In this article, Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Manager, guest posts and discusses a rallying call for delivering Unity in Natty.

Wow, what a cycle Natty has been already. Back in Orlando, when Mark proposed Unity for inclusion in Ubuntu 11.04, we knew this cycle was going to be a busy one, and the Design, Desktop Experience, Ubuntu Platform, and community teams have been working at full steam to make Natty a rocking release.

I am delighted with the progress so far. We have seen Unity land, performance improvements in Unity, Banshee shipped as our awesome new media player, ratings and reviews appear in the Ubuntu Software Center, improvements to the sound menu, a new network manager indicator, the new Unity workspace switcher, improvements in minimizing/maximizing windows, new apps appearing from the Application Review Board, the calendar indicator get an upgrade, improvements to Ubuntu One, better call handling, Launcher progress bar improvements, and much more.

Unity File Places in Ubuntu 11.04
Unity File Places in Ubuntu 11.04

Of course, like many of you, my good friends in the OMG! Ubuntu! community, these improvements and refinements have been reported here, and you have been kept up to date by the fantastic OMG! Ubuntu! team.

While the individual updates are exciting enough, for someone actively involved in the Ubuntu community, it is often less common to really feel this combined Ubuntu user experience from the perspective of a brand new user as we rarely do a full new install and instead upgrade from release to release. As such we typically see these improvements as additive changes as opposed to the combined experience of installing an entire Ubuntu machine from scratch.

Until recently, I had also simply upgraded from release to release, and I too had largely forgotten about the experience of installing Ubuntu, getting Ubuntu One set up, setting up my email, chat and broadcast accounts etc; I did those things many moons ago, and never needed to repeat them in the upgrade process. Last week I decided to do a completely fresh and new install of Natty on my main laptop, so I downloaded the most recent daily ISO and started the installation process.

What struck me was just how consistent and slick the Ubuntu experience is for getting set up the first time. The installer looks beautiful, and I can get online while it installs, adding chat and broadcast accounts is simple, the entire user experience looks and feels slick and elegant, Ubuntu One configuration is knitted into the system, and the default range of apps empowers me do a lot of things before I even need to think about indulging in the vast catalog of software waiting for me in the Ubuntu Software Center. For those of you have been around the community for a while, compare and contrast Warty (Ubuntu 4.10) and Natty (Ubuntu 11.04) and you can see just how much progress has been made, and this is thanks to our wonderful community, our friends in the upstream world, and of course, Canonical for funding a lot of the development.

Of course, while I am proud of this work, there are still bugs, there are inefficiencies in the user experience, and there is plenty for us to focus our efforts on. Building an Operating System is a lot of work, particularly with the fascinating interconnecting sets of pieces that comprise a Linux distribution. While I feel like many of the core pieces are in Natty, we still have a huge amount of potential open to us for bringing additional quality and stability to the release. And this, my friends, is where I want to reach out to you all.

I believe that Natty is going to be a real game changer for Ubuntu. I believe it will help expand our userbase to include those less familiar with computers, traditionally using Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, who will now see that there is a simple, free, powerful and easy to use alternative. This is going to do what many of us set out to do: to bring Free Software to everyone, and to deliver it in a simple, attractive, easy and useful package. I love the opportunity that Free Software puts in the hands of people, and I believe that together as a community we can help Ubuntu to really change the world. It is not just the software though, it is our translators, LoCo Teams, forums, and more; together we are knitted together to bring change and genuinely useful technology to everyone.

…and this is where I want to offer a rallying call. At the heart of Natty are some new pieces of the puzzle; Unity and Banshee as two such examples. While Neil J. Patel and his team are working their socks off to deliver a solid Unity experience, I believe that if we divide and conquer, each bringing our own skills and expertise to the mix, we can make Natty the best possible Ubuntu it can be. If everyone reading this article contributes to Ubuntu in one way, be it fixing a Unity bug, joining your LoCo team, testing Ubuntu and reporting bugs or anything else, we can all make Natty a release we are all proud of. There is a huge amount of talent and wisdom in the OMG! Ubuntu! community, and I would like to encourage you to all participate.

More specific to Unity, we have been running a Unity Bitesize Bugs campaign throughout this cycle, led by Jorge Castro, in which Jorge, Jason Smith (from the Desktop Experience team) and others are highlighting simple and easy-to-fix Unity bugs, and encouraging community members to participate. If you like Ubuntu, like Unity, and know C++, you can really help. Jorge will be posting on OMG! Ubuntu! about this more over the coming weeks, highlighting the bugs that need fixing, and showcasing some contributions from those of you who have participated and fixed bugs.

If you would like to help with Unity, be sure to join the IRC channel and mailing lists where you can get help and ask questions, find out how to get started, and see the last few Unity Bitesize Bug reports that Jorge has posted (8th Feb 2011, 1st Feb 2011, and 25th Jan 2011).

I have never been so excited to be part of the Ubuntu community, and I am hugely excited about Natty and the potential we have before us to bring real change to people via Free Software.

Together we can make a real difference. Want to be a part of it?

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