Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ubuntu Studio Moving to XFCE

As outlined in my last post, the Ubuntu Studio team is currently establishing goals for Ubuntu Studio 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot and I believe we have some incredible ideas for improvement.  One notable decision is to use XFCE as Ubuntu Studio's desktop environment (DE).

I would like to take this time to explain the rationale for this particular consideration.

User Experience
As most reading this blog should be aware, Ubuntu has recently moved from using GNOME 2 (aka GNOME panel) to Unity as the default DE.

Unity represents a huge paradigm shift in work flow, usability, and user experience.  Stability is also another realistic consideration as Unity is a new technology.

Ultimately, the outcome was appreciable concern regarding how Unity would affect the typical Ubuntu Studio user’s work flow.

The consensus within the team is that Unity was not an optimal choice for Ubuntu Studio at this time.

Sustainability
Unfortunately, Ubuntu 11.10 will apparently not ship with the ‘classic’ GNOME desktop (i.e. GNOME panel), which is currently Ubuntu Studio's DE.  While not officially announced, I think this is the logical outcome given GNOME 3's release and there are many, many articles giving voice to the same conclusion.

The unfortunate yield is that the gnome-panel package within the Ubuntu repositories would soon likely begin to suffer bit rot given that upstream (GNOME Foundation) and Ubuntu would both decrease and ultimately stop support and maintenance.).

Therefore, it quickly became evident that staying with GNOME panel as our default DE did not represent a viable choice for project sustainability.  I found this !disturbing (haha @bkuhn).

We could not currently move 'forward' with vanilla Ubuntu, nor could we maintain the status quo.  We needed to find an alternate DE.

Enter XFCE
Several DE’s were discussed but XFCE was chosen because it offered appreciable advantages that other DE's could not.

Some advantages would be more immediately tangible to users. For example, XFCE represents a familiar desktop metaphor (@Fab thanks) for users and provides a more resource friendly environment than GNOME, KDE, or (I would expect) Unity.

Other advantages would more tangible to the Ubuntu Studio team (and perhaps to users later on). A large potential advantage is to develop working relations with the Xubuntu team, which could reduce the work load on the limited Ubuntu Studio team but also increase the actual development yield.

And ultimately, some benefits of this relationship might eventually include a graphical installer and a live image, both of which have been desired by users.

Conclusion
It appears that XFCE seems to provide the most familiar user experience without significantly changing user's work flows while also ensuring sustainability at this point.

Although, we have also taken this opportunity to explore updating the DE's user interface and are seriously considering leveraging the appreciable advantages of AWN.  Cory Kontros has done some wickedly cool stuff and I have been consistently using something similar to his prototype for several weeks with exceptionally good experiences.

I believe that Ubuntu Studio 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot should therefore be one of the most exciting and effective releases in some time given the proposed changes and updates that are planned.  I hope you feel so too.

37 comments:

Jeremy Bicha said...

Gnome Panel is semi-supported in Gnome 3 now; it is the official fallback mode (and will still be in the 11.10 repositories). But Xubuntu's a good choice if you don't trust that Gnome will keep the panel working. I've heard that XFCE doesn't actually use less resources than Gnome 2 did.

I encourage you to have a look at Gnome Panel 3, perhaps by installing Fedora 15.

skalka said...

I second that choice... xfce is a great desktop and with all this unity/gnome3 affair I think it will grow more and more...

Jeff Waugh said...

A bit of info which may sway your decision: gnome-panel in GNOME 3 is massively improved on the version shipped in 2.32, and will continue to be maintained for some time.

There's more to GNOME 3 than GNOME Shell! :-)

Scott said...

@ Jeremy

I have played with GNOME 3 with the Fedora Beta live disc and I liked it. I find GNOME 3 more polished and usable than Unity and
I even plan on dedicating a computer to use it for pedestrian purposes.

I do have serious doubts about the continued maintenance and support for GNOME panel. Even if GNOME continued to support GNOME panel, I expect Ubuntu will stop actively maintaining it in the repository.

I don't blame or cast aspersions at Ubuntu for this position. I would make the same decision given the direction they have chosen. It is only logical.

Scott said...

@ skalka

I agree.

I would expect XFCE to see an increase in users due to Unity/GNOME 3.

Scott said...

@ Jeff

As noted previously, it's not only the maintenance from GNOME that is not the weakest link, it's the maintenance in the Ubuntu repositories that I worry about.

The Ubuntu Studio team does not have the resources to effectively provide that maintenance either.

David Sugar said...

I think xfce4 will be an excellent choice. There have also been rather useful features in xfce4 I wish gnome had adopted, and it's clear they now never will. Similarly, with the 4.8 release, it is rather comparable in capabilities to the gnome2 workflow.

walter joseph said...

Xubuntu is a good choice, although I find xubuntu 11.04 very unstable, with lockups every few hours. It's also very slow for some reason. I hope they fix it soon.

Kubuntu is very stable in 11.04. I couldn't use it in previous versions due to lockups.

Anonymous said...

XFCE is a very good choice. I am running Xubuntu and I am extremely happy with it.

Jeff Waugh said...

