Despite continuing to fiddle with Unity, but running Gnome 2.x mainly, I found Ubuntu 11.04 slightly less polished and slightly more clunky than 10:10. Banshee crashed a couple of times and I removed it and installed the WinAmp-like Audacious. I don't need an application that manages my media for me I want an app that will simply play it or sync it to my mobile devices. So I use Audacious, VLC and gPodder. If it's all singing all and all dancing it's wasting valuable time and space on my PC with it's vaudeville malarkey.
Banshee was the least of my problems. There's that Launcher...oh where should I start? I've been using this kind of dock / launch bar type thing since I was knee to a grasshopper...in an, er, IT sense...replacing the Windows 3 Program Manager shell with Powerbar. Actually, that replacement shell was great. Ahem, anyway...so Unity apologists are condescending, to say the least, in their defense of this...this...new interface feature. They are constantly pointing out that Gnome have introduced the much derided Gnome Shell and to dodge that bullet Ubuntu needed to deliver Unity ahead of schedule. The result is a work in progress. OK, I can go with that but why ship 11.04 with Unity as the default desktop environment when it is clearly not finished. Yeah, yeah Ubuntu Classic is in there but Unity is the default. They will eventually sort out all of the customisation options and adding custom tiles to the laucher won't involve creating and hacking text files in a certain folder, maybe for inclusion in 11.10. However, this will not make the launcher a perfect application launcher and task management interface. If it did we'd already have it with Docky.
The Global Menu while mostly implemented well and consistently had one very minor issue. I totally despised it as a design feature. While I can see the logic of saving menu bar space on my tiny Acer Aspire netbook, why the hell would I want to hobble myself with this productivity break when I have two 24" monitors connected to my PC. If i need to access the menu of the window I'm working on I need to run my mouse pointer all the way up to the top bar and click then run all the way back to the window and engage with it's contents again. Having two massive monitors running at high resolution allows me to organise applications I am using in tandem next to each other other on the desktop. However, if I want to share or move data from one application to another, and use the additional functionality of their menus, I have to run my mouse to the top of the screen use the menu, run the mouse down to the second application a select it, then back to the top bar to access the menu again! Whose idea was this?
As bad, if not worse, is that an applications functionality accessible through it's menus is physically separated from the application window. Unity is supposed to be a breakthrough for new users and Ubuntu have announced a desire to reach 20 million users but this interface is confused and counter-intuitive for anyone and positively alien and strange to anyone migrating from Windows. I'm forced to ask again who is Unity for?
Then there is the multiple monitor issue. I don't want a top panel on both my monitors, but because of the globa menu it wouldn't be practical to do without it. An application on one windows with it's menu divorved from it up on the top bar is bad enough, but an application on one windows and it's menu on another, no, no, no. Mix in this extra (for me redundant) top bar with the necessity to use compiz and you successfully broken Windows gaming with Wine. Even World of Warcraft, one of the very best supported apps in Wine, was broken. It ran full screen but with the top bar visible and equal amount of space missing from the Wine window at the bottom. The hardware mouse was broken and character movement and control was not possible.
Ubuntu has been a leader in the Gnome world, much work is currently being done on Thunderbird, for example, integrating it into Unity and making it's interface more consistent with 11.10. Bringing homogeneity in the way that Gnome apps work and encouraging development in particular apps (like Banshee again) has made Ubuntu a positive, enabling force in the Linux world. I can only hope that Canonical are quick to admit they are wrong and abandon this appalling interface diversion and help get Gnome development back on track.
If Canonical persist with Unity and the Gnome Project insists that Gnome 3, as is now, is the way forward then the heavy weight Desktop Environment will finally be won. By KDE.