Test drive Ubuntu on your Mac with Ubuntu.app

Tags: Design

During Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, Ivanka Majic, Kalle Persson, Andreas Nilsson, and I had a conversation about exposing designers to the growing momentum behind free software usability and design. People interested in contributing graphic design or usability work who use Macs represent a largely untapped source of talent; I’ve found it difficult to experiment with and appreciate Ubuntu on modern Macs, especially when using the latest MacBook Pros with their cutting-edge hardware that is often only partially supported in Linux. It’s not too hard to create a live CD, but you can’t save state and unsupported hardware usually spoils the experience. There is no Wubi for OS X, and installing Ubuntu usually means you have to run Bootcamp to resize your Macintosh HD partition and rEFIt to make your Ubuntu partition bootable. Bootcamp and rEFIt are great tools, but shouldn’t taking the latest release of Ubuntu for a spin on your Mac be as easy as drag-and-drop?

For inspiration, here are Mozilla’s instructions for downloading, installing, and running Firefox:

firefox_instructions1

firefox_instructions2

firefox_instructions3

To make playing with Ubuntu on your Mac as easy as installing Firefox, I propose we create a new product called “Ubuntu.app”. Ubuntu.app is a self-contained copy of VirtualBox and a ready-to-use virtual machine image of the latest release of Ubuntu. After downloading Ubuntu.app, an OS X user can drag Ubuntu.app into their Applications folder to install it:

Ubuntu.app

Ubuntu.app can be placed on your dock, and you can boot Ubuntu in a virtual machine by clicking on Ubuntu.app:

Ubuntu.app_dock

With this approach, we can make sound, composited graphics, multi-touch trackpads, function keys, and wifi work out-of-the-box on the latest Macs, so designers can focus on the design and usability of Ubuntu instead of being frustrated by incomplete hardware support. What do you think? Is anyone interested in working on this for Karmic?

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