PCs

Ubuntu 11.10 brings Ubuntu Unity closer to fine

With the release of Ubuntu 11.10, Ubuntu Unity makes some progress on the desktop front. Is it enough? Jack Wallen offers his take on the state of the desktop from Canonical.

If you've been following me long enough, you know since the inception of Ubuntu Unity my relationship with that new desktop has been one of love-hate. When Unity was first rumored and the designs and philosophy were made known, the relationship was one of love. But when 11.04 was released, that relationship quickly shifted to hate. But now, 11.10 is out and Ubuntu has had a chance to make good on their Unity promises. I have to say, after upgrading to 11.10 ... I'm pretty impressed with the improvements.

I'll preface the rest of this by saying it's not perfect, but it's closer to being a fine desktop than it's previous iteration.

Now ... just what has improved? Let's take a look. I am taking this from the perspective of an end-user, so there will be no talk of development this or power-user that. What I am interested in is whether or not Unity has come far enough along for the average end user.

The Good

Figure A

The Unity Dash has had a bit of overhaul, making it easier to access various pieces. Figure A shows the Dash in action. Click on the Dash icon to reveal a new overlay that allows you to do the following (via icon):

  • Open up various categories of apps (Media, Internet,  and More).
  • Open up default apps (as configured within System).
  • Find files.

You will also notice, at the bottom of the Dash overlay, a row of tabs. These tabs are (from left to right):

  • Dash Home
  • Applications
  • Documents and folders
  • Media

Figure B

So what the developers of Unity have done is make it incredibly easy to get to various applications, files, and folders. This is a big plus for not just average users, but for any level of users. Another nice addition to the Dash is the ability to quickly filter results by categories. Take a look at Figure B (sorry, wallpaper is set to randomly change.)

Click on the Applications Tab in the Dash Overlay and you can then filter by various categories, making the search for that specific file or application much easier.

It is also possible now to eject external discs and USB devices from the Launcher. Simply right-click the device to reveal a menu offering:

  • Open
  • Eject
  • Safely Remove

The not so good

The Metaphor is still the big issue. Most end users do not like change -- of any kind. They don't like drive letters to change, they don't like the look and feel of things to change. This is the one glaring problem with driving such a grand, sweeping change such is Ubuntu Unity. New users will take one look at it and say "Where's my Start button? Where are my icons?" There is no way around this and new users will just have to accept that change is an inevitability with the PC desktop. Even with Windows -- change happens and users have little to no choice but to move on. Eventually the touch-screen friendly desktop interface such as Unity and Gnome 3 will be less a shock to users (granted it would help if Canonical would come through on the promise of touchscreen hardware to happily marry with the interface).

More not so good

Why is it the developers of Ubuntu Unity have decided that configuring the desktop is just not something we mortals need. Sorry people, but I am a serious tinkerer on the desktop. I want my desktop cake and I want to eat it too! But alas -- configuring the Unity desktop is just not meant to be (outside of changing your desktop background.) This does need to change. People (even new users) want to configure that desktop!

Even more not so good

I'm still not sold on the Apple-like application menu. No more do applications have their own menu. You want to access an application menu, you have to have that application in focus and then go up to the main bar at the top of the window. This isn't terribly efficient when you have many windows open.

And speaking of many windows open -- I want, nay need, my sloppy focus. I do not like to have to click on titlebars (or any location within the window) to give a window focus. I am all about making as few clicks and points with the mouse as possible. Give me sloppy focus and auto-raise back!

The conclusion thus far

Okay, so Unity is beginning to show promise. I have two suspicions here:

  1. Given time Unity will finally become a legitimate player on the average user desktop field.
  2. Given the proper touch-screen hardware, Unity will finally be able to show just how user-friendly it can be.

What do you think? Will Unity ever over come the problems is faced upon release and still faces? Sound off in the comments!

