Tag Archive: Ubuntu 11.04

Final thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15

For some time now I’ve been wrestling with the idea of writing my final thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15, the reason for me taking so long to figure out if I wanted to write this post in the first place will become clearer after you read this post.

It’s no secret by reading my previous first look review, that I was not a fan of GNOME-Shell, or Unity. While was hoping that the experience would become much more fluid in the final releases, I was still left disappointed.

However, I gave both a fair shot using both for roughly 2 to 3 weeks to try and determine if after using it for a prolonged period of time, my views would change. In addition to my own experience I also turned to the Linux community and looked at both positive and negative reviews centering on both interfaces. Surprisingly, what I found was a mixed set of opinions; however most of them had only a handful of nice things to say about the interface and a bucket full of negative. The main reason for me viewing these reviews was to ensure that I was using them correctly, I did not want to base my opinion solely on the fact that I was struggling to figure certain aspects of it.

While all of the reviews I looked at nitpicked about small things some of which had no relevance to stability or even usability, others touched on small problems that could easily have been fixed prior to release. While I haven’t touched either one of these distributions and about a weeks’ time, last time I did some of these mistakes were still present. To give you an example of how silly some things are in terms of mistakes, I will point out one in Fedora 15 specifically.

Fedora decided to take a different approach and separate the software repository lists tool from the actual updates tool, this in itself is fine in my opinion. Were the silly mistake part comes in is that loading GNOME-Shell, and looking for the update tool to get the current updates for your system. You are presented with two tools with exactly the same icon in virtually identical names; one is called update and the other updates. Through trial and error I discovered that the one with the S at the end of it actually pulls up a repository configuration dialog you can select which repositories are used for installing packages and receiving updates. I know this sounds like nitpicking however it is very confusing and something that is easily corrected, and something that should’ve never ended up in the final version.

Update: as of right now the icons have changed. But they’re both still named exactly the same with the exception of an S

If your computer is not powerful enough to run GNOME-Shell or you just don’t have the proprietary graphics drivers installed, you will go into a fallback session of GNOME 3. This is not to be confused with GNOME 2, I have read a lot of misconceptions that the fallback mode is in fact a stripped down version of GNOME 2. This is in fact false; GNOME-Shell is merely a GUI interface on top of the GNOME 3 libraries. You can tell this by looking at the version of GTK that the fallback session uses, its version 3. Below is a screenshot that might explain why a lot of people confuse the two.

Fallback session

GNOME 3 Fallback Session Warning Dialog

I’m not sure why exactly, but the icon on the dialogue reminds me of the old sad Macintosh, icon that you use to get when your Mac would have a fatal error.

Next to that screenshot you can see one of the desktop that’s loaded in a fallback session.

Fallback Session Desktop

GNOME 3 Fallback Session Desktop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates Dialog Panel 1

Updates Dialog Panel 1

Updates Dialog Panel 2

Updates Dialog Panel 2

 

Virtual Box can run GNOME-Shell or unity just fine after you install the guest additions, below is a screenshot of the update, updates, issue I was talking about.

Most other distributions used their repository configuration dialogue with a different name that distinguishes it from the update program, such as sources.

 

Update, Updates issue

Screenshot showing how both tools are named Similarly

I put a circle around the two specific programs to draw attention so that it would be easier to pinpoint them.

To further illustrate how this could be confusing, below are two screenshots that show the two tabs on the updates dialogue, below that is a screenshot from the update dialog.

Update Dialog

Update Dialog

This is not an incredibly huge error; it’s not even one that will affect stability of your system. No this is more a cosmetic and user experience related issue. Some might argue that they’ve been labeled this way for several releases now, however when using GNOME-Shell they show up right next to each other under the applications section, which is the cause for the confusion. In a fallback session, or on previous versions of GNOME, these two tools showed up in completely separate menus, which made it less confusing because you are less likely to see both of them side-by-side.

Again, I know this is a long that of a rant to go on about such a small problem, but I just wanted to make it clear what the confusion was and say that if I’m confused, having used previous versions of Fedora that the average user coming from another distribution might be even more confused.

