Providing a less dramatic upgrade for LTS-users.

Jo-Erlend Schinstad joerlend.schinstad at
Tue Dec 20 16:18:21 UTC 2011

Den 20. des. 2011 09:36, skrev Martin Pitt:
> Jo-Erlend Schinstad [2011-12-15 12:20 +0100]:
>> Many of these users will be presented with a "New distribution
>> available" upgrade for the very first time. It is likely that many
>> will just go right ahead and install the upgrade. When they reboot,
>> they will log into a completely new environment. As we've seen, this
>> can upset people when they don't expect the change.
> This sounds like we should perhaps address this in update-manager? It
> could show a slideshow similar to the one in Ubiquity, and/or also
> point out that the default desktop changes?

Having some interesting slides while doing a distribution upgrade would 
be nice in any case. I don't think that solves the issues I'm pointing 
out, though.

>> My proposal is that users who _upgrade_ from 10.04 should be
>> presented with a Gnome Panel desktop, kept as close to the setup in
>> 10.04 as possible.
> At some point we need to switch those users to the current stuff
> anyway, we can't keep the old panel stuff forever. Even today, only
> few people are still working on it. Also, if you upgrade to a totally
> new OS version, it is really not realistic to not expect any change.

Why can't we keep the old panel stuff forever if people want them, they 
don't cause any conflicts and developers develop them? I spoke to 
Vincent Untz about the panels, and he confirmed my impression that the 
panels were mostly finished. So, while it may be true that few people 
are working on the panels themselves, it is also true that there is 
little work that needs to be done. It makes very little sense to me to 
remove programs _because_ they are stable, mature and finished. Some 
things just doesn't need that much more innovation, and that should be 
considered a good thing. So most developers move onto more modern and 
challenging projects, and take most of the users with them -- and that's 
a good thing too -- but I see no reason why we can't have both. The nail 
gun didn't replace the hammer, even if it's a lot more efficient for 
many use cases.

I do agree that people should expect changes when upgrading to a new 
operating system. However, many LTS users are actively trying to _avoid_ 
changes, but are being forced to upgrade in order to keep their systems 
safe. In any case, I think upgrading users should _choose_ to switch to 
Unity, and switching should be dead easy.

> I do agree that the change is indeed quite big, and I've heard a few
> complaints and "how do I do X now?" questions myself, but if Unity has
> some discoverability/usability issues (and it does), we need to
> address those for all people, not just for LTS upgraders.
Sure, but that's a completely different issue. I don't think Unity will 
ever be automatically understood by everyone, and I don't think that 
should be a goal either. I used to think that, but I no longer do. The 
main goal should be to make the system comfortable and efficient to use. 
I really love the way Unity hides UI cruft when it's not actually 
usable. It does make the desktop a little less didactic, but most users 
are going to spend a lot of time using it, so even if it should require 
spending a couple of minutes browsing a small pamphlet, it's worth it.

But no matter how friendly Unity becomes, there will be users who are 
afraid of changes. By giving control to that user, you're reducing the 

> Also, from a purely technical perspective, changing the configuration
> for all existing users by packages or even update-manager is a no-go
> area. u-m could switch the default session at the system level, but
> then new users/guest session would also use the old one, and you would
> never see the desktop which we actually support anywhere.
Changing the users configuration is the current situation. The user has 
Gnome Panel, which will still be available in Precise. After the 
upgrade, the users configuration will be changed to use Unity instead. 
Or have I misunderstood something? Because my suggestion is that we 
_don't_ change the configuration. Instead upgrading users keep using 
their familiar shell, but will be presented with a dialog that tells 
them about Unity at the first boot after upgrade.

> If users see the GNOME-3 variant of GNOME panel, they will rightfully
> have the impression that there's nothign really new, just a lot of
> stuff has stopped working. Is that really the experience we want to
> convey? I think not.

The users I've used in my scenario won't have lots of stuff stop 
working. Only heavy users of third-party panel applets will experience 
that. Those users will by necessity have some background information, 
which means they'll probably understand the situation. All the default 
applets that were used in 10.04 is still available, and someone has 
ported the indicator applet.

But you do have a point, though I have an opposite view. Replacing the 
shell at the same time that underlying technologies were changed, has 
created more confusion than anything else I can recall. Now, people are 
talking about Unity vs Gnome 3 and people are screaming for MATE. It's 
mostly nonsense, in my opinion, but it is understandable. I don't think 
it was a good idea to "shell shock" the community that way, if you'll 
pardon the pun.

The experience I would want to convey if it was up to me, is first and 
foremost that there is continuity in the development. Gnome 3 is not 
something completely different from Gnome 2. In fact, it's just a large 
collection of relatively small fixes the user doesn't have to care about 
at all, except that it'll make things better. I think Gnome made a huge 
mistake by replacing the default shell and making the "fallback" look 
and feel entirely alien, which was completely unnecessary.

Ubuntu has the opportunity with this release to show that, even if there 
can sometimes be some dramatic changes and experiments in the tweens, in 
the long run, with LTS releases, Ubuntu is predictable and stable. 
Precise is a continuation of 10.04, not a clean break. This should be 

> One thing that we should do is to make sure that LTS->LTS upgrades 
> will keep gnome-panel installed, to already have the session available 
> in lightdm (for fresh installs you need to explicitly install that 
> package). 

Yes, that is my proposal, but not only should Gnome Panel still be used. 
It must also look similar to the way it does in 10.04, and if possible, 
deactivate the need to press alt in order to display menus for adding 
applets and to move applets around. The default look for Gnome Panel 3 
is so different to the default look we've had for Gnome Panel 2, I'd see 
little benefit of providing that.
> In fact, the vast majority of panel applets are gone now, so there's
> nothing to upgrade. Cf. my statement above about nobody really working
> on the old panel stuff any more.
No, they're not gone. Where would they have gone? They need to be ported 
to GTK3 and to use GSettings, most likely, but that's not exactly unique 
to Gnome Panel. I would assume that to be the case for mostly all 
applications that use plugins in a similar way. I have real difficulties 
believing that all third-party developers have chosen not to port their 
applets. If they have, it's most likely because they've been tricked 
into thinking everything is different in Gnome 3. I've ported a few GTK 
apps, and it's usually not a very big deal. I don't know why panel 
applets should be any different in that regard.

Jo-Erlend Schinstad

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