A lot have been written about Ubuntu 11.04, much because of the switch to Unity. A very bold move by Canonical, and a not so wise move according to many. I'm bound to agree, but have more to say on this.
Unity or not?
I can only speak from personal experience, and here it is.
Smooth as always. Ubuntu is still one of the easiest distros to install, and pretty quick too.
Now, everything past the installation phase is a question of Unity or not Unity. Here's how it went:
It looks sleek, and there's not much room for cluttering with the desktop. Shortcuts are nicely placed on the left side, but you need to "pin" them there if you don't want to click the applications icon all the time. This was the first negative experience. Click applications, click category, click "all installed", and…click, click, click. Not efficient. And how to place icons for applications which are not installed from the software center, I never got around to figure that out.
The Unity desktop is very sleek and good looking, and perhaps it could be more productive as you will probably spend more time within an application rather than tweaking the desktop.
Stability and speed? Well, this was an issue all by itself, and the major reason for me to ditch Unity. Compiz and Unity seemed to be too much for my poor computer, and on several occasions it froze. I have to look back to the old Windows days to remember when my computer behaved like that. Making a cold restart with the power button? Should never ever have to happen on a Linux or Unix system.
I tried to decrease some of the fancy stuff like window animations, shadowing etc and installed some Compiz tools. Seemed like no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of the over ambitious windows shadows.
To sum it up, I could get used to (and even like) the slick desktop with no topbar or desktop shortcuts. But, the system was running hot and died a few times. So for me: No Unity.
Getting out of Unity
If you don't like Unity, the solution is quite simple. I would recommend these steps, and not tampering with Compiz setting and disabling the Unity plugin.
- At the logon screen, click your name
- At the bottom, you now have some desktop options
- Choose "Ubuntu classic" and login
- You will now login to the "normal" classic Ubuntu desktop without Unity
- Ubuntu will remember your choice, and you wont see Unity again unless you make a different choice prior to logon.
Ditch Ubuntu? Or only Unity?
I see no reason to ditch Ubuntu. Once the Unity issues are taken care of, Ubuntu is still my favorite distro. Compared to 10.10, I would say that 11.04 is stable, better, and more good looking. I don't regret upgrading, and I believe I have a better and more productive desktop than ever.
Now, is 11.04 and Unity likely to compete with Windows 7 or Mac OS? At the office – no. At home, it would of course beat Windows. Despite all issues with Unity, you would probably spend more time in Windows 7 with restarts, compatibility issues, crashes, and fixing problems. Mac OS is probably the ultimate OS, but when you compare Mac OS with a Ubuntu 11.04 "non Unity" computer there is far more bang for the buck in the Ubuntu machine. Ubuntu is still a dangerous competitor at home and at the office.
Should we write to Canonical and tell them how Unity was a really bad move? No. First, Unity might be a better choice in the future. The community will speak, and to some extent Canonical will listen. I don't like Unity, but I would like to salute Canonical for being bold and challenge us with new radical ideas. I look forward to new ideas, and I promise to test them. If you want to make the best OS in the world, you can't be mainstream. Microsoft have been mainstream for a long time, and is no longer the leader. The future desktop will probably be a stand between Mac OS and Ubuntu, and your specific needs and size of wallet will help you make the choice.
Now, I'm off to solve my daughters Windows 7 networking issues. It believes the network is down, whereas all other computers in my network knows for a fact it's not. I believe it's a specific Microsoft issue, known as "Windows Home groups" or something…or could be a standard Microsoft internal incompatibility issue..who knows.