@Scott

As Ubuntu 11.10 shifts to GTK+/GNOME 3 platform components, they'll also have to update to gnome-panel 3.x.

Beyond that, while I agree that it may not receive much focus from Canonical developers, both Ubuntu and Debian developers will continue to manage the package.

It won't be left "unmaintained".

Anonymous said...

I think that shifting to xubuntu is a great idea and am looking forward to the live image.

Tom Ray said...

I've always been curious about XFCE but never tried it. I do have to say I hope it's good looking. I know it's stupid but when I try to turn people on to things like Ubuntu Studio or AVLinux they always make first judgments by how it looks.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a sensible choice to me. I will be installing Xubuntu and have a go at it, for the moment being I'll keep it alongside Ubuntu 10.10.

Tried both GNOME Shell and Unity, couldn't force myself to like either unfortunately.

Rehdon

Jeremy Bicha said...

Scott, like Jeff says, Gnome Panel will still be maintained in the Ubuntu repositories. For one thing, Debian does most of the work maintaining the repositories any way and they are not switching to Unity by default. And all it needs is a few packagers to make sure everything continues to work.

In fact, except for indicators not being ported to it yet (which should happen this cycle), Gnome Panel 3 actually works pretty well in Ubuntu. Any other custom panel applets (besides the ~30 or so included) will need to be ported also.

efecehache said...

I'm happy to see you're adopting Xfce. I've been using it since 2007 and i love how stable it is. They fixed samba integration in 4.8 which was the only drawback i found compared with Gnome 2. And it can be really nice after changing a few default settings, take a look:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1741886/Rainlendar.png

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good choice.
I've been using ubuntu studio for 3 years now, and i really like it. And as a long term user what I really want is stability and low latency. Don't care for looks.
Recently, I've been using xubuntu, along side studio, and I finding it to be ok. It's not gnome2, but for me it is better for studio work from gnome3 and unity.

CFH said...

I imagine you discussed it, so I'll ask "Why not LXDE?"

Allan Kelly said...

Great to see this mature response to an unfortunate situation. I confess that I've not been aware of Ubuntu Studio until I did some searching around this subject. Now that I've found it, it seems well suited to my needs so I'm going to install. Can I suggest that you ensure there's a prominent link to the Ubuntu Studio site on your blog! I couldn't find one...
Cheers, al.

John said...

Linux will never grow in popularity as long as there is so much instability in such basic things as what the desktop looks and feels like.

XFCE is a step backward...a big one.

Just when Ubuntu was starting to make some headway they make a major change for no good reason. Gnome 2 worked like a charm and was comfortable to users making the move from Windows, but whoosh! Out goes the rug from under their feet.

Pick one and stay with it, or remain an unrealistic choice for the vast majority of computer users.

Linux now has, for the first time, a stability problem. Who'da thunk it?

Anonymous said...

Now, I work a few weeks on a real Workstation (on Office) with unity. I don't understand why ubuntu studio will not use unity in the future!
Yes, the work flow is different, but not uselessly.

ThunderOx said...

I've used XFCE in the passed on older machines to increase speed, It's a nice alternative, I can see it being a capable default environment, as long as the choice is there to use Gnome 3 (for me Unity is out of the picture), I am using Gnome 3.0.2 with Ubuntu studio 11.04 at the moment and find this combination the best Linux music tool I've ever used, I like the way it encourages you to use multiple workspaces,

Anonymous said...

The high level of changes on desktop environments is an expression of independence and strength. Now an average user can more or less easily choose between gnome3, unity, gnome2 (still supported), kde, xfce, lxde, and there is also stuff like avn and anlightenment. The future is to provide them together with your distribution, and not leave major DE unsupported. Now I'm using GNOME3 with Natty Studio, very interesting concept and workflow.

Rick said...

Cool; this is fantastic news.
xfce, or even Openbox,... whatever you guys decide.
My only uncertainty, is that XFCE (when it's fully loaded) may conume as much resources as Gnome/KDE ?
For exmaple, Arch Linux + Openbox (aka Archbang) runs at around 50 megs with almost zero cpu-cycles wasted.
Debian + Openbox is similar.
Firefox alone, consumes over 200 Megs in no time at all, in comparison.
XFCE will make a very efficient and welcome change for users of UbuntuStudio 11.10+,...I hope.

Bottomline is, UbuntuStudio tries to cater to the Artist/Audio/Videophile, and duh, thst is exactly why I like it.

I personally want ALL my cpu/memory devoted to our Audio/Video production requirements. We do NOT need or want to waste resources on huge DEM's -the likes of Gnome3/UNITY -no sir.
I'd much rather have (the elegance and simplicity of) even Openbox. :)

"Multimedia applications" is excatly what UbuntuStudio is supposed to do.
If anyone seriously wants Gnome3/UNITY/ ..., then by all means, please use Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Whateverbuntu 11.10

In our case, we use "kdenlive" exclusively ever since UbuntuStudio 10.04
UbuntuStudio, in my opinion, is already heavy enough with all of it's Mulimedia apps, ...
But, again, that's fine by me 'cause that's what UbuntuStudio is all about.
And, if xfce can help efficiently lighten the load, in the long run, then I'm all for it.

