Feeds

Natty Narwhal with Unity: Worst Ubuntu beta ever

Nightmare KDE 4 scenario replayed

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

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. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.