My Ubuntu Wishlist

Daniel - Aug 31, 2009 - Tech

I've been using Ubuntu Linux for the past six months, and today I finally ditched my Windows partition. As a previously loyal Windows user, I've been all but converted by Ubuntu - it handles most of my desktop exactly the way I want it to. There are, however, a few exceptions. I decided against writing this article six months ago, knowing that most of my quibbles would be invalidated after gaining some experience with the OS, thus the wishlist below inclused only those which remain a problem for me.

Please feel free to add your own points in the comments.

  1. Mouse Navigation Buttons in Nautilus

    In the last decade, browsers began to support the use of navigational keys on mice, most commonly back and forward buttons.

    mx500

    This feature quickly became a part of the file browsers in Windows, almost as soon as they gained back/forward control buttons - however Nautilus in Ubuntu has never supported these navigational keys.

    An arcane tweak to enable such behaviour is possible using xbindkeys, however having this feature enabled in a default install would surely be preferable.

  2. Driver Manager

    Windows' device manager is one of its redeeming features: a nicely categorized list of hardware, with easily accessible information on current driver versions, the ability to update, uninstall and even roll back drivers on demand.

    devman

    The best substitute I could find for Ubuntu was gnome-device-manager, an arcane list of devices with no obvious tools for controlling drivers.

    gnome-device-manager'

    What Ubuntu needs is an improvement on Windows' device manager; all of the previous options, plus a package-manager like ability to download and install updated drivers, on the fly.

  3. Interaction with Notification Windows

    I'm a huge fan of the new notification windows Jaunty Jackalope was bundled with, but the one thing that seemed lacking was the inability to interact with the notifications.

    notify-osd

    I continually find myself wanting to click on the volume change notification to fine-tune the level, or use one of pidgin's notifications to open the chat window in question, just like messenger in Windows.

  4. Nautilus File Address Bar

    When I first used Ubuntu after Windows XP, I was extremely impressed by Nautilus' file address bar, allowing one to quickly switch between folder levels without select-delete-editing the address itself.

    nautilus-address

    Windows Vista went one up on this. In Nautilus, the above behaviour had to be toggled on and off with a seperate button; Vista's file explorer allowed the user to simply click in an empty area of the address field, in order to manually edit the location.

    vista-address

    Not only this, but using Vista's location bar, it is even possible to select subdirectories of the lower levels of the current path, making navigation a matter of absolute ease.

  5. Nautilus Tabs

    I love the fact that I can browse through locations using tabs in nautilus; it is a nice way to group similar windows together in a controlled manner. However I am very used to the control offered by firefox tabs, especially with the Tab Mix Plus addon, and often find myself trying to perform actions like middle clicking on a tab to close it, or using the undo-close-tab feature.

    tabs

    Nautilus would do well to offer more tab control - even if it is not enabled by default.

  6. Activities Requiring Permissions

    Whenever permission is needed for an activity in Windows, the user will be prompted for a password. In Ubuntu, often the user is simply reminded that they lack suitable permissions. The classic example of this is when trying to copy files between two locations in Nautilus, one of which the user does not own.

    permissions

    In such a scenario, the user must either use a terminal to complete the transfer, or use the terminal to open a nautilus window with root permissions. Either method is cumbersome compared to simply asking for a password.

  7. Refresh Available Connections

    In Vista it is possible to re-scan for wireless networks, on the fly. In Ubuntu, there is no obvious way to do this immediately, and while the available connections do automatically update on the fly, having control of this is helpful when searching for wifi hotspots.

    refresh-wifi

  8. Nameless Desktop Icons

    I find icon names on the desktop unnecessary; I know what the firefox logo looks like, I can recognise a folder icon - yet there is no way to completely remove the name for an icon on the desktop.

  9. Select Default Network

    At Uni, I often connect to the internet through two seperate connections, one ethernet, one wifi. However it seems that there is easy or obvious way of controlling which connection should be used by default, on the fly. This means that if I want to switch, I often have to physically disconnect one connection, that being the fastest way.

    wireless-networks

  10. Group Offline Contacts in Pidgin

    Pidgin offers a variety of tasks which can be performed with relation to offline contacts, including queuing messages and viewing message history. Unforunately, unlike Windows Messenger, there is no easy way to find offline contacts, since it is impossible to categorize them all into one group - the only option being to clutter up the groups containing online contacts with those that are not signed in temporarily.

    offline-contacts

  11. Show and Hide Desktop

    In Windows, the show/hide desktop button performed a relatively simple task very well. If any windows were not minimised, it would minimise them and show the desktop. If the desktop has already been switched to, it would perform the reverse action.

    show-desktop

    The same button in Ubuntu seems to become de-synchronized when any windows are restored in between showing the desktop and restoring the previous state. It is impossible to tell whether this is by design or not, but it seems to serve no useful purpose other than forcing the user to push the button twice to show the desktop again.

