back to article Natty Narwahl: Ubuntu marine mammal not fully evolved

Canonical has released Ubuntu 11.04, née Natty Narwhal. But this release is not your ordinary update with a handful of new features in the same basic Ubuntu you know and love. No, this marine mammal is an entirely new beast, with the Unity shell replacing everything familiar about the Ubuntu desktop. After a bumpy ride with …


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  1. Greg J Preece

    Kubuntu's no better

    Some nice tweaks in the UI, but it's the random X lockups that are bothering me. Tap the power button to shut down, instant lockup. Leave the machine in standby for 10 minutes, lockup. What the hell, guys.

    And Plymouth is STILL broken, a year after release. It kinda-sorta works on shutdown now, but startup is just as broken as it ever was.

    Might try a fresh install. But if it's still this bad, I might try Mint.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Where's me wifi?

    One of a growing number of dissatisfied users who checked for hardware drivers, found the Broadcom STA driver (no b43 in sight), installed it, pulled the ethernet lead to find no wireless in operation, and no matter which fix had come up on the ubuntu forums, nothing doing. Back to Mint I go.

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    Exciting Launcher Dock - Ooh, Shiny!

    "The Unity UI lets you drag and drop icons into the launcher/dock, à la Apple's Mac OS X"

    Windows 2000 Pro and Windows XP (and Vista I think) let you have a separate pop-out 'dock' (called a taskbar) on each side of the screen and you can overlay more adjustable taskbars on top of them. An item in a taskbar can be any shortcut you have created and so you can have a folder full of other shortcuts as a 'docked' item, which when clicked effectively opens up a custom 'dashboard'.

    I've been 'driving' my Windows computers for 12 years using pop-out taskbars and was well pissed off when these were removed in Windows 7.

    At the moment, there's nothing I can do with Windows XP that I couldn't do with Windows 2000 Pro (which admittedly needed some extras installed to get full networking magic going), so I'm wondering what OS development is actually doing, at least for the end-user and ordinary domestic consumer.

    I'm not a windows fanboi, I'm a fan of things that work and keep working, like my seven year old Acer laptop running XP.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More than a lock up

    When I restart Natty and boot back into Natty, or into XP or Windows 7, the computer fails at the W7 login, rebooting again makes it worse - the whole system is dead, no BIOS screen, no nothing. The first time it happened I thought I had hardware failure, turns out that physically unplugging the power and letting the power drain from the system is the only way to fix it. That's one problem I can do without. I've never seen anything like it, Natty is beyond "unfinished", it's a liability.

    1. kurkosdr
      Thumb Up

      This is a known problem with old HP BIOSes...

      Does your computer happen to be an HP? Many HP computers had this problem, where you would boot Linux or BSD just fine, shut it down normally, and when you tried to boot it again, it would freeze either at the BIOS password screen of at the BIOS logo screen.

      This a known problem with old HP BIOSes (it's the 'bad state' problem), and has been fixed in the newest versions. Just upgrade to the latest BIOS version for your model (you can find it at hp's site at the support and drivers section), and it will be fixed.

      For example, mine's problem was fixed when I went from version F.11 to F.1A...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's never never an HP

        Thanks for the tip but it's a Dell, with the latest BIOS. Hasn't been updated in a couple of years though so it could still be this "bad state" problem, maybe they use the same parts. I haven't seen anyone else reporting this bug, for the meantime I'll rollback to 10.10. Shame, I quite like this new interface despite the niggly bits.

  5. neek

    Disabling overlay scrollbars

    I don't often get my 'tard on, but I did a brief google and turned up this tip for disabling the popup/popdown/popaway scroll bars:

    I can only presume it works. Me, I'm sticking with Fedora, but good luck to the rest of you :) I still recommend Ubuntu to my less geeky friends.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Needs a config dialog

      Things like the unified menu and some of the more esoteric features of the new shell such as scrollbars need to have a config dialog. Even if the settings only come into effect when the person logs out and back in.