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

98 comments
Han CNX
Han CNX

It's also strange that there isn't a central place from where to do everything; almost everything you want to do starts with the dashboard Ubuntu button at the top, but then other administrative things have been moved to the power/cogwheel menu on the top right. Some commands are actually in both places by default. Why did Windows get this one right in 1995 but do we now have some commands as far apart as possible on screen?

meronbar
meronbar

When Ubuntu 11.10 remove Gnome from my PC, i remove Ubuntu May be it is good for tablet, don't know, but on PC they look strange. It was good idea to make separate package for tablets, but they should became separate.

ellisons
ellisons

I have been looking for an alternative to MS Windows for some time. I have read so many articles that praised/promoted Ubuntu that I had almost settled on that. Now I read all these comments and I see people who are obviously very competent with Linux saying how much trouble and how unstable Ubuntu has become. Why would I want to change? I have almost managed to learn how to repair these problems in Windows. Has the Linux community completely lost it's way? What happened to the idea of a free, stable and usable operating system? It appears to me that it has become no different to the most common desktop O/S. Am I really going to change to a system that has become so full of faults and problems. I guess I will have to wait for a completely new O/S to appear. At my time in life it will probably be The Great O/S In The Sky!

dgttm
dgttm

you should definetly give yourself a couple of minutes to learn the most important hotkeys. Unity desktop is awesome fast, when try to avoid using the mouse most. Open most used applications, switch between tasks in fullscreen mode easy and make use of multiple desktops will help you speeding up with efficient multitasking. http://www.ubuntugeek.com/list-of-ubuntu-unity-keyboard-shortcuts.html dont use a linux the way you have to use your windows desktop..

rkircher
rkircher

First, my opinion is that Unity is a GUI idea that does not belong on a Desktop computer, but I mainly wanted to comment that since Ubuntu 11.04, I have had a lot of video and video resolution problems as mentioned in several other comments. My nvidia hardware and drivers that have been working great, have become a problem as others have reported. When I first installed 11.04, Ubuntu defaulted to Unity and gave me messages that said my hardware does not appear to be compatible with Unity! I tried Unity 2D and it worked without complaint, but I very quickly decided it was a Desktop GUI disaster. I'm now back to using Gnome 2.x and happily running without crashes, error messages and have a descent GUI, but am afraid to try upgrading to 11.10. If anybody can tell me from experience that clicking "Upgrade to 11.10" in the Update Manager won't destroy my Gnome 2.x GUI, I would like to stay current in my beloved Ubuntu operating system. Never before have I been afraid to upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu, but now Unity surely has changed that!

yelnats60
yelnats60

The biggest problem that I have incounter is getting the right resolution for booting and exiting after installing an nvidia driver. Recomended mode 1280 x 1024 60Hz says my Monitor.. Only from log in window is the resolution right....

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

There's not ONE place where somebody can go and rationally choose between 300+ distros and umpteen desktops. Like, if you have a XP laptop with 256M, try Puppy; if you were OK with Win7, try LMDE; if you like wierd, try Bodhi; and so on. Enough with the new menus and buttons already, get my capture card to work!

Han CNX
Han CNX

but please don't forget the incredible contribution they have made to Desktop Linux in the past. Thank you, Mark. We may meet again in the future.

tushargokhale
tushargokhale

I still haven't understood the need of Unity desktop. GNome 2 was really good and if Canonical had issues with GNome 3 they should simply fork GNome 2 enhance it. GNome 2 Menus, Taskbar were really good. In unity remove all Libre office icons and now try to add back again Libreoffice icons on dock... you cannot! + Libre office menu comes attached to app while rest of the apps menu come on top bar!!! Very inconsistant.

saundersp
saundersp

Updated to 11.10 - lots of little problems that just made me want to go back to MS [after 6 years with Ubuntu]. So decided to go back to 11.04 at least these is Gnome 2 to fall back on if this unity is still a problem. This version off Ubuntu feel like a alpha release for 12.04 LTS.

