Ubuntu Unity

This post is kind of a response to this post on OMG!Ubuntu.

What is wrong with Unity?  It’s a question with a lot of different answers.

For me?

Speed and ease of use.

Those are the most important things.  An operating system should allow me to do what I want without bugging me.  Without making it difficult to get to my files.  Without making me relearn where everything is.

That is where Unity is a problem for me.  Maybe I’m used to my dock-and-menu setup in Ubuntu, or my taskbar-and-menu setup in Windows, but making me think about where my files are, or making me type up a search (while handy in some respects) can make me irritated, as I can’t get to my files and programs faster.  If I wanted a search metric, I’d be using Gnome-Do or Launchy or something.

I’ve grown used to the menu structure of Gnome.  I like it and it’s comfortable.

I also don’t want to have to wait for my operating system to chug and think about getting my file structure.  I’m particular about where I put things, and I have a special way I do it.  If I were to just throw everything in /home without a thought, then this searching metric might work for me, but I don’t.

Unity seems to be aimed at someone who’s never seen a computer before.  This is fine, but the further we go on in time, the fewer people will have not seen a computer before (anyway, speaking from my white, middle-class, college-educated, engineering background).  I mean, everyone in my community has access to computers either though their own houses, a public or private school (for students), a university, a community college, or the library system.  I’d be shocked at anyone under the age of 60 who hasn’t seen a computer in their lives.

Also, most of these people who have seen computers will have seen a Windows or Mac-based system.  It’s just a fact of life because of the market share Windows and Apple have.  Ubuntu and other Linux-based operating systems are trying to change that, but with Ubuntu and Gnome3 going to the “shell” model of things, many people are going to see it and reject it.  Which is unfortunate because there are a lot of good ideas that have come out of Unity.  For instance, the dock.  I use a dock (Docky), but at a different location than where Ubuntu puts it.  If Unity wants to win me over, they can do the following:

  • Make the dock movable; to the right, top or bottom, as I please.
  • Make the dock re-sizable, which I think they’re working on (this is not available in the version I’m running on my netbook).
  • Allow me to change the size of the icons on the dock and make sure Unity respects that.  I’d like a smaller dock on my netbook, as the screen is very limited.
  • Allow me to use the regular file system easier.  When I click on the folder in the dock, I expect a Nautilus window to open; this does not happen.
  • Give me better categories and whatnot when I click on the applications button.  Seriously, having a list of my applications is not helpful if they’re not sorted better.
  • Make the dock expand to hold the icons, instead of expand the whole side of my screen.  This is similar to the behavior of Docky.
  • Use Compiz (this is in the works; Mutter was found to be unstable, so the Ubuntu devs have moved to Compiz, which is more stable.  I remember when it wasn’t, and I was unsure of why anyone would use Compiz.  Now I can’t live without it.).

I will be looking forward to the improvements in Unity.  Hopefully with the inclusion of Compiz, the speed factor will be taken care of (my netbook can handle Compiz, which is pretty cool).

The Natty release looks to be interesting at the least.

4 thoughts on “Ubuntu Unity”

  1. Eh, I think you’re being a bit harsh.

    Did you not find anything that you liked about it?

    It sounds like the heft of your argument is that 1) ‘ it is different from what I’m used to and I don’t like that’, and 2) ‘its still rough around the edges’.

    And where did you get the idea that it’s designed for people who’ve never used a computer?

    You have your points. And I have a number of my own gripes about Unity, but still.. I was kinda bummed about this review. You sound dangerously close to that old professor down the hall who complain about how he doesn’t really need to give up Windows 98 and that crusty old COBOL/FORTRAN toolset he uses from a DOS prompt… “they work just fine!” (I kid :-D)

    I’ve been on only unity for the past two weeks on alpha 2 – 3, and despite my initial skepticism… I’m warming up to it. There is a lot of good ideas in it and I’ve seen it get a lot of of shine, even in the past few days. So, it seems fair to give it at least until Natty release before you tear it a new hole. If Unity turns out not to be your thing, that’s cool. More power to you. But, I think you’d agree with me that its far too soon to write it off.

    (I agree with what youve said about basic configurations, though)

    1. Sorry about sounding a bit harsh. The only experience I have with Unity is on my netbook, which I’m using right now. I’m using Maverick on it, with the Unity interface, and it’s not as easy for me to navigate as is Ubuntu Gnome with my menus and Docky.

      It’s still VERY rough around the edges, and I don’t necessarily think that Unity should have been released into the wild on the Maverick release. And “different from what I’m used to” might turn a lot of people away from the whole idea, and push them toward something like Mint, Fedora, or something running Xfce.

      There’s been a lot of push for interfaces for people who have never used a computer before. In my mind, it’s a moot point, because everyone (at least everyone under 50) should have at least seen a computer, if not used one (Mac or Windows).

      There are reasons for my crustiness. I have a workflow, and I’m sure that professor that is stuck in Windows 98 has a workflow as well. I’m not saying that my workflow is the be-all-end-all of the way I work (I can adapt) but having something that’s vastly different makes me think twice about using it.

      I agree that I’m basing my assumptions and thoughts on a version that is not polished. I’m going to re-evaluate what I think when Natty drops (which I’m looking forward to). I’m using Maverick, and from what I understand, you can’t really compare the Alpha Natty to Maverick. (I’m not running Alpha Natty because I don’t want to deal with random crashes. I’ll use a beta, however.)

      I still say I’d like to be able to move the dock to the bottom and be able to autohide it. I just prefer it there, and it’s easier for me to deal with.

      I’m not completely writing it off, but I don’t really like the idea of a “shell”. I don’t know; many changes to Ubuntu have been great (the indicator applets rock, as does the universal menu) but forcing a dock on people might not be the best way to go about things.

  2. There is a very good alternative for those who like GNOME, but dislike Shell and Unity.

    Linux Mint, previously just a well polished Ubuntu, will use Gnome3 with traditional interface in the next release.

    1. Yes, I know this, but I prefer the ease of use that Ubuntu gives me. Also, see the community and PPAs.

      Gnome3 has a traditional interface? Like I can keep all my panels and stuff? If so, that’s pretty cool. I thought shell was “where it was at” so to speak.

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