Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) with Unity: Worst Ubuntu beta ever

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Review Last year, Mark Shuttleworth christened Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal", saying the disto would be stylish and create a good, lasting first impression.

While its debut in beta form is smart looking and definitely chases the fashion in operating-system design it's also the single worst beta release of Ubuntu I've ever tested.

That's not to say there isn't much to love in Ubuntu 11.04 with the new Unity Interface being the primary news, but even for a beta this release is way too rough. Unity -- regardless of what you think of it -- isn't ready for prime time and it seems unlikely Canonical will iron out all its problems before the planned final release in April.

Bugs can be fixed, and there are numerous bugs to fix in this release of Unity, but the larger problem is that Unity, thus far, lacks the functionality of GNOME 2.32. Ubuntu, and its users, would be better served if Unity were not the default desktop for this release.

Unity is a radical departure, but no less so than GNOME 3.0, which has wisely been pushed back until later this year. The problem isn't that everything you know and love about GNOME is suddenly gone, and Ubuntu 11.04 is, for all intents and purposes a completely different experience than everything that came before it.

The real problem is that Unity can't do half of what GNOME can do.

If that sounds familiar it might be because the same thing happened to KDE users in the move from KDE 3.x to 4.0. Sadly, rather than learn from the KDE 4 backlash, Canonical has decided to soldier on into the Unity future, whether it's ready or not. Spoiler alert: it's not.

On the surface Unity looks good. In fact, Unity will most likely one day trump GNOME in many ways -- it's noticeably snappier than GNOME, works well at just about any screen resolution and even appears to be designed with touch-based devices in mind. Eventually, come Ubuntu 13.04 or so, Unity will seem like a brilliant move, but the transition is going to be bumpy.

The new universal or global menu -- which pulls the main menu out of the application window and puts them in the global menu bar -- works surprisingly well and is the first of many features that reflect the influence of Apple's user interface designs. It's different, but the global menu is probably the easiest change to adjust to -- same menus, new location.

Unity's new launcher/dock is another element that closely mirrors what you'll find in OS X, though without much of the polish and functionality built-in to Apple's offering. The dock has some problems and is missing some obvious features, but it's not hard to see how the dock and accompanying search and launcher tools will eventually be a great time saver.

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36 Responses

  1. kost BebiX says:

    > The real problem is that Unity can’t do half of what GNOME can do.

    Umm… Could you please type some of that things at least? I mean, I could say that GNOME can’t do half of things Unity can do.

  2. deepak says:

    I could not agree more. Had installed Alpha 3. Hated it so much that I re-installed Maverick. Then my hard disk (WD Black Caviar, 1 TB, horrible support) crashed. Am currently on Win7 x64 on a borrowed 160GB Seagate.

    I realised Can. has got it so wrong with Natty just after a day of use. Thinking of Gnome-based options now.

    Mint is not bug-free, and crashed on me after a few days.

    Welcome any ideas!

  3. stadja says:

    I do freaking agree.
    I put the beta on my laptop and on my desktop…
    and it’s… hmmm…

    Don’t know how to say it.


    you can’t even do a right click on the launch panel to set the size or that sort of things…

    I had a happy realy really good ubuntu. No i have a sad sad windows 7 with bugs.

    Damn it!

  4. Prateek Jadhwani says:

    Dude…dont get depressed……
    let it evolve a bit….
    m sure u ll definitely love it wid a few more third party apps….
    just dont give up on UBUNTU

  5. Gabriel says:

    Totally agree, the unity side bar is so frustrating, has bugs on it, and cannot change from tasks easily, also the menubar has glitches, por example eclipse worked with globalmenubar but with unity cannot.

    After 3 hours with the beta on my laptop I ended up falling to gnome classic, on my opinion Unity is interesting, but it’s not ready for production yet.

  6. deriox says:

    While I agree with you that Unity is certainly not ready to be used as primary desktop, I also think that someone had to do something.

    GNU/Linux has evolved tremendously over years and I can’t imagine using other operating systems anymore. However, most evolving has happened beneath the surface. Actually, things beneath the surface have been almost only thing to distinguish different distributions.

    I for one, am glad that Canonical decided to use Unity and increase diversity between distributions.