KavishMultiShoppe
KavishMultiShoppe

Will Wayland Display (when it becomes ready) be an additional option or were they talking of replacing Unity with it? What's happening with Ubuntu?

steve
steve

I tried to like Unity in 11.04 but eventually gave up and went to Linux Mint. I will need a good reason to go back to Ubuntu, and it sounds like it might take a few more iterations to make it happen.

tim.stephens
tim.stephens

Too slow to run, several clicks to run apps. I just put xfce back and it works properly once again. I really don't like loosing functionality for pretties.

jbloxham
jbloxham

Overall I like Ubuntu, find it stable and workable. I've been working with it for about 3 years, and would have switched from Windows a while ago, if the software I use was compatible or workable. Generally I use Quicken, Quickbooks, MS Project, and MS Access. I have looked at some of the alternatives offered under Ubuntu, but have not found really workable alternatives. Also there is my Blackberry which won't backup or synchronize with the calendar and mail programs. So for now I'll have to continue to work with both. I haven't found Wine a viable alternative yet.

nedave
nedave

Remember back to the 80's when Coca-Cola changed their recipe and came out with New Coke ? The outrage caused them to go back to their classic recipe. Think of Ubuntu 11.10 (and maybe 11.04) the same way .... Sure ! It's still Ubuntu but leaves a bad taste in your mouth ..

pinjoh541
pinjoh541

The definition of unity is a state of oneness, harmony, etc. Canonical's Unity achieves none of that. Maybe in the future it can get there, but for now, IMO it sucks. Referring to the menus mentioned elsewhere, I run two monitors, and if I use Unity, I've got to move the mouse from one monitor to the other, make the menu selection, then back to the window, rinse and repeat. That's dumb. If Unity was only used on netbooks or other small single-screen systems where all applications are maximized, then it might make sense. But not anywhere else. There are other things I don't like about it, most have already been discussed, here or elsewhere. Canonical, if you read this, please make Unity an OPTIONAL desktop, don't try to force it down our throats. If you do, I'm one user that is going to leave. I'm already running Linux Mint on my laptop because of Unity, and when it's time to upgrade my desktop (running Ubuntu 10.04), it's probably going to be either Mint or Debian, unless Ubuntu gives me an easy alternative to Unity.

SeeSeeRockett
SeeSeeRockett

I used Ubuntu as my only OS at home for a couple years, and I enjoyed the stability and peacefulness. After hearing about Unity and trying 11.04, I decided to switch to something else, but Unity was only part of the reason. I'm now using Fuduntu and Aptosid, but Fuduntu is definitely my primary. I'll probably use them both for a few more months before wiping one out. I most likely will not be going back to Ubuntu for at least a few years.

Dave.A.Townsend
Dave.A.Townsend

My thoughts are it was released too fast and the beta bugs were not fixed. Bootup freeze ups...had to go into sudo to fix, boot file location problems; evolution mail upgrade deleted all the files..still working on it to recover. Boot ups are extremely slow (my old xp boots up faster!), configuration problems -does not recognize printer now. This is not good for a new user with little experience trying ubuntu 11.10 for the first time. I am honestly thinking of moving over to a distro that is a little less buggy.

Jon.M.Kelley
Jon.M.Kelley

I've had PCs running UBUNTU since 5.04 came out in '05. Since then I've been updating from LTS to LTS, currently using 10.04, but it's sounding like I'll need to find another OS/GUI vendor for desktop machines by April '13. From a recemt (2011/10/14) redmondmag.com Win8Metro article: " "The message is clear that the majority of people want most of their apps on the taskbar rather than having to dig into Start," Sareen explained. Microsoft went a step further than that with the Windows 8 design and laid all of the programs out in a single view on the Start Screen, dropping the taskbar altogether from the Metro UI." So, roughly speaking, both Ms & UBUNTU appear to understand what their current users want for an OS/GUI user interface, but both appear to be designing for the one finger / no mouse / no keyboard touch-screen user. In the recent past (think Office '07), Ms has made no bones about building its new interface designs for the "casual new user", and eliminating "hard to learn features". Somehow UBUNTU has caught the same dumb-down disease.

DesertJim
DesertJim

When 11.04 came out I had big problems with Unity. Nobody in the house liked it. I tried various alternatives, which have to meet the needs of many different users. 5 year old son through "casual" users to me. Wife stayed with classic Ubuntu I embraced Mint 11. Upgraded test box today and what I saw of Unity I like. Having recently changed jobs and being forced kicking and screaming back to Win7 I give unity the thumbs up over it and classic after my quick smoke test.

rbbts
rbbts

Didn't like unity before and still don't. My biggest problem with 11.10 is the speed. It is much slower on my laptop than 11.04 was and it was not what I would call fast. I have since switched back to 10.10. Give me familiarity and responsiveness.