Jonathan

There's not a wish on that list that I don't second. One wish that I'd is to have something like Windows ability to control the apps in the application menu for multiple users. Apps X, Y and Z goes in all users menus. App P just in mine. App Q just in Joe's...

Good list.

BreezyRoeDeer

Non interactive notifications are purely by design. (The old notification system was clickable)

More info. in these two posts on Shuttleworth's blog :

http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/253 http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/265

Anon

Do you mind explaining #9 'Select Default Network' some more? What does it mean to "switch" if you're using wired and wireless?

don

I wont even tell you how to group online contacts. Look it up, it can be done for a long long time now. God, and you write wishlists

Hooty

Totally agree with 1,7, and 11!

Daniel

Don: group offline contacts. I know for a fact this can't be done - unless there's a plugin allowing one to do so?

Anon: I mean the connection which should be used by internet applications; firefox, pidgin, etc.

Agreeman

I wholeheartedly agree with all of these wishes, I'd another one too: get some standard going in the notification area ( http://www.bomahy.nl/hylke/blog/ugly-notification-area-in-gnome/ ) and proper voice/video support for pidgin on at least one free protocol.

Eleth

Buddies->Sort Buddies->By Status

Anon

Solution to #2

http://100reasonslinuxkicksass.blogspot.com/2009/08/reason-82-hardinfo.html

Jason

Hi Daniel, Some suggestions you make are good! Why don't you participate with the Ubuntu community and voice your suggestions / wishes? For example you could voice these at Ubuntu Brainstorm where some popular community ideas are actually implemented by the devs: http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/

joe

#2 is unrealistic. Linux is monolithic, you can't easily update/remove drivers independent of the rest of the kernel. This makes development a lot easier, but it's not as elegant as microkernel design.

Ian Hawdon

You should give KDE a try, you'll probably find some of the things work the way you expect... you'll also find other things that don't! It's a matter of taste really, I'm a KDE fan (returning to it when KDE 4.2 was released) I ditched Windows as my default OS in 2006, and eventually you realise that some of these things you point out are not really missing features, it's just how things are handles in the Gnome/KDE interface.. Compare that to a Mac user, using Windows for the first time... or even an XP user using Vista or 7 for the first time! You point out that you have to hack some things to make it work (like the back and forward keys), usually, if you keep your system clean you'll never need to reconfigure that again (unless you do a clean install when upgrading of course!) Glad to see you're sticking with Ubuntu though, rather than turning back when you find something you're not used to :-)

ReDuX

Unfortunately daniel, you may have missed the point. With the obvious exception pointed out by joe (kernel-driver architecture is fairly fundamental in the way the OS works), GNU/Linux, and other Open Source software available, has offerings to meet every single wish on your list. The only reason that Ubuntu does not have these needs met 'out of the box' is because, as its tagline 'linux for human beings' implies, it is intended as a user friendly introduction, especially for previously long-term windows users, not only as an alternative operating system, but to encourage the user to learn more about how their computer's operating system works, and thus how to better adapt it to their needs. If you don't like something, learn why and change it, you're getting the software for free and you can change it, contribute feedback to the developers, learn enough to modify it yourself, or better still, both.

Almost all the wishes you have stated here could most likely be satisfied by trying and/or using different software that is freely and easily available for Ubuntu (or any other linux distribution), more specifically, a different window manager (such as KDE as Ian Hadon suggested, though there are many others), a different network manager (many people seem to be ditching network manager applet in favour of 'Wicd' at the moment for its functionality) and a different file manager (there are many, and I have heard these complaints of Nautilus before).

The simple point is, you have many choices, this is the point of free software, and why it is licensed in such a way as to allow users to modify and redistribute it. You said you waited before writing the article, perhaps you should have waited a little longer.

Dan

Point #4 is easily rectifiable: Hit ctrl-L, then you've got the best of both worlds!

Rory

Install wicd and it will solve your network problems. Hell, network-manager is a massive pile of shit, one of the worst gnome things around - quite a difficulty achievement really - and you can easily do everything using proper network config files.

Frank

The majority of these are Gnome or Ubuntu centric problems. We wouldn't want the Gnome users to get confused with too many options now would we?

