However, I wasn't one of those reeling from the shock of the new. I love all things new and even if something looks strange I'll give it a go and see if it delivers. What was wrong with Unity was that there were too many frustrations where I felt the Desktop Environment imposed a way of working that reduced my productivity.
Top of my hit list was the Global Menu paradigm from OSX. With two large widescreen monitors with expendable screen real estate I wasn't concerned with menus and scroll bars and panels and launchers taking up space. That's only an issue on my netbook. So dragging my mouse up to the top of my screen(s) and back again to access application menu's, especially, when using multiple apps was just insane. I've always been a mouse driver so the new application panel, with it's keyboard optimisations simply made matters worse.
Then the bugs and usability issues cycle to the top. Wine applications running fullscreen were broken by the top Menu Bar, while some Wine applications were broken completely in 11.04. Finally on the list of most annoying there was customisability. Mark Shuttleworth is clear that the chaos of choice in Gnome 2.x and the design goals of Unity preclude being able to change some Unity Fundamentals. For example, the left launcher bar has to remain on the left next to the Ubuntu button so the design of Unity and Unity apps is consistent and integrated.
Well, I'm always ready to try new things and see how new ideas are developing. I intend to try Ubuntu 11.10 and see if addresses any of my concerns. Here is a list of issues it needs to address for me consider using it longer than it takes to test.
- Wine applications need to work with out of the box wine version. I foresee issues between Unity's Compiz configuration and Wine. A Desktop that cripples or makes gaming any less advantageous on a Linux platform is a failure on any equipment more powerful than a web browsing netbook.
- I have to be able to simply add the applications I use most often to the Launch bar. I do not want to create and edit .desktop files to achieve this. Some functionality, like but not identical too, right-clicking the bar and selecting New from a pop-up menu must be available for this end.
- Theme-ing. Pretty is a feature and while I liked the black business-like theme-ing of title/menu bars and panels in Ubuntu 10.10 with 11.04 the orange/purples that adorned parts on the interface, particularly the Unity Launch bar, were not pleasing to my eye. I refuse to be forced to tolerate this appearance when I can simply reboot and chose Debian or Lubuntu from my boot menu instead of Ubuntu.
I don't consider these requirements to unreasonable and given that Canonical have now had a year to build, release and refine their design they should be well on course to delivering a more than usable Desktop Environment.
KDE has weathered the user storm around the change to version 4.0 and openSUSE is a flagship open source OS for Linux and not just KDE Linux. Gnome 2.x lives on in Debian and demonstrates it's virtues. Fedora have migrated to Gnome 3 and that Environment will continue to grow, I expect the 3.1 version to be as well received as KDE 4.1 and then Gnome will be back in the game. Mint have their own DE shell, built on Gnome 2.x tech, that seems attractive to many including first time Linux users.
Ubuntu, pre-11.04, seemed to stand head an shoulders above many Linux OS projects. If Unity has done anything it's opened up the market to innovation and choice. 11.04 has given our faith in Canonical a very firm shake. No Linux Operating System is ever going to be the outright winner of the distro war, I sincerely hope. For my money Ubuntu was the best right up until 11.04 released and had been for some time. Now I'm more open minded and pragmatic. Debian Wheezy drives my desktop with a version 3.0x kernel. Tomorrow I may have found an OS that serves my needs better, it might even be Ubuntu Unity.