bni1369
bni1369

I agree. 11.10 still acts like a pre-release Beta. I have had multiple screen lock-ups and assorted other video problems. 11.04 was quite solid and performed much better by comparison. I tried doing this as an upgrade and as a 'clean' install as well. I tried many different partition configurations and even went so far as to 'zero-fill' my hard disk. I tend to think it may be the kernel itself that is the culprit, as my system has successfully run Ubuntu in the past sans complaints. Curiously, after becoming tired of wrestling with 11.10, I started over and installed Ubuntu Studio 11.04. I'm keeping it. No lock-ups, no video anomalies, no complaints.

nedave
nedave

Sometimes - good things just can't be left alone. "If it ain't broke - don't fix it!" Since Unity is , basically, a decision made by Canonical (and not, so much, the users) - they should offer it as an OPTION. Linux is supposed to be straight-forward, open-source. Don't need to start making it "cute" with bells and whistles. If such trends continue I can see it all getting so bogged down that one may as well go back to Windows. Whatever happened to "Keep It Simple, Stupid" ???? Canonical should spend their creative efforts on updating hardware drivers/compatibility and tweaking the OS itself ..... not playing around with desktops. I'm not happy with being forced into Google Chrome either (ver 11.10). Again - Canonical has taken away choice. I guess we are stuck with this crap, at least, until version 12.04 .

fjp
fjp

I just installed 11.10 on a brand-new Toshiba laptop, and all I can say is that it just works. No annoying MS-like dialogue (are you sure?) - it just went in, updating itself as it went, and finding the wireless and webcam with no prompting from me. Even the partitioning was easy, I didn't have to supervise it and it now dual-boots perfectly. The interface is different, but so is everything new - I'm sure Windows 8 will be far worse!

apotheon
apotheon

Unity takes the same approach to system design as the rest of Ubuntu; it is dumbed down to the point where it makes some tasks far more difficult to accomplish than they should be, for no good reason at all. Consider, for instance, that the default behavior in the applications interface is for right-click and left-click to do exactly the same thing, as if we're using a single-button mouse on some kind of Apple device -- even when using a three-button mouse. (The middle button doesn't do anything.) This kind of dumbed-down interface results in a need for more work to do simple things that should be contextually available to us like choose applications to add to the dock (or panel whatever they're calling that thing on the left side of the screen these days). In fact, I have yet to figure out how to add something to it without having to open the application first. There are other problems that have not yet been mentioned, too -- such as the fact that, as MS Windows is being reworked gradually to reduce (very slowly) the frequency with which the system needs to be rebooted, Ubuntu is going in the opposite direction. It actually tells users that they must reboot to finish applying software updates sometimes. This is an Ubuntu problem, rather than a Unity problem, though.

abhilash.bhagat
abhilash.bhagat

Well i have been using linux (Ubuntu) ever since 9.04 was released, and 11.04 was big Leap with inception of "unity". Looking at the fact the aesthetic aspect and shortcuts that it added, i mean everything about it was new, 11.10 on the other hand didnt feel like anything "new", felt like some icons changed and some functions increased. Talking on the other hand about problems others listed here, I never faced any such problem with Ubuntu. Using a external display or instability with programs never came in my list of problems. Moreover talking about options being at the top and need to move cursor to use, well the shortcuts are still there Alt+F still opens the File menu, and even in windows and anywhere else u have to move your cursor to make it work. I guess the problem with most of you guys is that your version is unstable one, try to update and all the problems and crashes will DISAPPEAR. Moreover talking about the user-friendliness and ease that Ubuntu 11.10 offers, i would like to tell that i everyone who saw linux in my lapi moved to ubuntu ASAP and left Windows. So that's a achievement i guess. Moreover softwares like wine makes using windows software easy too. So for me Ubuntu 11.10 is all Win-Win

dbl
dbl

I use Ubuntu becuase I support Windows and have to have a system that won't crash when Windows does. I live in Terminal Services / RDesktop. The RDesktop client out of the box on 11.10 had no display customization controls. All RDesktop sessions were 800x600. I'm sure there is a hack to change this, but I'm still tired of Unity and Gnome 3. Call me old fashioned, but I will stay on 10.10 with Gnome 2. I was a regular version updater until now.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

