Open Ballot: Has Ubuntu 11.10 fixed the problems with Unity?


Flamewars and controversies are ten-a-penny in the ever-changing world of computing, but Ubuntu 11.04's switch away from Gnome to Unity caused a particularly large dollop of anger to be spooned onto the internet. While some users cheered the new desktop design, many others felt frustrated by its limitations and glitches. So as we gear up to record our next podcast, we want to hear from Ubuntu users: how do you feel about 11.10's Unity? Has it changed sufficiently to fix any problems you had previously? Is it worse in any respects? Or has it made you simply switch to Xfce?

Let us know in the comments below, and we'll read out the best in our next podcast. Ta!

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Your comments

unity launcher not appearing when mouse hovers at left of screen

had to install compiz config settings manager and switch on the top and bottom region of the left screen. Now it works ok and on my Lenovo T500 is much better than Natty was. There seems to be a new graphics driver which displays Super Tux Kart properly. Indicators for applications such as Truecrypt still do not work properly. However, it is an improvement and I am happy with it.

Better, but not good enough.

I installed it on my laptop, and I think it's better now, but still not good enough. It looks like as if Canonical uses the non long term distros just for testing purposes, which isn't a good case in my opinion. Either make a 1.5year cycle instead of every 6 months, or a deliver a proper product every 6 months, don't deliver rubbish and deliver something good just once in a while.
If linux (and Ubuntu) wants to be taken seriously, it should 'just work', the average user is not going to file bugs and wait for the fix, they will just reinstall windows, and even in my case, I will try to find a solution, but if not found soon enough, I'll just install another distro which does work.


Unity was the reason I switched from Ubuntu to Fedora in April and I've happily been living with gnome-shell for the last few months. I decided to give Unity another try with 11.10. After a day of using it I found it hard to use and no where near as fast and slick as gnome-shell. LUCKILY gnome-shell is just an apt-get install away in the new Ubuntu as its in the official repo's!!


I have given up on Ubuntu and went back to its roots - Debian. With the testing repos, I have a newer desktop that I ever did with Ubuntu, including Linux Kernel 3.0. I am starting to think that Ubuntu's glory days are past, and something else will end up taking its place.

Da Ocelot broke my everything


Sound broken
Thing at side randomly appears when i move mouse over to left.
have to click annoying button to get thing on left to show.
thing on left doesn't show when i move mouse to top left
flash broken

that is all so far...

not really

On my netbook it is still shiny and slow, so I suppose after a short test I'll switch back to the old and fast xfce environment. Unity is sux

People forget...

...that when 11.10 came out it didn't just mean a new Unity release, but other respins as well.

I switched from Gnome to KDE after Unity took over and the classic desktop still had issues. Well thanks to changes in 11.10 I've switched from Kubuntu to Mint 11.

I was annoyed about the KDE menu losing it's reboot and shutdown buttons with no working option to restore them from the menus, and a broken autologin option.

Trying to get a fix on the forums was an exercise in extreme patience. It reminded me that these respins always take second place to the default release.

So I'm sticking to Mint 11 for a while...

I love Jonathan Roberts

I think he's great!

Yes, they've got the right idea

I can see what Canonical is going for with Unity: a big, dock-like task bar with Windows 7-style buttons and a neat Gnome 3 launcher - seems like the best of all worlds, and it certainly seems more beginner friendly than Gnome 3 or KDE.

Shame that the update broke my networking...

No, so I am using Xubuntu

I was hoping they were going to fix it but no. 1 I can't customize the top panel (or whatever its called in unity). 2 I cant work the Unity 'menu' and start applications with just the keyboard, this is important on a netbook where the in-built mouse is hopeless. 3 I don't like the 'software available for download' section. If i want to be told what other software I can install I would use windows.

So I have Xubuntu installed on my netbook and It will go on my desktop when I upgrade that.

