[plug] Ubuntu Unity

Carl Gherardi carl.gherardi at gmail.com
Wed Aug 10 11:22:13 WST 2011

On Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 5:01 PM, Carl Gherardi <carl.gherardi at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 4:44 PM,  <home at oranges.id.au> wrote:
>> On 13 July 2011 15:58, Carl Gherardi <carl.gherardi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Hey all,
>>> I've decided to take the plunge and try Unity for at least a fortnight
>>> full time to see if I can actually function.

Trip report after 1 month of abusing Ubuntu Unity.

For the most part things worked. I wasn't expecting to like things
100%. There appears to be a lot of third party customisations being
developed at the moment, especially in the indicator-applet space, but
I chose not to do any customisations that weren't part of the usual
multiverse repos so that they wouldn't 1) Cause additional issues 2)
Make sure I was evaluating and using 'pure' Unity

Initial complaints:

- I've decided that I don't like the 'Mac' style unified menu bar. To
often the menu i'm looking for is 3/4 of a screen away from the open
window, and i'd prefer that perma-visible screen realestate could be
put to better use. I can see how some people would like it, and it
isn't a dealbreaker.
- The menu/search dialog is slow. Every day I need to switch my proxy
settings from Work to Home and back again. Run->Type proxy-><enter>
sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. The Run dialog would accept
<enter> before all the keystroked appeared, so half the time I ended
up opening a random application starting with p - pidgin, power
manager etc.
-- This is indicative of something more systemic in the window manager
i'm guessing. I'll often switch desktops and immediately start typing,
and often the first couple of keystrokes disappear into the ether.
- The Run dialog and the application search dialog look too similar
and imho should be unified.
- Dammit - I wan't some of my config options back. It would appear
that every application had its preferences menu raped. I've been happy
with the simplification of Gnome over the 2.x series, being affected
only couple of times for some more obscure settings that I was able to
configure manually. The new 'streamlining' seems to have delved into
the application level, and suddenly i've been affected every day.
- 'Applications should always be open and visible' mentality. Some
types of applications you want running in the background minimised,
with an indicator. Most applications don't work with the installed
indicator, notably XChat, The unified chat thing (ok it kinda works),
Pidgin, Amarok, Totem, and every torrent client i tried. Besides the
date/calendar monitor and the network and battery monitors nothing
appears to have a functional indicator.

The last one is was the final straw. Isn't the indicator interface an
opendesktop.org spec? The Amarok applet became less usable in Gnome
during the previous release, and became worse. Exit/minimise to applet
no longer works with anything.

>>> Two immediate annoyances.
>>> 1) Alt-F2 (10+ years of motor memory for console/workspace 2) switches
>>> workspace, but also kicks up a modal 'Run' dialogue that i can't seem
>>> to find how to disable.
> I've always mapped Alt-FX to 'Move to workspace X'
> The run dialog refuses to be disable for some reason

I logged a bug for this on day 1 with no response at all in a month
(response time isn't a black mark fwiw).

I'm now in the habit of Alt-F2.. Esc

In addition to this I discovered that Win-E also brings up the run
dialog, and sends the key sequence to the active window -
exceptionally irritating when rdesktoped to windows machines for
remote management.

Bugs that should be fixable in the long term. I've done my bit to report them.

More generally though there are a bunch of odd behaviors and
non-default behavior depending on what context the window manager is
in. An example: Alt-F1-F1 (ie, Go to desktop 1, now dammit!) makes the
left panel active and modal (? not quite the right word) disabling all
other Alt keyboard shortcuts, and removes focus from the application
that should have been focused. In the terminal case, i end up sending
random keystrokes to the Right menu bar giving just as random results.
I've glad 'vi' didn't trigger something in that situation.

> I'm confused by the integrated email/IM/broadcast accounts under the
> username button in the top right, and haven't bothered to work through
> it yet. It seems like a nice attempt, but I'm comfortable with my own
> apps (mostly pidgin, gmail, thunderbird).

Grr - I really like the IM/IRC behavior of 'Minimise/Close to systray'
that ability doesn't exist for Empathy, Pidgin or XChat.

Also there is no differentiating 'chatter' and 'chatter that included
my username' in Empathy IRC

>>> 2) No perma-visible toolbar. I really want my cpu/network/disk/mem
>>> usage graph always in view. Also geyes
>> I don't love or hate the self-blanking menu bar. I guess it just makes
>> the top area of my screen look like it's wasted real estate until I
>> want a menu. Not sure how they could do it better... too much
>> animation annoys me.
> A readily visible network monitor is important to me, i'm using a
> tethered mobile phone for home Internet at the moment, and a visible
> indication that the video of a cute kitten has completely stopped
> downloading v downloading at a slow rate due to dodgy connection is
> something i'm missing.
> Ditto for memory with Firefox/Chrome consuming all available resources
> and needing a boot
> Ditto for CPU usage with a compile running on another workspace, or
> application gone mad.

I stand by this. No CPU and Network indicators has been a large
frustration. Having a bottom toolbar with these types of applets that
auto hides would work for me, but the stance appears to be 'you don't
need them'. To that I say, I went without, and I really do. The number
of third party indicator applets being developed suggests that quite a
few people agree with me, and I expect the Gnome position to change in

In summary. Linux needs to switch to an architecture where accelerated
rendering is default, and my expectations weren't particularly high,
its just a window manager. It contains lots of little teething issues
that you expect with a new code drop, and will hopefully be fixed over
time. I found myself underwhelmed though. The wm behavior just didn't
provide any killer features that couldn't be implemented as well in
other ways. Complete n00b users seemed to have more trouble than I
when doing only simple things. It _was_ prettier, but with less
functionality by design.

After using it objectively for a month I've ended with less complaints
that I expected to see after reading the online reviews and flame
wars, and unsurprisingly most of those rants appear to be unjustified.
Some of the criticism is justified though. Too many config options
removed, less functionality by design and an obviously immature base.
Surprisingly the final straw was the lack of indicators and panel
applet functionality that is driving me back.

I'm going to switch to either classic Gnome or KDE in the next couple of days.

For the KDE fans, I haven't used KDE in anger since mid v3 days. What
does KDE to well and why should I switch to it?

Carl G

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