April 5, 2011 · News · Email This Post

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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 Comments to “Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) with Unity: Worst Ubuntu beta ever”

  1. bthegeek says:

    I just installed 11.04 . Its not up to the expectations but definitely a better open source option than 10.10.

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  2. Julian says:

    I was very disappointed with the quirky and bugish behavior of Unity on three different desktops and my new Notebook. It is great that you can still use classic window manager.

    But shipping Ubuntu 11.04 with unity as the default window manager was a big mistake imho.

    Also when I heard sleek and stylish I did not have we will be ripping of MacOSX in mind.

    I think I would be better of running something like Linux Mint Debian Edition because the concept of a rolling distribution is more appealing to me than a juiced up window manager.

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  3. Jorge Juárez says:

    I’m far from being a linux expert but since I decided to move to ubuntu (a couple of years ago) I’ve learned some stuff; now I just upgraded to 11.04 and I just have to say that it has been quite frustrating to me.

    I like rotating cube along with other compiz features but now I just can’t use them. If I dare to, desktop becomes unresponsive =S On the other hand, everything is slower (at least in my laptop).

    I upgraded ’cause 9.x was no longer supported but I think I’ll go one step back and try 10.x inasmuch as 11.04 is, sadly, not something I like

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  4. James says:

    “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”

    I disagree.

    Bring back the panels. Unity is an abomination!

    We’re using the “classic view” but if they remove that in future releases we’re moving to fedora.

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  5. Rich says:

    awful. utterly awful. everything that was good about ubuntu is now gone. ease of use. clean looks. speed. stability. I’ve moved on to linux mint.

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  6. Marcel Bron says:

    I thought I just had to get used to it. Now months later I still think it’s aweful. Why the heck are they trying to make it look like the Apple crap?

    If I wanted it to look like Apple I would have gotten an Apple..geezz

    [Reply]

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