I mean, fun's fun, but I need to get back to work.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

Those are all geeks complaining that ubuntu is not geeky enough as say BSD or Gentoo or whatever. Download Linux Mint and start using it. Forget about Windows. Linux is different, mostly better, but it takes relearning. Start now.

pgit
pgit

A lot of distributions are trying to keep up with recent hardware changes and at the same time jumping into entirely new ways to handle major systems like package management, printing and networks. Hybrid video is giving the entire Linux community indigestion at the moment for example. There's a lot of distributions that take the cutting edge work of another distro and smooth off the rough edges, making for a more mature and stable system. PCLinuxOS is Mandriva with the bugs worked out. It's a half release behind where Mandriva is, some packages are older, but most people who report problems with Mandriva find PCLOS installs and runs great out of the box. Ubuntu is technically a debian-made-easy, and centOS is supposed to be last year's flavor of RHEL made easy. (and free) For stable out of the box a lot of people report success with Arch and Mint, and the latest Sabyon looks like a new contender has hit the field. With Linux you have to find the distribution that suits you best, with the nature of the community behind it a big factor. That's your support base, unless you're going with one of the deep-pockets like red hat or suse.

apotheon
apotheon

Note that I'm not the author of this article -- I'm just a guy who has also been having some frustrations with Ubuntu/Unity lately. With that out of the way . . . I think that using the keyboard a lot more than the mouse to "drive" the interface is a great idea. It requires less input interface context switching, and takes advantage of a more sophisticated system of input, thus improving efficiency and fine-tuned control. I think we can do much better than Unity hotkeys, though. I think that, instead of learning the hotkeys (now that my immediate professional need to use Ubuntu has evaporated), I will just copy data off that filesystem, delete Ubuntu, and go back to using a different system configuration with a tiling window manager designed specifically for keyboard-driven use. That way, I pretty much never have to touch the mouse at all. In fact, highlighting text and pasting it elsewhere with a middle-click is probably 98% of my (rare) mouse use outside of Unity these days. Yeah, I think that makes a lot more sense than option B: learn enough about the hotkeys for a window manager designed for touchscreen and mouse use so I can avoid some of its bugginess by only using keyboard shortcuts. I'll go with option A: use a UI actually designed specifically with control by keyboard in mind, first and foremost.

seanferd
seanferd

Wayland would replace the X server.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Just try to make the Windows system the default-boot system instead of the Linux partition. It can be done. Dig in the tech manuals, find the file to edit, make the change, then run "sudo update-grub". If you counted correctly, (it's zero-indexed) then hopefully your system boot the way you want. Oh! GRUB added another option to the list so the numbers are wrong. Do it again... With SuSE and KDE, it was YAST-Configure Boot and choose what you wanted. You knew what you were getting. I'm not afraid of command line, text files and programming editors, but a lot of users won't be able to change the boot defaults, or will hose their system when they do. Unity is a giant step - backwards.

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

I agree, Unity is attempting to make things simpler, and that makes some things harder to do. I think it may be more of a marketing problem, in many respects. Unity is obviously being developed with tablets in mind as the end-user platform. (Hence acting like it has a one-button mouse, for example -- actually a one-finger situation on a tablet.) It's still under development, too. It's understandable that Canonical is working on a tablet UI -- they're smart enough to have started early, at least. No one has a (excuse me) 'canonical' tablet interface today to copy/improve -- though the iPad will become the default if Android, et al, don't get moving faster. Do you get the impression that Canonical is at least farther ahead in the Linux realm? The trouble that they're causing seems to be more a matter (or the impression) of trying to force-fit a one-UI-fits-all desktop paradigm on users, whether they're on a tablet, a notebook, or a (multi-monitor) desktop. That's bound to get nothing but bad press... I thought they were heading in the right direction with 11.04 by providing the ability to log in to EITHER desktop, as needed -- with the critical feature that using one does not clobber the other. Then it's a matter of picking the best UI that matches the hardware you're using. (Windows on a tablet proved that desktop UIs don't work on tablets; Unity indicates it may not work well the other way around, too -- another lesson that Windows 8 may yet demonstrate.) But that wasn't carried forward with 11.10 -- probably because, co-incidentally, the GNOME team decided around the same time to stop developing GNOME 2 and move to GNOME 3. And G3 ain't G2 -- by design. Canonical made the choice to drop what the Linux industry was already going to be moving away from. But I think they've dropped the ball with not having a smoother transition, not emphasizing that you can switch UIs, and making it more clear that one is for tablet hardware, another is better for desktop use. But GNOME 3 is too new, and that's a problem in itself. Poor Canonical, it's going to be tough sledding for a while... We should all keep in mind that Linux is an ever-evolving (set of) products -- and that what you have now will be replaced with something different in the future. Hopefully it will be better (generally it is), but it make take a few iterations to "get there". Unity is that case, and GNOME 3 is too, probably. But with Linux, at least, you can usually safely stick with an older version that you like, and your experience will continue to be a good one. And I think most of the reboot situations are actually GNU/Linux issues, not unique to Ubuntu (and certainly not Unity). Here's what I most don't like about Unity: I want my status bar (on the right would be fine) to put things like the system performance meters. Unity doesn't support displaying it. Grrr...