      Even a desktop that supposedly "just works" such as OS X offers a fair degree of configuration (often implemented after bitter criticism). Any desktop which offers less than OS X really needs to get its act together and provide a config dialog. Hacks will do for a short time, but ultimately it has to be a dialog. I'd argue it shouldn't even wait for 11.10. Do it now.

      1. Oninoshiko

        but it's not just that, DrXym

        It's also a matter of sane defaults. The author is right, hide-away scroll-bars are counter-intuitive. So while reasonable as an option, (in a well designed GUI control, TYVM), even making it the default is insane.

        Someone needs to introduce the Ubuntu team to the law of least astonishment.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Law of Least Astonishment

          Sounds remarkably similar to the "Law of least amazement."

          Open source advocates may be a tech cut above the average, but there is a reason the media is abuzz with the term "post PC device." and it's because the PC with a filing system and command line fully on show is only applicable to a very small percentage of users (as much as we may dislike that fact and wish it were otherwise).

          As anal as I am with my computing, I tend to be a bit messy around my house. When you are a messy person, you stop seeing the mess. You tune it out from your perception. So things that have been out on that sideboard, stay out even though they should be tidied away and you stop seeing the some of the things that are out as mess. Recently I've realized this happens to a large degree with OS's. This has been Microsoft's problem. There are paradigms we get used to and we stop seeing the rough edges. Like the fact, on Windows, you can open a mail attachment, forget you have done it and then save your modifications to a temporary file that will (for the average user) get lost in the Ether. For the average Joe, doing this could be not just a little frustrating ( as I witnessed last week, as it happens, for a friend's daughter working on a dissertation for her finals - it was a major disaster).

          What am I saying here? "The law of least astonishment" can easily become "the law of least amazement", which in turn can become "the law of leave the mess it as it is." but actually, as it is, has all too often been totally incomprehensible for the average user. Of course I'm not equating Linux to Windows, but I am pointing out that Ubuntu is at least pushing out to a new constuency and sticking with keeping the techie community satisfied isn't going to result in innovative and bold rationalized design.

          Mark Shuttleworth sees the value of the "post PC" attitude to design (as much as we may hate that term) Do we want Ubuntu/Linux to remain "our thing" or do we want a wider constituency to appreciate it's benefits? If the latter we have to be prepared to let go of the notion the average Joe just needs to understand the advantage of being technically proficient, and accept that if the average Joe is going to get on board "the law of leave it as it is" can't be allowed to constrain.

          I'm not saying widening the constiuency is the right future to aim at. In all honesty, I don't know. I'm just pointing out this is the heart of the dilemma for Ubuntu. Is there any practical feasibility in the notion of an Open Source OS that is developed to satisfy the needs of a wider constituency than the community of engineers developing it as "their thing." ? Can an Open Source OS be developed to aim at features that draw more people in who are not going to be contributors to the development effort? Is this asking for a level of altruism too far beyond the already altruistic ideals of the development community? I don't know.

  6. Mark 65 Silver badge

    Give it a miss?

    "Unity has potential, but it's tough to escape the feeling that it just isn't ready yet. Ubuntu's drive to bring something radically new to the Linux desktop just might work in the long run, but unless you want to come along for all the bumps along the way, we suggest skipping Ubuntu 11.04 and waiting for something more fully baked to emerge."

    Could you not just login to a classic Gnome 2 desktop instead?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Gnome 2 instead...

      Indeed you can, and it's the only way to regain sanity. But having done that, you are still left with:

      - the ridiculous sometimes-they-do-and-sometimes-they-don't scroll bars (which idiot though it was a good idea to lose the 'click in the area above/below the thumb' page movement capability?),

      - random failures to redraw chunks of application windows,

      - notification messages that don't do anything really useful (I click on a 'new message' notification and instead of doing something useful simply fades away until you release the mouse... would switching to the mail application really be so difficult?

