I have been an ubuntu fan for years now. I have worked as a server administrator on multiple distributions ranging from the Red Hat side doing admin work on RHEL and CentOS to the Debian side doing admin work on straight Debian and Ubuntu boxes and even doing admin work on BSD, Solaris and Suse. I also run a Linux distro on my home PC as well.
For production servers I am definitely a “use what’s stable and secure” kind of person but on my home desktop I tend to be more of a “bleeding-edger”. It is common for me to run beta versions of software, and sometimes even alpha versions, including my distro. Before Ubuntu 10.10 Beta1 came out I was running a minimal install of Ubuntu 10.04 that I then threw gnome-shell on top of… and I really liked it. After Beta1 came out I installed that and was very pleased to find that getting gnome shell on it was as easy as installing the gnome-shell package straight from the repository… everything worked amazingly. It was even possible to switch between Unity and gnome-shell from GDM (the login screen) which was something that never did work properly with gnome-shell in 10.04 (once you went to shell… unity was broken).
Read on to see my experiences so far with it!
I was a little disappointed by the fact that there were no gnome-shell extensions available in the repos as I am a big fan of the alternative status menu extension. I rather liked not having to hold down the Alt key on the rare occasion that I actually shut down my PC (before I installed Beta 1 it had over 60 days of uptime, lol).
This all changed when I updated to Beta 2. The gnome-shell package is currently broken because of dependency conflicts. I am fairly certain that this is part of the normal growing pains of using Beta software. The Ubuntu developers are working frantically to get 11.10 ready for prime time and gnome-shell is not on the feature list for 11.10 (it is slated to launch with Unity like 11.04). This basically means that gnome-shell is lower down on the priority list and making sure that the features that are on the official roadmap work amazingly well is where they are (wisely) focusing their efforts.
I do not hold the fact that the gnome-shell package is currently broken against the Ubuntu developers. If I were given the choice between making sure that gnome-shell worked properly at all times throughout the beta process or making sure that Unity worked properly, I too would focus my efforts on Unity (although I do prefer gnome-shell).
Let me be completely clear here though. It isn’t that I completely hate Unity. I have used it on touch interfaces as well as on netbooks and on those form factors Unity really shines. It is amazingly well laid out to make maximum use of screen space for smaller devices like netbooks and tablets and it is also quite touch friendly for devices where you do not have the precision input that a mouse offers. That said, on my home PC I have a large(ish) screen at 22″ as well as a nice mouse. I am not too concerned with being at the absolute maximum efficiency level when it comes to using my screen real-estate. I am not too concerned with having nice and easy to tap spots on the screen (tapping on my screen does nothing but put another smudge on it that I will complain about but not clean off of it for months… if ever).
My plan for now is to stick with Unity at least until the gnome-shell package is fixed. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with just compiling gnome-shell myself and hacking away at it to get the dependency problems fixed. Currently I am working on making a website for my sister’s business so that is taking up almost all of my free time so I just don’t have the keystrokes to spare to hack at gnome-shell and get it working again. I am also looking to this as a bit of an experiment to see if Unity grows on me after I force myself to use it for a bit.
For now I am hoping to make a post every few days (when I have a few free moments) to outline how it is going so far using Unity as my desktop and not shell. I will likely find some things that I don’t like about it. I will also probably find many things that I do like about it… I will also likely find some things that I don’t like but are easily tweakable… that is where the readers come in. Post comments and let me know what you think of the two. If there is something that you don’t like about it but you know how to fix it, let me know. If there is something that you don’t like but you don’t know how to fix it, post that also! someone else may have an answer for you.
Until next time…