Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook

Being a version number junkie, the minute I see a new Ubuntu upgrade released, I’m always keen to upgrade.

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.

Oh dear.

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.

22 thoughts on “Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook

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  1. Unfortunately, Unity has been quite the disappointment. Even when running on my main laptop, it is sluggish and quite unintuitive to use. I was pretty excited about it as well. =/

    Glad to see a Linux post from you, it harkens back to the days before your Outpost Skaro celebrity. :p

    Maverick Desktop performs pretty much like Lucid and has the usual driver improvements and interface edits you’d expect from a new release compared to the previous edition. My only gripe with it is currently the new Sound Menu. Canonical has merged the Rhythmbox controls (or Banshee or any music player with sound menu interactivity) with the sound indicator’s menu. While this sounds great as a space saver, it does this badly and doesn’t look anywhere near as stylish as a few fan-made concept mock-ups shown on OMG Ubuntu a while back.

    My biggest problem with the ‘new Sound Menu’ is that it doesn’t add any new functionality in terms of controlling the sound levels. A seperate volume metre for the music player would have been amazing to have, or a list of applications using sound so I can lower just one down instead of the lot. Currently we have to go into the properties window to do this, integrated controls would have been beautiful, and they could have been an extension as opposed to always there, like the Weather and Locations part of the Calendar panel app.


  2. I think celebrity might be overstating the Outpost Skaro stuff slightly 😉

    Agreed about Unity though. I was quite excited to see what it was like, but to me its just got the feel of something that’s been released before its ready. Unfortunately Canonical do have some history in this regard. Most saw the initial rollout of Empathy as premature, and ended up reinstalling Pidgin for example (and I had problems with Ubuntu One and Note-syncing to the point that I stopped using it and switched to Dropbox anyway for file syncing).

    The fact that Unity is sluggish even on your main laptop is a bit concerning, given its supposed to be targetting machines with limited hardware :-S

    I upgraded my main laptop last night, but I’ve not yet had a chance to reboot it, so tonight will tell what kind of state its in, and give me a chance to play around. From what I’ve heard though, there’s very little in terms of big changes from Lucid.

    The sound menu thing doesn’t sound great though. I must admit, the volume control in Lucid hasn’t been one of my favourite features (I miss being able to control the different levels), and further removing ability to set different applications’ volume does sound like a step backwards. A pity, as one “master control panel” for all the currently running apps volume sounds like an interesting idea.


  3. I’d love to hear about Android, I haven’t touched it yet. I’m strongly looking forward to the Galaxy tab and as the owner of a lot of comic files in .cbz format (Scanned from my own collection, I approve of digitizing one’s own possessions, just like using my own CDs and DVDs to create mp3s and mp4s for use on my iPod) I’d love to be able to view them on that device, which will be running Android. =D


  4. I’ve not tried any cbz files yet (although I’m certain there’ll be an app for that – as the competition would say), but yeah, I think I can definitely put something together on how I’ve found my HTC Desire over the last 6 months 🙂


  5. Android looks to be a great mobile OS, and it’s opensource nature makes it easy to develop for. =D The Galaxy Tab is something I will have to save up for!

    Finally, an iPad killer. =D


  6. You know, considering the processor on the Galaxy Tab, it’s 512 megs of RAM and ability to connect devices through USB, I see no reason why Ubuntu itself wouldn’t run on this beauty. Maverick Meerkat did, after all, finally finish support for the ARM architecture.


  7. You know that once they’re on wide release, someone will be installing all kinds of Linux distros on it to see what works 🙂 I guess Android has the advantage that its marketplace is filled with touch-design apps though, which the main release wouldn’t. But it’d be worth trying anyway 🙂

    I’ve still got a very close eye on the tablet market as its something I’d love to get once a model at the right price comes out. The Galaxy Tab seems to be getting especially good word of mouth.


  8. Ah, but Maverick features uTouch (well, the netbook remix does, utouch can be installed easily in the desktop version) which brings a full multi-touch framework to the system and applies it to normally non-touch applications. =D

    Two fingers moves a window!


  9. Now that does sound cool. And as we’re starting to see more Android-based tablets hit the market it’d be interesting to see Ubuntu netbook running on them in that case.

    Its just a pity that those tablets are still so expensive. Honestly, for the amounts of money being asked, I can’t see why you wouldn’t just go for the iPad at the moment. Hopefully though, costs will come down as they take off. I know I’d love to get one, but I just can’t justify it at all.


