An open letter to Mark Shuttleworth
Thanks for creating Ubuntu! Jaunty is the best release yet - stable, fast and full of features, just the way we like it. We particularly like the new notifications and the awesome new Screen tools that have been put in place. But there's one thing we don't like. In fact, there's one thing we think is colossally stupid, and we're hoping you'll give some thought to changing it to something smarter.
That thing is Update Manager's new-found pop-under behaviour. In the old days, a tray icon would appear with a bubble telling users that updates were available. But as of 9.04, that's been dropped in favour of Update Manager automatically appearing on the screen, only to be minimised. The thinking is that this makes Update Manager harder to ignore, presumably because it's more annoying now.
I don't think this will come as a huge surprise to you, Mark, but most people don't like their computer to be annoying. We understand the need to encourage people to install security updates, but getting on their nerves just doesn't seem like the smart solution. It doesn't seem like the Ubuntu solution.
If people were ignoring the system updates bubble, couldn't you just have done something with the new notifications system to make security updates clearer - something like "Critical updates are available for your computer - click here to install them now." Then don't ask any further questions: if they click that, install the updates straight away rather than showing Update Manager.
Or was the problem that the new notifications system just didn't work with the Updates Available bubble? If that was the case, are there any other apps that also relied on bubbles hanging around until closed that don't work as well now?
Microsoft solved this problem by showing a screen during installation that encouraged people to leave "Install security updates automatically" selected, so that whenever people restarted their computer their system would start up with the latest fixes. It's not ideal, particularly in the server world, but it's better than pop unders.
Apple solved this problem by showing a clear dialog on the screen saying that software updates are available. It doesn't hide away, but neither does it show a long list of exactly what's included unless you ask for it - you can just click Install and it does the rest. It's not ideal, but it's better than pop unders.
We're not saying that the Updates Available balloon is the best option, merely that it's a better better option than the pop under window. There could be even better options out there. Perhaps the message should appear as a menu item under Add/Remove on the Applications menu. Perhaps a bar could appear beneath the top panel similar to how Firefox prompts you to install plugins. Perhaps the Shutdown screen should have a message on there saying "Download and install updates before shutting down", similar to Windows XP SP2. Perhaps the solution is just to make the pop under behaviour optional, so that anyone annoyed by it can easily turn it off.
We don't know what the best solution is, but we're willing to bet that other people do. So we're asking you: please have a rethink about the updates system. Please ask the community for ideas. We want to help make Ubuntu better. We want to help make Linux better. Let's work together to make the Linux desktop smarter, smoother, and as irritation-free as possible.
The TuxRadar Team
PS: It's a small point, but the default Hardy wallpaper was awesome, the default Intrepid wallpaper was awesome + 1, but the default Jaunty wallpaper is meh. We're hoping you're saving up the awesome for something truly mind-boggling in Karmic.
PPS: If you're using Kubuntu or Xubuntu this will make no sense to you, but trust us: it's annoying!