nedave
nedave

Agreed ! There's really nothing wrong with Ubuntu 11.10 in itself. It's the Unity that sucks !

apotheon
apotheon

> complaining that ubuntu is not geeky enough I take it you haven't actually been reading the complaints if that's all you think it is.

apotheon
apotheon

You might have a point about tablet UIs. Of course, I don't think Unity is exactly the right approach to that, any more than the standard Android, iOS, and WP7 UIs are quite right -- unless you want your table to be a glorified toy rather than a computer. I don't know that I'd agree that "generally it is" better as things develop. I stopped using Linux for any new deployments in 2005 (sticking to BSD Unix systems), then ended up having to use Debian early this year and am also having to use Ubuntu as of this month. My impression is that -- in terms of stability, configurability, and functionality -- the Linux world is getting worse. The sound subsystems on Linux-based OSes, already a bit of a tangled mess in 2005, has since then turned into a Cthulhoid horror lurking beyond the veil of madness; networking configuration has become opaque and nondeterministic; software management systems are inconsistent in their operation. I desperately miss the half-decade during which I was able to almost completely avoid Linux-based OSes. > And I think most of the reboot situations are actually GNU/Linux issues, not unique to Ubuntu (and certainly not Unity). I don't think it's Linux in general, really. I haven't needed reboots to get things working on the Debian system (so far -- knock on wood). I've had to do two reboots for Ubuntu updates since last weekend, but no reboots for Debian updates since I installed it early this year, and none for FreeBSD ever, in all the time I've used that OS. If it's not specifically Ubuntu, it's some software that gets installed automatically with Ubuntu, but not with Debian.

apotheon
apotheon

If you actually paid attention to what people were saying, you might notice that a lot of the problems people have with Unity have nothing to do with it not being "geeky" enough, and everything to do with it being weird, lacking the capabilities of a modern desktop UI (like MS Windows or MacOS X, for instance), and being buggy. I guess it's probably comforting to you, somehow, to just ignore what everyone's actually saying and just pretend that the only reason people dislike it is that they're different from you, though.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

The established Linux crowd seems to not want Linux taken over by the unwashed masses of non-technorati with their GUIs and mouse-clicketys. ellisons@ seemed like a n00b scared of jumping out of his Windows bubble. The geek-babble can be pretty scary; I know it was to me. And having 300 different distros is kinda off-putting. There doesn't seem to be anyplace you can decide which to use based on your hardware or preferences. One that looked and ran similar to XP on their old machines could be popular, if it didn't have those Unity buttons and ran the old scanners and printers.

pgit
pgit

I'm with you. I'm thinking of gnome 3 or Rosa panel/simple welcome for the future of what my users will be doing. A lot of people are showing up with ipads "just because." Only one person has approached me with a question about using it for their business. All the rest were showing off the cool new toy. But I could see getting serious productivity out of the form factor with an open, full featured Linux OS underneath. I'm not happy about it, but people are demanding touch interfaces and spending money haphazard on it at the moment.

