Regular readers will know of my contempt for Ubuntu Linux‘s standard “Unity” interface. Sadly I could find no simple way to transition to the Mint distro (which keeps Ubuntu’s simplicity but ditches the abomination that is Unity) and so thought I had no choice but to live with it.
But, bluntly, Unity was making the computer I am typing this on all but unusable – it was like a trip back 15 or more years in computing performance – thrashing, long delays, the whole “run Windows 3.1 on a 640KB box” experience. Unity had to go or the laptop (a vintage and a long way from the top of the range machine – but with 2GB RAM and two Athlon TK-57 processors not quite ready for the scrap yard) had to go.
In desperation this morning I installed Xfce (Xubuntu-desktop) – I wish I had done that years ago. The computer is usable again and I get to work with a clean and entirely functional desktop.
It looks as though my wireless bridge, which relied on equipment more than a decade old – a Ricoh pci pcmcia bridge and a 801.11b DLink card – has died. The network interface won’t come up on booting the system and lspci just lists the device as an unrecognised non-VGA card (interestingly the BIOS still sees it as a network controller though).
So, I need to replace it. But with what? My understanding, last year at least, was that Linux bridging software won’t work with anything more modern (this card had an old Prism II chipset)
Admittedly this is a “focus group of one” but returning home from some weeks away, the other half says “you know the way my computer works now?” Me: “oh, Unity?” Her: “Yes. Well, it’s ****. Can you get rid of it?” Me: “I thought you said you liked it?” Her: “That was before I had to do some work.”
But it seems Canonical still are not prepared to admit their mistake.
OK, after a week of 11.10 I thought I’d list some of the problems and what to do about them. It’s not happy reading – I think it is fair to say Canonical have dropped the ball on this one.
Unity – this is the joke Ubuntu think we should be using as a desktop interface. It’s rubbish, just use Gnome:sudo aptitude install gnome-panel and then select Gnome when you login (click on that wheel thing beside your name on the login dialog).
Evolution – this is nearly as bad as the Unity decision, but Ubuntu have banjaxed Evolution and I can see no obvious fix – I am using Thunderbird instead, but it is also broken (a bug is in the Ubuntu bugzilla but no fix is apparent) and complains about the Ubuntu One address book. You just have to ignore the errors and hope somebody gets around to fixing it. Better yet, gets round to fixing the distro so that Evolution works on it.
Skype – this too is broken by 11.10. But it can be fixed. sudo apt-get install libxss1:i386 && sudo apt-get install libqt4-core:i386 && sudo apt-get install libqt4-gui:i386 && sudo apt-get install libdbus-1-3:i386 (NB: use apt-get as aptitude seems to have some issues with this.) Be careful, though, as installing these libraries might cause you some other issues – have not for me, but they seem to drive a lot of other consequential changes.
I have now upgraded the laptop on which this is being typed to Ubuntu 11.10 and there were a few problems and issues:
The upgrade killed the wireless connection and then failed (late on) because it could not download the Adobe Flash installer – but it was late enough in the upgrade process to allow me to boot into 11.10 and then complete anything that needed doing with sudo aptitude dist-upgrade
You are forced to use the abomination that is “Unity” – still looks and feels like something a five-year-old would have designed. It’s a disgusting waste of time. You can probably tell I don’t like it. So get rid of it with sudo aptitude install gnome-panel
Before I got to that point it tried to boot into something called “Ubuntu 3D” – which is something to do with the ludicrous Unity. It failed (this is running dual head) telling me I was exceeding the 3D capacity of my video card (at least that’s what I think it was trying to tell me) and then went into “Ubuntu 2D” – which worked reasonably well.
The issue I had with the desktop background disappearing when going dual head has gone, though Gnome panel handled the dual head properly while Unity 2D still had “issues”.
But, overall, it seems to have gone well enough. At least once I got rid of Unity. Have I told I don’t like it?
The conclusion in Linux Format magazine is that, yes, it is. It’s still the most popular distro, but the gap has closed with Mint (which offers Ubuntu-Done-Right I suppose) and Fedora.
Five years ago I was a Fedora user but then they issued a release that oopsed on booting, so I had no choice but to use Ubuntu and until the release of the awful “Unity” desktop have never thought of using anything else.
I guess I would just go straight to Debian if starting from scratch these days.