 

That aside, once you get past GNOME-Shell Fedora 15 is a fairly solid release despite the multiple reviews; I’ve read that point to the contrary. On my last review Fedora 15 was in the alpha stages, and I talked about a lot of the new features that the average user would recognize most of these have not changed (other than getting more stable).

I did notice one quirk they kind of bugged me, while this is not a bug, and it is in fact an intentional change, I don’t understand the methodology behind the change. I’m talking about the fact that if you ever create your own RPMs and Fedora things have become slightly more confusing. It used to be that all you needed to do in order to sign and build RPM packages was to install the development tools group from Yum. It seems for whatever reason they’ve taken the GPG signing integration out of RPM by default. This functionality can of course be added back, but it requires installing a separate package. There’s absolutely no documentation that I’ve been able to find that explains the reasoning behind this change, or even that the change took place. I literally spent three hours trying to sign a package through RPM only to find that some person on a forum somewhere discovered that this RPM signing functionality was moved into a separate package called rpm-sign.

I’m not a developer and certainly not in a position to question Fedora’s policies on what to include and what not to include in a default installation. However, if they insist on breaking this functionality of RPM out into a separate package, then the least they could do is added to the development tools group, this way and somebody does a group install of the development tools this packages pulled down alongside other packages necessary to build and sign rpm’s. As I said, this is not a bug; it’s an intentional step, though the reasoning behind it at least to me is not known.

I did have one other bad experience out of my entire Fedora 15 experience. I’m not sure if this was specific to my machine, or if this happens with everybody. What happened was this, I installed Fedora 15 with the default package set, then once Fedora 15 was loaded I updated it decided I didn’t like GNOME-Shell and didn’t want to use the fallback session. I then began looking at other desktop environments that I could install; naturally, my first replacement was KDE which installed perfectly with no issues. However, upon having installed KDE and booting into it at least once GNOME stopped working altogether, in fact when you try to log into GNOME you we get an error message similar to the one in the screenshot above. The differences this error message would tell you that GNOME had a fatal error, and was not able to start. No amount of logging out and logging back in would make this message go away. Ironically, however, installing Fedora 15 with KDE and GNOME from the installer seems to bypass this issue, at least for me.

I know you guys are pricing report it, file a bug report! The problem is I’m not exactly sure what caused the error so submitting a bug report with the small amount of information I have would not be useful to anybody, especially the person that would help me try to solve the problem. Again, this issue may not be present for everybody; it may have just been some quirk on my specific machine.

Ubuntu – Alternatives

Party did a review of Ubuntu 11.04 stable, some not to repeat the same information. I will however link to that blog entry below. What I will do however is tell you a few alternatives to Ubuntu that I found that are based off of Ubuntu, but don’t have that pesky unity.

This is going to be a very quick section. Basically I’m getting give you a list of two or three distributions that have tried that are derivatives of Ubuntu and give you a brief synopsis of my experience followed by a link to the website to get more information.

Zorin – this distribution is extremely cool looking, and I’m not just saying that because I love the color blue (which this distribution has a lot of). There are a lot of custom tools included that let you change the look of this distribution to match other operating systems, including Mac OS X. This distribution is every bit as user-friendly as Ubuntu is and as I mentioned even includes several tools that are unique to this distribution to make the experience that much easier.

Linux Mint – most of you reading this who have had any experience with Ubuntu it all have probably heard of mint, some like to go into too much detail here. I will however say that the newer version of mint is the best version I have seen to date. I’m not exactly sure which version of Ubuntu. This was based off of, what I do know is that it uses GNOME 2. This is good news for everybody out there who hates unity is much as I did.

Ubuntu with XFCE – yes I understand there is a officials then of Ubuntu that includes this as the default desktop, but in order to get an experience that you’re used to as Ubuntu user, I recommend installing Ubuntu and then going to synaptic and installing XFCE. This will allow you to use XFCE while main containing a lot of the GNOME libraries and utilities that you’re used to.

