Ubuntu Online Accounts and the Ubuntu GNOME Remix

A defining goal of the Ubuntu GNOME Remix is to bridge the gap between Ubuntu and GNOME. Shipping a pure GNOME flavor  that is part of Ubuntu is a huge challenge as Ubuntu has been patching GNOME for years. We’ve made a good amount of progress for 12.10 and things will be even better in 13.04.

On the other hand, the most frustrating regression in our goal that (to me) appeared out of nowhere this cycle is Ubuntu Online Accounts (UOA). UOA is an alternative to GNOME Online Accounts (GOA was released with GNOME 3.2 a year and a half ago). The first I heard of UOA was when reading the GNOME ftp-release list. What was this Ubuntu Online Accounts thing and why was it in GNOME but not in Ubuntu (until a week or so later)?

Apparently, it was actually discussed in private at UDS Orlando II a year ago. It’s another example of Canonical’s “develop in private” open source strategy….but that’s a blog post for another day.

Now for Ubuntu GNOME 12.10, we are now forced into shipping both GOA and UOA which provides a horrible user experience. The Ubuntu tool is required for Ubuntu’s Empathy package; the GNOME tool is required if we want online account integration with Boxes, Documents, and Evolution. Contacts is just broken (which is especially annoying since 12.10 is the first release where Contacts is included by default in the flagship Ubuntu release).

It’s a headache for GNOME app developers too. Because the two APIs are architectured fairly differently, it’s not clear whether other GNOME modules will accept UOA integration patches. And as Canonical doesn’t ship those apps by default, it’s not clear who’s going to write those patches. So as it stands, the duplicate Online Accounts bug is unlikely to be improved for 13.04 either.

I think part of the problem is that GNOME initially appeared to be rather restrictive on what accounts they were going to let into GOA; now the big problem I see is whether Canonical is willing to work with GNOME to merge these two implementations together or at least invest in cooperating to try to define a common API for app developers. Basically, Canonical was a huge part of creating this mess but what will they do to fix it?

Note the two Online Accounts entries

Debarshi Ray, the GOA maintainer has started a public dialog about the GOA/UOA split on his blog. Check it out!

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Posted in GNOME, Ubuntu
61 comments on “Ubuntu Online Accounts and the Ubuntu GNOME Remix
  1. [...] info and also Jeremy Bicha (UGR Founder) printed a relative post for Ubuntu Gnome Remix “Ubuntu Online Accounts and the Ubuntu GNOME Remix“.         Tweet     [...]

  2. CSRedRat says:

    One Ubuntu To Rule Them All

  3. Maybe the best and simplest solution for the short term would be for Ubuntu to create a fork of the GNOME Control Center; so it could ship both the unmodified GNOME one (which wouldn’t contain the UOA panel) and the one with UOA and other Ubuntu-specific changes.

    It could then use the modified one in the Unity sessions, and the upstream for the rest.

    • Jeremy Bicha says:

      Mardy, thanks for commenting. We may end up needing to fork gnome-control-center this cycle…but that won’t fix the Online Accounts problem. Empathy as packaged in Ubuntu only works with ubuntu-online-accounts; others only work with gnome-online-accounts.

      On the other hand, while the Ubuntu GNOME Remix is currently forced to include ubuntu-online-accounts, it’s a one-line “OnlyShowIn” change to hide that System Settings panel in GNOME Shell or GNOME Classic. We might do that to at least make the problem less obvious.

  4. Both GNOME and Canonical want to retain *control* over their core components. And people need to accept that this is absolutely OK and reasonable, especially if you want to ship a modern and polished UX.

    It’s just funny how Canonical has been consistent with this message for *years*, but with GNOME 3.x, we see the *same* argument coming from GNOME devs more often, yet Canonical *still* gets all the blame.

    (I am not going to list the examples again that would prove my point, but you can find me on IRC if you really want to discuss.)

  5. Also, “my library is older than yours, which makes your library the ursupator” is not a technical argument at all. Nor is “my code is older than yours” the moral high ground to force others into cooperating with you …

    Collaboration happens automatically, f you keep creating beneficial situations for all involved parties. In Economics and Game Theory, you call this win:win scenarios.

  6. The problem I am running into is that neither UOA nor GOA appear to work with Evolution. I have tried to set up my email and calendar using both and when I fire up Evolution, I get the new account wizard. I run through the new account wizard only for the account not to show up in Evolution. I have tried this with both IMAP and POP accounts (Gmail). Any ideas or suggestions? I love UGR for its responsiveness and overall stability, but I would hate the email issue to be the only reason for me to stick with the default Ubuntu 12.10.

  7. GNOME3-Knecht says:

    Hey Jeremy,

    Think it’s great that there is a GNOME Ubuntu Remix! Match it nor would a corresponding website (http://gnomebuntu.org/) … when will the online?

    Thanks for doing, greetings from Germany

  8. GNOME-Knecht says:

    I forgot another question … sorry. GNOME Ubuntu Remix is now officially part of the Ubuntu project? One reason for such demand is that the download is not hosted on Ubuntu mirror. I want nothing wrong with writing in wikis, blogs and forums.


    • Jeremy Bicha says:

      Right. The Ubuntu GNOME Remix project is not an official Ubuntu flavor yet. If you were around for Lubuntu finally getting accepted as official for 11.10, you know that these things can take a while. I believe it’s clear that Ubuntu would like to see if the GNOME flavor can manage releases by itself first.

      Yes, we are the same project as Gnomebuntu, but as GNOME didn’t really like that name, we haven’t been maintaining that website.

      • GNOME3-Knecht says:

        Hey Jeremy,

        many thanks for your answer. It would be determined in the sense of many GNOME fans if this were an official member of the “Ubuntu Clan”. If the page does not go online because of the name, which website will be launched? Many interested parties to ask for it, even if it could be informative link in a wiki in addition to the project on a website (landingpage, blog, mailing list, IRC, etc?). Many are waiting for user information around the project GNOME Ubuntu Remix … ;-)

        thank you for a job well done

  9. Bob Scott says:

    empathy/telepathy/gnome-online-accounts has always given me nothing but trouble and constant bugs anyway even before this mess came about (for example empathy can’t seem to handle reconnecting properly after resume from suspend, accounts like to randomly disconnect and refuse to reconnect etc…)

    First thing I do on any gnome install is uninstall empathy and install pidgin, because pidgin actually works.

    • please can u share some twaek on the way i can integrate piging on Gnome3 so that it can replace empathy ???
      specially the possibility to recive notifications under and reply without changing windows ???

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