• Launchpad Entry: desktop-o-cd-localization

  • Created: 2011-05-18

  • Contributors: Mark Shuttleworth, Didier Roche, Colin Watson, Kyle Nitzsche

  • Packages affected: ubiquity, cdimage, creation of new packages


Tools and a workflow to provide truly localized CD images. This goes beyond merely installing the right translations, we also want to localize e. g. default bookmarks, or provide a custom background image.

Create a set of tools for providing these as ubuntu-defaults-name addon packages (as declarative as possible), and build CD images with this extra customization package. Through this spec, these packages will be referred to as defaults packages. name would usually be a language or region name, but it will just as well work for flavour/project names.

With this, concrete localization projects like desktop-o-qin-ubuntu-china will be a lot easier to implement.

Release Note

The new ubuntu-defaults-builder package allows you to easily create a "default settings" package for Ubuntu and then build a customized image with it. The main purpose for this is to provide a standard and safe way to create localized Ubuntu images, or OEM custom projects. Please see man ubuntu-defaults-template and man ubuntu-defaults-image for further information.


Our only action after the user chooses his locale is to install the matching language packs and support (dictionaries, etc.), but true localization goes way beyond that: Locos want to customize default bookmarks, locale specific chat protocols, or preconfigured ibus input method modules. Right now Locos both have to figure out how to customize these settings by themselves, which is not easy and also rather intrusive sometimes. Often these changes can't be preserved during upgrades, and there is only little QA and advertising happening on those images.

By providing an official method for localizing CD images we want to make these Loco efforts both more visible and also much easier to implement. So far we have not made much use of the knowledge that Loco teams have, they are in a much better position than the core developers to know what should be adapted for their region.

This also mitigates the eternal CD size resource conflicts on which language packs to ship on the official CD releases.

User stories

  • Li downloads the "Ubuntu Chinese Edition" from cdimage.ubuntu.com (note that this is only a strawman name, CD mirroring is not part of this spec). gfxboot, ubiquity, and the live session start in Simplified Chinese with the sunpinyin ibus input method ready for activating with Ctrl+Space. She opens Firefox and clicks on the "DWNews.com" (note that this is just an example) bookmark in the toolbar, a popular Chinese news site. She opens the chat window and is able to add her QQ account.

  • Didier already has an official Ubuntu 11.10 CD. He chooses "French" in Ubiquity. Since it is connected to the Internet, Ubiquity installs the French specific localization settings automatically. (Note: This might become an option in the UI.)

  • Martin already has a 10.04 LTS installation which he just upgraded to 11.10. In software-center he selects the "Deutsche regionale Anpassungen" package ("German regional adaptions") and ends up with the same localizations than a fresh 11.10 install would have applied.
  • Kyle prepares a customized version of Ubuntu for Compu1337, a large OEM. He prepares a compu1337-default-settings package as a copy of the ubuntu-defaults-template package, sticks in an appropriate background.jpg, and adds it to the project seeds. When booting the generated image, the default desktop background image shows a big Compu1337 logo.


This specification only deals with the mechanics of declaring, packaging, and shipping default settings, focussing on localizations, but settings are not limited to that. In particular, the following aspects are not covered:

  • CD mirroring/hosting
  • The actual customizations for any particular language or project.
  • QA for the localized images.

This is also limited to settings which can be customized by just adding an additional defaults package (plus its dependencies). In some cases we might modify Ubuntu packages to look in additional data/override files/directories, but we don't support package removal or code changes with this system. If changes of that scope are desired, they need to happen with custom engineering, just as today.


Customizable settings

For the initial version, the following default values will get customizable with defaults packages:

  • Firefox bookmarks
  • Firefox start page
  • Unity launchers
  • Radio stations in Banshee and Rhythmbox
  • Default Firefox search engine
  • Background image
  • Extra packages


  • Install ubuntu-defaults-builder.

  • Run ubuntu-defaults-template fr to generate a skeleton ubuntu-defaults-fr source package. This will have a minimal debian/ directory, some template files, and a README which points to the documentation.

  • The user adds the data as flat files (e. g. firefox/bookmarks.txt or desktop/background.jpg), and runs dch to add a changelog entry.