Finally Xubuntu worked out of the box on my netbook because it has the Broadcom driver on the CD. Ubuntu doesn't :(

Boring answer


I use Unity in my small-screen netbook and it works just fine. After a few days using it, I think that is more stable, which was my main complain about Unity in 11.04.

I'm pretty happy with it.


I can live with it.

Unity is sleek, sufficiently fast and stable, sure you have to adapt to it.. specially to the darn left bar.

Don't get me wrong I'm not a Unity lover, I personally like xfce for its simplicity, what I don't understand is why people are always peaking with Unity!

Still trying...

I did stick with Unity in 11.04, although it gave me a fair share of irritation. I don't see much improvement in 11.10, the launcher settings are still very limited, and the ones that were "experimental" are still experimental. The placement of the 'close' button at the edge of the screen is an improvement, but on the other hand, when I set the launcher trigger area to topleft corner, it doesn't quite work - I have to first drag the mouse to the corner and then down in order for the launcher to appear.
Another thing is - and I don't know if it's an Ubuntu or Gnome3 thing - in File Properties in Nautilus there are no symbols! I'm missing all those 'ticks' and 'hearts' and 'stars', which I used extensively. I don't understand why they would have been removed!
Anyway, I'm seriously considering switching to pure Gnome3.

Don't Care What Anyone Else Says - I like Unity!

It's a couple of years since I've used Ubuntu and I thought I'd try out Unity to see what all the fuss was about. Personally I love it.I find it very quick, usable and enhances my productivity.
When working on a laptop/netbook I like to avoid the trackpad and use the keyboard as much as possible. Unity has made this much easier in my opinion, without the need for additional software like Gnome Do.
Found in 11.10 that very occasionally the keyboard focus is lost in the Dash but apart from that no real problems yet. All I can say is - it works for me!

It works for me, too!

I've been using Ubuntu since Fiesty Fawn in 2007 and I think Unity's brilliant. The best yet. 11.04 was good but 11.10 is even better; it's a really great desktop environment. I love the top-bar integration when programs are maximized, and I really miss it if I'm using something else. I even like the way the menus and window buttons are hidden. Other desktops just feel really old-fashioned to me now (apart from Gnome Shell, which I do like but not as much as Unity).

I wouldn't say it's absolutely perfect, though, but what is? It can still be a little buggy, but no real show-stoppers. I installed it in VirtualBox on my wife's 27" iMac the other day and it looked awesome; really slick and crisp. It looked so much nicer than Snow Leopard. Canonical are definitely heading the right way.

Big improvement - slicker and more stable - but a way to go

My hunch is that all Canonical really needs to do to appease disgruntled Ubuntu users is make Unity more customisable. As a webmail user having a huge 'Check email!' button is particularly pointless (and makes me embarrassed to use my netbook in public.)

I can't upgrade my other machines until the single window version of GIMP comes along, though. Trying to use the multi-window version of GIMP with Unity's global menu is enough to cause breakdowns.

Never mind the performance, it "Looks Good"

...and I bet the same phrase has been used in Redmond.

Many improvements over 11.04.

When used on a netbook however the same problems with screen fit persist. Performance on a netbook is noticeably slower.

"Never mind chaps, you'll get around to cheddar one day."

Big improvement but update tool borked GRUB again

This version of Unity is much better but I still prefer Gnome 2 or Xfce. I have kept my main machine on 10.10, my servers on 10.04 and put my testing machine to 11.10. The upgrade tool did not ask me which disk to write GRUB to (should have been /dev/sdc) and filed to write to /dev/sda leaving the machine unbootable until I fixed it off the live disk. This should not happen - I have to fix most of my machines every time I do a distribution upgrade!!!

I can't see the point on Unity - I did test it on a Zoostorm SL8 tablet & all the hardware was detected out of the box but Unity was unusable as some of the "hover" requirements to get menus do not work on the tablet, the buttons to move windows etc were too small but the main issue was the software launcher was unusable as the on-screen keyboard would not float above it.... In the end I gave up and put Meego tablet dev build on it which worked very well.

