Ubuntu 11.04 – What Have They Done?!

The New Look Ubuntu 11.04 Beta Desktop
Ubuntu 11.04 Beta Desktop

My imagination has been racing with ideas about how great Ubuntu 11.04 will be when finally released. Unable to contain my enthusiasm any longer I decided to download Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1 and give it a whirl on my newly built AMD quad core PC. I am absolutely flabbergasted at how shit the new Natty distro is. I can see “natty” becoming a byword for “trash” and when it does “Natty by name, natty by nature.” will be this distro’s maxim.

A long time user and proponent of Ubuntu and all things Linux and open source, I am well placed to say to anyone who intends to install Natty, “Stop! Curb your enthusiasm. Wait for the final release or skip it altogether.”

The new installer options for Ubuntu 11.04
Natty's New Installer Screen

Natty looks good. The installer is easy to follow and gives several installation options. It installs quickly enough. Took around five minutes on my new computer and I had a working OS after restarting the machine. All told, it took about 6 minutes to install and boot to a working desktop.

I was excited when I saw the new Natty desktop load. It heralded new opportunities to explore a new world of Linux adventure. A little wary of the task management panel at the left side of the screen because it reminded me of the bad ol’ MS Office Quick Launch bar from my Windows days, but, I thought, I will just remove it and replace it with quick launch buttons in the panel at the top of the screen.

My wariness was not premature. Little did I know that Natty uses Canonical’s Unity desktop environment shell and that the task management panel is integral of it. Even less did I know that the menu panel at the top of the screen would behave nothing like it does in previous Ubuntu versions. Even worse, new panels could not be added to my desktop to make it behave and look the way I want it to behave and look.

The Unity environment is designed for netbooks and other small screened mobile devices so the developers purposefully saved screen space by,

  • using one permanent menu panel at the top of the screen,
  • removing individual window menus from the tops of all open windows, and
  • making the application panel invisible until the mouse cursor is hovered over the Ubuntu logo image in the menu panel.

Those space saving changes are fantastic and welcome if you use a small screen. But why has Canonical forced them onto everybody else?

Unfortunately there is no task bar and none of the menus that users of previous Ubuntu versions are accustomed to using.

The Applications, Places and System menus that once displayed in the panel at the top of the screen have been removed. I would like to say they have been moved to the task management panel but that isn’t quite true. Some of their menu items have been moved to the management panel. The rest of them have vanished and I’ve yet to find them. Actually, I’m not going to waste the effort finding them, I’m just going to install KDE via Kubuntu. If you haven’t guessed, I’m writing this review of Natty while testing it for the first time.

The menu panel doesn’t even allow quicklaunch buttons (or anything else) to be added to it by end-users. If you dare install it, try right-clicking the panel or anywhere on the desktop and you will see what I mean.

In Unity, window menus are displayed in the menu panel at the top of the screen for whichever window is currently active. My feelings are ambiguous toward this. It does save a little bit of space and makes the windows aesthetically cleaner. But, I have a 19 inch widescreen monitor and I don’t always maximize windows. There is a lot of hand action required to move the mouse cursor from the middle of the screen to the top of the screen just so I can access a menu. Window titles display as expected for non maximized windows. I could happily live with the new menu panel if I could right click a window’s title to access its menu. Sadly, that is not an option.

But my real hatred for Unity is spurred by the complete lack of a taskbar. To find a non active application’s window is a chore that requires Alt+Tab to be pressed to cycle between them otherwise the cursor must be moved to the top right of the screen to activate the task management panel and then the cursor must be moved down the task management panel to locate the icon for the window one wishes to activate. It’s harder than it sounds. There is little distinction in the panel between active windows and application launchers. Plus, it takes as long to do as it has just taken you to read this paragraph.

Overall, Natty seems a little slower to boot than Ubuntu 10.10 and applications take a little longer to launch. Applications are awkward to find in the new task management menu. Swapping between active and inactive windows is a chore. The removal of individual window menus in favor of a menu panel at the screen top increases the time taken to use menu items… Altogether, these few gripes make Natty an Ubuntu release worth skipping.

