Best Alternative Operating System To Ubuntu?

Alan Pope alan at
Fri Jul 1 07:41:05 UTC 2011

On 1 July 2011 07:55, Basil Chupin <blchupin at> wrote:
> In another message I note that you gave 3 URLs to look at about this
> Unity/Gnome/KDE stuff.
> This business about gnome shell, gnome 3, unity is, honestly, damn and
> totally, confusing!

So read the links and become enlightened :D

> Why "[build] against GNOME 3" and why not simply use Gnome 3 instead of
> doing all this horse-manure about creating Unity?

I am not a developer but here's the way I understand it.

The GNOME project consists of lots of components. That includes
libraries (such as libgtk) to perform functions which are used by lots
of apps (such as gnome-panel). It also includes a desktop environment
(DE). The DE in older (2.x) releases of GNOME was a two-panel
(classic) display.

Some/most of that was used in the Ubuntu releases up to and including 11.04

Some time ago the GNOME project decided the desktop needed a revamp
for the upcoming GNOME 3 release. Similarly the Canonical looked to
revamp the desktop too. They came up with different (but similar in
some ways) desktop environments. Indeed as I understand the
specifications for Unity led to some changes in design decisions in
GNOME, and I'm sure the same goes the other way too.

GNOME came up with "GNOME Shell" as the desktop environment of choice
to replace the old classic 2-panel environment. Canonical came up with
Unity. GNOME has rejected Unity as a GNOME project and Canonical /
Ubuntu has rejected GNOME Shell. There is a difference of opinion on
which is the "best", with many people in each camp.

Canonical put developers on creating Unity, and in Ubuntu 10.10
Netbook Edition (released in October 2010) there was an early version
which was based on 'mutter' (a window manager based on clutter and
metacity). There were problems with this release. If you think 11.04
Unity is bad, try 10.10 Netbook Edition.

Shortly after 10.10 was released, Mark Shuttleworth announced (at the
Ubuntu Developer Summit for 11.04) that 11.04 would have Unity as the
default desktop for the Desktop Edition. Around this time it was also
decided that Ubuntu 11.04 would have no separate "netbook edition".

During the development cycle for 11.04 (October 2010 to April 2011)
Canonical started a port of Unity to the compiz window manager, away
from mutter (metacity/clutter). During this time GNOME 3 wasn't ready,
and neither was GNOME Shell. I understand there wasn't sufficient time
in the 11.04 development cycle to get Unity ported to GNOME 3, so it
was still based on the GNOME 2 libraries, like all previous Ubuntu

11.04 came out. People wanted to be able to install GNOME Shell on top
of it, so some developers created ways to do that, mostly via PPAs.
The problem is GNOME Shell is based on GNOME 3 libraries, Unity in
11.04 is based on GNOME 2 libraries. Installing the GNOME Shell stuff
on top of 11.04 would break some stuff, so there were lots of warnings
and disclaimers around that this was an unwise thing to do. I
understand this situation has cleared up somewhat since then though.

The developers started working on 11.10 where as part of the work they
would port Unity to GNOME 3. The reason for this is clearly that GNOME
2 is effectively dead, dying or not going to live long. So Ubuntu has
to move to GNOME 3 or by the time 12.04 (an LTS release) comes around
we won't be ready and we'll be shipping unsupported code, which is

> Is there some sort of a movement to confuse Linux users and get them
> off-side by coming up with goobly-dook like 'gnome-shell' and 'gnome 3' and
> 'unity' and therefore creating divisions and arguments amongst the users?

I don't think there's an agenda to confuse. There is an agenda to
advance desktop / laptop / tablet technology.

> The bottom line is: can anyone here write a clear and concise explanation of
> what all this horse-manure about gnome-shell, gnome 3 and unity all about?

Hope the above makes sense. As I said, I'm no developer, and I'm not a
Canonical employee so some of it might be "horse manure".


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