  • Running dpkg-buildpackage will generate ubuntu-defaults-fr_version_all.deb with the data files shipped in the right locations, and maintainer scripts to set them up.

  • This package can then be uploaded to the Ubuntu archive, or kept in a PPA, as desired.
  • Run CD build script (which will probably be live-build in the near future) with the corresponding default locale setting, and extra seeding to include the wanted defaults package.


Unlike existing metapackages like xubuntu-desktop, which are co-installable, the defaults package don't primarily define a set of dependencies, but a set of defaults. By nature it only makes sense to install one at a time, as they are meant to define what an image build result will look like. That is, while you can have an installation with both Ubuntu and Xubuntu packages, you have to decide whether the CD build you are about to do should be an Ubuntu or Xubuntu CD/product.

This will be enforced by

  •   Provides: ubuntu-default-settings
      Conflicts: ubuntu-default-settings


In the following sections, Source is the user-provided file in the defaults package source, while Destination is where the defaults binary package will ship it.

The ubuntu-defaults-builder package will provide a dh_ubuntu_defaults debhelper program which will install all Source files into their destination location. With this, the logic can be maintained centrally in the ubuntu-defaults-builder source, and the defaults packages themselves only require a three-line boilerplate debian/rules. ubuntu-defaults-template will create an appropriate debian/control with the language name in the package description etc. It will also provide a standard debian/copyright with no templating, which the user can customize manually if desired.

Firefox bookmarks

  • Source: firefox/bookmarks-toolbar.txt, firefox/bookmarks-menu.txt; simple text files, each line has "URL name"

  • Destination: Create and ship a "distribution ini" file for firefox with the bookmarks, which will be appended to the default ones which we already have (Firefox and Ubuntu folders), in the toolbar and menu respectively.

Caveat: Right now these ini file bookmarks do not support favicons. If this is not sufficient, a fallback approach is to create and ship a /usr/lib/firefox/omni-l10n.jar based on the standard /usr/lib/firefox-4.0.1/omni.jar and change firefox to prefer using the former if present.

ubuntu-defaults-template pre-creates this file with just a comment about the format.

Firefox start page

  • Source: firefox/startpage.txt; simple text file with just the URL

  • Destination: Create and ship a "distribution ini" file for firefox with the browser.startup.homepage preference set to that value.

ubuntu-defaults-template pre-creates this file with just a comment with an example.

Default Firefox search engine

  • Source: firefox/defaultsearch.txt; simple text file with just the search engine name (e. g. wikipedia)

  • Destination: Create and ship a "distribution ini" file for firefox with the browser.search.defaultenginename preference set to that value.

ubuntu-defaults-template pre-creates this file with just a comment with some examples (google, wikipedia)

Note that the available search engines live in Firefox itself (it ships translated locale specific search engines), so if one is missing, we'd need to fix it there for the time being.

Unity launchers

  • Source: unity/launchers.txt; simple text file with one launcher name per line. These correspond to .desktop file names.

  • Destination: Create /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas/ubuntu-defaults-NAME.gschema.override with the current default launcher list of Unity pls launchers.txt appended. For unity-2d, ship a gconf schema defaults override for /desktop/unity-2d/launcher/favorites.

ubuntu-defaults-template pre-creates this file with just a comment about the format and an example.

Radio stations in Banshee and Rhythmbox

  • Source: multimedia/radiostations.txt; text file with one "Name; Genre; URL" entry per line.

  • Destination: Divert rhythmbox-plugin's /usr/lib/rhythmbox/plugins/iradio/iradio-initial.xspf and replace with above stations for Rhythmbox. Banshee needs a patch to support default radio stations, with that it also reads XSPF station lists in /usr/share/banshee/stations/.

ubuntu-defaults-template pre-creates this file with just a comment about the format and an example.

Background image

  • Source: desktop/background.jpg

  • Destination: Copy to /usr/share/backgrounds/packagename.jpg. Create /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas/ubuntu-defaults-NAME.gschema.override with setting org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri to that path.

ubuntu-defaults-template pre-creates this file as empty. An empty file will be ignored.

