CCSM in Ubuntu 12.04

The headline to this article might sound inflammatory but it’s a question currently being debated on the Ubuntu Desktop mailing list.

Ubuntu’s Jorge Castro makes the case for ‘jettisoning’ the tool from the the Ubuntu Universe repositories (i.e. removing it from the Ubuntu Software Centre):

“With tools like MyUnity now in universe, and …basic configuration in the control panel I’d like to propose the removal of compizconfig-settings manager.

I don’t mean “stop telling people to use it” or “add a warning”, I mean total removal from the archive until the tool is either better tested or doesn’t break people’s configuration.”

Bad Tool is bad

If you’ve used the CompizConfig-Settings-Manager then you’ll know that it is a jumbled draw full of odds and ends. Although it sits under the guise of a ‘tweaking app’ it’s actually not; it’s a settings app.

But CCSM is assumed to be ‘safe’ by many simply because it’s where one adjusts the “blingy stuff”. I suspect that few users change schemas ad-hoc in gconf-editor or via the Terminal without expecting consequence.

It may house the ‘Unity’ desktop plugin (which if unchecked will ‘break’ your desktop) but it also plays home to a variety of other options that Ubuntu no longer supports or uses – many of which conflict or break Unity when enabled.

When you factor in the growing array of well-designed Unity tweaking tools, such as MyUnity and Ubuntu Tweak, that offer the same functionality but lack the potential for screwing up the desktop, the case for keeping CCSM around, flaws and all, is weakened.

Only Discussion

Before anyone grabs a well-used pitchforks let me stress that this idea is currently nothing more than a discussion for now – but it’s one that does provides food for thought: Should the Ubuntu repositories stock itself with tools capable of breaking users desktops so easily?

The destructive Computer Janitor application was removed from Ubuntu 11.10 for this very reason.

But some might argue that there are already packages in the USC that also have the potential to do damager – so where does one draw the line?

Not Just Unity

For all of CCSM’s superfluous settings there are also a number that many users rely on to use their desktop, as Alan Bell put forward in a response: –

“How do we turn on and configure compiz enhanced zoom for visually impaired users? (turning it on by default would be cool, super+mousewheel to activate and mouse polling set to 15ms please) we have some text cursor tracking arriving for this soon too.

How do we turn on the negative and color filter and opacity/brightness/saturation plugins for users who like to use them or for application developers to test applications to see how they would be perceived by colorblind users?”

Perhaps Ubuntu should beef-up its accessibility settings pane, or a dedicated accessibility settings app created that houses these?

A number of ‘solutions’ have been put forward, including this one by Jo-Erlend Schinstad which addresses the fact that not everyone using Ubuntu uses Unity: –

” …an acceptable compromise would be to remove Unity from ccsm. Since Unity currently seems to be the main attraction to ccsm, this might solve the problem without creating any problems for other Compiz users.”

And then there’s the question of ‘Power Users’. Those who know what they’re doing with CCSM and are aware of the risks. Should they be ‘penalised’ for less-clued up users breaking their desktops by playing with a power tool?

Chris Coulson chimes in: –

“I don’t think power users will really miss something like CCSM. Power users will just use the same tools that they have always used to tweak advanced settings in other applications.

CCSM isn’t a power user tool, but a loaded gun packaged in to a graphical UI that gives novice users a false sense of security.”

Quality Control

Regardless of whether you use CCSM or not the ‘issue’ of whether it should be placed out of the reach of novice users centers around one very valid point: making the Ubuntu experience better for the end user.

And what could be better than replacing CCSM with a tool that’s safer, easier and, to be shallow, nicer to look at?

Ditching CCSM from the Software Centre wouldn’t mean the end of the app as it could be installed from a PPA. Neither would it mean the loss of configurability in Ubuntu but rather the loss of potential instability on user desktops.

With apps like MyUnityUbuntu Tweak and the recent options added to the System Settings pane in Precise, configuring Ubuntu has never been easier, or safer, to do.

What’s your opinion?

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