  10. Hmmm, so Unity’s going to be the default desktop UI as well? I can’t help but think that’s a mistake at this stage, given its less than stellar launch on the netbook remix.

    That being said, as long as I’ve got the option to select a different environment at the login screen and can ignore Unity, then it’ll not ruin my day.


  11. Indeed, I can’t justify buying the Galaxy Tab yet either, but I will one day, even if it’s second hand. :p

    Unity is going to be the default, but the the usual Gnome interface will be available for those who want it, which I will most likely use myself

    However, future versions of Unity do have some hope going for them, as it is being ported away from Mutter (which it currently runs on as a graphical manager and is horrific) and to Compiz!

    Now, this benefits both projects in a number of ways, my favourite of which being the added funding the Compiz-Fusion project will now receive. Which Gnome-Shell not being compatible with it and Unity originally replacing it (badly) there were fears that Compiz would slowly fade out of use. This is now no longer a problem. =D

    The benefits to Unity are obvious. Compiz is a well used and refined framework, it is fast, stable, reliable and pretty.

    Therefore Unity SHOULD run smoothly and speedily on Compiz, as opposed to Mutter.

    ‘Should’ being the word of importance there.

    The desktop version is slated to have much more functionality, including the option to move the dock, ahem, I mean launcher (we are forbidden to call it a dock!), to other sides of the screen and autohide, etc etc.

    I’m reserving judgement until I try it properly. But the make or break part of Unity is going to be it’s freedom of use. Ubuntu thrives because of the wealth of options available to it’s community. If Unity is not easily theme-able or add-able to, it will most likely fall on it’s face.

    Elementary is a must for my system.

    Here’s my current desktop. =D



  12. That really is a damn nice desktop. Mine’s still pretty much the stock Gnome. I do keep meaning to install some of the older window managers I liked though. Window Maker may be showing its age these days, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

    The proposed changes to Unity for the desktop sound good (indeed, I’d argue should’ve been in the first official release version), as is basing it on Compiz. Totally agree on everything you’ve said about it. Compiz really is a nice piece of kit.

    I think my main worry about Unity is more Canonical jumping the gun on this announcement. To be honest, my main impression of its recent Netbook release was “yeah, they should’ve left this until 11.04, and the dubious reactions I’ve seen online would lead me to believe I’m not alone in that. To then follow up that launch with this announcement seems premature at best. I’d have rather seen a more polished netbook release before they started really pushing it as a desktop solution as well.

    As I say, fundementally it’ll not affect me anyway, as I’ll probably just stick to stock Gnome, at least for the first release until it matures a bit. I’ll give it a go regardless, but I don’t expect to switch to Unity too quickly.

    Interestingly though, the word is that Unity is built on Gnome 2. What this means for Gnome 3’s inclusion in Ubuntu (once its released) seems unsure. I can’t see Canonical getting away with sticking to Gnome 2 though. Everyone’ll either ditch their default installs (thus scuppering Unity), or jump ship to another distro that does have it (there’s enough Ubuntu varients out there that it’ll not be that hard to find something).


  13. Unity was no where near ready for routine use when Canocial released it for Maverick, so the concern that it will be released while still unpolished or, for current lack of a better term, dodgy is a valid one. They’ve done it before, they can do it again.

    Gnome 3 isn’t intended for inclusion with 11.04, and Canocial has continued to go their own path in regards to interface, stating that they support Gnome and depend upon it but believe in Unity as the future for their platform, etc etc.

    However I imagine installing Gnome-Shell/3 won’t be any more difficult than installing the default Gnome2 and then upgrading to Shell, or some other metapackage will likely be available.

    On an unrelated note, first full trailer for the upcoming Green Lantern movie!


    I am completely unsure where to stand with this.


  14. I can certainly understand Canonical skipping Gnome 3 in 11.04, I think the issue at the moment, is that they’ve specifically stated Unity will be built on Gnome 2 and gave no indication about moving to Gnome 3 in the future, which has raised some questions. Saying that, I can’t see them avoiding Gnome 3, which is the implication some have taken from the announcement.

    As you say though, even if Canonical don’t support it (unlikely as that is), someone’ll make a meta package available on a repository for those people that decide they do want it (and Gnome Shell). At worst it’ll mean copying a ppa line into your config (or Synaptic) and clicking install, so not a big deal.