apotheon
apotheon

It makes sense it would be the longest, most thoughtful replies. The longer it is, the more likely it is to contain something that runs afoul of the latest content filtering bug. I don't really have much to say about Rosa. I haven't seen it, and I don't have a whole lot of need for a touchscreen interface on my laptop whose display is not a touchscreen. I prefer keyboard-driven interfaces, really.

pgit
pgit

It always seems like the longest, most thoughtful replies are the ones that get lost. Getting back to the discussion; for tablet or other primarily touch-oriented devices I can't see how anything will beat gnome 3, once it's fully ported for touch. It's one of the rare "revolutionary" versus "evolutionary" developments, in my opinion. Per unity and the 'one button mouse' and related phenomena, this is exactly the kind of stuff I was thinking of when I suggested having a look at the (nascent) Rosa components Mandriva has riding over the top of KDE4. They still have a few functionalities to add, as does gnome 3, but for a first release it's looking like they're on to something. It's not intended for the Linux power user, I think I mentioned I always wipe the panels and plasmoids and use stock KDE. But for Joe end user, it's like the good bits of unity with more of the expected "windows-like" behavior preserved. That said, they've got a long way to go with it. But again, what's out now was hashed up in just a few months and isn't bad for a rush effort.

apotheon
apotheon

. . . or it might be gone forever.

seanferd
seanferd

It's getting to be a bit tedious. edit: Wait a few more hours or days. It might just reappear.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Otherwise, the cure for the disease (spam) will likely kill the patient (discussion forum).

apotheon
apotheon

I thought TR had fixed its problem of comments vanishing when I try to post them. I just wrote up a detailed response to this, pointing out where your statements do not match up at all with my experience, where I've realized there are misunderstandings between where we've said things and each interpreted what the other said, and so on. When I hit "Submit Reply", it vanished. I've been told that TR throws away bitly links, but the only link in my comment was directly to a TechRepublic article, so evidently they broke something major again. These people really need to employ some kind of meaningful testing process.