Extra packages

  • Source: depends.txt, recommends.txt, one dependency per line

  • Destination: debian/control has ${ubuntu-defaults:Depends} and ${ubuntu-defaults:Recommends}. dh_ubuntu_defaults replaces these with the standard language/support packs (from ./check-language-support -l locale) plus depends.txt appended, and builds ${ubuntu-defaults:Recommends} from recommends.txt.

ubuntu-defaults-template pre-creates this file with just a comment about the format and an example.

Requirements for the extra dependencies:

  • They should not conflict to a default installation package, or add applications for a purpose which the default installation already has an application for. For example, don't add thunderbird or pidgin when we already have evolution or empathy.
  • They should preferably be in main. If they are not, consider writing a MIR, or add a justification to a comment in depends.txt or the changelog. Depending on universe packages will be a valid reason to reject an ubuntu-defaults package.

Language support

  • Source: i18n/langpacks.txt, one language code per line; i18n/locale.txt, one line with the default locale; i18n/keyboard.txt, one line with the default layout and optionally variant (must be a valid one in /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xorg.lst

  • Destination: Copy to /usr/share/packagename/. The image build script will iterate over langpacks.txt and call check-language-support -l language to install the required langpacks and support packages, and set the default locale to locale.txt and the default keyboard layout to keyboard.txt.

Defaults packages can't set the default locale, language, and keyboard layout. The installer and casper already assume that they can own these files (/etc/default/locale and /etc/default/keyboard), and change them according to the user settings. Likewise, for installing them into an existing system we do not want to change the current default, as this would be unexpected.

For these the defaults have to be set in the script which generates the ISOs, i. e. live-build. This will set the defaults for gfxboot and casper, which will then write it to the /etc/default/ files.

Test/Demo Plan

  • Install ubuntu-defaults-builder package.

  • Build an ubuntu-defaults-test demo defaults package with all possible customizations, and build an iso out of it as described in the "EXAMPLES" section of man ubuntu-defaults-image. (It's essentially just running two commands, and waiting.)

  • Boot the image's live system, and verify that the following changes got applied:
    • Desktop background is a black-white pattern, not the standard Ubuntu one
    • Default locale is German/Germany
    • Default keyboard layout is "de nodeadkeys"
    • Language support: firefox-locale-de and language-pack-gnome-de are installed, and language-pack-en (which the Ubuntu CD has) is not installed

    • Unity launchers: has all the standard ones, plus Sudoku, simple-scan, and solitaire
    • Firefox start page is http://www.ubuntuforums.org?release=11.10

    • Firefox offline start page is file:///usr/share/ubuntu-artwork/home/firefox-index.html

    • Enable Firefox' bookmarks toolbar; should have an additional bookmark for "Die Zeit"
    • Firefox' bookmarks menu has the standard bookmarks plus http://www.ubuntu.de and http://www.heise.de

    • Firefox' default search engine is Wikipedia (Note that this is broken by bug 800304)

    • Radio stations: Rhythmbox and Banshee both have two configured radio stations (SWR3 and Radio Paradise)
    • Custom hook: There is an empty chroot_hook_was_run file in the root file system

    • Extra depends: manpages-de package is installed

    • Extra recommends: fortunes-de package is installed

You can also build an image with the Chinese default settings (ubuntu-defaults-zh-cn package in Ubuntu 11.10) with:

  •  sudo ubuntu-defaults-image --locale zh_CN --components main,restricted,universe 

in an empty directory with lots of free space (some 6 GB). You can then boot and test this with

  •  kvm -m 1024 -cdrom binary-hybrid.iso -vga std 

Possible future improvements

  • Translating wubi autorun.inf: Currently outside of what we can do with an extra package.
  • Translating strings in initramfs: Needs shell gettext support in initramfs first, then we can just rebuild the initramfs after installing langpacks. Example from French loco:
    •    sed -i 's/Desktop/Bureau/g;s/Examples/Exemples/g' /usr/share/initramfs-tools/scripts/casper-bottom/10adduser



DesktopTeam/Specs/Oneiric/LocalizedCDImageTools (last edited 2011-10-29 18:06:45 by jpickett)