Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ubuntu 11.04 - The Flame Wars

I think this is an interesting enough topic to warrant its own thread. At least for the Linux computing geeks.

Pete said in the last comments section:
This is somewhat off topic, but have you loaded Ubuntu 11.04, yet, Jason? If so what are your impressions of Unity. I'm on Kubuntu 11.04 right now. Unity looked like it would be non-functional w/o Compiz. Compiz messes with other OpenGL processes like Blender, so I don't use it.
Ubuntu 11.04 and the inclusion of Unity as the default shell seems to have got some people's blood boiling. For my part I am still tinkering and rather inconclusive with the whole desktop environment developments lately for Linux.

I have been staying with long-term service releases for my desktop computer for quite awhile now in the interest of stability. My wife has Ubuntu 10.10 on her workhorse laptop only because it was new and had some driver issues with older releases. I recently upgraded to Ubuntu 11.04 on my netbook just to try the new iteration of Unity out.

My two cents so far: Mostly wait and see. Unity works sufficiently on a netbook computer with a small screen and has very attractive eye candy. The concept overall is good, but the implementation of inner menu structures (the application lens) is muddled and frustrating at best, if not downright fricking useless. Work-flow issues seem to have become filled with extra clicking and slow loading times. I would like to believe all these things will be worked out before the next release or at least before the next LTS a year from now, based solely on my past experience with Ubuntu and Canonical in the last five years. I applaud the move to Banshee and Libre Office as default applications for music and documents respectively. Nonetheless, I could not recommend 11.04 and Unity for big screens or primary work computers.

I have yet to tinker with other options but I am curious how GNOME 3 is shaping up. I find XFCE a bit clunky and counter-intuitive, and the tiny bit I have looked at KDE it was simply opaque and mysterious. I doubt I will have the time in the near future to muck around with something totally new like a different Linux distribution.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS with GNOME 2 for the win!

I have been spending some time reading reviews of all the various options but cyberspace seems to be filled mostly with righteous techie outrage right now due to the changes, or measured fan-boy defences of the decision making going on in the background. One reviewer summed up Unity as a netbook platform and GNOME shell as a mobile phone interface, while all end users lose from the jostling for prominence.

Who knows . . . the "Linux Community" freaked out when KDE 4 came out. Most people did not even notice, and those that did seem to be working along with the changes just fine.


Pete said...

Upheaval and chaos!

Yep. I'm on KDE now, but I don't use the advanced features like widgets and "activities", because they don't help me do things. It does afford me a vertical task bar, which Gnome 2 couldn't provide.

The "lenses" in Unity sound like the "activities" in KDE, as a way to group active programs. The thing is, I'm not one to leave a lot of windows open.

Banshee as a media player is nice, if a little slow. Unfortunately, zombie-Novell just fired all of their Mono developers. Which is the .NET clone Banshee, and a couple of other notable F/OSS projects are built on. I've always been leery of the Microsoft's .NET libraries. Learning them is akin to having your soul sucked out by the Dark Crystal, after which you shuffle off to a cubicle somewhere.

Pete said...

I set-up a 64-bit Windows 7 computer at work today, and I have to say that the one of the areas where Linux blows away Windows is 64-bit support.

Also, Windows 7, while it's snappier with its new graphics and sound stack, is very much reheated XP. The
NT kernel is really showing its age. It can't really take anymore face lifts.

Don Jason said...

Upon further review of my experience with Unity, I am becoming slowly more irritated with the back-end menu structures which seem to be organized at random rather than according to a helpful logic. Click fatigue is setting in no matter how good the eye candy is.

Pete said...

Yeah. MS Office and other applications like AutoCAD have introduced an interface element called 'the Ribbon' that has the same problem.

It was designed to replace MS Office's toolbars. Before the ribbon, if you turned on all of, say MS Word's toolbars, you'd have four or five rows of them.
The idea is that it is panels of buttons organized by task. They then went a little too far and decided this Ribbon should replace pull-down menus, as well.

The Ribbon implementations I've had to use in MS Office and AutoCAD have been deeply disorganized. Fortunately, in AutoCAD, I can bring back the pull-down menus and the handful of toolbars that I use.

Pull-down menus can provide a well organized, exhaustive hierarchy of options available in an application because they are so space efficient; a result of not being pictorial.

Anyhow. I think I'm going to order a solid-state drive and put Fedora 15 on it. BTRFS is designed for SSDs. And trying out Gnome 3 will be a blast.

I will report back.

Don Jason said...

Good. I eagerly await a report of GNOME 3 from a trustworthy geek. I will have to make some kind of decision for a new desktop interface sooner or later as GNOME 2 is being retired and phased out by all major distributions and I think may already have ended all development and bug fixes.

Don Jason said...

This guy has basically wrote down a list of gripes about using Unity. His description mirrors my experience in that it starts out rather pleasant until you get into the internal menus and try to get some work done.

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