Ubuntu Lucid – indicate

I upgraded to ubuntu Lucid yesterday, and I was totally disappointed with the new user experience they are trying^Wforcing with their ‘indicate’ applet.

At first, I was not using indicate applet in Karmic, so after the upgrade I didn’t have the indicate applet neither.

  • Rhythmbox’s icon when not playing was modified to be blank&white but the icon when playing was not modified, so big inconsistency in the style.
  • Rhythmbox’s status icon behaviour is modified: it does not play/pause when middle click, right-click does nothing, left-click popup a revisited context-menu. There is no way to show/hide rb when clicking the status icon. Scrolling on the status icon does not change the volume of the playback anymore.
  • I don’t have the bluethoot icon anymore, but tbh it’s fine because I don’t use it anyway. But still, I see no way to add it back.
  • The volume applet is also removed from my panel with no way to add it back.

Then I decided to give a try to indicate applet, I get 4 icons:

  1. bluetooth: exactly the same than without indicate, no way to remove it;
  2. rhythmbox: with all the issues mentioned above;
  3. volume: exactly the same than without indicate, they just made the bar horizontal instead of vertical;
  4. IM: probably the worst, here are issues I had:
    • It force using evolution so it’s useless for thunderbird users like me.
    • the menu shows random contacts in it, I had no idea for which reason contacts appeared… turned out that it’s the last login/logout contact… there is no notification for that, so unless you have always the menu open you can’t understand any reason those contact are there.
    • Incoming call dialog to accept/reject the call steal your focus, so if you were typing, it will reject the call. Empathy upstream fix that by blinking the status icon instead of poping a dialog. Yes, WM people claims that’s fixed 15years ago, blablabla, but no, poping a dialog STEALS the focus.
    • incoming message just turn the icon green, nothing blinking, so it’s really hard to notice. Even with upstream behaviour where the icon is blinking, lots of users complain it’s not noticable…
    • how am I supposed to know if I’m connected to IM??? When booting it does not connect IM accounts automatically, I have to click the IM indicator applet and open the contact list, and then magically it connects my accounts… how discoverable is that??? Using Empathy upstream, you directly see in the notification area an icon for your presence, and if you didn’t start empathy, you see that the icon is not there. In contrast the indicator IM applet is always there with no visual difference for your presence.

As an empathy developer I would like to add a comment on the very poor communication they had with us. Last year they started patching Empathy to use libindicate. They pushed packages in ubuntu karmic (when it was still in dev) without consulting upstream at all. They pushed empathy packages as we use “git commit” and opened an upstream bug attaching the ‘final’ patch. Upstream made an enormous list of comments pointing issues with the patch. While they fixed most of them, we still got lot of bugs reported in upstream by ubuntu users, adding more work for upstream dev. Guillaume Desmottes even lost several *days* of work to fix a nasty empathy crasher that turned out to be ubuntu’s patch fault.

So my conclusion, for my personal use case (maybe other users are happy with it?) that indicator is at best the same as upstream behaviour, but what they changed is getting worst. I don’t blame Ubuntu for trying new user experience, it was a good idea to explore, really. But what makes me totally disappointed is that there is no way to get back to the upstream behaviour if the user choose to not have the indicator applet.

22 Responses to “Ubuntu Lucid – indicate”

  1. “upstream fix that by blinking the status icon instead of poping a dialog”
    Ah, that explains the missed calls! ;)

  2. Steph says:

    I totally agree with you on that. The whole “indicator-me” is a big joke to me.

  3. Donny says:

    Rhythmbox icon visual: seems like an icon theme bug.

    Rhythmbox icon behavior: it’s part of the application indicators plan on everything being a menu. (http://castrojo.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/application-indicator-update/)

    1) There’s project for integrating Thunderbird with the applet (https://launchpad.net/libnotify-mozilla) but I don’t know its state. And you can also blacklist evolution from the messaging menu.

    2) Reported: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/empathy/+bug/495671

    3) It’s not supposed to steal focus. If it does, I’d guess it’s a bug.

    4) Yeah, this is kinda controversial. Green works for me but I know a lot of people who would like something more blatant.

    5) It is shown by the MeMenu (https://wiki.edubuntu.org/MeMenu), which unifies the IM status for multiple apps like Empathy and Pidgin.

    But overall I agree with the conclusion. The current patching is too intrusive and developers seem to agree. (https://blueprints.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+spec/desktop-lucid-empathy-indicator)

  4. Jaliste says:

    I totally agree… I think I should start compiling empathy upstream, if it were not so f* difficult (you need different telepathy-something all with different release cycles, etc… )

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  6. misGnomer says:

    Time-critical notifications (such as incoming call) could really use a look at.

    (Alert) sound isn’t _always_ available (e.g. speakers are off or headphones are plugged in but not in use…) so visual cues that don’t interrupt work flow are crucial.

    Blinking with alert colour is pretty foolproof fallback that works even on older systems without composite enabled.

