My Week with Ubuntu Natty Narwhal
Here it is, a stunningly beautiful Sunday morning in May. Cherry blossoms; leaves bursting forth above sun-washed green grass; colorful tulips beneath a blue sky. And I’m sitting inside to regale you Linux users out there with my thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 after using it sparingly for the past week. After this I promise: no more harping on about this new version of Ubuntu, or specifically the new Unity desktop.
So after a week of playing around, my experience with Ubuntu and Unity is this: I think it has great potential to be a visually pleasing and user-friendly desktop operating system, but it’s not there yet. I find myself wishing Canonical had waited till the next Ubuntu release in October to switch to Unity. It just has too many annoying little bugs. If you want to have an operating system that has the same functionality of the previous Ubuntu with Gnome 2 you need to search around the internet and add all kinds of other people’s hacks to get many basic things to work. And that’s for someone like myself who is familiar with how Linux works and where to find these hacks. For someone wanting to switch from Windows or Mac, this would seem pretty user unfriendly/difficult to configure. And even then, I find many things still don’t work right.
Just a simple thing like the panel weather indicator; it’s set to auto-update every fifteen minutes but it never does. If I manually update the weather, the temperature information beside the picture icon disappears. Then if I open the preferences and change something, and click ‘OK’, nothing happens for a minute and then the dialog box goes gray and I have to force-quit the indicator. This happens every time! Another example: every time I open Firefox it pops open in full Maximize mode. I don’t want it maximized. When it’s maximized the window control buttons appear in the left side of the Global Menu Bar instead of the right side of the window where I’ve used ‘Ubuntu Tweak’ to set all other window buttons because I prefer them on the right. I can Unmaximize the Firefox window a dozen times, but when I restart Firefox it’s Maximized again. It never did that before. I don’t know how to change it!
I know it’s not such a big deal, but it’s these little inconsistencies that build up and annoy the crap out of me! Before Unity I never had these problems. Things just worked and I could configure to my heart’s content without having to disable Global Menu or use someone else’s hack. There have been other similar little bugs. This is why I think anyone wanting to try Unity might be better off waiting till Ubuntu 11.10. There are fixes for things appearing almost daily, but why use an operating system that doesn’t work well without installing a hundred patches? You might as well use Windows!
But it all comes down to: if you enjoy it, use it! If not, there are tons of other options in the Linux universe. (And don’t get me started on Gnome 3 right now).
So here’s the end of my little rant. For anyone out there interested in trying Linux for the first time I would still heartily recommend Linux Mint, or if you really want lots of apps and bells and whistles pre-installed, Pinguy OS is quite groovy, too.
If you’ve been around the block with Linux a bit, also try Bodhi Linux with the Enlightenment window manager. It’s light, gorgeous and configurable to the nth degree. And in my opinion, makes Unity look old and crude in comparison.
So get outside and smell the honeysuckle! Give your mother a kiss and a hug. Or give someone else’s mother a kiss!
Happy Mother’s Day!