2011-04-11

Natty Not-quite

I've blogged before about trying to go back to Linux on my laptop, and made my requirements very clear. Windows 7 pre-installed had more working features than any of my attempts to install Linux. But as always with Windows, it got slow. After a bit of investigation and trying out, i decided to take the plunge.
So these last few months, i've been running Ubuntu 10.04 on my laptop. And it grew on me. I do like the panel integration, and got really used a lot of features. I miss the little bit of extra polish and features from KDE, but appreciate the stability and native support for Gimp and Eclipse. Most things worked great, until one update broke the sleep/suspend function - a great annoyance for a netbook! So i took the plunge and went 10.10, hoping a new kernel would fix it. This broke sleep even more - no longer just not sleeping, but not waking up and sometimes not booting after having been restarted from sleeping. Thankfully everything else was ok.
After a month or two of anger at the sleep issue and reading a bunch of reviews of 11.04 beta, i decided let me try that out - again thinking a newer kernel might help. The new 'Unity' ( not to be confused with the awesome game engine i'm growing to love ) interface intrigued me. And after a few days with it, i hate it in the same way that i hate Mac OS. It has taken exactly what i can't stand from OSX and put it in my Linux. Thankfully i can still go Gnome Classic, but if this is the future of Ubuntu, i'll take a step away for a while. That is until the following critical user experience issues ( some of which are also in OSX ) are addressed:
  • The dock is unwieldy if you have a lot of applications. I either have to scroll ( really slowly ) or drag vertically which is clunky at best with a mouse.
  • The dock is a little too twitchy and none of the behavior options feel right. There's something annoying about having to go to the top to activate it. I have to direct my mouse a bit more than i'm used to. OSX and KDE this fantastically, the dock is always ready and pops up when you need it to. Windows still has an issue - since '98 - where it sometimes doesn't focus are refuses to pop up.
  • The unified menu bar forces extra clicks. I hate it in OSX, and hate it here. I often have multiple windows open, and sometimes am mentally focusing on a background window. This may be that the foreground window is a popup or something insignificant to me. I always have to do a double take when i see the wrong menu bar. This may not make sense to some people, but i often operate with 2 screens or with small overlays and the 'foremost' app might not be immediately obvious. In which case the menu bar becomes non-obvious. I want an option to en/disable it like in old-school KDE ( remember those days? ).
  • If i have 2 windows of the same app open, there's no easy way to access either with one click. This happens a lot in apps like Empathy and Chrome. I first have to pull out the unwieldy dock, then click on Chrome - which i see has 2 little arrows. Then it zooms out and presents me with 2 thumbs of my windows. That's great and all, though a little hard to see with fullscreen apps. My suggestion here would be to look at Windows 7 as an example of the new wave of app management done right. Hover over the taskbar item, get presented with thumbs. Hover over the thumb, bringing the hovered window to the front. At first i hated the step toward the OSX style there, but i quickly realised that they made it work. Unity has basically knocked off OSX.
Not to say i hate everything about it. I like the speed, and it looks great. The new app launcher is excellent so far despite one or two crashes. The idea of a dock isn't horrible, but i'd like more control over it, not some hidden options in the Compiz settings.
And a final note for anyone who's going to troll... get used to articles like this as Linux becomes more popular... it's called constructive criticism, and i noticed the Linux community often doesn't take it very well. This is just an opinion, you're free to point out - in a rational manner - any mistakes i have made, or correct my assumptions.

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