    Modern desktops with eye candy might consider e.g. concentric circles/waves pulsing out of the indicator icon. Such a visual cue wouldn’t steal focus but would still direct the user to the source of the alert.

  7. Michael says:

    I personally don’t really like many of upstream Empathy’s design decisions but after all, it is quite *usable*. What Ubuntu does is a shame. Many already told me “Empathy sucks” and when I asked what exactly it turned out to be (mostly) related to Ubuntu’s “enhancements”.

    Well, the latest Ubuntu is full of scary stuff, so at least not only Empathy is affected…

  8. Jeroen Hoek says:

    I asked about the way the Indicator Applet notifies me of new IM messages (I unintentionally ignored people because I didn’t notice that there where new messages), and was told that the Indicator Applet isn’t intended to inform me off new messages in the way that IM applications used to do it — that is, by blinking an icon in the notification area. I got the impression that it was, or is, supposed to be more of a “pull” based system, rather than “push” — the user has to explicitly look for new messages, rather than get informed as they come in.

    I turned off Empathy’s Indicator Applet support for now, so it just blinks at me when someone messages me, and I can reply to people in a timely fashion. I’m glad the developers agree now too; it’s a nice change from simply telling users that it is not supposed to inform them at all.

    I see where the developers are going with this, but I’m not too sure about their approach. I also agree with your observation that Evolution isn’t the right choice for everyone. I would love to integrate my E-mail activities into the desktop, but Evolution simply can’t deal with a huge 2000 mail GMail inbox. GMail, by design, can.

  9. the_masses says:

    Right, all these horrible changes make people actually want to use empathy. How many people used it before Ubuntu switched to it? Not even a fraction. If you write software for only yourself, then why bother publishing it and instead just keep it private? Otherwise, thank you would be the logical response, because in it’s upstream state it isn’t as attractive to regular users.

  10. Jef Spaleta says:

    FYI,

    libappindicate has been proposed as an external dep in the current round of Gnome development. If there discussion that needs to be had between the libappindicate developers and Gnome application developers, now is the time to have the discussion while the libappindicate developers are engaged in the proposal discussion.

    -jef

  11. Dylan McCall says:

    I’ll agree with you that the message indicator is a bit silly. It’s just three items, and it’s entirely probable they won’t all be open. It would be nice to know whether the indicator applet developers tried the design without that oddity.

    However, I think you are missing the point of this change: consistency. The notification area as we are used to it had every single icon behaving differently. Different right / left click menus; sometimes left clicking would cause an enormous window to appear, other times nothing; horrible icon spacing; different highlights when menus are opened…

    The rest of this stems from an attempt to make notifications consistent. Empathy’s notifications are a world apart from what the GNOME HIG recommends. (Blinking icons are not accessible, they are not used anywhere else, they are ugly, and they are not encouraged). This tries to fix that by establishing more solid guidelines for how notifications should behave.

    As for the icon turning green, I recommend giving it time and not focusing on it. You’ll notice this is the pattern for every panel icon! They are all monochrome, and they gain colour when they want attention. Granted, not compatible with colour blindness, but in my opinion it’s a very powerful technique. For me, I can sense the change in colour from the corner of my eye because the consistent visual design makes it stand out.

  12. Musaul says:

    So wait … “Blinking icons are not accessible” but having having icons “gain colour when they want attention” despite of not being compatible with colour blindness is a “very powerful technique”?

    Umm, not too sure about that one.

    Having something constantly blink for no reason is bad usability, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an icon or button blink when it wants attention.

    BTW, the laptop battery level indicator is green when the laptop is connected to the mains. I would’ve thought the battery indicator should be in its least attention grabbing state when the laptop is plugged in. So the indicator isn’t quite consistent in its use of colour.

    The notification area applet also adds more into the mix. it allows other applications to add icons. Not all of those are guaranteed to be grey. This means in the real world, a green envelope ends up looking like just another icon.

    Finally, there is no way to ignore the reason why it is gone green. For example if you want to ignore someone who’s added you in msn etc, you’ll always have a green indicator icon.

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  15. [...] with the new user experience they are trying forcing with their ‘indicate’ applet. More here At first, I was not using indicate applet in Karmic, so after the upgrade I didn’t have the [...]

  16. Seth Hikari says:

    If only it was all open source and you were able to change anything you did not like….

  17. AJ says:

    I (and many others) only use on-line email and don’t use bluetooth. Therefore I have two redundant icons and a large amount of space around them.

    I have been using Ubuntu for several years and the issues this is supposed to address have never bothered me as much the fix!

    Wouldn’t it be sensible to give users the option to switch off non used icons and give some control of icons and spacing?

    For me Ubuntu is about freedom and choice. So please can we at least retain the option of not using this (beta default!).

  18. Chase says:

    That was a different thought track. I like your finesse that you put into your work. Please do continue with more similar to this.

  19. Very interesting post – it was new to me. Thanks.