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Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook review

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UbuntuAfter reviewing Ubuntu 10.10 and Kubuntu 10.10, the next logical Ubuntu edition to review I think should be the Ubuntu Netbook Edition, or UNE. As the name implies, UNE is the edition of Ubuntu optimized for small screens, such as you will find on netbooks and tablet computers.

Like Linpus Linux Lite 1.4, UNE features two desktop modes. The default Netbook interface, and the standard desktop interface. The Netbook interface is available to computers that meet the minimum driver requirements, while others can only use the standard desktop interface. Other than the netbook interface, there are very few significant differences between UNE and Ubuntu. The installation program and process, installed applications, and system tools are all the same.

So rather than rehash what has already been covered about the installer, installed applications, and system tools in reviews of Ubuntu and Kubuntu, I will focus this review on the new interface in much the same manner I did for the KDE Plasma Netbook interface.

Unity Interface:
The new interface on Ubuntu 10.10 is called Unity. It is touch-capable, and optimized for use on netbooks and small, mobile computers. The image below shows what you see when you first log in to a UNE-powered computer. Just an empty desktop with a standard GNOME top panel and applications launcher panel (Launcher) to the left. The Launcher plays the role of the bottom panel on a standard GNOME desktop. It features launchers for the most popular applications, and will expand to show the launchers for open applications that are not on it by default.

Unlike the KDE Plasma Netbook interface, the Unity Launcher takes up valuable desktop real estate, without adding any real significant advantage to the interface.


Main page

When an application is open, a pair of small arrows will appear to the left and right of its icon on the Launcher, and if there are more than one open applications, the application in focus will be the only one with the pair of arrows. The others will have just an arrow to the left. The arrows come in handy when you have more than one open applications and the one in focus is maximized. By looking at the Launcher, you can tell which other applications are open.


Open applications

Due to the nature of the Launcher, the real usable size of the desktop on Unity is reduced by an amount equal to the width of the Launcher. This is especially noticeable when an application window like that of a Web browser is open and in focus. As shown below, an application window like that develops an horizontal scrollbar at the screen resolution that is just above what you will find on netbooks. So while Unity is designed for netbooks and small screen mobile devices, the launcher puts a dent on the real usable desktop space.


Space issues

By default, Unity features the same number of virtual desktops that are available on most KDE and GNOME desktop. There is an icon for gaining access to the view shown below on the Launcher. The small shows which icon it is.


Virtual workspaces

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  1. netbooks says:

    If you hover, you see a caret indication looks like a tool tip. You can not add a new link here but remove an item with dragging it by left click and from the right click sub-menu. You can rearrange the launcher icons by dragging them to up or down with left mouse click.

  2. Tristan says:

    It’s great to finally see an honest review of 10.10’s Unity.

    The initial reviews (all released on Oct 10) were all praising the interface, and centred around the additional software changes.

    I actually use a Netbook (unlike the designers of Unity) and it took just 10 seconds to realise that my upgrade from 10.4 was a mistake.

    Not only have they wasted screen space with a non-customisable chunker, they’ve got this search thing running to waste CPU cycles and memory!

    An absolute joke of an upgrade. They must have got the worst Aspies in to get ideas and implement it.

    To Josh, who wrote
    “I don’t think the public in general should be so upset about the change because if Unity is not for you, you can always put your preference of DE/WM shell back on your system. Its not that big of a deal.”

    Yes, it is that big a deal. Ubuntu is meant to be one of the more user-friend distros. They go and make this ugly unusable POS the default for netbooks, then some nerd tells them that they should just put a WM shell on! What the hell? How is an average user going to know what that even means? What about the limited disk space on Netbooks?

    If Ubuntu want people to use them, they should may their software good. An often ignored, but I think crucial, rule of business.

  3. G.J.Rijnsma says:

    Ext4, Grub2 to distroy your dual- or more-boot configeration, Unity, they are afraid of something and going strong.
    A good moment to choose PCLOS or something other also beautiful. But no Ubuntu here until calmness and enlightenment has returned in Ubuntu-land.
    Btw. Mint LMDE is also a very good choice. Lefevre saw something coming…

  4. Josh says:

    I haven’t tried Unity yet, though I’ve heard very good and very bad about it. I guess this will be one of those things where you have to use it for yourself and make up your own mind about it.

    I don’t think the public in general should be so upset about the change because if Unity is not for you, you can always put your preference of DE/WM shell back on your system. Its not that big of a deal. Personally, I’m excited to try Unity. If it works out, great! If not, I’ll go back to GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, or any one of many little window managers.

  5. Ughhh. This thing is going to become the next Ubuntu? And now what are we supposed to do if we don’t want a 3D accelerated destop, or don’t have hardware that supports it?

    • Paul says:

      From what I’ve seen so far, the choice is there. Although Unity is the default, you will be able to select the proper Gnome desktop when you sign on.

  6. jackd says:

    I agree with your conclusions. I’ve had UNE 10.10 on my netbook for a little less than a month. Wanted to give it time to see if it grew on me. But I really don’t want an ugly button bar welded to the side of my screen.

    Honestly I don’t see much good software coming out of canonical. Had a lousy experience with Ubuntu One, which was buggy and horribly unreliable for months. I eventually gave up on that too. And upstart appears to have only been half done, with no standard way to configure startup applications and many (?most?) packages still using the old init scripts.

  7. khiang says:

    i try it once and switch back to 10.04 netbook remix. i hate the new menu…

    menu at 10.04 its better and easier to understand

    really2 hate this new one!!! T.T

  8. Scrubby Creek says:

    I tried 10.10 on my netbook and didn’t like it. I reinstalled 10.4 which is much more my style – and besides- it allows me greater flexibility to set up the desktop the way I want it. I sincerely hope that 11.04 will not lock the user out as it does in the netbook edition.I was disappointed with Unity on my netbook but look forward to the Ubuntu team being my sensible about it on the desktop.


  9. Marie says:

    You can get similar effects and more flexibility just using AWN or Docky. I see people moving to Debian, Mint, or Xubuntu unless they really improve upon this. LOL

  10. Sam says:

    I see tablet interface written all over this.

  11. Chris says:

    Well, Mark said it.
    Users and OEM’s love it so its staying.
    Nevermind that ~90% of the users who have been expressing feelings about it said they dislike it and OEM’s arent even shipping it.
    They love it!

    Personally, i tried the 10.10 netbook interface on my netbook a couple of days after release.
    Didnt seem like something id like to be working with neither on a desktop, or a netbook.
    Maybe it would be a great inteface for a smartphone or something like that, that i dont know.
    Having tried the GNOME shell around early August i think on the same machine, i found it MUCH more useable.
    IMO Canonical has stopped caring about the desktop market.
    For the record, i am a KDE user, so GNOME is only a technology provider for me. I honestly couldnt care less what Canonical (read Mark) decides to use on his products.

  12. Paul says:

    the Unity Launcher takes up valuable desktop real estate, without adding any real significant advantage to the interface.

    That was my first thought when I saw the Unity interface. It strikes me as insane that a UI, supposedly designed for smaller screens, should insist on hogging so much screen space.

    I’ve yet to see anything that suggests that Unity is an improvement on the standard Gnome 2.x interface and I do think that Canonical will be making a huge mistake if they persist with Unity in its current form.

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