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Interview With Devs Behind New Ubuntu Tweak Tool ‘Mechanig’

mechanig for Ubuntu

Mechanig

If you’re an Ubuntu User that enjoys pushing their desktop customization to the limits, then you may have  heard of new desktop configuration tool by the name of ‘Mechanig’.

Although desktop-tweaking tools aren’t scarce, Mechanig aims to equip users with a fast, easy-to-use tool.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the Freyja Development Team which consists of Barneedhar Vigneshwar, J Phani Mahesh, Amith KKGeorgi KaravasilevSam Tran, Sam Hewitt, and Ángel Araya

Who came up with the idea for Mechanig? What inspired you?

The idea to kickstart the project was Barneedhar’s. After the announcement of Ubuntu Tweak’s end of development, he approached us with the message, “Let’s fork Ubuntu Tweak”. The few omnibus Unity configuration tools that exist are daunting and still difficult to use. Some were missing important settings – like hot-corners configuration – and others felt out of place in the very environment they were tweaking.

We wanted something immensely useful for both technical and non-technical users who were looking for a one-stop configuration tool that was light on dependencies and simple to use.

 Does your team have some form of leadership and how does development work? Are tasks delegated?

Barneedhar is the project leader, though the team is small enough and specialized enough to fall into natural design and development roles. All the development work happens in a single git repository with commits that have spanned every hour of the day. Real-time collaboration happens in IRC, but we stay in contact across three continents and multiple time zones through several social networks as well. Most of us have enough experience with Python or Gtk to work on small issues as they crop up on IRC; but we all know our limitations and who to go to when we hit odd issues.

I see Mechanig is currently available as a PPA but do you have any plans for it to be offered in the Ubuntu Software Center?

In fact we have spoken with Ubuntu MOTU about releasing the application in the Ubuntu Software Centre, so once we have a stable release we plan on submitting the application to the USC. We’ll continue offering unstable builds through the daily PPA for users who are willing to help us with testing and bug reporting.

 Have you guys considered proposing implementation of your features into mainstream system settings for Ubuntu or do you enjoy the current relationship of Mechanig being a third party tool?

There’s a significant process for applications looking to go upstream. We can’t just submit the app in its current state and, bosh, it lands in the next Ubuntu release.  It needs design (and sometimes even community) approval and needs to be well-integrated in Ubuntu. In Mechanig’s case this involves changing it from a standalone application to panes in System Settings and additional work to match the design specifications. At the end of this process, Mechanig will no longer be a tweaking tool, but a set of options in System Settings. Maybe once we have a stable release, we’ll approach the Ubuntu design team and talk with them. Until then it will still be a third party tool.

Why did you guys select Python 3 as the language you wrote Mechanig in?

Various members have Java, C, C#, C++, and Perl experience, but almost the entire team has previous Python experience of one sort or another. Moreover, the ubiquity of the language and the profusion of Python applications on Ubuntu have created an attractive development environment and a helpful community of Python developers within the greater Ubuntu community. Also, Ubuntu would be switching to Python 3 completely soon enough.

What are your plans for Mechanig in the first part of 2013?

We are planning on releasing a stable version by the end of January and from there it’s all about polishing the user interface making it rock on 13.04.

Having said that, additional manpower always comes in handy.  If anyone wants to contribute, they can join the #mechanig IRC channel on Freenode and talk to us there.

We also have GitHub and Launchpad project pages.

What encourages you guys to develop applications for Ubuntu versus other Linux Distributions? Have you received any help or encouragement from the Ubuntu Community Team?

We all use Ubuntu as our primary operating system, so it was only natural for us to develop a tool tailored to our particular needs on Ubuntu with Unity. Were Unity to gain significant traction on other distributions, the tool would probably be just as useful for those users as well.

Michael Hall from the Ubuntu Community Team has shown interest in the project, which hopefully bodes well for the future integration of Mechanig into mainline Ubuntu. In general, the Ubuntu community has been quite encouraging as well. We’ve recorded numerous videos of Mechanig in action and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

As far as further application development goes, we’re not just stopping with Mechanig; the team has a several projects planned for the future, among which are: a system-wide equalizer, a notification centre & a music player.

Thanks again to the Freyja Team for taking time to do this interview with OMG! Ubuntu and also the Team is currently looking to re-name Mechanig and seeks the OMG! Ubuntu Community’s help in picking a name the options they are mulling are below: