22 Oct 2013

How Canonical thumbed its nose at the international Ubuntu community... and then fixed that

There's a lot of controversy around Canonical and its Ubuntu now. Unity, Wayland, commercial lenses in Dash - these are only few. Let me add to the list.

If you are American or English, you may close this browser window now. The rest of the article will not be interesting for you.

If you are not, you are very likely to have more than one keyboard layout in your system. This is because you have to type in your native language, as well as in English.

I have written recently about the options to configure multiple keyboard layouts in different Desktop Environments, including Unity.

I wrote the article using Ubuntu 13.04, where all the steps worked like a charm.

Things have changed since Ubuntu 13.10 came out – the charm became an evil spell.

One of the main features of your keyboard settings when you have more than one layout is an option to quickly switch between layouts using a hotkey. Different people prefer different hotkeys. Some of them use Ctrl-Shift (this is my preferred method), others use Shift-Shift, Alt-Shift, Alt-Space, and so on. Previous versions of Unity allowed you to choose one or many hotkeys to switch between the layouts.

This new version allows only one hotkey to switch in a forward direction, and another for the backwards direction. I would be OK with that, if it worked. After all, latest GNOME versions have the similar approach, and it works there.

Unfortunately, it does not work. The default hotkey in Ubuntu 13.10, when you select from the settings window, is Super-Space. If you try to use it, you get one of two effects: either the Dash will open, or a space will be entered in the text window. No change in the layout at all! The same story repeats if you try to change the hotkey.

The only combination that seems to work consistently in Unity is Ctrl-Space. That is a long way from the most preferred option of many users!

What is interesting is that Canonical and the Ubuntu community have known about this bug since August 2013! You can check when the bug 1218322 was reported.

It is almost 2 months since then, there have been more than 120 comments at the time I am writing this article, and there are still no plans to fix the bug in the Launchpad!

Just look at comment #84 in the discussion - and that is just one of many people who complain:
Forcing any change would be like forcing me to swap Y-Z after ~15 years of touch typing. I'd scream and uninstall Ubuntu for good.

Will this benefit Ubuntu and Canonical? I doubt it!

Let's see where it all leads us...

Update 24.10.2013: A bugfix was released on the 23rd of October. It seems to allow hotkey like Ctrl-Shift. I tested it, and it works. Although there is still an ongoing discussion in the bugreport about the other options to switch between the layouts.


  1. I especially like comment #212.

    Seriously, this is not exactly a critical end of the world bug, and I am sure Canonical's limited resources were better put to use fixing critical bugs prior to launch. This bug was marked as high and it surely affected a great many users, but did it stop people from booting? Was there major data loss or corruption? No.

    Quit trolling and move onto something that really matters.

    1. I am happy to see that it is fixed now. I am still to test it, but there's a hope.

      Although, "commit-and-pray" approach is visible here, yes! :-)

    2. English speaking use, right?
      Well, this may not be a critical bug in the sense that you put it, but on the other hand, you realize that in order to lose data you have to create it first, and that and another few bugs make it really difficult to use the keyboard to create data in the first place.
      Although i disagree on the "Canonical thumbed its nose at Ubuntu community" view, you should understand that all of us that often have to type dual-layout documents (greek+latin, cyrillic+latin, hebrew+latin, arabic+latin), are feeling somewhat frustrated, as since i-bus is handling layout changes, every fix is breaking something else. For example:
      fixing that resulted to
      and partially fixing that resulted to

  2. Better still is comment #171 (https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/indicator-keyboard/+bug/1218322/comments/171) where it was officially added to saucy-proposed for general user testing. Usually, when a developer fixes a bug, they spot test it before pushing it out (unless they have a huge amount of resources to do extensive testing before pushing out a broken fix - aka Microsoft, MacAffee, et al).

    As a developer, I have had to deal with my own share of bugs that were more hardware specific. I just don't always have the necessary equipment to be able to reproduce the bug (often required when hardware is involved), let alone do thorough testing of all possible corner cases.

    So I guess my question to you would be, are you trying to be part of the community that adds useful contributions, or are you just trolling for ad revenue?

    1. As you can see, I wrote the article when there were only 120 comments. There were no signs of improvement. I am happy that it resolved while I was finishing the text :)

      I try to be a part of community, but I am quite critical most of the time.

    2. Then why not update the post to reflect the change? You might loose some page hits if you change the title, though.........

    3. I first need to test it myself. And I will update both text and title. Come back to check later. :)

    4. Claydoh, I tested the fix. And I updated both text and title! :)

  3. gruemaster,

    How is pointing out a bug or a limited setting "trolling"? Would you be so adamant if the article was about Fedora or Mageia?

  4. you make a good point. accessibility for international/multilingual user base is CRITICAL must for any/all technologies, esp. right now. one's OS/computing platform is at the very top of that list. what were they thinking!? glad it's fixed now. good effort.