Martin Albisetti's blog

3Feb/121

Support open source games, donate to 0 A.D.

0 A.D. is an awesome cross-platform game that is fun, has stunning graphics and is completely open source.
There's even a PPA for Ubuntu.
It works wonderfully on both my laptops.

They are looking for a round of donations to pay for some more development work, and as of this moment they're $634 USD short. I've just sent $50 their way.
If you've got a few bucks to spare, please send some money their way. Or maybe you want to get into some development work, they have detailed instructions on how to do just that!

Filed under: Canonical, Ubuntu 1 Comment
29Jun/111

Ubuntu One Files for Android released!

After a long and interesting journey, today we've released Ubuntu One Files for Android.

The app started being developed by Michał Karnicki as a Google Summer of Code project, and he did such a fantastic job at it that we hired him on full time and teamed him up Chad Miller to end up releasing a fantastically polished app. It got immediately featured in the press!
It was built on top of our public APIs, documented here: https://one.ubuntu.com/developer/

Besides it letting you access all your files stored in Ubuntu One, it has a very cool feature to auto-sync all the pictures on your phone, having an instant backup of them, and a convenient place to share them!

I'm super proud of the work we put out.

Also, as with all the rest of our clients, it's open source and you can get it in Launchpad

25Apr/112

Looking for a CSS/HTML guru to work on Ubuntu One

In the last few months, I've been lucky enough to be able to hire some exceptional people that were contributing to Ubuntu One in their free time. Every time someone comes in from the community, filled with excitement about being able to work on their pet project full time my job gets that much better.
So, everyone say hello to James Tait and Michał Karnicki!

Now we're looking for a new team member to help us make the Ubuntu One website awesome. Someone who knows CSS and HTML inside out, cares deeply about doing things the best way possible and is passionate about their work.

If you're interested or know anyone who may, the job posting is up on Canonical's website.

7Mar/112

Ubuntu, Natty and Unity

I have to confess, after I heard I found out we where shipping Unity in Ubuntu by default I was nervous. I got asked many times what my feelings were, and I think I generally dodged the question. This was a pretty risky move, which we are still a few months away from finding out how well the risk pays off.
Given that a lot of the design behind Unity wasn't done in the open and hadn't had a long time to mature, I've been sceptical of whether we  (as in, the Ubuntu project) could pull of such a massive change in a such a short period of time, and still have happy users.

I've been using Unity on and off on my netbook (which is my secondary computer), but while enjoying a long weekend I've spent the last few days using it a lot, and my feeling towards the it have changed quite a bit.

I think it was the right decision. Overall, it feels like an overall improved experience, even with its current rough edges. Exactly what I think we need to win over a wider audience and have them fall in love with Ubuntu head over heels. Everything is starting to feel much more tightly integrated and with a purpose, as well as some eye-candy sprinkled in a lot of the right places.
I'm really glad Canonical decided to invest to heavily in such a risky and insanely complicated task, Natty is probably one of the most exciting releases I can remember.

There are still a few key challenges ahead, most notably to me is making the design process more open and inclusive, but still being able to deliver something that feels polished and not a pile of consensus between people who have gotten good at arguing. The Ayatana community does seem to be slowly growing, though, so the future looks pretty bright. Getting the right balance between Canonical and a community around design feels like one of the hardest problems to solve, luckily, Canonical continues to hire the brightest and most enthusiastic minds around, so I'm sure it will eventually feel like a solved problem.

I think it's been almost 6 years since I landed in the Ubuntu world, I've done all kinds of things in the community ranging from starting and building the Argentine LoCo to editing the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, to evaluating new Ubuntu members in the Americas region. With its ups and down, great press and wild controversies, it still feels like the best place to be.

7Oct/1014

Open source is awesome

I am ZOMG very tired from the exciting release for Ubuntu One, but I wanted to highlight a very pleasant surprise.
We launched the Ubuntu One Music Streaming a week ago, and yesterday, while hadn't yet publicly released, we got a patch that adds support to tell last.fm the music you are listing from the Android app.

A big thank you to Scott Ferguson for being so awesome.

