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A Unity workaround

When Ubuntu 11.10 was released recently, I spent a day trying to at least get a feel for the Unity desktop. It was a long day and, in the end, we are going to have to just agree that Unity and I are not made for each other.

Before I continue, allow me an aside. My philosophy about this whole desktop environment thing is simple. The desktop on my computer should resemble my desktop in real life. On my desk are a lot of things, some important and some not, and none of it is in any particular order. My desk is not limited to a certain number of items neatly tucked on one side; it has things all over it that are immediately accessible when I need them.

I think Unity leaves a lot to be desired, to put it diplomatically, and it probably feels the same way about me.

I’m at peace with that.

But the day with Unity was not a total loss, because I did find a workaround for it on Oneiric Ocelot.

It’s simple: Install Xubuntu 11.10

I’ll be the first to admit it: That’s snarky. But in the final analysis, Unity just doesn’t cut it for users with normally functioning brain capacities ranking above troglodyte. In the name of “simplicity,” it ironically adds a layer or two of complexity that arguably hampers ease of use, especially when you want to tweak it to your own personal settings — or at least to the settings you’d hope to make, but ultimately are unable to make thanks to the desktop’s limitations in the name of accommodating new users.

But never mind. Again, the workaround is Xubuntu 11.10. Or Kubuntu 11.10, if you’d prefer.

[Of course, others would say, "Well, you could always use Fedora 15 Xfce," but I'm addressing those who want to use Ubuntu. Though, needless to say, using Fedora is always an option.]

Shortly after the Ubuntu-with-Unity day of pain, I installed Xubuntu 11.10 and found it worked wonders on this old MicroPC laptop. The familiar desktop was tweaked to mimic the programs and desktop icon set on my main laptop, which runs Fedora 16 Xfce beta at the moment — if you can’t have a terminal alias on your desktop, then you’re not living.

A couple of things about the install and use of Xubuntu 11.10 which may cross over to other *buntus and deserve special mention.

First, there’s a pretty wide availability of software in the Live CD version. I’m used to going back after a Live CD install and installing a ton of programs I usually use from the repositor. But in this particular install, there were several programs that I didn’t have to pick up after the Live CD install. Good call.

Another thing about the *buntus I like is the Ubuntu Software Center. Yeah, it’s kind of slick, but it works quite well. In accessing a wide range of repositories, it has everything one would need.

Xubuntu 10.11 Oneiric Ocelot is an exceptional release and is one that deserves a shot if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Ubuntu user but cannot bear to use Unity. Try it out.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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  1. October 18, 2011 at 6:01 am

    First off – let me spread my new sigline at the expense of your outstanding blog:

    Ubuntu – turning $1000.00 computers into $75.00 phones since 2011.

    There, that’s out of the way.

    “In the name of “simplicity,” it ironically adds a layer or two of complexity that arguably hampers ease of use…”

    You were always the diplomatic one between us Larry. Fact is, Canonical has potentially disrupted the workflow of a couple million people. Sure, they can do like I am doing and use Mint or Xubuntu until the current LTS rides off into the sunset, but that uncertainty looms large.

    How people can apologize for that is beyond me. Maybe Unity will morph from the worm into the butterfly between now and then.

    And maybe some day I’ll have hair like Fabio.

    Your UDOP (Unity Day of Pain) mirrors mine and I am left shaking my head, trying to make sense of it all. 200 million new users? This from a company that refuses to recognize mass media advertising?

    Good luck with that.

  2. October 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Fabio? Never thought I would see that on a Linux centric
    website/blog/forum/etc.

    Lets face it Ken, Larry the Free Software Guy is much
    tougher than us old guys. Tenacious also.

    “In the name of “simplicity” the Colonel has joined the
    army of many and switched to Linux Mint. That does
    go to freedom. Y’all can run whatever you want as long
    as long as it is approved by the Central Computer Command.

    Canonical has become the Acme Novelty Company of Linux.
    If Ron Popeil made software it would be Unity.

    Peace, Bob

  3. October 18, 2011 at 7:20 am

    My own hack…

    apt-get install gnome-shell

    … and all is better.

  4. October 19, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Well, I dunno. I’ve been messing with it so far and I like it. Then again, I’m used to using alt-tab. The main issue I’m running into at the moment is the touchpad on my HP dv7 notebook. No separate mouse buttons…. just separate regions for left and right clicking. Works great in Windows. In Ubuntu and other systems…. not so much. I just consider myself fortunate for having a separate USB mouse.

  1. October 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm
  2. October 21, 2011 at 4:09 am
  3. December 20, 2011 at 11:41 am
  4. May 24, 2012 at 9:43 am

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