As for the future of Ubuntu on the desktop? I have moved to Xubuntu on two machines and am investigating Arch. I'll probably keep using Ubuntu server for the time being.

At least Microsoft are levelling the playing field by making the same mistakes with Windows 8.

It's effort in the right direction

I'm not a big Unity or Ubuntu fan, I'm currently typing this from Slackware with Fluxbox, but I appreciate the effort Canonical is putting into (this seems to be their goal) a sleek, user-friendly Desktop Environment that can show Mac OS or Windows users that Linux doesn't have to look hacked together and all about green-lettered terminal screens. You mention many times on the show that on of Linux main detractors is its reputation as being geeky and "1337", Unity is a good effort to disprove that.

I'll end on a fanboy note and remind you that all of you and your show are awesome.

Distinctive, working and as ever can be tinkered or swapped out

Just upgraded from LTS to the new shiny. Not sure what all the fuss about a gnome/compiz plug in is all about. Unity is great on my netbook and seems okay on the desktop. It gives me the max desktop space, although the demise of the spinning cube will stop the cooing of others.

ubuntu is going to get

ubuntu is going to get killed with unity.
unity is an useless ornament that ubuntu likes .

gnome-shell,after so much critiscism is lot better than unity.

unity shell can go to hell!

My prediction

Linux Mint will soon be #1, replacing Ubuntu. Why? They get it. They listen to their users. They are keeping support for Gnome 2 in Linux Mint 12 (based on Ubuntu 11.10). They will wait until Gnome 3 develops into something their users want to use, or else they will switch to a Gnome 2 fork called Mate. I switched to Linux Mint Debian Edition, and now prefer it over the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint main edition. With a Debian base, it is faster, more stable and uses less memory than the Ubuntu-based version. And, it is a rolling release - no more upgrading every 6 months to stay current.

Stuck to 10.04

I use ubuntu at work for at least 8 hours each working day, I use 10.04 and I find it great. I've tried to install a 10.10, but I don't like the changes in the desktop, as I'm 36 and it's 5 years that I develop for at least 8 hours each working day and so I think for me it's difficult to change habit, as I've a lot of more important things to do. For some year I think to use 10.04.


Better, but Gnome 2.30 was best

Unity 11.10 has improved on 11.04 more than Gnome 3.2 has against Gnome 3. That said, I have tried both and find neither usable. I too am a developer and use Ubuntu 10.04 at work. I need a distro/desktop that suits the way I work, not one that tries to change the way I work by.

Gnome abandoned the greatest desktop Linux has ever had in Gnome 2.30. Ubuntu's greatest mistake was not to pick up Gnome 2.30 development, instead giving us the pure folly that is Unity.

Both could easily prove to be development dead-ends akin to the the fabled Netscape rewrite. Shame really :-(

Ubuntu Book

I loved 10.04 and upgraded happily to 10.10, the 11.04 release was too buggy for me and I downgraded to 10.04 for stability on my main machine.

I'm not a fan of the direction Ubuntu is taking - Seems there will be an "Ubuntu Book/Pad" coming out soon that uses Unity interface and Mark can make all his money back selling the device.

For that reason, and to learn more about linux basics, I've installed Arch running Openbox on the Eeepc which has opened up a whole new world of visudo, dhcpcd and /etc/rc.conf learnings.

UBUNTU 11.10 too many bugs for me....

I installed from scratch 11.10 after deleting my partition from my Toshiba L675D. Did a clean install and had nothing but problems. The mouse would disappear, had to use an external then was able to turn it on. Lost all my navigation bars, had to delete partition and start over. Finally had a fairly clean install. Then could not get the alt-tab function to work, never could. Could not get the unity tab to small icons no matter how many times I configured it. Basically I lost all my functionality of Ubuntu. Finally spent most of a day and reloaded 11.04. Now I am back almost to my starting point. Problem is that I have six months of tweaking to catch up on. Performance wise I felt like I could go make a cappuccino between commands. Really felt like I was in a dream running and going no where.

