OS, device to device, app to app. Configuration files for my machines, including stuff like SSH keys or saved passwords for logging into web sites, have app specific syncing in certain situations, but moving from browser to browser kills it unless you're using a tool like 1Password, etc.

I can use a centralized git repo for my various .profile and .bashrc files, but that's a different kind of problem than the music archive (which really begs for streaming access, not just local caching). Large media like films, or photo libraries for the nerds who shoot RAW with DSLR's, suffer from related problems. Then you get to thornier stuff like ownership of the social graf, which is currently FIRMLY in the hands of proprietary services despite the well-intentioned Diaspora project. They treated it as a "we need a pretty web app" problem, not a fundamental technology/infrastructure problem.

Solving any one of the individual problems is relatively easy. The problem is that solving all of them, or even just a reasonable subset of them, is enough work to keep a part-time administrative assistant (with *NIX skills) employed.

Simple, elegant solutions by companies like Google and Apple tend to focus on narrow, easily-solved parts of the problem for lowest-common-denominator users. That's not bad, and it makes business sense, but it means that the data archipelago issue is going to get worse and worse as we push more and more people to the digital world.
posted by verb at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


in summary: i dance on the edge case and should acknowledge that my needs are not common, but I think they will become more and more common as time goes on. the alternative is accepting a world of proprietary "stacks." Living in Facebook Land or Google Land or Apple Land or Canonical Cloud Land or Windows 9 Land or what not.
posted by verb at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2012


Also. Did I say social graf? I... mean... Yeah. Storing your archived German nobles is a serious problem.
posted by verb at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but that gets us back to the point I was talking about -- your phone isn't the canonical repository for everything, and the central device, if you're pulling stuff down from the cloud and treating the phone as a device that can be wiped as needed.

Of course it is. If you're using the cloud as a backup, it's just a backup, not the primary source. It's the safety net, not the tightrope.

I mean, by that argument, my home IMAP server isn't the canonical source for my email, because I back it up religiously.

Now, if I were backing up to a live IMAP server out there somewhere, and then mixing my updates between the two, then you could make that argument, but a backup is just a backup.
posted by Malor at 3:49 PM on February 22, 2012


Are any hardware partners announced for Ubuntu for Android?
posted by jeffburdges at 3:40 AM on February 24, 2012


Heh. This is Canonical we are talking about, so I am assuming the partner situation is as usual.

Ubuntu for Android: more details and prototype hands-on (video)
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on February 24, 2012


Asus shows new tablets, PadFone

The PadFone is designed to slip into a tablet docking station that offers a much larger 10" 1280x800 display. A 24Wh battery in the tablet provides additional juice, and there's a keyboard attachment, too.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Asus makes some interesting form factors, gsmarena.com has more details on the PadFone.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:28 PM on February 29, 2012


Some of them are pretty groovy, others bizarre, others appear to be total vapourware.
posted by Artw at 4:36 PM on February 29, 2012


T-Mobile Executive Calls For End to Cell Phone Subsidies
posted by jeffburdges at 11:57 AM on March 10, 2012


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