      - a music player application that is totally useless for anyone just wants to play the bloody album from start to finish, and as a result has his music arranged in folders by artist and album (Exaile seems to work in this respect, though not as well as it could)

      - and a general lack of snappiness in the drawing of screens and starting applications.

      At least I found - eventually - a flag to put the buttons on Firefox above the tabs, where they belong.

      Having ploughed through the mess that is 11.04 for the last month, I've just downloaded the LTS 10.04 again. I'll have another look in six months or a year.

    2. Seano

      Yes you can

      "Could you not just login to a classic Gnome 2 desktop instead?"

      Yes you can and very simply, just like you can with the Netbook edition of the previous release.

      But then bashing something has greater dramatic effect if the tone of the editorial is such that it appears you have no alternative.

      <posted from a Netbook running UNE 10.10 without Unity>

      1. Charles Manning

        Fanboi lost his logic?

        "But then bashing something has greater dramatic effect if the tone of the editorial is such that it appears you have no alternative."

        He was bashing Unity because it is crap and not ready.

        Saying Unity is fine because you can replace it with classic gnome would seem as daft as saying Windows Vista is fine because you can replace it with XP.

      2. rdeleonp

        LTS is where it's at...

        I previously messed around with non-LTS versions of Ubuntu, but they where *always* ridden with boatloads of bugs.

        Stick with LTS, it's *worlds* more stable.

        My 0.02 ...

  7. jake Silver badge


    I want my OS to disappear into the background as I do useful work, not be a toy that is an end unto itself. Now ask me why I run Slackware, and have for over a decade and a half.

    Try it. You might like it.

    1. Alain


      Been using it since its v3.0, however I was extremely frustrated to see that it has fallen for KDE4 as well. I hate its uncumbered UI. I probably want to give Xfce a try someday, but for the time being it's Centos 5 with KDE3 for me.

    2. david bates

      Mine disappeared...


      I foolishly let Kubuntu update itself...back to the command line :(

      Luckily that machine is basically used as a network device, so I'll reinstall Maverick rather than fiddle about.

  8. Adair

    I've already done the deed...

    ...and jumped ship---to Arch Linux. The initial setup is a bit of a faff, and definitely not friendly to anyone who wants everything to 'just work', but the sense of relief that I'm back in charge of the system makes it all worthwhile.

    Ubuntu was great while it lasted, but I think we've reached a fork in the road.

  9. Mike Wilson
    Thumb Down


    I ended up dual booting between Ubuntu 10.04 and 10.10, one would talk to my WiFi router but not plan video, the other would play video but not talk to my WiFi router. Gone are the days when I would spend a weekend sorting problems like that -- I have better things to do with my time. I finally gave up on Ubuntu yesterday and installed openSUSE which just works. I won't be installing 11.04.

  10. Len Goddard

    time to change flavour

    I've been using windows since it was an overlay for MS-DOS and linux since you installed it from a stack of floppies, so my expectation of where the menu bar, scroll bar and min/max/close buttons are to be found is more or less burned into my nervous system. The last thing I want is a major change of interface, especially since I need to use both linux and windows. If I stay with 'buntu I'll be moving to Xumuntu or possibly even Lubuntu.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    It seems ubuntu is now doing it's best to mimic OS X. Quite sad. The notification area icons are almost identical, the whole dock thing is a poorly implemented copy, the "global menus" are a copied idea etc. All in the name of "usability" well I personally found it a lot less productive.

    Seems the only chance to still use ubuntu properly with a recognisable UI will be mint, they've stated they're not switching to gnome shell, or unity.

  12. Ian 55

    The downside of six month updates

    You may not get enough time to actually, you know, get it right before the calendar says you have to release it.

    I run Mint, so I'm not directly affected by this, but various other PCs here do various flavours of Ubuntu (Edu for the youngest, Studio for the teenager) and I can hear the moans coming already.

