How to install Precise without getting screwed?

Dane Mutters dmutters at
Sat Apr 7 11:52:33 UTC 2012

I'm not keen on getting involved in a debate, but since this issue affects
my ability to be productive on Ubuntu, as well, I find it appropriate to
inform the developers of it.

I'm aware that there have been numerous complaint threads on this mailing
list and others about some people finding Unity (and Gnome 3) basically
unusable for their purposes.  I'm in the same boat, and while I realize
that "+1" on this issue is basically pointless, the continued postings on
the subject raise an important issue that's only being obliquely touched
upon, for the most part:

Ubuntu has decreased in usability for many people due to the all-out "war
on the old GUI."  At this point is where someone says, "use Gnome
classic!"  This, however, proved rather problematic for me, and continues
to be so for many others; also, it's both condescending and
counterproductive to insist that users with genuine problems with the
direction of development simply "deal with the new GUI" or switch back to a
somewhat broken Gnome 2 that lacks significant pieces that made Gnome
usable before these changes started.  I'll mention a couple of examples,
just to cursorily illustrate that I'm not simply "blowing smoke," but
ultimately it's something you have to use and have problems with to fully

1) No system menu; everything is shoved into Applications > Other.  Having
30+ items here is utterly impractical, and I found that not everything even
made it into a menu after System was removed.  I often had to search the
web for the program's actual name so that I could then open a terminal and
type the command to let me do some basic administrative or customization
task.  This is greatly compounded when much of the menu is full of things
that were designed for Unity or Gnome 3, and therefore do nothing useful
for Gnome classic--or just as often break things.

2) Even if you can find everything in Gnome classic that you used to use in
Gnome 2, half the stuff on a recent Ubuntu installation is stuff that
breaks Gnome 2, or is only usable with Unity (and therefore Compiz), or
Gnome 3.  Furthermore, if you reset as much as you can to "default" for
Gnome classic (delete config files in ~, etc.), you'll end up with programs
that require working Unity/Gnome 3 components, but since you're no longer
configured for those desktop environments, they'll be unpredictable and
crash frequently.  This is especially bad because Compiz breaks Unity (and
its components) when not properly configured.  I experienced crashing
window manager, freezing, and even segfaults about every hour while using a
stock install of Unity with just a few minor Compiz customizations.  These
crashes also carried over into Gnome classic, once I stopped using Unity.
(Yes, I disabled Unity support and enabled Gnome support in Compiz.)

Ultimately, I've been forced to switch to KDE on Linux Mint--neither of
which I'm particularly fond of.  The thing is, though, they work *for me*
10 times better than Ubuntu has since it dropped Gnome 2, so it's the best
of several undesirable options.  I'd love to go back to stock Ubuntu, but
as long as the GUI is busy being re-invented (not just in Ubuntu, notably),
I'm finding myself stuck dealing with Windows a lot more, and Linux--which
I generally like much better--a lot less.  I used to boot into Windows only
to play games, but now I find that staying in Linux means spending lots of
time arguing with unnecessary GUI problems.  (I'm personally quite fed-up
with it all, but I'm trying to be civil and rational so as to be
productive, rather than a problem, in and of myself.)

...But all the above is only marginally relevant; the real problem, as I
see it, is the development trend being espoused.  I understand that it's
great to invent new, exciting software, and I don't begrudge anybody of
it.  In fact, the mere fact that you bother to write for a free OS is
admirable, and I commend you for it (for whatever that's worth).
Unfortunately, it's been a consistent-but-growing trend in Linux
development, generally, and Ubuntu, specifically, to make a piece of
software *pretty* good, then whimsically decide that instead of making it
*really* good, it's more fun/better/whatever to invent a completely new
thing, based on better principles, technology, and so forth.
Unfortunately, these good ideas rarely get fully realized before yet
another set of good ideas emerges and causes working systems to be
abandoned in favor of alpha-stage projects.  This is a problem endemic to
Linux as a whole, but it's been especially disappointing to see it infest
the otherwise amazing Ubuntu.  For an example, I note that Red Hat 7.2 had
a rather good built-in, cross-environment menu editor.  Then, the
underlying software changed, and it was about 5 years until Gnome had a
menu editor again (which Ubuntu's developers helped to create, as I
understand it).  Similarly, KDE3 had a good menu editor, but now that KDE4
is out, it's all but impossible to simply organize items by alphabetical
order.  So, while the underlying technology got better, the useful, basic
features that we all expect to "just work" (as they do in Windows and Mac
OS X, which are the main competition to Ubuntu and Linux) have *repeatedly*
gone by the wayside because it's somehow more appealing to re-write things
than to polish them.  I encourage those who still don't believe me to look
for other examples, themselves, rather than fixating upon the ones I've
given; productive conversation would suffer from arguments over inane
details like these.

Since the release of Warty Warthog in the early 2000s, the Ubuntu
developers turned the quirky-and-barely-functional Gnome desktop into a
darned good system for getting things done.  With a couple years more
polish, it could have been truly competitive with GUIs by Apple and
Microsoft.  But as soon as it had really come into its own--and before it
became "really good"--folks decided to completely redesign a working
system, producing the magnets-for-complaints we call Gnome 3 and Unity.
(When you get rid of something that works, in favor of anything at all
that's different, you WILL have complaints--some for good reason.)  I don't
at all doubt that those systems will one day be at least a little better
than Gnome 2 ever was, but since in the meantime we have nothing but
half-baked new systems and gutted old systems (i.e. Gnome classic and its
oddly-more-faithful fork, MATE), the state of the Linux GUI has brought
adoption back to a matter of just how much time a competent computer user
wants to waste on learning something new, rather than sticking with a
system that already works for him.  For a lot of people, the question isn't
even reasonable.  Until this trend of "fixing" things that aren't broken
(from the end user's perspective) by inventing "shiny-yet-incomplete"
things, Linux will truly never garner a solid place in the desktop market.

So, here's the "thrust" of my dissertation: Please, developers, stick with
something that works until it's become something truly great; then when
public demand requires it (or your foresee that requirement) make something
new and better--but under no circumstances take away what we already use
and love!!  It feels like a betrayal of the user base (those who don't like
the new system, at least--and you know there are plenty, if you read these
mailing lists), and it puts users in the very awkward and problematic
position of deciding to limp along with a broken system or just revert to a
commercial offering.  I personally have a somewhat fanatical love for
Linux, but for me, anyway, no amount of fanaticism can compete with a gross
lack of usability (for my purposes, of course).  I beg you, the developers
of this otherwise great OS and superior Linux distribution, to consider the
awkward place you've put your (existing/potential) user base in, and allow
us to install and use the FULLY-FUNCTIONAL version of what's previously
worked for those of us who don't want the new system just yet.

I know that I've been wordy and dissertated at length, so if you've read
all the above, you have my sincere gratitude.


--Dane Mutters
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Ubuntu-devel-discuss mailing list