6Oct/101

Exciting changes in Ubuntu One

Matt Griffin has written a great blog post, so I'm just going to echo it:

After over a year’s worth of feedback from users like you and a clear view of where we want to take Ubuntu One in the future, we’ve just made some changes to the Ubuntu One service offering and pricing plans.

For starters, we will no longer offer the 50 GB plan to new subscribers. Everyone will get the basic plan and then have the option to add various ‘add-ons’ of services and storage as needed. But here are the details:

Ubuntu One Basic – available now
This is the same as the current free 2 GB option but with a new name. Users can continue to sync files, contacts, bookmarks and notes for free as part of our basic service and access the integrated Ubuntu One Music Store. We are also extending our platform support to include a Windows client, which will be available in Beta very soon.

Ubuntu One Mobile – available October 7th
Ubuntu One Mobile is our first example of a service that helps you do more with the content stored in your personal cloud. With Ubuntu One Mobile’s main feature – mobile music streaming – users can listen to any MP3 songs in their personal cloud (any owned MP3s, not just those purchased from the Ubuntu One Music Store) using our custom developed apps for iPhone and Android (coming soon to their respective marketplaces). These will be open source and available from Launchpad. Ubuntu One Mobile will also include the mobile contacts sync feature that was launched in Beta for the 10.04 release.

Ubuntu One Mobile is available for $3.99 (USD) per month or $39.99 (USD) per year. Users interested in this add-on can try the service free for 30 days. Ubuntu One Mobile will be the perfect companion to your morning exercise, daily commute, and weekend at the beach – we’re really excited to bring you this service!

Ubuntu One 20-Packs – available now
A 20-Pack is 20 GB of storage for files, contacts, notes, and bookmarks. Users will be able to add multiple 20-Packs at $2.99 (USD) per month or $29.99 (USD) per year each. If you start with Ubuntu One Basic (2 GB) and add 1 20-Pack (20 GB), you will have 22 GB of storage.

All add-ons are available for purchase in multiple currencies – USD, EUR and, recently added, GBP.

Users currently paying for the old 50 GB plan (including mobile contacts sync) can either keep their existing service or switch to the new plans structure to get more value from Ubuntu One at a lower price.

We know that you will enjoy these new add-ons as well as the performance enhancements we’ve made to Ubuntu One in recent months. If you have questions, our recently updated support area is a great place to start. There you’ll find a link to the current status of Ubuntu One services, a link to our frequently updated list of frequently asked questions, and a way to send us a direct message. As always, you can also ping the team on IRC (#ubuntuone in freenode). We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.

30Sep/100

Ubuntu One Music Streaming public beta!

After a solid 6 months of work, music streaming is up for public testing!  \o/

Read the full announcement for all the details, and go see the wiki page on how to sign up.

24Sep/100

No, we are not infringing any licenses

We spend a lot of time making sure we're not violating any licenses, and usually work with upstream early on. Charlie Smotherman got confused about how we had implemented music streaming and filed a bug reporting a violation. I'd encourage anyone who even suspects there may be a license violation to report a bug or contact us as soon as possible, but maybe hold off on the inflammatory blog posts  😉
We've contacted him explaining all this but he seems to not had a chance to update his claims so I'm bringing this up now.

Nobody on the Ubuntu One team commented on any of his blog posts either. Ampache seems like a nice piece of software and even some people on the Ubuntu One team use it. We chose to go with Subsonic clients (we are not using any of the server pieces as it doesn't fit with our infrastructure) because the API seemed to be very nice, the existing clients where very nice to use, and all upstream developers where friendly and happy to help us release the service.

I'm sorry if any feelings got hurt, but there's no need to lash out like that.

For future reference, the whole team hangs out in #ubuntuone on Freenode.

13Sep/1014

Why (I think) Ubuntu One exists

One of the questions that took a little while for me to fully understand was a very simple one: why does Ubuntu One exist?

Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer, but here's my take on it.

Above all, to extend the power of Ubuntu as an environment. Ubuntu One already allows you to many things beyond the basic file sync we started off with, you can keep your contacts from your phone and desktop  (and between other Ubuntu devices) in sync and backed up, notes, bookmarks, all your important files are backed up and synced, you can share them privately or publicly, you can buy music that gets delivered right to your music player, and soon you will be able to stream any of your music to your phone. And this is just today. As the project matures, we are working hard to make it easy for more and more third-party projects to use our platform and out-pace us in ideas and code.
All of this allows Ubuntu to extend its reach into mobile devices and even other operating systems. It feels like integrating into the real world today, not only the world we want to build.

