Ubuntu 11.10, Unity, Gnome 3 and the whole mess

My main work machine is still on Ubuntu 10.10. I had installed 11.04 on my spare laptop, but hated Unity so much I only ever booted into Gnome Classic. I was hoping things might get better with 11.10, but things are now very much worse. To the point where I’m looking around for other distributions. I suspect, like Linus Torvalds, I might start looking at XFCE.

Anyway, after upgrading my laptop to 11.10, I was disturbed to find it wouldn’t boot up: you just sit there looking at a message which says “Waiting for network configuration”. I’m fairly techy (and have a spare computer), so I was able to find the answer, which was to drop to a shell and move a bunch of files from /var/run to /run. But imagine a non-techy person trying to cope with this. Congratulations Ubuntu, you just lost market share.

Then I was thrown into Unity. I tried to like it for about a day. I really tried. But it just makes doing things so much harder. Everything is an extra click away. If I want a terminal I want to click on an icon and get a terminal, not activate a search box, type terminal and get it that way. I was also trying to change the font size using ‘Appearance’. Cannot.

So I tried to login as Gnome Classic. But the option to do this is not present any more. The solution for this was some more hunting, and apparently installing gnome-panel lets me now get the CHOICE to use Gnome shell. (See that word there Ubuntu? CHOICE). Except that its Gnome 3. Except that because my laptop is a whole two years old, it won’t run in proper Gnome 3 mode, and runs in fallback mode.

Fallback mode looks a little like Gnome 2, except the menus are all messed up. There is now no option to “Edit Menu” or “Add to Panel” or “Move” things around. Just fantastically messed up. How does any of this make things EASIER for us to use our computers. So, for all of you wrestling with this problem, here is the answer — you use Alt+Right Click on the menu bar and you can now Add To Panel. I found this by accident in another post: nowhere does it seem to be publicised. Having now found out I can add stuff to the panel, I managed to install the Gnome main menu, and we’re almost useable.

Except the font size. Most of my font settings were migrated over from 11.04. Menus were the right size, but all the window titles were huge. To the extent that you can’t use them. And the Appearances application now NO LONGER LETS YOU CHANGE FONT SIZE. Am I shouting a bit here. How does this make things EASIER? So you look around the internet again, and you find that you have to install an Advanced Configuration Manager, which will let you change font size. (gnome-tweak-tool, or dconf-editor will do the job apparently).

This is my level of frustration after a day. I’ve been using computers for thirty years. Imagine how novices will deal with this. Correct, they’ll run screaming back to Windows, where at least they know where things are.

19 thoughts on “Ubuntu 11.10, Unity, Gnome 3 and the whole mess”

  1. I know what you mean dude, I can’t stand Unity and tried to make it right by installing Gnome 3. It turned out to be equally annoying, since they’ve “dumbified” everything. So now I’m stuck in this crappy Gnome Classic fallback mode, which feels limited and messed up. It’s truly disturbing that for the last three Ubuntu versions everything have become less useable. Can’t really get it into my head why they’re doing this. But I don’t wanna go back to windows, although it’s really tempting at the moment. But I’ve been using Ubuntu the last 4 years, and loved every moment. Until now that is. Is it too much to ask for a simple, clean interface like gnome 2? What about making that more refined? Argh, the frustration.

  2. I’m also considering Mint, which is based on Ubuntu, and seems to have the same choices in software as me: Pidgin over Empathy for example.

  3. absolutely agree with this… There is a lot of quality with
    Ubuntu, but the decision with unity is simply not to

  4. Oh how i wish I’d found this article BEFORE upgrading… it seems that Ubuntu developers have now got their heads as far up their backsides as Windoze developers! My whole system is shagged, all my 11.04 changes and personalisation has gone and tonight I’m uninstalling Ubuntu and installing MINT.

    No-one in this organisation will ever get my permission to install Ubuntu again…

    And I’m going to spread the word to forget Ubuntu – in my opinion its now worse than Windoze

  5. Hi Ian,

    Mint is apparently moving to Gnome 3 as well, but it doesn’t seem to be in as much of a hurry as Ubuntu, and perhaps they’ll put a bit more thought into the default settings.

    I’d still urge you to look at Xubuntu. The desktop is a lot more comfortable. It does a couple of things that I don’t particularly like, such as installing Abiword, but its easy enough to install LibreOffice as well. And you still get all the benefits of Ubuntu repositories and all your config files are in the same place …

  6. 2 years ago i moved from fedora to ubuntu after years of intensive fedora use, i never had tried a Debian like S.O., so i was a little afraid about it, but in one day, just one day!… i loved Ubuntu.

