I lingered for some time in Lubuntu 11.04 and 11.10 but ultimately it was the smallest of details that left me dissatisfied. I could easily configure LXDE to mimic a Gnome Panels layout, but the effort required to add panel shortcuts and honestly the lack of visual 'click' when selecting panel launchers was a constant irritation. Small and petty but important as sometimes there was no way to know if the icon was clicked and slow launching apps were frequently launched multiple times. That's why button click animation is actually more than a simple cosmetic frippery. Plus as I make no excuses for using my PC for gaming in addition to all my other application, so whatever distro and DE I opt for the ability to use Wine and graphically intensive (if not bleeding edge) games is a must and any problems certain deal breakers.
The beauty of any Ubuntu egg is being able to use the comprehensive Ubuntu repositories and PPAs. The reason not to use Ubuntu is Unity. For many unity caused outrage and confusion. Why had canonical foisted this interface upon us and why were they gradually phasing out choice and forcing compliance. Until Unity reaches a point where Canonical feel they can relax it's rigidity and give users the ability to mold the interface to the way in which they work then it will remain inflexible and unpopular. The customization we all demanded to make the interface useable was explicitly ruled out by Mark Shuttleworth.
This led to many people rejecting Ubuntu until and jumping ship when 11.04 was released in April. A lot of Ubuntu die-hards and technophiles dismissed the critique of Unity as rigid and inflexible users rejecting a "fresh and modern" new interface. Personally I find this both lazy and insulting. As a recent Linux adopter, who has flitted butterfly like through various Desktop Environments finding usability and feature to appreciate I do not recognize the characterization of myself as inflexible or rigid. Equally, Ubuntu Unity may a lot of things but "fresh and modern" it isn't.
I apologize for bitching again but using the 'quicklaunch bar' in Explorer along the left of the screen was something I was doing with Windows 95, more importantly I could get almost anything on that bar, from Custom shortcuts to control panel applets or even hyperlinks. The top panel and Global Menu are quite simply lifted directly from OSX. I respect the way that Unity is optimized for keyboard shortcuts and touch screen but both these pluses seem to be at the expense of mousing...which I am still angry about. I simply don't like Unity, this doesn't mean I have a lacking or cannot cope with anything new. No one accused me of this when I rejected KDE in favour of Gnome 2.
I can also see why Linus Torvalds would opt to move to xfce at this point. People have criticized the author of the Linux kernel for his apparent inconsistency, but what Torvalds has done is select the Desktop Environment that best answers his requirements at one point KDE, then Gnome (2.x) and now xfce due to Gnome's deprecating of the 2 tech and Panels and the move to Gnome 3 and the odd shell. I know how he feels. My early flirtations with Linux naturally gravitated to KDE variants. Particularly SUSE and later openSUSE. After trying the much vaunted Ubuntu in early 2004 I responded positively to Gnome2 and moved away from KDE. Now with Unity and Gnome 3 I'm considering other options myself...LXDE, xfce and perhaps even Cinnamon.
So, in the aftermath of Debian (which I am genuinely sad and disappointed to be abandoning) and Lubuntu (which for all it's manifold positives simply lacks the sophistication that my workhorse desktop PC can make short work of) what is going to be my pick of the Linux distros of 2011 that will be my platform to start 2012 with?