  7. Joe of Loath says:

    I like the diversity, we need more than just Gnome/KDE. However, Unity simply isn’t ready. This will just be a repeat of the KDE 4 fail, it will be too buggy for regular use.

    However, if you don’t like it, just switch to Gnome on Ubuntu. Linux is customisable. Hell, Gnome is even installed by default in 11.04, just choose it when you log in!

  8. kip says:

    Unity simply isn’t ready… It would be better if Unity were not the default in ubuntu.. I don’t like the fact “default”…..more and more people ask “how to remove this ugly side panel”…because its even problem to remove this bloody panel o_0 if you cannot remove something in your system..then the question is..where the hell freedom from (ubuntu) linux gone? What will be next time…..

  9. Falk says:

    I really like natty! Just upgraded from maverick to natty and use it in the office for my daily development work without major problems.

    It really is time to evolve the GUI to something more intuitive and productive. I think unity is the right step in the right direction.

    And hey – if you dont like it – just choose the classic mode.

  10. ruffneckc says:

    I installed the beta and while there are some issues with the Unity launcher and top panel (it is a beta after all), most of what I tried worked. There are new ways to do things but that’s fine. As always, all my hardware works without a fuss out of the box.

    I can’t understand the hatred. If you want, use a gnome session, the choice is yours. Try back again when Ocelot is out and see what advances they have made.

  11. Tien Tinh says:

    Crash, crash,…and crash. That’s everything that I can say this time. Yesterday, with very exciting in mind, I made a very mistake decide, upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04. Truth to tell, I easy use the new version in first time and maybe I like idea about dock/luncher, exactly in my old version Ubuntu 10.10, I used a dock like that.But…the very big problem this time that is MEMORY, I can’t believe in my eyes when see in System Monitor, almost my RAM is full.(My computer is P4 Intel 530(3.0G) and 1Gb RAM.), I thinks system is overloaded, after testing more than 2 hours, I’m very disappointed, my system slow down and many bugs. I had used Ubuntu more than 1 years (almost time) and installed it from version 9.04, this is the first time I feel very bad about Ubuntu. Fortunately, I using dual Ubuntu with WinXP3, and for waiting new update from Canonical I will come back Windows.(If not, I will come back Ubuntu 10.10 – And for geeks with exciting in mind, please wait if you don’t want get feeling like me).

  12. Mathieu says:

    « As always, all my hardware works without a fuss out of the box » What !!!!

    On that point, I disagree !! I’ve always experienced poor hardware compatibility on Ubuntu distribution compared to Windows release !

  13. octet says:

    I thought Unity is a bad idee, i love Gnome, but now after a few days of Unity testing, i chose Unity between Gnome Shell and Unity. But still my favorite is Gnome Classic

  14. Foo Bar says:

    I think it’d be better to offer classic Gnome as the default UI at this point. Unity could be the default when it’s really ready.

  15. zed says:

    Good news everyone: You DON’T HAVE TO use Unity! Instead of crying that it doesn’t fit your needs, just use the classic session or find out how to add a new panel and remove some stuff you don’t like.

  16. deepak says:

    Unity spoiled the game by employing dumbly adapted ideas from other Os without solving real problems. What was required was to give an option to remove redundancies, debug the code, make minor improvements to Gnome, make synaptic more efficient(often, it deletes necessary files), replace the email client with tb or better, and do away with unnecessary processes that slow down the system, and finally, improve the repository list and nautilus.
    Unity does not add value and is buggy from day 1.

  17. Soloman says:

    Most agreed.

    I don;t think Unity will be a good move in the long run..
    nor a good DE.

    To be frank..
    Unity sucks.Big time.

    Ubuntu got it nearly perfect with 10.10,
    and now shuttleworth pulls this $h!t ?

    Way to kill one of the best things in existence.

    I love Ubuntu, I love everything about it..
    and I promote the hell out of it..
    But this seriously has me reconsidering.

    This is bullSh!t shuttleworth.

    Huge fkng fail.