Openness is the next thing on my mind. I know about all the criticisms about the server software not being open, I understand them and I've been through this same process with Launchpad. Right now, Canonical doesn't see a way to fund a 30+ developer team of rockstars, a huge infrastructure and bandwidth usage that is mostly used at no cost and still offer up the code to any competitor who could set up a competing project within minutes. I am sure someday, just like with Launchpad, we will figure it out and I will see all my commits push me up thousands of positions on ohloh. Until then, I'll have to continue working on Wikkid or any of the other 20 projects I use and am interested in, to keep me at a decent ranking.
All that said, the Ubuntu One team releases tons of source code all the time. A lot of the libraries we build are open sourced as soon as we get some time to clean them up and split it out of our source tree. All our desktop clients are open source from the start. On top of that, we work on pieces like desktopcouch, enabling couchdb for the desktop. We even got the chance to work with a closed-source iphone application, iSub, to open source his code so we could base our new streaming client on. We get to pay developers of open source projects on the Android platform as well, to work on improving it so we can deliver a better and more secure experience. We also get a chance to learn to package applications and upload new versions of the libraries we use to the Ubuntu repositories. And hundreds of other small things we do that feel so natural we forget to advertise and be proud of. All of this on Canonical's dime.

Finally, a goal that is dear to my heart. Make Canonical profitable. I have been overwhelmed over and over again by the passion with which Mark personally, and the company as a whole, contributes to making open source be the standard way of developing software in the world. I can understand why it's easy to feel uncomfortable with a privately owned company pursuing a profit while sponsoring an open source project which thousands of people contribute to, but after having sat down in dozens of meetings where everybody there cared about making sure we continue to grow as a community and that open source continues to win over tens of thousands of computers each month, I only worry about Canonical *not* being sustainable and constantly growing.

All these reasons for working on Ubuntu One have been close to my heart for many years now, a long time before I took the final step of investing not only my free time, but my work time, leisure time, and not too seldom, my sleep time,  and started working for Canonical in a very strict sense of the term "full time".

I've spent time working in a few different teams, all of them are interesting, exceptionally skilled and open source is a core part of their lives. Ubuntu One is where I feel I can do the most impact today, and I'm beyond lucky to have given the opportunity to act on it.

12Sep/105

Making usability part of the development process

For the first year and a half in Canonical I worked with the amazing Launchpad team, with the ambitious goal of building a new user interface, introducing AJAX in an established code base and rolling it all out on time. While all of that was overwhelming in itself, what was more important to me was making sure the UI remained consistent across time.
Long story short, it was a success and it's been 8 months since I've left the team and the established process is still on-going.

I wrote a paper on the whole experience and presented it at the agile conference XP2010 in Norway.

Here's the introduction:

When I started working with the Launchpad team I was tasked with designing and rolling out a new interface using cutting-edge technology on a well established product and team. The existing processes and team structure made it very hard to roll out big changes while also ensuring consistency as time went by.
While the general designs and work ow changes were being eshed out, I started to drive some change to the existing processes, enabling me to be successful at an objective that would take a year to accomplish, and unexpectedly, beyond that.
The project was 4 years old and had over 500 dynamic pages with different templates and layouts that had been left untouched at different points in time. The goal for the next year was to make the application easier to use, even enjoyable. I also had to make the UI consistent across the board, take the project from static HTML pages into the wonderful world of in-line editing, streamlined work-flows and predictable interactions. In parallel, fundamental features that had been developed were going completely unused and we needed to turn that around. A re-usable AJAX infrastructure had to be developed from the ground up, new features needed to be designed and delivered, and general navigation issues needed to be addressed.
However, this story isn't about the success of the roll out of a new interface, but rather the success in the process changes that evolved during that year and how the project went from nobody feeling ownership over the user interface, to the developers taking strong ownership.

I feel very passionate about this subject, and hope this experience can help other projects and teams.

Here's the paper for download: xp2010_paper.pdf