Remember that this scathing review is of Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1. Perhaps Natty’s final release will be a major improvement. Although I doubt it will improve given the reviews I have read about Unity’s development team not paying attention to user feedback. For example, this quote from a Wikipedia article about Unity:

In March 2011 writer Benjamin Humphrey criticized the development version Unity then being tested for Ubuntu 11.04 on a number of grounds, included a development process that is divorced from user experiences, the lack of response to user feedback, “the seemingly unbelievable lack of communication the design team has” and a user interface which he termed “has become cluttered and inconsistent”. He noted that “design decisions for Unity are seldom made in public, and they’re only announced after due effort, time and money have gone into implementing them. When there is a backlash, decisions are rarely overturned.” He also cited lack of usability in right-to-left languages, lack of differentiation between applications and preferences, inability to query the Unity version number and the use of preferences for logging out and shutting down. He found the launcher hide behavior “counter-intuitive” along with moving items on the launcher, as some are movable and some are not and it is not clear which are or why and the use of “invisible application menus”. He concluded “let me stress: Unity is not all bad…While a number of the concepts in Unity may be flawed from a design point of view, the actual idea itself is not, and Canonical deserve applause for trying to jump start the stagnant open source desktop with Unity when the alternatives do not evoke confidence.”

It’s not all bad. On the plus side, my hardware was detected and installed properly.

You can read more about Ubuntu 11.04 and unity at either of these locations:

If you do decide to take the plunge, and it is a big plunge, remember to add extra software repositories to your installation by following this JournalXtra guide.

Update:

9 hours later, after installing the Kubuntu Desktop Environment alongside Ubuntu along with many updates, upgrades and software packages, I have discovered I can have a taskbar at the bottom of my Ubuntu 11.04 desktop. To get Natty Ubuntu looking somewhat similar to Maverick you must change your desktop environment to “Ubuntu Classic” when you log in by clicking your username then changing “Ubuntu” (in the dropdown box) at the bottom of the screen to “Ubuntu Classic”. I would never have realized this had I not installed KDE (Kubuntu).

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Taine

Once again I will plainly state that Unity is a GIANT LEAP backwards. There is nothing to be proud of here.

Thankfully Kubuntu and Xubuntu are still options.

frodo

i love it.. from alpha 1 to current beta 1 i think its brilliant.. i can blindly do simple tasks or dig deeper and power use it.. the author’s first thought should have been to click the little drop down box and select the type of session rather than run off half-cocked..

personally i dont want another gnome2 clone. i have a gnome2 set up on ubu 10.10 and im happy with it. i want something different. i enjoy change if it brings something to the table and i don’t run from it..

natty is a great move for ubuntu..

Florent

I’m very in phase with DionDeville : I’m really really disapointed by Natty/Unity and the very low level or personnalization allowed. Besides, I’m encountering several severe issues following the move to Natty : random “no start” (apparently linked to my video card), extremely low LibreOffice tasks (e.g. Sorting!)… I’m a newcomer to Linux, and I was quite postive with Maverick… now I’m even using Windows again, where OpenOffice is running much quicker, and I have “quick” shortcuts in easy places !… I stil hope I’ll be able to fix the issues, and, maybe, next release will offer more flexibilty !..

Do you know, somehow I missed you, Florent, sorry for that. It looks like Oneiric is little better. Try Linux Mint or Kubuntu instead of straight laced Ubuntu. Kubuntu uses KDE for its desktop. KDE, in my opinion, is a more rounded and complete experience.

Martijn

“To get Natty Ubuntu looking somewhat similar to Maverick you must change your desktop environment to “Ubuntu Classic” when you log in by clicking your username then changing “Ubuntu” (in the dropdown box) at the bottom of the screen to “Ubuntu Classic”.” I can already tell you that this option will no longer be present in 11.10. At least, I read yesterday that this will be the case. So this is a temporary reprieve. Personally I will probably continue using 10.4 LTS as long as I can, then switch to Xubuntu or Linux Mint, assuming Mint still had classic Gnome… Read more »

Caraibes

We are slowly moving everything to Xfce… Not Xubuntu, but Xfce proper, with a taskbar on the bottom of the screen, and regular old fashion icons on the desktop…
Also a simple, win2k-like menu…

Neosanor

Don’t forget about Lubuntu. Xubuntu is useless in a comparision with Lubntu.