It's high-time UbuntuStudio leave the "Ubuntu nest" and fly on its own, maybe even like some other distro's that have successfully gone the Debian-Rolling-Release way ?
seriously, why not ?

Finally, Thankyou for UbuntuStudio, and GL

Rick.

Rick said...

Cool; this is fantastic news.
xfce, or even Openbox,... whatever you guys decide.
My only uncertainty, is that XFCE (when it's fully loaded) may conume as much resources as Gnome/KDE ?
For exmaple, Arch Linux + Openbox (aka Archbang) runs at around 50 megs with almost zero cpu-cycles wasted.
Debian + Openbox is similar.
Firefox alone, consumes over 200 Megs in no time at all, in comparison.
XFCE will make a very efficient and welcome change for users of UbuntuStudio 11.10+,...I hope.

Bottomline is, UbuntuStudio tries to cater to the Artist/Audio/Videophile, and duh, thst is exactly why I like it.

I personally want ALL my cpu/memory devoted to our Audio/Video production requirements. We do NOT need or want to waste resources on huge DEM's -the likes of Gnome3/UNITY -no sir.
I'd much rather have (the elegance and simplicity of) even Openbox. :)

"Multimedia applications" is excatly what UbuntuStudio is supposed to do.
If anyone seriously wants Gnome3/UNITY/ ..., then by all means, please use Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Whateverbuntu 11.10

In our case, we use "kdenlive" exclusively ever since UbuntuStudio 10.04
UbuntuStudio, in my opinion, is already heavy enough with all of it's Mulimedia apps, ...
But, again, that's fine by me 'cause that's what UbuntuStudio is all about.
And, if xfce can help efficiently lighten the load, in the long run, then I'm all for it.

It's high-time UbuntuStudio leave the "Ubuntu nest" and fly on its own, maybe even like some other distro's that have successfully gone the Debian-Rolling-Release way ?
seriously, why not ?

Finally, Thankyou for UbuntuStudio, and GL

Rick.

Rick said...

I'm sorry for double=posting, I didn't see the switch :)

Rick said...

wow, the "AWM" looks even better !
:)

9wiklund said...

Recently I discovered Ubuntu Studio, and it makes my audio card sound much better than vanilla Ubuntu. I think you know what you are doing. Good luck with XFCE :-)
/olle

Anonymous said...

One more user here; moving to Xfce. Not sure why Ubuntu and Gnome thinks tablet interface should be the only interface for PCs. This thinking is worse than Microsoft and against core Linux principle. Sorry for my angst.

Anonymous said...

..And add to the above, Thank you Studio team :)

Anonymous said...

Just to add, why not Lubuntu? If it is not too late please consider it. This will free more computing resources for AV work. I have remastered Lubuntu with UCK for audio work and been very pleased with the results. I imagine with Ubu Studio knowledge & polish it could be a knockout winner.

Icy EyeG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Is there a option to install unity in ubuntu studio 11.10?

We use several ubuntu machines in a radio station. By the next update, our choice will be 11.10 with unity. I think xfce is a step back. I will agree, when the reason is stability, but not when it's useability!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love ubuntu studio and thank the team for that great work!!
But now, I've test ubuntu studio with xfce. I think it's disappointing!! But I've give it a try. Xfce comes with thunar, an it's a disaster! Unity has a great userexperience, and I will be happy, when it's possible to use it with ubuntu studio, maybe in a smaller or 2D version..

Sadly Greetings

Scott Lavender said...

@anonymous (nov. 27) - you can always 'sudo apt-get install unity' (or whatever the package name is) to install unity on ubuntu studio.

i find that most people who say 'xfce is a step back' have not used xfce lately. i highly suggest that you try a recent release as i found that xfce provides the practically the same functionality as gnome2 as it relates to my audio/video/graphic work flows.

however, i have found unity lacking in useability with numerous windows open during audio production. but i am also aware that robust development is still active for unity so this might change.

Scott Lavender said...

@ anonymous (jan. 16)

if you are testing ubuntu studio with xfce using 11.10 i will offer a suggestion....wait until 12.04 for your final evaluation.

the xfce transition during 11.10 is incomplete and many facets of ubuntu studio 11.10 seem unfinished, because they are!

12.04 is shaping up to be a great release as we are finishing the xfce transition, moving to a live dvd, and getting the -lowlatency kernel into the archives!

Venkatasundar said...

I havent tried Xubuntu or Kubuntu. I'm trying to eval the ubuntu flavours to act as a virtualBox host. came across the studio and using it now, with hope to solve dual purpose with my workstation HPxw6400. One to act as host machine for 4 to 6 virtual box guest OS and other times to process RAW photographs. The simple look of the system is a big plus. hope it works the best for my needs.

3 instance of db. 1 instance of firewall, 1 or 2 instance of a Java based App server. for photo processing - Rawtherapee. got 8GB ram and 80 gb hdd. if things work fine, then will add an internal hdd with higher capacity. now using external hdd for storage. any suggestion is greatly appreciated and accepted with a big smile.

Venkat. :)

Anonymous said...

I am for lubuntu studio ! openbox is very light. and less all the power for the music !