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

As far as the tablet UI thing goes, my take on it is that Canonical summed things up pretty much as you have (I pretty much agree with you there, too) a year or so back, and realized that tablets were going to become a going thing in the future. But, as we all know, there's no archetypical & established "tablet standard" to follow & improve upon, just a lot of wanna-bes that haven't quite hit it (the iPad being the most popular for various reasons, not all of which may be due to "getting the table UI right"). So they need to migrate to a tablet UI (as an *option*, not the only UI!) to remain relevant. And with the above situation, they have little choice but to "roll their own", hire some bright people, brainstorm, and invent what they think will be a working tablet UI. That was the Wayland project, and 11.04 was a first-cut; first-cuts usually are a let-down and come across as "this is unusable junk". They'll keep improving it, no doubt, as 11.10 has gotten better -- but still isn't there. They have another issue which their strategy indicates: If you're going to invent a new UI paragdigm, you not only have to get a good design out there, and quickly (i.e., before it's 'perfect'), you have to get people using it, commenting on it, and feeding back good ideas to improve it. If you allow the same-old some-old UI, and make it noticeable and easy to use, and --worse-- make the old UI the default, then you have a problem: People will just keep using what they've been using, and only the curious few will try the new one -- you won't get enough use/exposure and your project crawls from lack of input. I think Canonical worked to avoid that by making Unity the default from 11.04 onward, and by not advertising the fact (or making it obivous) that you could "just go back to GNOME 2" for your desktop in 11.04. Yes, it's needed for non-tablet hardware, but that conflicts with the need to get people using Unity. For 11.10, they got hit with a double-whammy: the GNOME project deprecated GNOME 2 in favor of GNOME 3, which has issues (because it's not finished either). Maybe with all the above considerations, they didn't provide GNOME Shell as a fall-back, but they did allow for it to fairly easily be installed if you want it. All this will come across to many as "Canonical is trying to change their UI to a tablet UI, and that doesn't work for desktops -- this is a bad thing", but I don't think that's what they're doing. What they really need at this point, to help what they're trying to accomplish (a thing we need) is to get their OS onto a tablet or touch-screen platform, ASAP. Then we'll see more clearly what's going on, where it's going, and why. But I think we should, and will, always have a more desktop-oriented UI for desktop use. What works well with a finger or two on small screens doesn't work well with mice & multiple big screens -- and vice versa. I'm sure they know that, so I'm sure things will improve. I said "generally it is" from the viewpoint of a number of end-users -- myself and about a half-dozen friends & family that have been using Ubuntu for the last 3 years. (I & my colleagues also use RHEL at work.) And I'm aware of the on-going sound miasma Linux is known for -- although it hasn't really bitten me or my friends. What I have seen is stability increase and functionality improve --at least for what I use daily-- enough to wean some people completely off Windows. As for configurability, I think that's been good -- but I will except Unity from that statement (it's still a work in progress, and I don't have a tablet to run it on). Maybe some things are getting better, while others haven't been, and others still are in a state of flux as they get needed attention -- things sometimes get messy as they evolve; Unity is a good example of that! I bailed on Windows because of the malware/spyware/etc and the relentless need to follow that technology and keep up with it -- it took the joy out of using a computer and sapped my time. Windows 7 is a big improvement... but it still has a maddeningly, frustrating "opaque and nondeterministic" networking configuration. Yes, Linux's Network Manager also had issues, but I don't have configuration problems with it lately that I had in the past years. I don't miss Windows, and I rarely get calls from my friends to deal with Linux frustrations (and when I do, it's usually a sysadmin thing I can take care of quickly via SSH). I update regularly, and most of my reboots are for kernel/kernel-related updates, X updates, or low-level elements that can't retrofit while the OS is running. All OSes face these issues, and their developers have been under pressure to reduce the need for reboots by making coding more clever. (That may reduce stability, though -- double-edged sword.) I don't find myself having to reboot Ubuntu more than once every two weeks; I usually suspend rather than turn off when I'm away. I do notice that my RHEL systems don't seem to require reboots as often -- but they're older tech. Why Ubuntu more than Debian? I think Debian strives for stability and updates less, whereas Ubuntu is more cutting-edge. My RHEL experience suggests that, since RHEL by design is conservative, older tech, and slow to change anything. I know I come from a different perspective & higher-than-average expertise, but I still have the impression that Linux is improving, and I see what they're doing with Unity as also being an improvement -- even if it's "painful medicine" during this transitionary period. I'm glad Shuttleworth had a sort of Jobsian prescience to get a tablet UI invented and "out there". He needs the public to use it, especially at this time, and feed back good ideas to make it into what we'll be happy with when it goes on tablets. (And by then, GNOME 3 should evolve to the same.)

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

The sound subsystems that were available in 2005 are still available today. You're not really forced to run PulseAudio on top of them (though Ubuntu does by default). Of course, as you alluded to, ALSA itself has issues when you start to dig into the nuts and bolts of it, and OSS has its own shortcomings (like a lack of development for the Free Software parts). Those things haven't really gotten any worse, though. Generally, Debian only asks you to reboot for kernel updates, or restart the X server for X Window updates, and these are entirely for security updates. The Debian box in my office pretty much only gets rebooted when the power goes out. Networking configuration, too, has not really changed in Linux. It's just now that there are more network management frontends available. Nobody forces you to use them, but non-technical aimed distributions like Ubuntu do use them by default. The old tools are all still there. The frontends, though, can be handy for wireless configurations on laptops. If you think that networking configuration has become "opaque and nondeterministic" in Linux, then I can only imagine what you must think of it in Windows. :) I don't see where apt-get in Debian is inconsistent in its operation. Of course there are several different software management systems in different distributions. I can't really think of one that's particularly inconsistent, though (though I've had my issues while using RPM, but that was a while back). I'm not really sure what you are referring to when you say that. When I think of Debian compared with FreeBSD, I generally think of them as relatively similar. Last time I checked, Debian was less work to initially set up (though it's been a while since I've touched FreeBSD). Also, more software could be made to run on Debian. FreeBSD might have been even more stable than Debian, but Debian was already so stable that stability wasn't an issue. I'm certainly not going to insult the BSD trio of operating systems. I think they're pretty great. I'm not going to pretend that the diversity of Linux distributions and software available for Gnu/Linux are a weakness, though. The fact that someone can take one distribution and try to make it "user-friendly" and end up with something that doesn't appeal to me at all, but which (and this is the key factor) I can safely ignore is a good thing in my book.

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