[ubuntu-us-in] So, reviews of Unity?

David Ernst david.ernst at davidernst.net
Sun Sep 11 01:45:36 UTC 2011

I'm definitely NOT an early adopter, especially with things like my
base OS where I pretty much want it to work and not change so that I'm
not thinking about it.  But, prompted in part of Ubuntu 10.10 clinging
to Firefox 3.x, I upgraded a week or two ago to Ubuntu 11.4, just in
time to start thinking about how there will be another upgrade
available in a month or two.  

So, I finally saw Unity.  I'd be curious to play with it somewhere
like a kiosk or something ... basically anything other than my
workstation.  My experience was like this:

First, I had trouble with the 3d graphics.  This is probably something
to do with my computer, like not having a fancy graphics card.  And
it was true of 10.10 and previous as well.  So, I knew to look for a
version that wasn't trying to impress me with eye candy, and Unity 2D
did the trick.  At least things were working then.  And I really don't
care about eye candy.  This might have contributed to some of my other
problems, though.  

So, the next hurdle was that I LOVE multiple desktops.  Completely
integrated into my computer use, I can't live without them.  And, I
didn't have to... Unity supports them... BUT, I couldn't use the key
bindings I'm used to.  Basically Unity snatches up Alt+F2 to launch
the dash, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of that.  I
found someone in Ubuntu forums with the exact same preference and
problem, and no one had a solution for him either.  

So, I switched my bindings to use Super+F[1234], which worked better.
But, strangely, I still got the dash sometimes after switching
desktops.  I couldn't discern a pattern.  Sometimes it showed up,
sometimes it didn't.  I also was not really getting used to the switch
to Super, although I suppose over time I might have.  

When I wanted to launch an application... the applications I used the
most were easy to get in the dash.  But ones that I run 1-2 times per
week were not there, and I was amazed at how inefficient it was for me
to get to them.  Take Synaptic, for instance.  Fastest way I could see
was to open the dash, type "synapt", and it finds it... but then I
still have to move my hand to the mouse to click on it?  I'm fine with
a keyboard or a mouse, but I really don't like switching between the
two very often.  Seems like if they are encouraging a keyboard
approach I should be able to say "yes, launch the 1st app in those
search results" from the keyboard.  Was there a way I just wasn't
seeing?  Or, was there a way to specify which apps are in the dash?
And in what order?  I sure wasn't seeing it.  

The BIGGEST nuisance, though, was that windows seemed to auto-maximize
themselves, whether I wanted them to or not.  Actually, I liked the
more efficient use of real-estate, the problem was that with a
maximized window, the open dash would cover up the left-most 1-2 cm of
my window.  So, say I'm typing an email or some code, and someone
sends me an IM... the dash opens up, alerting me to the IM with a
dancing Empathy icon, and ... I can't see what I'm doing!!  Being as
all of the languages I speak (that is, the one I really speak, and the
few others that I sometimes try to speak) are Left-to-Right languages,
I don't see how a mixture of auto-maximized windows and
dash-suddenly-covering-the-left-part-of-the-screen could be a good

I had some spare time tonight and decided I'd try to see if I could
customize it... maybe if the dash were on the right side, for
instance, I'd be better with it.  After playing with it for just a
bit, though, and not getting anywhere, I found myself wondering how to
preserve the things about Unity that I really liked if I switched back
to Ubuntu "Classic".  And I realized that the only thing I really
liked was the more efficient use of real estate, and that wasn't even
such a big plus.  

So, I logged in with "Classic" and was immediately happy again.  I
reset my desktop-switcher to Alt+F[1234], and I'm again using my
computer without thinking much about the window manager.  Just the way
I like it.  And I have Firefox 6.x.  Odd that they flew from 3.x to
6.x in one version.  *shrug*

So, I hope that Canonical keeps Classic as an option.  If they don't,
though, I also checked out "awesome" based on a tip from Jeremy
L. Gaddis from the conversation on this list about Unity back in May.
Awesome seemed very promising.  I was very impressed with its speed
and keyboard support.  But, there would be a learning (and
configuration) curve, so for now I decided that I'd stick with what I
knew... a week of running Unity did not leave me in the mood to try to
train myself to learn ANOTHER new thing.

So, those are my thoughts.  I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts about
how I missed opportunities to be happy with Unity.  I'd also just like
to hear if other people like it or not.  And, if anyone has inside
news about what Canonical's plans are with dropping their Classic
view, I'd love to hear them.  


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