Has anyone else had this kind of problems? This was my first in a longtime of these type of problems. Feels more like a beta or alpha than the finale product. Very disappointed. Would appreciate any help.

Unity has made me a better person!

As a long-term Ubuntu user, I have to thank the Ubuntu team and their insistence of pushing Unity down our throats for making me a better person. I hated Unity in 11.04 but luckily had Classic to fall back to. I respectfully gave Unity in 11.10 a good try but still hate it. So I started educating myself on other distros and other desktop managers. Wow... there are really some great alternatives out there and learning how to implement them has led me to a greater understanding of Linux in general. And after all... knowledge is freedom!! Thanks Unity!!!

Gnome Shell saved it

11.04 was running pretty good on my Lenovo Z460. 11.10 ruin it all. Did a clean install. Very slow responses from mouse, keyboard. Switch to Gnome Shell and everything start coming back to normal.

Will try Fedora 16 with Gnome Shell on my Desktop next month. I hope Canonical get things right on 12.04 LTS.

*thinks hard*

No. No sir, it has not.


That *hidden* global menu is the worst part of any desktop I have ever seen. Removing it just makes a frustratingly empty gnome-panel with no way to put anything useful on it.

The rest of interface doesn't improve things at all. Just plain silly. maybe on a tablet or tiny netbook it would make sense, but Unity just gets in my way on my PC. Not going to try Ubuntu again for the next few years.

Unity not bad

I skipped 11.04 because I knew it was going to buggy since it was Unity 1.0 and continued to run 10.10. I figured 11.10 would have Unity were it was working pretty good, but expect a few quirks. So far I have been enjoying 11.10 with the new "Pretty Features" like the random wall paper desktop, the new Ubuntu Software Center and also the wireless drivers that came with 11.10 allowed me to connect to my in N wireless at over 100mbs. The only quibble I have with 11.10 which is my fault because I want to try btrfs and formatted my laptop drive with the new file system. I get "error: Parsing file" which I think is btrfs issue not an Ubuntu issue. I think this will be a good desktop for beginners.

Opps Forgot Something

Also, I want to add that the new Multi-Arch setup for 64-bit computer is cool. Installing a 32 bit apps on 64 bit computer sometimes was a pain, but it is real easy with Multi-Arch and the Ubuntu Software Center. For example I have been trying to install BrewTarget on 10.10 64 bit and could not get it to install. In the past I have install 32bit apps like lightscribe with no problems on my 64 bit Ubuntu Systems. With 11.10 all I had to do was go into the Ubuntu Software Center search for Brewtarget and click install and it just worked. Thanks guys for excellent work on your podcast and magazine! If you guys like Homebrew let me know. I could send you some homebrew for the podcast. ;-)

Gnome Shell - neither desktop environment is perfect but ....

Gnome seems to offer more scope for customisation - aka bringing back some of the old familiar stuff - than Unity. There are still issues with Gnome Shell in 3.2 (gets up to 100% cpu usage after certain time/running program) but all round I prefer it over Unity. I can run Gnome Shell on Ubuntu, Arch, OpenSuSE etc (and Mint in a few weeks) and not have to adapt my way of working too much. Extension writing is developing and bugs are continually being squashed as development continues.
I am becoming a fan of the Super Key, actually hitting it by mistake on my Mint/10.04LTS Desktop quite often now!
I agree with another poster, Mint gets it right - again. :=)

Gnome, KDE, and now Unity - all are unusable

Several years ago (somewhere during the 2.x series) I stopped using Gnome as it became too dumbed down to be efficient. I switched to KDE, which met most of my needs. By the time KDE 3.5.10 arrived, KDE was a *great* desktop, with a number of superb applications.

