ClickPads and Click Actions

Chase Douglas chase.douglas at
Thu Mar 1 04:55:58 UTC 2012

On 02/29/2012 05:22 PM, Bryce Harrington wrote:
> On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 01:11:30PM -0800, Chase Douglas wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> I'm sending this to both ubuntu-devel and ubuntu-desktop to try to
>> get a larger pool of feedback.
> Here's some random thoughts.  I don't have a fully formed opinion on the
> topic, but maybe these general observations can help the discussion.
> * There are several different loose categories of devices we're talking
>    about:
>    + Integrated Apple pads in laptops
>    + Apple magic touch mice, plugged in via USB(?)

No mice. This only applies to trackpads.

>    + Integrated pads in netbooks (like Dell Mini V)
>    + Others?

These are actually becoming more usual for all laptops. I think most 
Synaptics brand trackpads are now ClickPads.

> * People have widely divergent views on how their pads should behave.
>    + Changes to input behavior that can be perceived as a regression by
>      any group of users tend to spawn bug reports and/or complaints.
>    + We can't please everyone.
>    + We want to minimize the number of people who have to configure
>      things, that didn't have to configure things previously.
> * Historically, we've not been prolific with X input SRUs.
>     + Partly because many input "bugs" are just differences of opinion
>       about what options should be the default.
>     + Partly because input bugs often involve patches that are complex or
>       invasive.
>     + Partly because testing the changes requires a variety of input
>       hardware that many of us don't have on hand.  (Testing can also be
>       rather subjective.)
>     + Partly because video issues keep us fully occupied and we just
>       don't get to input stuff that often.
> * There is a sense that people transitioning from Apple will have
>    different expectations than existing users (or windows migrants).
>     + Do we have a sense for how many Apple migrants there are?
>       (I know they can be vocal, but are we expecting Apple
>       converts to Precise?)
>     + While the hardware is quite pervasively common, Apple is not an OEM
>       customer for Canonical (well, AFAIK), so that may modulate the
>       priority here.
>     + The defaults here for Apple hardware Could be different than
>       other pads.
> * Many users won't know about gestures or how to use them.
>     + Some have strong muscle memory in their fingers.
>     + Some users just aren't that coordinated.
>     + Some just hate change in general.
> * My general rule of thumb for features in LTS:
>     + When unsure of a new feature, include it but leave it turned off by
>       default.
>     + Provide directions for enabling it in a wiki.  That way we can
>       still get testing feedback and users who *really* want it will have
>       a way to enable it.  (And 3rd parties can add it to Tweak tools and
>       so on.)
>     + If it can't be defaulted to off, then put it in a separate package
>       or PPA, that people who want it can opt-in to.

This can be defaulted off, so having a wiki page with documentation on 
how to enable it is possible.

> The options are:
>   >  * Disable clickpad support by default
>   "Traditional + ClickActions"
>   >  * Enable clickpad support, but disable right button area by default
>   "ClickPad"
>   >  * Enable clickpad support and right button area by default
>   "ClickPad + RightArea"
> It's hard to construct a solid opinion on the options... so many
> factors.
> If we definitely want to attract Apple converts to Precise (or make it
> easier for people who swap between OSX and Ubuntu), then it follows we'd
> at least want to make ClickPad enabled by default for Apple hardware.
> Do we have strategic guidance from Design or management on what we
> should be prioritizing here?

I doubt it. AFAIK, I'm the only person in the world really working on it :).

> However, what I've heard from many Apple laptop owners is that there's
> so many little quirks and misbehaviors, that ClickPad-vs-Traditional
> might be just one in a long list of support issues.  If we fix that, but
> as a result break something else, we may not really be gaining that much
> in total.  But I don't know.

That may be. Anecdotally, Seth Forshee from the kernel team said missing 
clickpad support was the only remaining niggle for him on the latest 
Macbook Airs. Things maybe better than previously :).

> Leaving Apple hardware aside, for non-Apple hardware where we don't have
> expectations for ClickPad functionality, it seems like it would be safest
> to leave that as Traditional + ClickActions.  This assumes we can ship
> one option for Apple stuff, one for everything else.  If we can't, then
> that seems to suggest we should stick with Traditional by default, and
> wiki up directions for Apple users.

AFAIK, all clickpads that are not Apple (i.e. are Synaptics brand) have 
right button area markings. I think it makes the most sense for these 
devices to have "clickpad + rightarea".

> If we decide to move to ClickPad or ClickPad+RightArea as the default,
> we better make sure we document how to revert back to Traditional (even
> if it means installing some PPA with downgrade drivers or some such).
> Otherwise we risk earning some serious bug reports.
> Again though, these are just some loose thoughts, not a solid opinion.

I'm beginning to think that this is all so complicated even when we try 
to be verbose and convey things as accurately as possible that nothing 
short of "it just works perfectly and exactly how I wanted" will be good 
enough. Although I think we are very close to this being possible, we're 
just too far past feature freeze for it to land.

After the freeze is lifted, I'll upload a new X synaptics module with 
ClickPad support but disabled by default for all devices. We can 
document the feature on and tell people how to enable 
it. Next cycle I'll finish it by ensuring click actions are supported 
too. Then we can turn it on without hesitation :).


-- Chase

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