Auto-launching of applications

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at
Fri Feb 20 11:14:45 GMT 2009

Hash: SHA1

Bruce Cowan wrote on 18/02/09 19:03:
> update-manager is now set to auto-launch every 2 days. Even though I
> have disabled this, I think it is not the right thing to do.

The two-day interval exists to check that the interval mechanism works
properly, while still ensuring that alpha testers are testing recent
packages. For 9.04, the interval will be changed to once a week.

> Apparently the window is supposed to open in the background, but I think
> that users may wonder why a program is seemingly running without them
> wanting it to.
> Also, I'm sure I'm not the only person who doesn't use update-manager.
> Can anyone explain to me why autolaunching programs is a good idea?

update-notifier has always auto-launched, as long as it has existed in
Ubuntu. The only thing that has changed in Jaunty is how it presents
updates, when there are any. Instead of displaying an icon with a bubble
pointing at it inviting you to click it to show the available updates,
it shows the available updates directly.

The basic reason is that it's more obvious: a 22*22-pixel icon in the
"notification area" could never convey the idea that there are software
updates available to a usefully large proportion of our users, no matter
how good the icon designer was. An actual sentence saying "Software
updates are available for this computer" can do a much better job.

Previous versions of Ubuntu, like recent versions of Microsoft Windows,
have tried to work around this with a notification bubble pointing at
the icon, as if to explain to you what you jolly well should have
understood already if you didn't have such poor icon recognition skills.
But besides the slightly disingenuous tone, bubbles like this have a
couple more problems: either they disappear after a few seconds, during
which you might not have even been looking at the screen, or they
persist and get in the way of whatever else you're working on. And if
two of them happen to appear pointing at different icons simultaneously,
the bubbles collide messily.

To prevent these problems from recurring, Ubuntu's new notification
system does not allow bubbles to point at icons in the notification
area. This forced the issue for software updates: with a bubble saying
"Click on the notification icon to install updates" that didn't point to
anything, 95% of new users would have been trying to click on the icon
inside the bubble itself instead of the icon in the notification area,
up from the 50% who were doing that before.* So we had to change it somehow.

The other main reason for the change is that it's less work for users.
Instead clicking a little icon in the panel then clicking an "Install"
button, you just click the "Install" button. Even if you really don't
want to install updates just now, the close button for the updates
window is larger than the close button in the old bubble was.

As Siegfried has described, if you don't want to use Update Manager at
all, you can turn off the automatic checking. In future we will make it
more obvious how to get to that option.

* Percentages are wild estimates only.

- --
Matthew Paul Thomas
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