Feeds

Natty Narwhal with Unity: Worst Ubuntu beta ever

Nightmare KDE 4 scenario replayed

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

OS X with complications

The launcher/dock is a fine example thanks to bad workflow in Unity. Sure, it has great keyboard shortcuts but what if you want to do something as basic as make the dock smaller or resize icons? Initially there was no way to do it. Now there's a patch to enable such basic features, but the fact that it was only an afterthought gives you a glimpse of how far behind the needs of everyday users Unity really is at this point.

Or, how about another basic function like adding a new application to the dock? You might assume you could simply drag an app icon from your application menu into the dock, after all, that works in Windows and Mac OS X. Unity, however, has something a bit more complex in mind - first you'll need to open the app, then you'll need to right-click the icon in the dock (assuming your right click works, which, if you have a Synaptics trackpad, it may not) and then choose "Keep in Launcher." Yes, it's not that hard, but it's also three steps more complicated than every other OS on the market.

Ubuntu 10.04 Unity Software Center

The Software Center now offers user reviews of apps

There's also the familiar looking GNOME-like bar at the top of the desktop, which looks like a GNOME bar, quacks like a GNOME bar, but is definitely not a GNOME bar.

Want to add something to the main window, say a weather app or maybe news ticker? No dice. The Add to Panel option is gone. If you want to add something to the global menu bar you'll need to install the appropriate indicator app. Over time perhaps more GNOME panel apps will be ported to the new Ubuntu format, but for now it's slim pickings and the process is far more awkward than it was in GNOME 2.x.

Another step backward in this release is the more intensive graphics requirements. Much of what's good in Unity comes from OpenGL, which doesn't work with every graphics card and chipset. If your PC isn't up to snuff there is Unity 2D, a kind of backport of Unity's features without the graphics overhead. It's not the default option for less capable PCs, but Unity 2D is in the Software Center if you'd like to try it on older hardware.

Beta releases are never fully stable, but this is the first Ubuntu beta I've tested that routinely suffered from application crashes. For example, Banshee was so unstable it took ten tries just to keep it open long enough to grab a screenshot for this review. The problem doesn't seem to be with Banshee since it works just fine on Ubuntu 10.10.

Similar problems plagued LibreOffice (Ubuntu's new default office suite) and the Workspace switcher, which only worked about half the time in my testing. Compiz is similarly unstable.

Back to Classic

If Unity strikes you as half-baked there is, thankfully, the Ubuntu Classic desktop option. Essentially GNOME 2.32, the Classic Desktop option nevertheless includes at least one Unity feature - the global menu.

Ubuntu has always offered a bit more polish to its interfaces than other Linux distros, which is perhaps part of the reason this beta feels so woefully inferior to its predecessors. Unity has potential, but it's tough to escape the feeling that it just isn't ready yet.

Ubuntu's drive to bring something radical and new may end up creating another KDE 4 situation - the initial release was clearly not ready for prime time, but now that KDE has matured few would opt to go back to KDE 3.x.

Hopefully Canonical will sort out the various bugs before the final release, but even if they do, missing features may well make Ubuntu 11.04 a release best waited out. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.