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Ubuntu, Unity and Gnome Shell 12/10/2010

Posted by muyiscoi in News.
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Disclaimer: This post will most likely contain lots of “geek speak”. If you do not have prior information on the subject, some background reading might do some good

The World of Desktop Linux is a very fast moving one. That has been one of its major appeals. However, sometimes, it is also its undoing. I started using Linux in 2007 after being introduced to Ubuntu by my brother. I absolutely fell in love after i got Beryl to work on it. No, it was not the swishy and swirly movements that did it for me (though those were nice too). It was the fact that i had an issue with beryl and i could actually fix it myself.I considered myself a ‘guru’ and loved the fact that Linux made me feel that way. Sometime in 2008 when i first saw KDE 4.0. It looked so shiny and beautiful, i began to contemplate moving over from my trusted GNOME 2. After reading a couple of reviews though, i decided to stick to GNOME. One of the most annoying changes for me at that time was Amarok media player. Amarok used to be the power house of linux media players. It was the one with all the features, and then some. On the introduction of KDE 4.0, Amarok2 had been introduced and it was a shell of its former self. It had barely any feature and crashed so frequently, it was not useable. This was the case for most of the applications and indeed the entire KDE4 desktop at that time and it made people begin to wonder why a half baked product had been released as stable.

I should probably note at this point that although i am not a developer of any Linux or indeed FOSS application in the wild today, I do understand the immense work that goes into developing FOSS software for little or no remuneration and i do not wish to belittle the works of these fine coders in anyway.

Two years later and KDE4 is actually usable and I must admit, breathtakingly beautiful. The devs have fixed most of the major issues and Amarok2 is well on its way to its former glory. However, i still stick with GNOME.

Its all about the shell these days


I first heard the chatter about GNOME3 slightly over a year ago. back then, it was known as ToPaZ and people were dropping muck-ups all over gnomelook and other sources. I thought it looked interesting until i saw the early screenshots. I was absolutely blown away. It looked really promising and i couldnt wait to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, on building it, i would only get a blank white screen. I continued following the progress of Gnome-shell on places like this and this. On upgrading to Ubuntu 10.10, I decided to give Gnome-shell another go and this time, it was in the repos so installation was painless. Also, this time around it worked.
My first impression after ‘gnome-shell –replace’ was wow! after a few minutes, it degenerated to okay. then, when i got an IM which i could reply from the notification, it returned to wow! and finally, i did Ctrl + C on the terminal window.

Overall, gnome-shell is very nice and has some killer features such as the IM notification thingy. However, i dont really like having to go to overlay mode to do anything useful via the mouse. also, window switching isnt really snappy without the use of keyboard shortcuts. It could also use some speed boosting. I have seen some more recent screenshots of gnome-shell and some of the issues i have with it are already being addressed. Atleast, the GNOME devs have learnt from their KDE siblings on how not to release until ready. Hopefully, i will dance excitedly in April next year when the stable version is released.

Ubuntu Unity is another case altogether. It also didnt work for me initially but like gnome-shell,  i could install it from the repos on upgrading to Ubuntu 10.10. On logging into Unity, first thing i noticed was how instantly, my processor fan seemed to kick it up a notch. I’ve gotta say at this point, that design wise, i much prefer Unity’s design to that of Gnome shell. Also, having a window picker in form of a dock is a definite plus for me. I also like the fact that i still have access to my beloved Messaging menu. One major gripe i have with unity right at the beginning is d speed. It is a major resource hog and it is very slow. I admit that my two year old HP Pavillion dv5 might not be the most powerful laptop available now but i did not expect the difference in speed which i noticed while using unity. On the overlay mode, search options delayed before showing results, icons took long to load, or even loaded the wrong icons at times. I recently learned that most of this is caused by using Mutter as the Window manager and switching to compiz would solve the problem. That is yet to be seen however.

In conclusion, I have got to say, that exciting times await us as far as the linux desktop is concerned. We have moved far from the stages of conformity with other existing desktop operating systems to the stage of Innovation in the area. I eagerly look forward to April 2010 when the next stable release of Unity and first release of Gnome-shell will happen. Exciting times await us.

PS: For those thinking Unity and Gnome-shell should merge, I say, healthy competition helps innovation. Don’t believe me, check out new developments in Gnome-shell and compare then with Unity.

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Comments»

1. 4ller - 12/15/2010

Im yet to try out unity, i have tried gnome-shell, but a long time ago, so its probably improved a bit. but then it really was a bit confusing.

lets see sha. but im pretty sure all the doom mongering is wide off the mark

2. muyiscoi - 12/15/2010

unity is nice sha. just a tad too slow for me n d lack of desktop icons doesnt make sense IMHO until i can right click on the overlay mode. u can try it out on 10.10. it is in d repos. after installing, login to Ubuntu Netbook Edition from GDM

3. muyiscoi - 12/15/2010

gnome-shell is also in d repos n its changed alot over the past few months. gnome-shell –replace will switch it after install

4. IG - 12/31/2010

I started following gnome-shell when the idea of gnome3 was first brought forward. I tried it once and I must say it’s beautiful but not quite usable. I believe allowing users to add launchers to the panel will really increase it’s usability. But then, I last ran it over six months ago.

Unity, I must say has bought me over. Part of the reason why Canonical went the Unity way is because their suggestions for gnome-shell have been rejected. They also have some complains about the use of mutter which they argue is slower than Compiz.

I believe Unity will be quite usable, snappy and pretty. It’s only six months old and is IMO better than gnome-shell.


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