    What's a bit annoying is the six months updates is that unless you're running 10.04 LTS, you will have to spend time upgrading to this if you want 11.10.

  13. amehaye
    Jobs Halo

    Not to mention the notification popups

    Fully opaque until you mouse over, then they become transparent. And not clickable, either way. Not a bug, of course, but a 'feature'. This non-feature has been with us since at least Ubuntu 10.10.

    Look, I have no problem with 'borrowing' the UI from more polished OSes. But at least do it right.

  14. Rattus Rattus


    I tried out Unity on my netbook for a while. God it sucked, I've gone back to Gnome 2. I don't like Gnome 3 so far, and I don't like KDE. I guess for my next desktop I'll either return to a shell window or I might try Enlightenment again.

  15. Bassey

    Music Problems

    I've actually got quite used to it and I'm liking large bits of it. The workspaces work quite well. It does actually make me think a widescreen monitor might be nice - something I've never considered with Windows where vertical resolution is more important and makes widescreen monitors look daft. Two problems though; everyone goes on about how Unity is optimised for keyboard shortcuts - but the interface makes no attempt to guide you towards them. If you hadn't read the reviews telling you they were there how would you ever know to go and hunt them down?

    The second is Banshee. What a dreadful music player. I have a relatively small music collection (few thousand tracks, just over 20GB) but it just hangs constantly. If I remove the music folders and just play tracks it is fine so it's clearly a problem with how Banshee handles the collection. So I've switched back to Amarok for now.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Global menus etc

      I think Unity is perfect for netbooks where space is at a premium. In a netbook it probably makes sense to have a single global menu since it removes a pile of clutter. It's probably easier to "find" the menu too with a quick swipe on a touchpad.

      The problem is not everyone uses a netbook and as the screen size increases, the global menu becomes increasingly annoying. I could have two apps side by side and want to open the menu of the second app. In the traditional way I could just move a short distance with the mouse and click straight on the menu I want within window, move down and click the item. In the new model I have click the window, wait for the menus to flip, locate the sub menu I want, move my mouse up to the top, click, move it back down again and finally select.

      It's just more hassle and really doesn't help me at all. Maybe it's not a big deal for Mac users who are unused to more sensible windows on menus, but it sucks for everyone else.

      Put simply, it should be a switch. Cater for people who like it one way due to their background / device and the other. I assume since the global menu is retrofitted and is disabled for "classic" ubuntu that it's little more than an environment variable.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Enlightenment FTW

      Definitely the way to go - Bodhi is a good example of what E17 can do when paired with (minimal) Ubuntu:

    3. Chemist


      Well said - never a moment's problem (running on 6 quite different machines here)

      1. Robert E A Harvey


        I'm a very satisfied openSuse user too, although I have Ubuntu as well. There has been something of a see-saw in my affections. But I am now regretting choosing Ubuntu 10.04LTS as my server OS, since there are long-standing unfixed bugs on important (to me) parts of it:

        perhaps it is time to investigate centOS ?

    4. sisk Silver badge

      Enlightenment is good

      I ran Enlightenment for a while, but I ended up going back to Fluxbox because eye candy drives me bonkers. If you don't mind eye candy though it's a very fine environment.

    5. Greg J Preece


      I am also considering OpenSUSE. I ran it for a very short period on one of my machines, as it got working official ATI support before Ubuntu, but I'm just so used to my Debian/Aptitude environments that I'm more productive on Kubuntu, so when that got support I installed Maverick.

      Might be time to give SUSE another try. I'll be keeping Ubuntu Server on my development rig though. No matter how they try to cock up their desktop spins, their server release has never let me down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton


        OpenSUSE is still my main Linux OS. Ubuntu is starting to become irrelevant TBH

    6. Anonymous Coward

      I couldn't agree more...

