This weekend, I finally installed an Ubuntu release close to its release date. This is probably the closest I have ever gotten it done! So, here are my first thoughts after using it two work days.
The install went very well for me. I have a Broadcom wireless card, which has given me problems in the past. I was expecting to need to plug it into the wired network to get it to work. I chose to install rather than use the try Ubuntu mode. At first, the network indicator said that hardware drivers were not enabled and I could not connect. I went ahead and told it to download updates as it installed knowing it would not be able to. Then, I checked part way through copying the files and found that I could connect. Once booted, I only had a couple of updates available in Update Manager so I am wondering if it actually did download them as it installed. Also, the wireless was just working without me having to do anything after the install!
What I liked
First, it was new. I like new features and new software — this definitely had the new feeling. Unity is definitely different (in a good way).
I like the dash and the way the features comparable to gnome-do are built right into the interface. The desktop interface is pretty light, yet I can quickly open the apps I want.
I like the way the launcher is on the left. I have a wide screen laptop, and it probably makes more sense to use up the width rather than the height for the launcher. Also, I like that it auto-hides when I have windows that use up the entire width of the screen, but otherwise, it always displays.
One issue I had was with a couple of applications that normally show icons in the notification area: Shutter and Gnome-RDP. Shutter mentioned that it was waiting on a Perl interface to do the notifications, but I think I read about a fix that I will have to follow up with.
What surprised me is that I had a couple of other applications that were able to use the notification area. Skype worked just fine. Also, I have an application I wrote myself that worked with no problems: Project Sarah.
I usually use RDesktop not in full screen mode, but in a window that fills up the screen. This makes it easy to switch between the remote desktop and the local. I can also drag the window around if I need to see part of the remote and my desktop at the same time.
Unfortunately, Unity takes all the decorations off RDesktop now, and I can’t reposition the window. That was a little frustrating.
Dual Screen Issues
I liked the fact that Ubuntu seemed to autodetect when I unplugged my external monitor. It automatically switched back to single screen mode.
The problem is that I couldn’t see anything on the external screen. The clock displayed with everything on the top, but below that was black. I could drag windows across to the screen, and they would just disappear. When I set it to mirror, both screens looked fine and everything worked as planned.
I also had trouble with my Java application crashing with a bizarre error. When I didn’t have the external monitor connected, it worked fine. I have typically been able to solve that problem by installing the Sun JDK as opposed to the OpenJDK. I need to work through installing the Sun JDK, and that might do the trick.
Various Usability Issues
For the most part, I liked the launcher and the new interface, but there were a few things I have to get used to. For example, in the old Gnome interface, I could minimize a window from the task bar by clicking on it after it is already active. That doesn’t seem to work in Unity.
Also, I had trouble installing new custom menus. I wanted to create a menu item for my Java programs that I wrote. I also usually create a menu item for the different Eclipse profiles. Before, I would right click on the Applications Menu and choose Edit Menu. Now, it took me a bit to learn that I had to open the “Main Menu” application from the Dash.
Then, once I added the menus, they didn’t show up when I searched from the Dash until after I rebooted. There’s got to be an easier way to add applications to the list or at least a way to reindex without rebooting. I’ll follow up when I find it.
One more thing I noticed. Most of the time I use the keyboard to launch applications (before Unity with Gnome-Do). But, every once in a while my hand is already on the mouse, and I would rather use that. Or, maybe I can’t quite remember the name of the program I want to open (hey, I am getting older). Maybe I just need to get used to the new interface, but the Applications menu seemed a little easier for the mouse.
Previously, I could go to the Applications Menu to find all the different programs to change settings. At first, I had trouble figuring out where I could go. I wanted to see if there where any new settings.
Well, I found the Gnome-Control-Center in the power menu. Instead of rebooting, you can go to “System Settings”.
All in all, I am really excited about my new Ubuntu and Unity. I will have to blog some more as I get past the issues in case you are going through them too.
- Ubuntu 11.04 Released
- OMG Ubuntu — nice quick overview
- The Power User’s Guide to Unity — many nice links to great info
- Unity keyboard/mouse shortcuts
- Ubuntu 11.04: Installation stumbling block and post-install impressions — had install issues