electronic brain surgery since 2001

Ubuntu Unity Sucks

I spent a bigger part of yesterday struggling with my Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE) install.

It started harmless. I saw a message about a new release being available (10.10 instead of 10.4). I'm used to smooth updates in Linux, so I clicked the upgrade button without further thinking.

All went smooth indeed. About 2 hours later my netbook was ready to reboot. After doing so I was greeted with a new wallpaper behind the login screen. So far so good. I logged in and…

..was surprised. What was that? Not the UI I was used to and which was the main cause to install UNE in the first place.

Unity sucks

Some quick googling explained that the Ubuntu team decided to throw away the old combination of netbook launcher, Maximus and Gnome toolbar widgets and replace it with their own software called Unity. Why? I don't know.

After the first surprise, I tried to get used to the new Interface but found it utterly confusing.

The Ubuntu logo in the top left that used to open the launcher now opened some search interface. And after some loading time a list of all installed applications. Categories work like search filters – slow.

Sidebar sucks

On the left hand side is a bunch of icons in a sidebar. If have more than a handful of icons it needs scrolling. But there's no scrollbar, you need to scroll with the mouse wheel aka. two finger scroll. Awkward. If you don't remember what each icon stands for you need to hover over each one to read the label. Oh and did I mention that the sidebar is always visible? Really? An always visible sidebar? On a small netbook screen? Yes!

Another thing is the new menu bar at the top. It looks and behaves very similar to what the old version did which is good. But when you open an application, the network manager icon is hidden. WTF? When my browser is running I can no longer see the WiFi connection status? What genius came up with that?

After half an hour I had enough. Surely there was a way to switch on the old interface? I googled a bit more. This can't be true? They removed the old launcher from the repositories!? Well it seems there is no sane way to get back the old netbook interface on Ubuntu 10.10. I was pissed off.

Since downgrading a Ubuntu-System is nearly impossible, I decided to reinstall the whole system using the old install media. Luckily I had documented the most important things in a blog post. 2 hours later my netbook was in a usable state again.

So what did I learn?

  • A minor version upgrade in Ubuntu can mean fundamental change Ubuntu's version numbers are based on Year.Month and what I thought to be a minor upgrade was a major one instead
  • Having a separate /home partition can be a real timesaver after a system reinstall
  • Always try a new Ubuntu version from a Live-system first

For the longterm I will need to look for a different netbook distribution unless Unity improves a lot. Several people suggested to try Mint.

PS: I realize that there are probably people who like the new Unity interface. And I know there are many people who hated the old one. But I loved the old netbook interface and I'm not alone.

rant, unity, netbook, ubuntu, linux
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