Name

  1. Xbindkeys is easy to use, but it's not nearly as common usage to include it by default. I personally use it as an easy way to interact with MPD. But honestly, I think Ubuntu users are still having difficulties dealing with the LAST major inclusion in Ubuntu that nobody really wanted (Pulse Audio.). Points are also deducted for Windows wannabe whining. <BR><BR>
  2. Points deducted for Windows wannabe whining. And frankly the reason tools like this aren't really found in Linux is because, unlike in Windows, such a fucking tool is completely unneeded. udev and autodetects automatically modprobe drivers for hardware that IS there and ignores drivers for hardware not. Driver 2.6.32 allows you to autoconfigure so that you can more tightly build custom kernels with ONLY modules you need. A Windows-style device manager is really pointless on an operating system that actually has effective hardware management in the backend. <BR><BR>
  3. The new notifications in Ubuntu are lackluster. Number one reason why no other distro implements them. I get the feeling this author would loooooooove the notification system in KDE SC 4. But Canonical is known for moves in Ubuntu one can only describe as "wholly moronic." <BR><BR>
  4. Like it's so fucking hard to click a button off to the side? These are the sort of feature requests that make programmers like me really HATE end users and not want to put feature request features on our bug trackers. Points also deducted for MORE Windows wannabe whining. <BR><BR>
  5. Mmmm, no. The tabs in Nautilus are fine for what they do. The reason the tabs in Firefox are so "awesome" is because its something actually intended to be used over almost an entire session. When you open a file browser, you've got something immediate in mind. <BR><BR>
  6. First off, more wannabe Windows whining. Second off, Anyone who wants to run a file manager as root is an idiot. Way too easy to make a mistake an fuck up a system. Remember, only WINDOWS gets away with sacrificing most, if not all, security just to be convenient. Much safer to drop to a terminal for most root/sudo tasks. Though I suppose most Ubuntards are too stupid to know how to use a command line correctly. <BR><BR>
  7. More Windows wannabe whining. And since NM already does this automatically there's no need. I have a better idea, stop using crappy wireless connections and actually physically hook up to your router. All the brain damages of wireless on ANY OS won't happen. Wired is much faster, more stable, and more secure than wireless. <BR><BR>
  8. Actually, I'd rather have names on my icons because (Here is the crazy part.) a lot of icons are the same, especially on the desktop. I wanna be able to tell the difference between, say, my USB key and my GoGear, thank you. <BR><BR>
  9. I believe this feature has already been implemented. But as I said in 7, life is just easier if you just don't bother with Wireless. <BR><BR>
  10. Windows wannabe whining. By the way, what use is there in seeking out offline contacts? They're offline. Best way to deal with them is to have them hidden by default. <BR><BR> 10 moronic suggestions, over half of which can be summed up for pining about Windows. If you want those useless and unneeded features, switch back to Windows. At the very least you could do better than whining about them uselessly on a blog. Ubuntu, like almost all the other distros HAS a feature request tracker. And if you're a programmer you can be even less useless by actually ADDING the features yourself and making patches and source code you can send upstream.

C

@Name:

Wow, you're a tool. Your suggestion to his wish list is that he's doing it wrong? Gee, I could have sworn he's using LINUX not MAC OS X.

Perhaps not everyone uses the OS the same way you do?

Also, your suggestion of just not using wireless is probably the dumbest part of your comment. Well done, you make Linux look bad.

@Daniel:

Nice wish list, I think some of this should be put up on Ubuntu's One Hundred Paper Cuts list: https://launchpad.net/hundredpapercuts By the way, fixing anything in Pidgin is like pulling teeth. Your request for sorting offline contacts to the bottom (like all decent messaging programs) will never happen.

Sebastian

I saw this and wanted to throw a brick at you.

Open Pidgin >> Buddies >> Sort Buddies >> By Status.

sebmck@gmail.com

G. Lynn

So basically, you wish you were still using windows. Well there's software for that,, it's called windows. Leave linux to those who actually know how to and like to control their system.

Bob

@G. Lynn:

You are a fool and a jerk. Clearly you don't know what you're talking about, but lets' put you to the test, just to be sure. look at number 8. Now tell everyone how it's done (since you claim to know how to control your system). You can't, can you? I didn't think so.

It's people like you who drive people away from Linux. The author, on the other hand, makes some very good points.

software developers

That was inspiring,

I think the notification windows are practicaly useless as you cant interact with them, so hoenestly... whats the point?

Thanks for writing about it