Then KDE 4.x arrived, slow, clumsy, and far less usable than its predecessor. And as for Unity - I tested out Oneric Ocelot, and Unity is actually worse than KDE 4.x, and that is one hell of a strong statement to make. Any desktop that doesn't even give you one-click access to a list of your installed applications is a joke, completely useless for any serious computer user.

For the moment, I'm running a band-aid solution - KDE 3.5.x on Ubuntu 10.04, courtesy of the Trinity Desktop Project. KDE 3.5.10 continues to be the best desktop and application set I've used on any operating system (except for the short-lived BeOS desktop), and I will continue using it as long as the Trinity Project keeps it alive.

If and when Trinity dies, it will be time to start considering XFCE, Enlightenment, or even Openbox. But KDE and Gnome have lost me for good unless they backtrack rapidly, which is unlikely. Institutional stupidity is hard to eradicate, and clearly both the Gnome and KDE developer communities are now riddled with stupidity in the development process.

As for Unity, if I had a five year old child, I might get her started with it. But it is essentially worthless for any adult with an IQ higher than 60.

I don't know what exactly happened with the Linux community, but from my perspective we are in crisis. The underlying Linux kernels and drivers are better than ever, but all three of the main desktops used on Linux distros (Unity being in that category because it is the default choice on the most popular distro) are now worthless garbage.


Unity still a problem

Ubuntu 9.04 was the first linux os I used and was happy and impressed.. I tried Unity when it was still in its experimental stage and tried to like it. I was exited to try 11.10 and was sadly disappointed. It still is full of bugs and difficult to work with and still crashes. A simple example is try to get Gnome Alsamixer to work with it. Had to revert to Xfce to get things done.

I love Unity

I've migrated from a tweaked Gnome desktop. I didn't like Unity in 11.04, but I'm finding it rather pleasant to use in 11.10 (on two desktop PCs and one ancient notebook).

Loving it!

I'm feeling pretty spoilt as a Linux user of late. I used Gnome 3 for 6 months on openSUSE and loved it to bits, but was tempted back to Ubuntu thanks to some impressively stable and attractive 11.10 beta releases. Luckily the final release has proved to be just as stellar, and I'm massively enjoying using Unity. It's very easy to use and pretty, but crucially it works as advertised.

The way I see it is it's only doing something I would otherwise have to spend time doing myself; namely adding Compiz and the AWN dock, tweaking the effects and whizzbang, and somehow trying to make it look cohesive. Ubuntu now has done that for me without any faff. Ta muchly!

Hello, Mr Know-It-All

"from my perspective we are in crisis"

From MY perspective YOU are in a crisis. You have every right not to like the developments in desktop environments, but to say authoritatively that all of them are rubbish as if it's some kind of objective reality (of which only you are aware) sounds rather egocentric. As I said, you have the right to an opinion, but don't forget it's YOUR opinion. What's worse, you might be in the minority, as I don't think many people have such extreme views on all the major desktop environments of this day.
Maybe you're just inflexible and got stuck with a yesterday's reality?

It's getting better

I liked Unity on 11.04 and 11.10 is definitely an improvement. It's not perfect but I find most things to be better (for me) than Gnome 3.
It can still be improved and I understand that Mark Shuttleworth has said that the focus for 12.04 will be on "Polish, Performance and Predictability." So I'm hoping that the Pangolin will be even better.

lots of problems

I had two user accounts before the upgrade. In my primary acct, all I have no launchpad and can do nothing, so I went in using recovery console and tried to restart unity as is suggested.

That got launchpad going for the session, but the console terminal won't go away and sits spewing out errors constantly. I have no access from this account to shutdown or reboot options. If I switch users, everything works except that shutdown and reboot do nothing. I have to unplug my computer to turn it off.

I think it's related to compiz, but haven't figured it out. I'm mid semester and working full time. My main reason for switching was in the hopes my bluetooth keyboard would work again. It worked with every upgrade til 11.04.

