Last week, I triggered the apt-distupgrade on both my Ubuntu laptops which effectively downloaded Ubuntu 13.04 (“Raring Ringtail”) to these machines. This was actually sort of unexpected as I haven’t been really following Ubuntu’s latest efforts. I’m aware of Canonical’s push to the mobile market: their case to bring Ubuntu to cellphones and other devices received high praise in the media. That is, if Canonical can deliver on speed (UI) and speed (Roadmap).
The reason why I bring up Ubuntu Touch is that Canonical is aware of the slugginess of their current Unity interface. I’m pretty certain I brought this up in an earlier post (when I installed/upgraded to 11.10): it’s by default, a memory hog. What keeps me switching back to KDE or say, Gnome 3 is that Unity is heavily supported by Canonical. This is the main reason what keeps me away from other Ubuntu-descendants like Mint.
Anyway, what I mean to say is that 13.04 is supposed to be having most of the optimizations of Ubuntu Touch. As the release notes say:
Unity 7 brings a lot of performance improvements, reduced memory consumption and a great number of small UI fixes to bring a better overall shell experience.
Unity does feel like it has been improved (besides the fancy new icons for apps and the changes to the launcher): memory wise, I can’t tell the difference. It just generally still feels bloated. Time permitting, I’ll check out Gnome’s state at a later stage.
Update 1: Rebooted back in Gnome 3 and my first impression is that Gnome desktop takes a lot less memory than Unity.
Something that reminded me of the issues regarding Unity new ‘touch-based devices desktop paradigm’ that I noticed earlier, which I was going to mention in the previous posting: When you copy (cut/move) a large set of files, Nautilus will show you the ‘Copy File Dialog’ box. If you minimize this box, you will not be able to re-open ever therefore sort of leaving the user in the dark when the copy operation has finished. In Unity, all minimized windows go to the ‘Unity bar’ (no, NOT that kind of bar). Minimized modal dialogs that are part of applications however, do not. You cannot even re-open this box thru the ALT+TAB switch windows method. Sadly, this is a bug reported in earlier versions of Unity and it seems like it is still hanging around on (bug #887821).
In Gnome 3, they solved this slightly more elegant: Modal windows are treated the same as general system notifications and you should see it fly by in your message event ‘log’ (so to say). Switching to this dialog, however, can be achieved by using ALT-TAB and selecting the Nautilus icon. Not ideal, but definitely some Gnome developer was paying attention to properly implementing modal dialogs.
It would be interesting to see how Microsoft is solving modal dialogs in Windows 8/Metro.
Update 10/21/2012: Looks like the modal dialog issues have been fixed in Ubuntu 12.10 in an overhauled Windows switching system that actually looks pretty(see image screenshot).
The previous posting was actually supposed to be detailing the conversion of my DV-5 to Linux, a process that I have done so many times that I can do this with my eyes closed. Sort of. It took a bit longer as I decided to check out OpenSuse and Linux Mint first. Either Linux flavours I disliked from the get-go: OpenSuse is driven by KDE 4, which I really like, except for that it reminds me these days of Lego in both a good and bad way. Mint is where I expect desktop-Gnome 3 to go: only, it behaves very unpredictable. For example, UI elements like menus in NetBeans didn’t work at all. Also, random crashes occurred too many times.
So, back to Unity, which, as you probably already knew, I hate. For now, I can tolerate it: however, in my mind, while I appreciate that the Ubuntu-crew is concentrating on a UI that can work with touchbased devices, it would have been so nice if they had provided users with a good UI choice.
I am pining for both KDE4 and Mint tho. Or, maybe, just maybe, I really should go back to Debian, which to my surpise is now up to version 6. Same apt, same tools and same architecture.
To my surprise, I saw that Ubuntu’s “Oneiric Ocelot” was released, which I decided to let go through via Ubuntu’s Update manager. I ended up double surprised when I found out that, from version 11.10 and on, only the Unity shell will be part of Ubuntu. I despise Unity (earlier). Despise is a hard word: lets say I can’t get used to that fixed launcher. I found it also very disk-intensive, sort of defeating the purpose of making a light shell. Going way back to Gnome was easy, though:
sudo apt-get install gnome-shell
Wherein I ran into the third surprise of the week: Gnome 3 is now part of 11.10. Gnome 3: it reminds of Unity, that is: without the bloat. Everything now centers around the “Activities” panel, which is sort of an overview of what is active and what is currently running. There are a bunch of nice tricks you can do but it leaves me still mixed: Since there is no real task bar, it’s really hard/impossible to find particular process messages (like the file copy windows). Gnome 3 seems also geared towards hot-keys and short-cuts: you’ll find Gnome’s Cheatsheet handy (location). There are definitely improvements: Screencasting is now built-in using the hotkey CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+R (output in WebM format!), effects are used sparingly and geared towards a uniform experience. Do I like Gnome 3? So-so. But, it just has a slightly better feel than Unity.
10/22/2011: I ended up installing the Gnome Shell extensions + an external Dock program (“Dockie”) to take care of the missing features I was looking for.
Just yesterday, Canonical released one of the most important Ubuntu versions of its history: “Natty Narwhal”. The most famous Linux based desktop officially did away with the Gnome shell and replaced it with the Gnome based Unity shell (wikipedia to the rescue).
There was a time (see here) that I really wanted to like KDE 4 as opposed to Gnome. I only reverted back to Gnome, because KDE was slower than a pair of mocassins in a pot of molasses. So, yesterday, I started the regular upgrade process: The upgrade to Unity/Narwhal went fairly smooth and when the much touted shell finally showed up properly, I was fairly impressed. While toy-ish, the window handling appears fairly intuitive (“Mac-like”) and the general layout looks, well, clean. However, it’s buggy and it’s slow, with disk-activity and processor activity spiking out of control without any particular reason.
Returning back to Kubuntu, (you know, all things KDE), I was pleasantly surprised to find out it that is a lot more stable than I’ve seen almost 1 year ago. Heck, it’s even usable. Kubuntu or Ubuntu? Kubuntu, for now. Maybe in another year, I’ll be looking at Unity as my default desktop environment, but as far as it looks like right now, I won’t be looking at Unity for a while.
05/05/2011: It looks like my laptop (equiped with an Intel 9xx GPU) wasn’t the only one with sudden freezes: it seems to have been fixed, right a couple of days ago.