  18. fdsvensson says:

    What? What are you saying? A Beta that’s crash? Why install if you don’t like crashes or can handle it?
    Ore the other hand, try Kubuntu Beta. It work’s perfect 😉

  19. Kizby says:

    Unity is shit, it looks nice and sparks interest but the functionality of it is terrible.

    It has a horrible interface, it is often slow and the interface for such menus as the file menu are really shitty with suggestions of new apps and not allowing me to see what I want.

    Overall Unity put me off Ubuntu but thankfully I reverted to Gnome and I am currently preventing anything Unity related from installing on my system.

    Fuck Unity the piece of shit, worst thing that Ubuntu ever got.

  20. Bill Byron says:

    I have been trying, for the last couple of days, 11.04 Beta 2 with Unity and Gnome 3 and neither desktop is a step up. As far as I’m concerned they are both a major disappointment. In fact if this is the future of Ubuntu I will be going back to Kubuntu and the KDE desktop. Under the old version everything was well organized for PCs & laptops with large screens. I know you are trying to make it now for devices with smaller screens but you are adding additional steps for those still using the traditional desktop PC or laptop with a large screen. As a National Weather Service County Coordinator I could have had multiple virtual desktops open fully maximized to monitor different radar images and effortlessly switch from desktop to desktop but under Unity you are stuck with a maximum of four. Who thought that was a great idea? Needless to say I am back to Gnome classic and unless there are serious changes that is where I’ll stay until I am forced back to KDE.

  21. igor says:

    hmm 11.4 is a diseapointment on my oppinion, cuz i dont have functionlity work with minimized windows, it became my nightmare, and i decided to give linux mint a try cuz of that.

  22. seebee says:

    Wow, I just installed 11.04… What a piece of shit. I’ve been using Ubuntu on and off since the beginning and Linux for a while before that but I’ve never had trouble figuring out how to do basic tasks before. I’d be better off if it just booted into a shell… sudo apt-get remove shitty-desktop

  23. nirvana says:

    using ubuntu 11.04 beta for past few days,, no problem what so ever…..removed unity panel though…but still 11.04 is really good

  24. seebee says:

    I’m glad that they went with Unity… It motivated me to try Xubuntu desktop again and it’s come a long way since I last used it.

    11.04 with Xfce is pretty sweet. The best part is it doesn’t require a bunch of customization to get rid of the fucking hideous look of Ubuntu. Seriously, what were the design meetings like at Canonical… “Do you know what could make this shit-ugly brown and orange distro better? Fucking purple, man!”.

    On the positive side, I had zero hardware issues with 11.04… Working wireless out of the box! Holy fuck!

    Kidding aside, beneath the surface Ubuntu has come a long way. That’s the great thing about OSS, you can use the good stuff they’ve contributed and leave the rest. And hey, it’s free so you can’t complain. Wait.. sure you can… Kill your fucking design team Canonical!

  25. Target says:

    I had a good working system in 10.10 I upgraded to 11.04 and I’m off looking for a new distro.

    the end.

  26. Me says:

    This POS has crashed as least 3 times since I’ve installed it (IN 2 DAYS). I think part of it is that now it has gained a base and some sponsorship (e.g. LibreOffice) it is ruined and I’ll need to move on to the next Linux variant installation (or at least revert my Ubunutu – which I’ve previously had no issues).

  27. Mo PInto says:

    Ubuntu 11.04 sucks ! Try live CD before you update to the new version…
    Lack of creativity, they just copied Windows 7 features. If I want something looking like windows, then I will go back to windows. This new development team is out of touch… Get real, and get creative! Just do not try to reverse engineering things! Try you own ideas, losers!

  28. Cushie says:

    Just upgraded to the final release, Unity similar to prevous Netbook release and great on my Netbook. Also upgraded to 11.04 on PC where I think ‘Gnome’ option will suit me there. Well done the Canon’ another brilliant OS!

  29. Steveiento says:

    I was beginning to think it was me? Yeah total let down. I will give it time though and hope it gets better or I will switch distro for sure.

  30. paul says:

    I’ve just put 11.04 on my Dell laptop, and its the best edition yet. It looks great, runs great, and I personally like Unity. As far as I can tell, everything is working better than ever. I didn’t have time to play with the betas, but I’ve got no gripe with the release.

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