We all want the latest features and changes an app has to offer, and for many of us that means using unstable, beta or sometimes even alpha quality software.
This ‘bite of the beta pie’ approach has drawbacks: application performance may not be ideal and you risk files being trashed by buggy new features.
Enter Glimpse which lets ‘unstable’ applications run alongside stable applications in a ‘sandbox’, making the testing of alpha software (for curiosity’s sake or more) a relatively fear-free experience.
The developer of Glimpse, Sergey “Shnatsel” Davidoff, explains: -
“Applications run in Glimpse are allowed to read your real data, but when they write to it or modify it in any other way, all the changes stay within their sandbox. Your real files on your system are left intact.”
Sergey then gives an example Glimpse in use with an unstable music player…
Without Glimpse: First, you spend lots of time on setting up the build environment (again?! how do those guys manage to change it so quickly?!), including unstable version of compiler that breaks all other builds in the system. Then, when you finally manage to try the player for 10 minutes, you realize that the “improved writing metadata to files” has just broken half of your music library. You’re out of luck or have to restore a manual backup (if one exists).
With Glimpse: You open Glimpse, click “Update sandbox”, and the latest version of the player arrives in a few minutes, not hours. And if you find that all the music files in the sandbox are broken, you think “thanks to Glimpse, my files are safe,” click the “Purge sandbox files” button, and your original music is available in the sandbox again.
Glimpse works with Ubuntu 10.10 onwards. Just add the following PPA to your Software Sources:
- sudo add-apt-repository ppa:glimpse-hackers/stable
- sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install glimpse glimpse-profile-elementary glimpse-profile-ubuntu
Once download launch ‘Glimpse’ from the Dash. In the window that opens click on the ‘Profile’ you wish to use. Depdning on the profile chosen you may need to download or locate an .iso for Glimpse to use.
From there you just hit the ‘Launch Apps’ button to launch an app in Sandboxed mode (such as the ‘Software Centre’ for adding some Unstable PPAs to play with).
Trying elementary OS Luna
If you choose to try the development build of elementary OS ‘Luna’ you will be prompted to download an .iso of the latest Ubuntu 11.10 Daily Build. Once completed, and elementary sandbox launched, you will need to open ‘Cerbere’ from the apps list to launch the “full blown” Pantheon Desktop Shell (Slingshot, Wingpanel, etc.) on your desktop.
Tip: Log in to a “classic” GNOME session with the latest elementary GTK theme selected before doing this as it gets in the way of Unity ;)
For more information, including on some of the technical caveats in using Glimpse, head over to Sergey’s blog.