Well, that wraps up this blog post. Sorry for being so long-winded, but I had a lot to say. As always, comments are welcome, one thing I prefer not to see in the comments are remarks like “unity rocks you’re insane for not liking it”, or “GNOME-Shell makes Fedora faster, it’s the future” those kinds of comments to me serve no constructive purpose as they are opinions usually ones that a majority of the people may not agree with or could agree with. Bottom line if you want to tell me why you think unity or GNOME-Shell is worth keeping around try to do in a constructive way. Don’t just say it rocks.

Ubuntu Unity Review

Ubuntu 11.04 – review of unity interface

In a rather long blog post I wrote several months ago, I compared my first looks at the Fedora 15 Alpha and Ubuntu 11.04 beta. I also promised that once each one of these distributions was released I was going to do a more in depth review of each one. Ubuntu 11.04 has been out now for quite some time, due to the fact the Fedora 15 is not yet in its final stage I’m going to hold off for reviewing that.

This review is going to be focused primarily on the unity interface, my first use of the unity interface was a little skewed back in the alpha. This could have been due partly to the fact that I was running Ubuntu inside of a virtual machine, which is known not to work with the next generation desktop special effects such as unity in Ubuntu and Gnome shell and Gnome 3. To circumvent any problems that may arise with having Ubuntu in a virtual machine, I set up a small partition on a second hard drive and installed it natively having a dual-boot between Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.04.

First impressions of unity were not very good. There were a lot of artifacts on the screen, as well as several black spots blocking text, I found out later that these were due to the fact that the open-source driver for my video card was not up to par for handling the 3-D effects, installing the proprietary drivers using the hardware management tool and Ubuntu fixed this problem.

While I generally enjoyed the overall look of unity, it seemed to be way to stripped and too simplistic for somebody with my level of knowledge (though my level of knowledge is nowhere near as much as other users who use Ubuntu). There were a few things I liked about it, such as the remapping of the Windows key on my keyboard to pull up a search dialogue to be able to search for programs, if you ask me this was a brilliant remapping, the fact is a lot of Windows users switching to Ubuntu use the Windows key fairly often to pull up the start menu in Windows. While was entirely possible to remap the Windows key Using older versions of Ubuntu or clearly any other distribution, the fact that it was remapped by default. To me just seems like a good idea. Now before installing the initial updates that came with Ubuntu.

After installing it, I found unity to be a much more pleasing experience with the exception of one or two features that to me just drove me bonkers, a prime example: pre-update Firefox still had its menu contained within the Firefox window, post update the menus were then moved out of the Firefox window and opened the black taskbar across the top of the screen. Now to most people this might seem like a good change, however somebody who spends the majority of their time in Windows for whatever reason might find this extremely annoying, I know I did. I haven’t yet looked for a solution to convert this back to the way it was, although I’m sure one exists or will shortly. I was trying to keep Ubuntu as close to the default installation is possible so that this review would apply to as many people as possible, if I had gone and customized a bunch of the features my experience might be different than somebody who just installed Ubuntu.

There were some intuitive things that thing could have been worked into unity they would have made it a little more user-friendly, some of these include frequently used programs showing up in the launch bar by default. As it stands under a currently default install of Ubuntu, if you wanted to make a specific program launcher permanently show up in the launcher bar, You would have to right-click it, While the program is open and click pin to launcher or something to that effect. I know it seems like I am just nitpicking but this is something that could drive a new user to Linux, especially one that’s never even touched it before nuts.

Ubuntu claims to be an operating system that’s extremely friendly and even somebody who’s never used Linux before, even specifically targeting somebody switching from Windows to Linux, as using Ubuntu is a good starting point. My beef with this claim is that if they take such simple, intuitive features and make them five or six more steps than they need to be you will only confuse new users. I mean yes of course most of the hardware 95% of time is going to work out-of-the-box, this is something that Ubuntu is extremely popular for.

Unity to me seems like it was geared towards people who wanted a simple experience, and one that was formatted specifically for touch devices such as a tablet PC. This is great for Tablet PCs, this however in my opinion sucks for desktop use, I don’t consider myself to be an advanced Linux user but, I do know enough about settings that I’d like a little more control, and while unity does not constrict any of the functionality of Ubuntu, it makes it feel like you’re restricted to me anyway. Yes, there is a way to disable unity and run in what they call classic mode, however you have to figure how to do this yourself because no documentation I have been able to find comes with Ubuntu explaining how to do it. Yes I could figure it out when it comes time for me to do that.