Losing my faith in Ubuntu...

Be Honest...

... Unity is rubbish.

Unity is bad news.

I have been looking for a new distro but I keep crawling back to Ubuntu. Unity may be the last straw. Other distributions are starting to look better and better.

Unity.... no thanks

Tried it on 11.04 hated it..

Tried it on 11.10 disliked it..

While its better than 11.04 is still imho crap.... the global menus is shocking..

Lack of meaning full customisation is appalling.

The inabilty to use a menu to see what apps you have installed is criminal..

just even trying to type Firefox into the dash doesn't alway bring up the Link to Firefox..

I've been using Ubuntu since 8.04 and consider 10.10 their pinacle.. Moved to Xubuntu until i have tried a suitable anount of other distro's, so that i can move away from it..

Canonical and Shuttleworth are losing their way with the very users that made them what they are..

We are intelligent PC users and not 12 year old tablet users..

Unity...well, not really

I haven't tried 11.10, but had a go on their HTML5 tryout thing. I have used 11.04 for 3 months before i put mint on my computer. Although I wouldn't recommend it, if you try to use it the way Canonical wants you to use it then its ok. But, I got fed up with all the Global Menus and the weird Dock thing (every time i see a Mac, I have to change it's dock so its on the left side. annoying habit)

My solution is Gnome Shell on Arch. I like Arch, like the rolling release, and the control you get.

And Gnome Shell works better than on Fedora 15 or 16. It is uncluttered, and multi-taksing is fine on it. Actually, I prefer having the program dock thing in the Activities overlay, because it makes sense. That's where the apps are, so that's where you could open and close them. It is all integrated. Loving it (apart form after suspend when some stuff tears)

Unity... Bad mistake

What was so wrong with Gnome that they had to create this buggy, inflexible & boring rubbish? The problems 11.10 has created on my 4 different systems has me wondering if devs are too busy working on unity to focus on the rest of the system.
Ive been using Ubuntu since the very beginning but 11.10 will be my last.

Alt-Tab oddness

The new Alt-Tab interface in ubuntu 11.10 is driving me mad. Canonical changed Alt-Tab so that it includes apps from all desktops and squashed multiple instances of running apps into one icon in the Alt-Tab switcher. I'm open minded enough to try to adjust to it... but so far it's been a painful muscle memory lobotomy.

I'm finding 11.10 quite a bit slower than 11.04. My mouse seems to lag sometimes, waking from hibernate takes over a minute, and hitting the super key takes a liitle while to respond, the unity bar sometimes fails to slide out when I want it to.

it does look nice though and optimising the vertical screen real estate is the right choice I think.

In summary, yes I think 11.10 is a tiny improvement but still needs slot of love.

where is Unity going?

Unity is Ubuntu's toy.
Gnome Shell is the next-gen linux desktop environment. It's way more popular and evolved than Unity, it's spreading silently but surely in most of the linux distributions, even soon in Debian testing. So why bother with Ubuntucentric Unity?

Unity won't start following Ubuntu Studio 11.10 "upgrade"

I simply allowed the upgrade, and Unity or Unity 2d won't start, and the fallback to gnome is not a s good as it was with Ubuntu Studio 11.04.

unity getting better but still not there

i am currently using ubuntu 11.10 and love it.unity is getting better. is it perfect.of course not.remember how bad kde 4 was?now everyone is saying its the best.that being said i downloaded the gnome3 shell and it is for the time being i am using gmome 3 but unity will get doubt in my mind.actually i am hoping someone creates a pure gnome 3 rocks.

I love linux but

I love Linux but and I have used Ubuntu for about 4 years as my desktop OS. I dislike Gnome 3 and Unity and KDE is... well not for me. I find myself going back to an OS I hate to get things none. :( and while I'll still use Linux for some programs; I think I'm switching to back to MS :< :< :<

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