AlaskanPotHead

I really really want to like this version of Ubuntu. Right now I hate it, but I think that will change when the bugs are worked out, and I can find solutions on Google again. I’ve loved Linux since day one because I could customize it in any way I want. Now I can’t. Or I don’t know how. And it’s not just Ubuntu. Firefox 4 is giving me the sh*ts, too. I feel like I’m having to relearn how to use a computer. I don’t mind learning, and I don’t mind change. But the developers had to know this… Read more »

NikTheGeek

Hmmm, not sure… I got bored of Ubuntu after using it from 8 through 9 to 10.04 and moved back to a KDE distro, this time Mandriva (I used to use SuSE before Ubuntu). After accidentally trashing KDE4 on Mandriva, I figured I’d give Ubuntu 11.04 beta a go. I have to say, first impressions are not that good. It looks like a childs netbook OS. But then I also hated the look of Vista when it came out, preffering XP. I hated XP when it came out, prefering Windows 98 and Windows 95 before that. However, Windows 7 has… Read more »

NikTheGeek

Well, 2 days in and its growing on me already. I’m using it as my main OS (no choice after accidentally trashing KDE4 on Mandriva with no hope of recovery!!) :) Been using Linux since SuSE 6.x – a fair few years. So, after 2 days my findings are: 1. Looks fantastic. Looks like an OS you would buy. 2. Great for new linux users and by new I mean really new as its so different from anything else 3. The Unity taskbar isn’t movable by design. But you can easily add/remove icons to it. It acts as a taskbar… Read more »

Simon

Aaaaggggggghhhhh!

I tried to install Ubuntu 11 and ended up with Windows ME.

vickie travis

This system is pretty bad. The only good thing I have found so far is that Firefox does run faster. Nothing else does. On my system the mail is a blank page if I run Firefox at the same time. What a waste of time this day has been. It even looks like Windows which is as sad as it can get. I wish that I read all of your comments before installing.

Thanks very much for this – I too was appalled by the change when I upgraded a few days ago.  The new desktop was a terrible “step forward”.  I am this instant now finally very happy with “Ubuntu Classic”!

meeko

Don’t like! Don’t want windoze clone!
I like to be able to move things around, hide panels, add what I want. I am glad I did a dual boot with my old ubuntu 10.10 Now I can just wipe it out and wait to see what ubuntu 12 brings

Vaughan

 i’ve just started using, and yes my biggest issue is not being able to customise my desktop, i want quick launch, I want to be able to move the task bar to the bottom, add a panel to the top too etc etc. however it looks great, just these little annoyances. & running in dual screen mode has a few annoyances too, when opening apps, and they enlarge onto the other screen. if running a video in full screen mode like I am at the time i’m typing this, then a panel (menu bar appears on the top screen aswell… Read more »

Vaughan Montgomery

well after a few months and many frustrations. my conclusion is that I absolutely hate unity. ubuntu 11.04 & now 11.10 (no classic mode anymore) has convinced me to dump ubuntu completely. running unity with dual monitors is a nightmare. watching movies is a nightmare. customising the desktop is a nightmare. i totally detest unity. and for that matter, Gnome3 is about as awful & user unfriendly as unity is. gnome shell the same. and by god it’s a chore to get unity off and gnome2 on, yet keeping the security updates and the like working correctly. in fact i… Read more »

Vaughan

 i’ve just started using, and yes my biggest issue is not being able to customise my desktop, i want quick launch, I want to be able to move the task bar to the bottom, add a panel to the top too etc etc. however it looks great, just these little annoyances. & running in dual screen mode has a few annoyances too, when opening apps, and they enlarge onto the other screen. if running a video in full screen mode like I am at the time i’m typing this, then a panel (menu bar appears on the top screen aswell… Read more »