    But now, im truly disapointed with the Unity mess, so… i’ve wondering if maybe its time to go back fedora with gnome 3 … im really considering that

    Dear Ubuntu: i’ll miss you, i’ll miss the way you were (u_u )

    By the way.. i love this blog 🙂

  7. …you use Alt+Right Click on the menu bar and you can now Add To Panel.

    Bless you, sir. Boy was that frustrating.

  8. Hi Wayne,

    Yes, exactly the reason I thought I’d blog about it. The more mentions it gets, the greater the chance that people will find out.

    I can’t think why they needed to change it from straight right-click to Alt right-click. And having done it, I do think they might have made a mention of it. Ah well …

  9. I love Unity but not if it doesn’t work…
    It was working just fine in 11.04 and in 11.10 it’s a wreck and breaks every other reboot it seems like, or any graphics driver changes and things like that…broken. Can’t get it back at the moment.

  10. Hi John,
    Yes it seems like the upgrade process from 11.04 to 11.10 is badly screwed. They seem to have arbitrarily moved a few system files around (see my /var/run problem for eg) and not really written the upgrade to handle this.
    I’m guessing you’d get better results if you did a clean install rather than an upgrade. Is that a possibility? If you have your /home mounted as a separate partition, its actually not too painful.

  11. The last two Ubuntu upgrades (11.04 and 11.10) have been horrible. Ubuntu was always fat, but the upgrades were never this clumsy. I’m starting to seriously consider arch-linux.

  12. I think unity is ok, a little slow, but not so if u use the “special” key to bring it up. It’s good for common stuff: browser, filesystems, office apps n stuff, & there’s always the keyboard shortcut for your terminal, ctrl-alt-t;well quick. I really like 11.04, everything just seems to work for me OOB. Had a problem trying to set up samba shares but that was probably me. I’m using Natty on both my laptpop & PC now anyway so I set up NFS shares which work great so I’m well happy. The FreeNAS server authentication works much better with them than windows 7 too. I tried 11.10 but didn’t like too many silly things like the create launcher vanishing from the desktop right click. And didn’t restart disappear from the power button or something? What on earth for? You can’t be TOO user friendly can you?
    /rant (oops)

    tl;dr: Ubuntu 11.04 great, 11.10 not so.

  13. !Nothing works correctly in 11.10, I can’t print any documents, my touchpad mouse doesn’t work, WIFI connection keeps “forgetting” the router password so I keep getting asked for it and eventually booted out. What kind of QA procedure was used before the release of this version? One last thing, the launcher is annoying and intrusive and I hate the new UI. I have been using Ubuntu for over three years but now I am so annoyed, frustrated and disappointed with this new version that I am seriously thinking of going back to Windoze!!! Anyone know of a good alternative, it doesn’t have to be pretty, only that it works-

  14. Hi Jo,
    Seems like a lot of your issues would be fixed if you dropped back to a fresh install: printing / wifi password etc. Its a bit more work, but generally worth it every so often.

    The Unity Launcher / Interface thing is a different matter, and yes, I haven’t found a single survey online where the majority of people actually like it. You might like to try a different Ubuntu variety such as Lubuntu, or Xubuntu (hint: try out the bootable Live CDs first before installing). Mint is also interesting and is still on Gnome 2.x, although they’re planning a move to Gnome 3 sometime. Then if you really want to mix it up you can try a completely different distro like PCLinux or OpenSuse or Fedora, although that will require some retraining.

  15. I’ve been using and recommending Ubuntu since version 6. I’m an IT professional and know a lot of frustrated Windowz users who wanted something easier to use so naturally the first words out of my mouth were “Ubuntu”.

    Now, however, I recommend against moving to Ubuntu. If asked I suggest Linux Mint.

    It’s hard enough to move to another OS, it’s even harder if that OS is an absolute mess – like Ubutu 11.10. I upgraded just today and boy what an adnveture it was. I spent half a day just to make X to start properly. How are normal user suppose to figure it out ?

    Ubuntu – stop trying to be cool and start trying to be the most user friendly OS. People just want something easy to use and functional.

    I am still recommeding Ubutu Server at the moment, but we’ll see…

  16. Update … Sing Hosannas! Have just found MATE desktop.

    I just installed it on my testing laptop which has now got Gnome 3, KDE, Unity, XFCE on it, none of which I got along with.

    Suddenly the darkness has lifted. I can use my laptop again. Things are in the correct place. I am productive again!

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