Top ideas on Ubuntu Brainstorm (August 2011)

The Ubuntu Technical Board conducts a regular review of the most popular Ubuntu Brainstorm ideas (previous reviews conducted by Matt Zimmerman and Martin Pitt). This time it was my turn. Apologies for the late arrival of this review.

Contact lens in the Unity Dash (#27584)

Unity supports Lenses, which provide a consistent way for users to quickly search for information via the Dash. Current lenses include Applications, Files, and Music, but a number of people have asked for contacts to be accessible using the same interface.

While Canonical’s DX team isn’t currently working on this for Ubuntu 11.10 or 12.04, we’d love somebody who’s interested in this to get involved. Allison Randal explains how to get started, including some skeleton example code and several useful links.

Displaying Ubuntu version information (#27460)

Several people have asked for it to be more obvious what Ubuntu version they’re running, as well as other general information about their system.

John Lea, user experience architect on the Unity team, responds that in Ubuntu 11.10 the new LightDM greeter shows the Ubuntu version number, making that basic information very easily visible. For more detail, System Settings -> System Info provides a simple summary.

Volume adjustments for headphone use (#27275)

People often find that they need to adjust their sound volume when plugging in or removing headphones. It seems as though the computer ought to be able to remember this kind of thing and do it automatically; after all, a major goal of Ubuntu is to make the desktop Just Work.

David Henningson, a member of Canonical’s OEM Services group and an Ubuntu audio developer, responds on his blog with a summary of how PulseAudio jack detection has improved matters in Ubuntu 11.10, and what’s left to do:

The good news: in the upcoming Ubuntu Oneiric (11.10), this is actually working. The bad news: it isn’t working for everyone.

Making it easier to find software to handle a file (#28148)

Ubuntu is not always as helpful as it could be when you don’t have the right software installed to handle a particular file.

Michael Vogt, one of the developers of the Ubuntu Software Center, responded to this. It seems that most of the pieces to make this work nicely are in place, but there are a few more bits of glue required:

Thanks a lot for this suggestion. I like the idea and it’s something that software-center itself supports now. In the coming version 5.0 we will offer to “sort by top-rated” (based on the ratings&reviews data). It’s also possible to search for an application based on its mime data. To search for a mime-type, you can enter “mime:text/html” or “mime:audio/ogg” into the search field. What is needed however is better integration into the file manager nautilus. I will make sure this gets attention at the next developer meeting and filed bug #860536 about it.

In nautilus, there is now a button called “Find applications online” available as an option when opening an unknown file or when the user selects “open with…other application” in the context menu. But that will not use the data from software-center.

Show pop-up alert on low battery (#28037)

Some users have reported on Brainstorm that they are not alerted frequently enough when their laptop’s battery is low, as they clearly ought to be.

This is an odd one, because there are already several power alert levels and this has been working well for us for some time. Nevertheless, enough people have voted for this idea that there must be something behind it, perhaps a bug that only affects certain systems. Martin Pitt, technical lead of the Ubuntu desktop team, has responded directly to the Brainstorm idea with a description of the current system and how to file a bug when it does not work as intended.