I’ve just been passed an “old” laptop from a family who’ve bought a new one, and done what I do – download and install the latest Ubuntu. This is the first and last thing I’ll be doing in 11.04. If “new users” like this, good luck to them. I hate it. I’ve been using Linux since the mid-90s, professionally for 12 years now, and this is just silly. There’s so much eye-candy that you can’t do anything without some effect or other kicking in, and everything useful is concealed. So, back to 10.04 LTS for the time being and time… Read more »

Allan, you’re welcome and thank you for making me laugh :) 11.04 is a mistake. Just when Ubuntu was going well in the usability stakes, Canonical go and stitch us up with Unity. I reckon MS or Mac have bought them off.

Nice one with the laptop! I don’t know how old it is but Mint is a well developed distro.

Philip Gray

Hi Allan I agree with you. After reading all the complaints about Natty on various forums. I have decided to stay on 10.04LTS and only upgrade to the next LTS version. Hopefully by that time Unity will be easier to use.

Regards
Philip

Cloudkkr

Yes I was really disappointed too, its really irritating when you have to minimize everything , just to get to anything. And then have to point to a side for a panel that may or may come out.. And sometimes comes out and stays. Or pops out when you don’t want it to.. I dont know what they were thinking. I use the classic on login too. soooooo sad.

dman

I believe that the author meant “wary” instead of “weary” and “wariness” instead of “weariness”.

Good catch! Thanks. I’ve corrected it.

Anonymous

Initial reaction: Hate It!!! But by “shier tyranny of will” decided to give it an extended go. Biggest grype (so far): systray? What did they do with the systray? Yeah, Yeah: there is an option to set apps to ‘all’ – but it doesn’t work!!! It will solves problem for some while breaking another (like skype). Somewhat solved by using all default settings + ‘all’ (not just ‘all’). Running apps minimized is a real hassle. I see t-bird running on the background and via notification applet, but can’t bring it back to foreground (the only way is to launch a new instance and… Read more »

None

I think, I mean, positively know that you are WRONG! You can, after all select Ubuntu Classic. Ummm… you should have done your homework!

You missed the BIG BLACK EMBOLDENED paragraph at the bottom of the post that explains how to change from Unity to Classic. For punishment, you must read two or more JournalXtra posts for homework. Not too much of a punishment, I know, given that my writing is so awesome but, none-the-less you might learn something. Start with this one.

Geraint

Thanks for the ‘Ubuntu C;assic’ tip – that saved me hours of work.

My productivity had plummeted with the new interface – thank goodness I don’t have to use it any more :)

You’re welcome. I agree 100%: Unity is a horrible interface.

Codeelegance

Thank God for the “Ubuntu Classic” tip.  One look at Unity, and I had the download running for 10.10.  What is it with Linux Desktop Developers?  I left KDE because of the interfering eye candy, now this?

I don’t know. My understanding was that Linux is about freedom – if you dislike something about the desktop then you can change it. Sadly, I think the Ubuntu developers forgot that when they developed Unity.

LXDE is a good alternative to Unity. It is a pretty basic desktop shell/environment. I’ve written a list of alternatives at https://journalxtra.com/2011/04/omg-unity-is-horrible-what-do-i-do/

From what I’ve read, Gnome 3 will be a built in option for Ubuntu 11.10 users. Personally, I will be giving Ubuntu a lot of distance in the future – I’m sticking with KDE on Kubuntu for a while.

Mari Huana

all fair complaints most of those bugged me at first, but much of them can be fixed with customizations.

Chris

I love unity – and I hated the usability of Gnome. The Unity taskbar gives me everything I ever wanted, without installing annoying extras like Awn…

I’m much more productive with Unity than with Gnome.

CC

I think it is great although I am far from being an expert in the field of computers.
I does all that I ask of it and its a new look as well. I am pleased.  To the engineers
standing out on a limb… Well done, thanks for the new look.