      As an IT-support company, we have been easily switching people (and companies) to using Linux in about five-minutes with Ubuntu 10.04 (after we set the systems up for them). And, they have loved it. However, with Ubuntu 11 Canonical has pretty much utterly-completely-and-irreveocably-KILLED the most popular version of Linux... eliminating everything, that made it a great alternative to Windows(tm)... Good job!

    7. Uwe Dippel

      And where do you go tomorrow?

      Shortsighted that is. Where does Arch get their updates for Gnome 2 from? It is code in maintenance state, and some time it will be unsupported.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Xubuntu 11.04 quite nice

    The directions of both gnome shell and unity don't feel like thr right direction for me, and my laptop's wireless works best with Ubuntu. As XFCE 4.8 has now been released, I went for Xubuntu 11.04, and it's really good. Fast, and configurable, and works the way I want rather than the way some "research" tells me I want to work. The only minor annoyance is that I prefer single-clicking to execute, and that's not possible on the desktop, though it does work in the file manager.

    Installation was good and quick too. Quick install, add ubuntu-restricted-extras, epiphany, radiotray (wonderful) gthumb, vym and zim and I was away. Canonical has not monkeyed with Libreoffice the way they did with OpenOffice, so the vital Zotero citation manager works for me. My one concession to non-Free software, WritersCafe, went in quickly and easily as the .deb file Julian Smart makes available.


  17. Neal 5

    Progress without change.

    Novel idea, why hasn't that ever caught on before. Ok not every change is for the better, but if you don't try, you'll never know, all the negatives today will possible be all positives next year. Still, I guess nobody's happy until they've someone or something to slag off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That's what research & development cycles are for. That's where you try, that's where you gauge reaction and make a decision on whether to proceed with the actual 'change'. In this case Cannonical have just shoved it out the door pretty much regardless of whether people like it or not and what condition it was in.

      But to be honest anybody with any sense knew this was coming with Ubuntu. At some point or another Shuttleworth's vision / ego was always going to take precedence over what people actually want.

      1. Svantevid

        @AC 02.05.2011 16:35

        "Cannonical have just shoved it out the door pretty much regardless of whether people like it or not and what condition it was in."


        Do be fair, AC, you can always choose to use GNOME in this version of Ubuntu.

        And with tens of thousands of people using Unity, the next version should have most of the irritating/malfunctioning problems sorted... hopefully. Ask me in November how do I like Ubuntu 11.10. :-)


        One of good things about Linux: you can always switch distros.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    I'm cured!!!

    I've been a Ubuntu fanboy since 2007.

    This latest abomination has cured me! Time to try Slackware or something, I think.

    (Mine's the one with the copy of 'Which Linux?' in the pocket...

    1. Cameron Colley

      You could try Debian.

      I got fed up with a couple of choices made by Canonical a few releases ago -- one was to use Pulse Audio and the others I forget. So, I decided to give Debian a go. I'm not saying it's the best distro, as that's a personal thing, but since Debian is what Ubuntu is based on you'll find it more familiar than most other distro's.

      That said, if you're not as lazy as me then learning about other distro's will be time well spent I'm sure.

  19. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "New" gimmicks?

    "For example, you can simply hover your mouse over the volume indicator and use the scrollwheel to adjust the volume without ever actually clicking anything."

    My KDE3 has done that for years. Nothing new there.

    Dockable and pop-up task bars? Did that on the Amiga 1200 many, many years ago.

    Moving the main window menu to the global task bar? Feels very counter-intuitive to me.

    Fortunately, I'm not a die-hard Ubuntu user so I can look at it and play with it without worrying if I'm going to like it or end up being "forced" down that path. I'll stick with FreeBSD and KDE3 for now :-)

  20. Keith 20


    I'm underwhelmed by Unity either way, just another GUI .. but i'm very annoyed with the wireless on my trusty eee 901 not working again!

