Linux News|Linux Install sidebyside windows|Ubuntu|Linux Help|Installing Apache and php from source

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ubuntu 11.04 review

Canonical has made great strides with its Ubuntu operating system in just a few years, more than other developers have made in a decade. Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the Ubuntu distribution, is known for his risk taking nature and Ubuntu 11.04 is evidence of that attitude.

Natty Narwhal has been promoted as a groundbreaking Linux distribution, especially regarding the new and almost unique interface, called Unity. It's still unclear if Canonical has managed to pull it off, as there is major resistance in the open source community towards embracing Unity and all its features, but we hope to shed some light on the new and improved Ubuntu 11.04 OS and sway people in a direction or another.

Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) has passed through the usual steps before reaching a stable version (3 Alphas and 2 Betas), but respecting the allotted schedule which practically states that a new version of Ubuntu surfaces once every six months.

First impressions
Lets assume that most users don't actually install alpha and beta distributions. What's the impact of a new interface, radically different from anything that has been done before, on the user's ability to maneuver and successfully comprehend what the developers have actually intended?

The first minute of contact with the new Unity environment is one of wonder and appreciation. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when people don't want to learn new stuff in order to use an operating system or a new program. That is precisely the reason why Linux, Microsoft and Apple developers don't make big jumps in terms of design and functionality, as they don't want to alienate people from their operating systems.


For some users, Unity is too big of a leap. Canonical has decided to scrap the conventional two-panel look and replace it with a lateral dock menu, which so far is stuck on the left side of the screen (sorry left-handed users). Unity can be shrunk and most of the icons can be moved or deleted, but some of them are fixed and, for now, can't be interfered with.

Right about now, Ubuntu users are probably grinding their teeth if they want to use Unity or not, thinking they can never accept an interface which is not as flexible as the old one. I promise, it has a lot of good features and even if we don't want to admit it, this is the future.

Some call it an omission and others call it negligence, but the feature that is most missed in Unity is the ability to group icons by category, like Internet, Office, Audio and Video and so on.

We don't want to be picky, but we have to mention that there are two icons on the bottom of the dock, that seem to have the purpose of gathering all the software installed in the system, in one single place. They are cumbersome and most likely will get redesigned in the near future or with Ubuntu 11.10.

Other changes
The biggest change, except Unity, is, of course, the introduction of the LibreOffice office suite, instead of outdated This is a really good choice, LibreOffice being a lot lighter in memory usage and a lot prettier. It's still using the ODT format so there's no need to worry that your old documents and other projects from won't work.

Another significant change is the replacement of the old music player, Rhythmbox, with Banshee. I can't say it's much of a difference as they look very similar, but apparently it's a lot more stable. Even if it's written in GTK# and Mono, it integrates really well with the new menubar so users will have an easy time using it.

Lots of other software packages received smaller changes, but the last one worth mentioning are the new overlay scrollbars. Nautilus now uses a new set of scrollbars which are smaller and placed outside of the actual window. When the mouse gets close to where the scrollbar should be, they change their size and become draggable. It's a nice touch and it makes you wonder why this hasn't been done before. The environment looks a lot cleaner and spacious this way.


It's really hard to draw a line and take a firm stand, saying it's either good or bad. As we see it, Ubuntu 11.04, including Unity, is a major step forward. We would like nothing more than Canonical to use all the criticism and improve this amazing interface.

As we said in the beginning of the review, people have a hard time adjusting to major changes, but Unity is more than a change in perspective. It will be the new face of Ubuntu, and, like all major stars, it will endure some corrective surgery to make it more appealing to the broader masses.

It may seem odd to complain about tons of problems with the new interface and in the same time make a recommendation in favor of that interface, but the bottom line is that we liked Unity, with all its issues, and we hope that it will improve and finally move forward beyond what is most likely the last remaining bastion of a bygone era.

Ubuntu can only keep itself on the edge and in competition if it improves and changes faster than users expect. Change drives the innovation and Canonical has proved, with Unity, that they can compete in the next decade with all the major players in the world, when it comes to great operating systems.

No comments:

Post a Comment