Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ubuntu Unity Desktop Review

A few days ago I decided to upgrade my desktop Ubuntu OS from 10.10(Maverick Meerkat) to 11.04(Natty Narwal) Alpha 1. Previous experience upgrading to such an early alpha release told me that this would be very risky and likely I would have to re-install back to the stable release. But after the lengthy upgrade process was completed(took a few hours because I had Gnome, KDE, and LXDE desktop environments previously installed), I successfully rebooted and was greeted with the familiar GDM login screen.

I clicked on my username, entered my password and chose "Ubuntu Desktop Edition" for the desktop session. But instead of Gnome or Unity popping up, it appeared that what I got was a very unfinished and incomplete desktop session. There was no launcher, no panel or even an easy logout mechanism. I was ready to dismiss Alpha 1 as a starting point only for the developers. FAIL.

But it turned out the Unity launcher and panel was present, but required desktop effects to be turned on to use them. So I did just that and this is what appeared:

Ubuntu Unity "Desktop"

Looks like a cross between Gnome Shell and Ubuntu's Netbook UI. What initially annoyed me was that all the entries I created in my Desktop directory were being shown twice: in the launcher and on the desktop screen. And notice the launcher entries displaying a question mark as the icon? That's because it seems the launcher can't display icons that are not stored on the system icon directories. I'd have to hover my mouse over the icons to tell what they really are. FAIL.

But the worst current feature of this release is finding all the applications. You have to click on the Ubuntu logo on the top left of the screen, and Nautilus will appear showing you the /usr/share/applications directory. Ugh. No application menu grouping or sorting by task at all here, just a single directory being spit out in front of you. FAIL.

As far as I can see, the current incarnation of the Unity desktop isn't even a true desktop environment yet. It's still a major work-in-progress, much like when KDE 4 first appeared. No doubt we'll see much improvement in future alpha releases, but for now I'll be sticking with Gnome/KDE/LXDE for my real desktop needs. Unity still needs a lot of work to be easy enough for casual use.


RabidWeezle said...

Yeah, it's pretty fail atm, I'm using it right now, but I also noticed some other royally annoying things like compiz popup everytime I shut down (compiz is not shutting down so it halts the shutdown process). I also noticed my favorite keyboard combination (alt+f2) doesn't work. In fact there are no customization options for unity at all. You can't edit the icons, you can't set thickness, add applets to the top... etc. Kind of a bummer compared to the default gnome-panel. But like you said, it's early yet.

Anonymous said...

A turd by any other name would still smell like a turd! lol

Rajeev Mishra said...

Thank you for sharing this, it has saved a lot of valuable time for people like me who wanted to try the upgrade.

Anonymous said...

are you a fuckin retard??
this is ALPHA SOFTWARE idiot!!and you expect full functionality??
if you are so awesome why dont you fix it you stupid fuck??
you FAIL

AntoniusMisfit said...

@Anonymous #2:

Thank you for your "brilliant and insightful" commentary on my experience. Did you even read the final paragraph, where I compared the current state of Unity to when KDE 4 first came out? I'll most likely wait until Natty Alpha 3 to try again.

libertymatters said...

I just spent the better part of my day off of work today recovering from this 11.04 natty whatever.

I was happy back at 10.04. I figured I would up to 10.10. Somehow after my sources list update, it would not go through the normal upgrade process. So I did a distro upgrade again and was greeted with 11.04.

I have trusted ubuntu for many years now- but unity has to go. I am now running 10.04 off cd, while mint completes its 3 hour download. I may even leave debian entirely. I know it's alpha, but this is the direction they want to go- drop the left edge icons please, let me control my desktop.

I am running on a Toshiba A205 laptop.


CMihail said...

You can still use Gnome 2 or whatever else you want. It's not like they are going to make you use only one desktop environment.
I have to agree that Unity it's not the best choice, at least from my point of view(they should go with Gnome 3, I really enjoy it).
But we should stop using the desktop experience from 90' and go for something that will suport multitouch (that's where the world is moving). It's about evolution.

Anonymous said...

I have tried all the desktop environments.

I enjoy LXDE the most, but I'm willing to give KDE another try as Unity and Gnome-Shell press through.

I love linux because I have the power to choose.

Anonymous said...

I myself prefer Gnome over Unity or KDE. But < noticed the unity desktop you posted the screenshot of in this article. Mine doesn't look anything like yours and it works quite well, no problems doing anything but I am just not comfortable using it. I installed it on 10.10 and hae played with it a good bit so it may be a-ok but after using onl the Gnome desktop since around 2000 I know Gnome by heart.. Who knows?