  21. djiock

    objective taste

    But... But... Overlay scrollbars are just BRILLIANT ! How can anyone dislike it ? :)

  22. Richard Lloyd

    Failed to install 11.04...

    Just tried to install 11.04 this morning and here's a quick rundown of my failed experience:

    * ATI blank screen bug (also in recent Fedoras) not fixed for 2 years now - for my Radeon HD4290, had to put "nomodeset" in the kernel command line.

    * Open up a terminal window in the installer and the (traditional) scroll bar button is virtually invisible because it's pretty well the same colour as the rest of the scroll bar - UI fail there.

    * If you customise your partitions like I do, you can't actually manually specify a mount point (you can only use a pop-up listr of fixed mount points like /, /home and so on) - terrible!

    * The migration utility failed on my setup, whether I picked a distro to migration files from or not - it couldn't umount a partition (several partitions had all been mounted on /target it seems).

    * When the migration utility failed, it claimed it would continue, but that was a lie - it actually incredibly skipped the installation of files into /boot and the modification of the MBR. Massively epic fail there.

    So that's a epic fail upon epic fail, resulting in an unbootable 11.04. Geniuses not at work, methinks.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You are not alone

      Exactly the same happened to me.

      Its an epic fail -- spent most of the weekend putting back 10.04.

      Fortunately I have a separate /home partition but the inconvenience was massive.

      What were they THINKING?

      1. Svantevid

        @ Craiggy

        "Its an epic fail -- spent most of the weekend putting back 10.04. (...) What were they THINKING?"


        No disrespect intended, but what were you thinking? :-)

        With hindsight (or - in my case - a healthy dose of paranoia) it's probably obvious to you by now you should have downloaded a live CD and test the system.

    2. BatCat

      Failed upgrade / install on Lenovo W500

      I was successfully running 10.10 on my Lenovo W500. Ran the automated upgrade and now fails to boot. Tried booting from a USB (should have probably tried that first LOL) and again failed to boot. Errors pointing to some kind of graphics hardware compatibility issue.

      Just glad I wasn't using it for anything serious - if I was I'd have tested it first of course ;o)

      Back to 10.10 for me...

  23. Conor Turton

    This is why I stick to LTS

    I worked out ages ago that the only way to get the best out of Ubuntu is to stick to the LTS. All other interim releases are rushed out to meet what I feel is a stupid deadline. I treat them in effect as BETAs for the next LTS release.

    As for the comments about apeing Mac OS X, I would say Gnome did that more than Unity and Unity is some kind of bastard child of Mac OS X and Windows 7 UI elements whilst adding things in an attempt to make it look like it isn't.

    Also there's a well reported power management issue for both desktops and laptops which still isn't fixed as its a mainstream kernel issue.

    Its a shame that with every new release of Ubuntu they always seem to break something important which worked before.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Absolutely agree ...

      ... not sure why you got downvoted, it seems a very sensible approach. Not saying that it is the upgraders' fault that the non-LTS releases are so flakey - that's Canonical's fault. If I want fancy UI elements on my LTS installs I add them under my own control - like the Cairo Dock.

      Furthermore I almost never upgrade OS. I take a fresh machine (often a fresh virtual machine for a newish release) and try it out there. I would also never run the risk of breaking a working machine by repartitioning and converting to dual boot: you can always just pick up a small idle hard disk salvaged from an old machine, swap it in and try your hardware with the new OS.

      Canonical have not just released a not-quite-ready OS, they are guilty of making it look like the upgrade is straightforward. (Note, whenever installing Ubuntu for friends and family I always switch off distribution upgrade notifications - at least nonLTS distro upgrades).

      I prefer to be pessimistic and then pleasantly surprised, rather than optimistic and horribly disappointed. But, although years of experience has given me this attitude I do not for one minute blame those who have tried the optimistic approach and lost out - I know that horrible sinking feeling too well to be able to gloat, even if I wanted to.


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