Now I know a lot of you who are pro-Ubuntu are probably go to say I’m being biased because I’m a Fedora person, I’ll be fair and say that what little bit I’ve seen of gnome shell doesn’t impress me either. I’m not a fan of over simplifying the user experience, simplifying is okay in my opinion but over simplifying just makes me feel stupid. It’s almost as if these distributions are trying to say the average Linux user now has no common sense, So let’s make things as easy as possible, in reality, they often end up making things so much more complicated for somebody who is used to using it the old way.

So I know this post is supposed to be a review about unity and I haven’t talked about many of the features, this is mainly due to the fact that there really aren’t any features that you can’t see when you look at screenshots of unity. I will touch on a few below, just for the sake of a decent review, myself, as well as some of the other people I’ve talked to however seem to think they unity is going to be dragging Ubuntu in the wrong direction. I am not against Ubuntu making a spin specifically geared towards the tablet PC, for such a spin unity would be perfect. When I use a desktop computer, I want to use a desktop computer not a super powerful tablet experience, this is why IOS is not made into a desktop platform, it would make any sense. Just like why was somebody install Android as their primary operating system on their PC.

One thing it did particularly like about unity was the fact that by default it seems to try to organize open windows in a fashion where there no overlapping, however you can still overlap windows if you want, they just don’t open that way. Also, thank God, If you try to maximize a window, it makes that bar that unity bar on the left go away, this is extremely useful, particularly for people with smaller computer monitors. I myself have a 27 inch monitors so screen real estate is almost at an abundance, but somebody with a 15 inch screen or smaller would not have the same amount of screen real estate. Therefore, if that bar didn’t hide when some was full-screen practically all of their screen would be filled with that bar.

Some of the key combinations that people are used to in Windows work with unity as well, such as Alt + Tab which can be used to cycle through open programs. As simplistic as unity is, some shortcuts that advanced users grieving users that have grown accustomed to keyboard shortcuts, might miss is Alt +F2 this key combination. It used open dialogue we could enter a command in the GUI, this would allow for quick launching programs without having to open a terminal window. As far as I can tell there’s no way to enable this in Ubuntu 11.04, I’m sure you could make a custom keyboard shortcut that would do the same thing, but that’s a little out of the scope of being easy to use out-of-the-box. I mean seriously, how much memory could that little feature of possibly taken up that they needed to strip it out of the distribution in a default ship?

Bottom line here if you’re looking with going with Ubuntu as your Linux distribution of choice, and you want a experience is very close To the Way, Windows was set up, then you’re probably either going to want to run 11.04 in classic mode, or run the latest long-term service release. Canonical has made a great product with Ubuntu. Building on free and open source software, so don’t get me wrong by the negativity in this blog post. I’m not being negative about Ubuntu itself.

Ubuntu is a great operating system and know tons of people who use it every day as their primary operating system, unity, however, is an entirely different matter. I was one of those people who was outraged when it was announced that 11.04 was going to have unity and by default, but what really did it in for me was when I found out unity cannot be removed, it just simply cannot be removed. It’s like cancer. Thinking back I know one other piece of software in a popular operating system that cannot be removed and starts with the letter I and ends with the letter R, and uses the abbreviation IE.

If you want to include unity fine, at least give people the chance to remove unity if they don’t like it, and install something else in its place. My honest advic, If you’re going to go with Ubuntu 11.04, think about Kubuntu 11.04 KDE seems to be a lot closer to the kind of experience that I would come to have expected from a desktop operating system.

Oh in case you’re curious the blog post I mentioned at the beginning the one where I compared early versions of February 15 to early versions of Ubuntu 11.04, I can be found by clicking here

as always, please feel welcome to leave comments below, I don’t expect to make a lot of friends with some of the statements of listed above but I’m not about to lie about what I feel. Canonical if you’re reading this which I seriously doubt, great job on Ubuntu 11.04 just ditch unity already in your operating system will be gold in my opinion.