One of the best things about Linux is the level of customization it gives to end users like you and I. I just can’t get along with Unity. It isn’t that it’s different to what I’m used to using; it just does not do what I expect desktop shell to do. I think it is great to see innovation. I like that the Ubuntu team took a brave step and introduced something new to Linux. I just wish more consideration had been given to the desires of those end users whom might prefer the old way of doing things. I… Read more »

Bart

I’m so pissed of at the update. I has Ubuntu for one day, was totaly happy with it (taskbar et al). Then I got this huge list op updates and now desktop work is ackward and tiring.

Bart

You might like this: the second result in google (lol) said to type into temrinal:

nohup gnome-panel

(nohup makes it stays active after closing terminal)

I’m glad you posted that, I might need it when I next login to gnome or Unity. I’ve switched back to KDE since Unity came out.

I’ve just checked for updates and I have 45 to do now and another 283 to do after them. Let’s see whether anything breaks, lol.

Anonymous

Apparently, 11.04 is being renamed Barack Obama!!!

Psychosnotters

been using ubuntu since 6.04 –  loving it – now after years of getting things the way i like them I need to rethink and redesign the ways I use it. Already spent hours tweaking and searching for answers. I’m still not at a comfy place so I’m giving up – having to do all this for each machine I install / reinstall ubuntu on is too much of a headache – I’m on the look for a new distro. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Give Linux Mint a try. Otherwise consider swapping to Kubuntu (KDE). In my opinion, KDE is a better environment. It’s easier to configure and resembles a traditional desktop environment, however it is hungrier for resources so is not ideal for ancient hardware.

I’m putting on the KDE desktop as I type. And then I’m going to start searching for something else. This is worse than ridiculous.

From what I can see, Gnome 3 is not much better though I haven’t tried it for a while. I have tried xfce and lde. I prefer KDE. Have you tried Linux Mint? It might be what you’re looking for.

Jimmy

They have destroyed everything. Gnome-shell is much worse, with Unit you fell in a mousse trap and you cant go fallback because it is not the same. You are trapped.
They have been copying many things from apple but not those which were better.
All in all a complete disaster.
The first thing they should do is adopt the lemma “Pauca sed matura” and stop deploying pre-alpha versions.

Fulloffullness2002-accountc

What he said—Windows ME arose from the dead.

Emailgarvin

I hate to say it, but Windows 7 is more enjoyable to use with its interface and pining icons. Unity has destroyed Ubuntu.

Worst still running Unity on atom processor netbook, some applications like software center and firefox can take 20 seconds to open.

What is happening here, Windows is now much quicker?

http://www.printernational.co.uk

indignado

I wanted to give it a try to ubuntu 11.10 and as result is much slower than windows in the same machine. It take longer time to start up. And the usability is terrible, there is a vertical bar that appears each time I want to close a window, preventing me to close the window, instead I clicked in this button and opens a dash home, is terrible. Also I cant move windows, they are always maximized. What they were thinking?’ cant just copy window’s interface?

Give Kubuntu a try. It’s a more mature and a more refined system.

joe cipale

I bought a new Intel dual-core i5 and installed 4 version of linux (ubuntu, debian, suse and fedora). I can honestly say that the direction of the OS is spiraling into a turd-hole that is somewhat disturbing. The worst of the installs was ubuntu! I HATE UNITY! If I wanted a damn OS X or Windows interface (which unity reminds me of) I would have BOUGHT an (Cr)Apple or Windows OS. instead, I am contemtplating install a 32-bit version and foregoing the 6GB of DDR in favor of an OS that WORKS. I cant say that about ubuntu at this… Read more »

I got your messages too. Thanks. I’ll move the message box a little further down from the comment box.

Ubuntu has definitely gone the wrong way. I hope hope it leaps forward
to something better in the near future. I like Kubuntu, myself.

There’s nothing  to be gained with this new ubuntu 11:04 – the taskbar is missing and a lot more features have been hidden by default. I think it’s a huge step backward for the community.

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