Especially interesting with this release was the netbook edition with its new, much-vaunted Unity interface. Regular readers will know that a few months back I finally decided to nuke the default Xandros install on my trusty EeePC 700 and install the 10.04 netbook remix, and boy was I happy with it.
So with 10.10 coming out, I was keen to upgrade and play with the new interface. Unfortunately being an old EeePC 700, a default install fills my measly 4Gb hard disc to the point where a normal upgrade is impossible. Thankfully I don’t keep any files on my EeePC (its just for web browsing anyway, so hard disc space isn’t much of an issue), so I decided it’d be easy to just wipe and install 10.10.
So I downloaded and setup a USB stick (as with 10.04, a superb and painless process, top marks to those that wrote the installer) and as I tend to do, I booted up to have a play with the new system prior to installing.
I have to say, it took only about 5 minutes playing with it, before I decided I thought Unity was terrible and I’d be better sticking with 10.04.
The redesign of the interface, removes the various panels of launchers from the previous release, and instead you get an empty desktop with the new launcher panel down the left hand side. Immediately brought to mind was Apple’s OSX. The launcher panel I found very evocative of the panel found in Apple’s OS (albeit shifted from the bottom of the screen to the left. You could also make easy comparisons with older Window Managers like AfterSTEP or WindowMaker, although the scrolling animation used by the launchers is more evocative of Apple’s.
However my first problem was: “where is everything?” In 10.04 (see left) there were clear sections of applications laid out, with launchers in each section. In Unity, its no where near as obvious. For example, I thought I’d try and find the Administration section, and to be honest, I’m still not completely sure where it is. Admittedly, I was running off of a USB stick, but the panel response was clunky (probably down to the USB stick to be fair), and within the 5 minutes I ran it, it completely crashed once. Not a brilliant first impression.
Thinking I’d try clicking on the “Applications” button, I was presented with a panel (on the surface slightly similar to the panels in the old interface), however within it was what could only be desribed as a screen dump of all my apps. It just looked like a mess, and there was no way I was going to find anything in it. I’m not completely sure what I’d been expecting, but I guess at least the apps sorted into categories.
So far so bad. Aside from the key apps that you can easily find at the top of the launchers, finding things seems difficult, and its crashed once.
To test out things, I decided to run Firefox, to see how the new interface handled the screen real estate. I’d alway been quite pleased with how Ubuntu 10.04 combined the top menu bar and the top of the window decorations (such as the close button) in order to save a bit of screen space.
Oh dear. Another disaster. On running Firefox, the immediate killer issue was that the launcher panel remains fixed on the left hand side of the screen. So even maximised, the browser couldn’t take up the full width of my screen.
Now, I’m on a EeePC 700. That means I’ve only got an 800 wide display. So losing any of the width at all is a major issue with the OS. This was pretty much the final straw for me, and I decided to stick with Ubuntu 10.04, which I’ve been incredibly happy with. Granted, it could be argued that I didn’t give Unity much time to grow on me, but then, the immediate reaction was so bad (and I’m especially including the crash in that), and I have to think about the fact I’m not the only one using this netbook. So if I’m struggling to find things in Unity, how will the other users cope? Nope, sorry Canonical, but I think I’ll give Unity some settling in time before it’s something I’ll adopt.
Fortunately 10.04 was an LTS release, so I’m good for the next 18 months at least.
Taking a quick look at Ubuntu Forums, and various news stories, I see that there seem to be quite a few users with similar complaints about 10.10 and Unity, so I hope Canonical take it all on board, and work out the issues for 11.04. I’m not against a new interface, but I found Unity to be a step backwards in usability, however I’ll happily check out the 11.04 netbook release to see what its like there. In the meantime maybe I’ll see if there’s any demonstration videos or something online that’ll convince me to give Unity another chance.
As for 10.10 itself? I must admit I’ve not gotten around to upgrading my main laptop, so I’ll be doing that over the weekend to see what the desktop release has to offer.