    My main concern remains with Canonical jumping on this bandwagon a bit too soon. Based on what I (briefly) saw in 10.10 Netbook, I have real doubts about Unity being properly ready for the desktop in 11.04 (although by then the netbook edition should be well worth a look, having had 6 months of polish). I suspect if they were pitching it for 11.10, I might be less dubious of this move.

    When I invariably upgrade, I’ll check it out certainly. And I’m happy for them to surprise me, and I end up blogging about how great Unity is 🙂 However, I suspect they’re rushing it out the door a bit too soon.


  15. Alpha 1 for Natty has just been released and it seems while Unity IS the default, if you don’t have supported graphics cards for it (or if you select ‘Ubuntu Classic Session’ at login) then you’ll have good ol’ normal Gnome 2. =D

    I’ll probably use that as my default session, unless Unity actually manages to win me over.

    Source with screenshots:

    Apparently it also features Firefox 4. I’m downloading now to try out on a USB stick. I keep a spare USB stick for installing new Linux distros in a persistent mode on, so I can try them out without having to actually put them on my hard drive or mess around with burning CDs.


  16. Yeah, I figured Gnome would still be a session, and glad to here that it is. It’ll probably stay my default as well, but I’ll be fair and give Unity a chance incase it impresses me more than the netbook version did.

    Actually, since I run Ubuntu on my laptop which has just a basic Intel chipset anyway, I might not get a choice in the matter. I’ve no idea what Unity will make of it 🙂

    Sadly my netbook’s keyboard appears to be knackered, so I’ve not been able to try out unity any more than that quick initial test. I’m hoping to get it repaired though. While I’ll probably stick to Lucid on my netbook if it gets fixed, I’m still willing to give Maverick another shot.

    Firefox 4 could be interesting. What sort of changes have they brought in?


  17. Quite a few, it renders a tad faster and has multi-threaded tab processing now, much like Chrome, though the speed of the program doesn’t ‘feel’ quite as fast as Chrome.

    Visually, we now have tabs on top and the status bar is gone, the other end of the url bar now shows the link’s location when hovering over a link and there’s a thin little status bar that appears under the urlbar (and tab) when loading a page. While Firefox 4 looks a hundred times better than 3 on Windows, the Linux version has not been given as much love.

    Still, it’s an improvement.

    This is a mock-up of how we WANT it to look on Ubuntu.

    And this is how it actually does.

    To be honest, Firefox 3 looks awful on Linux anyway.

    UNLESS.. you install this. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/252591/
    eFirefox is, to me, the best thing to happen to Linux Firefox in a long time.
    Just make sure you remove your old Home, stop and reload buttons once installing this.


  18. Oo. I’d never seen that before. I’ve just installed it, and it does make a big difference. Firefox looks very swish now.

    It is interesting to see how much of an impact Chrome’s had on Firefox’s design. I must admit, I’m largely a Chrome/Chromium user these days, although I still use Firefox on my main PC. I’ll be very intrigued to get a shot of v4.


  19. You can give the current beta of Firefox 4 a try by installing it through the testing ppa, it will install the beta (named Minefield) alongside firefox, though avoid updating your main firefox if asked by update manager until you remove this ppa.

    sudo add-apt-repository
    sudo add-apt repository ppa:ubuntu-mozilla-daily/ppa
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install firefox-4.0


    If you are going to use eFirefox, you should really have Elementary itself installed, it makes everything very nice. =]
    Fire up the Terminal and like so,

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementaryart/ppa
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install elementary-theme elementary-icon-theme

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementaryart/elementarydesktop
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install gloobus-preview

    Then run update manager and install the updates to Nautilus and such and change your gtk theme and icon set in Appearance Settings to Elementary. You’ll probably need to restart to see the main changes.

    This will have done a number of things, firstly giving you a slick theme and icon set and secondly redesigning your Nautilus windows. Nautilus is your file browser, and Elementary does more or less what eFirefox has done for your Firefox window.

    Here’s a screenshot I just took for you of a normal Elementary Nautilus window and another one with Elementary’s clutterflow http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2010/338/2/c/elementary_nautilus_by_davidraid-d346izb.png

    Elementary really just makes Ubuntu feel great.


  20. That is a really nice theme. I really need to play with my laptop setup. At the moment its pretty much a stock Ubuntu desktop. Which I do love, but I have nice memories of me and my mates all running our own distinct desktops years ago (Gnome, Enlightenment, Window Maker etc). Granted, quite a few of them are probably showing their age now, but it’d be fun to go back and see what they’re like.


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