back to article Farewell Unity, you challenged desktop Linux. Oh well, here's Ubuntu 17.04

The arrival of Ubuntu 17.04 this month was completely overshadowed by Mark Shuttleworth's decision to abandon the Unity desktop for a stock GNOME Shell interface. Before you panic, Unity 7 will continue to be available via the Ubuntu universe repos. From the chatter on forums and blogs around the Ubuntu ecosystem it sounds …

My thoughts on this ...

1. Is Files really that bad? I've used Mac's Finder, so I know how bad things can be

2. Yes! I get to go to the sysadmins at Uni and say 'I told you so!' :-)

3. I'll be sticking with Mint and Cinnamon

Something else occurs to me (that'll probally get me a tonne of down-votes), Unity and W8 Metro were both designed to put the same interface on desktop machines and phones, right? What a stupid idea. I've also heard people say the same things about both UIs; that is, it's not so bad when you get used to it. That's not a good argument.

Perhaps it's just that I'm rapidly approaching middle-age and I don't like radical ideas anymore.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

Xubuntu (XFCE) is also pretty good. I wonder why they don't make that the standard desktop.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My thoughts on this ...

Not age dependent. I like radical ideas when they're an improvement, and hate regressions in usability.

I called out the mobilification of the desktop from the beginning, and was called a Luddite / old geezer, resistant to change.

Now the idea is falling out of favour, guess I should feel vindicated?

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

I'm way past the 'rapidly approaching' bit of middle age, and I alse hate Metro.

I quite like Unity though <shrug/>

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Coat

Re: My thoughts on this ...

"Xubuntu (XFCE) is also pretty good. I wonder why they don't make that the standard desktop."

Common bloody sense that's why.

> Thanks - its the one hanging over the zimmer frame.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

I recently worked a contract where all the developer machines ran Ubuntu. I really, really tried to get on with Unity, but after a couple of months I called it a day and installed the latest Cinnamon. You had to select the desktop at startup time, but apart from that it ran pretty well. There were occasional glitches, but that may well have been a result of running the bleeding-edge Cinnamon on a slightly old version of Ubuntu.

For home use I occasionally run through the latest and greatest distros and desktops, but I usually come back to Mint/Cinnamon.

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Re: My thoughts on this ... @badger31

I never liked Unity on the desktop, but having used it on a 'phone for some time, it works surprisingly well.

My view is that it works well for people and devices that only really do one thing at a time, thus it works on 'phones quite well (who tries to multitask several applications on a phome screen?). Scopes are really interesting, and switching between different concurrently opened programs by swiping from the left does work. I would have loved to use a WebOS device to see whether the Cards feature from that and the task switcher in Ubuntu Touch worked in the same way.

On a desktop or laptop, people who fill the whole screen with what they are doing probably like Unity (and probably the Mac interface and Metro as well). But the original behavior, where applications opened full screen by default and the launcher bringing to the front an already open window rather than opening a new instance alienated me and a whole lot of other users.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

Yes, I sometimes install that (XFCE) too as a fall back solution. Easier to fix a desktop from a desktop than a console, though I *HAVE* re-installed Mate desktop via console. Entirely my fault it got broken.

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Re: My thoughts on this ... @badger31

It's the concept of plugging your phone into a monitor, mouse and keyboard that has fallen by the wayside. Why? Because a discrete (and discreet!) HDMI ARM or X86 computer of equivalent power to a phone can be very inexpensive and be about the size of a cigarette lighter. So, why faff around plugging your phone into stuff when you can use it in parallel with with a separate device?

These days I don't plug my phone into an amp or speaker dock to stream music - that's what the Chromecast Audio is for. Being able to control the music from anywhere in room, or take a phonecall outside without unplugging cables or interrupting the music offer clear user advantages over the 'one device does all' approach.

Notably, Apple never went down the Unity / Metro route (though there was an argument for Unity in poorer countries where a user could only afford one device but might share a HDMI tv). Of course, Apple would rather you buy an iPhone *and* a Mac, but I can't help but think their 'Continuity' approach (share open documents and files seamlessly between phone and desktop) has more merit for most users than faffing about plugging phones into monitors.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

I'm going in the opposite direction. I started out as a Windows-only teenager. Then moved to linux, and loved the simple UI of the Ubuntus (Unity was a jump, but I learned at least to tolerate it).

But the older I get, the more I like the CLI. I think it's because I have more demands on my time. So when I want to do something on my computer, I want to do PRECISELY that thing, right-the-heck-now. I don't want to be suggested at or wizarded.

I'm 32 and I don't have a house, still less a lawn, but if I did I'd be telling you damn kids to get off it. Fortunately, I live in the North, so there are always clouds to shout at.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

apart from the fact that xfwm or whatever it's called has less flexible key/button binding than twm had 30 years ago...I compile my own version just to get basic features, sigh.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

I also like mint and cinnamon.

I use mix of windows and mint here.

I just don't like gnome layout.

but its good to have choices.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

1. Is Files really that bad? I've used Mac's Finder, so I know how bad things can be.

Beat me to it. What is it about file managers that developers find so difficult?

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Linux

Is it done yet?

So has Gnome 3 "Shell" finally restored all the features missing compared to Gnome 2?

Actually I'm only half trolling because I'd seriously like to know. It's been so long since I've used any version of Gnome that I can't even remember what features were missing, but I vaguely recall thinking at the time that it was so Spartan that I might just as well use Openbox at a fraction of the bloat, so I did, and never looked back. As a bonus this made it somewhat easier to avoid being infected with the Systemd virus and other Poettering baggage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is it done yet?

They're probably rolling them into a future release of systemd.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

Ditto for Mint; I like Mint XFCE a lot better than Cinnamon. It's not flashy, but it's super stable and it runs great on any hardware.

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Coat

Re: My thoughts on this ...

"Yes, I sometimes install that (XFCE) too as a fall back solution. Easier to fix a desktop from a desktop"

Isn't that what TWM is for?

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Devil

Re: My thoughts on this ...

"Xubuntu (XFCE) is also pretty good. I wonder why they don't make that the standard desktop."

I would've picked 'Mate'.

Also _NOT_ a fan of the 2D Flatso theme they picked for the examples. Yuck.

fortunately, 3D skeuomorphic themes still exist, even for gnome 3, and there should be packages for all of the other wonderful desktops we can all argue about the virtues of! Or, I expect it to be as much.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

"Perhaps it's just that I'm rapidly approaching middle-age and I don't like radical ideas anymore."

Or just the dawning realisation that radical isn't enough - ideas also need to work.

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Re: Is it done yet?

" I vaguely recall thinking at the time that it was so Spartan"

And yet it still had too many menus as I vaguely recall.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

Once upon a time, a friend of mine who built minicomputers met someone...

"I would like to Computerise My Company Stock Control'

......

He went along, spent a day studying what they did and then said 'OK'

'OK what?' '

'For what you do, the cost of implementation and staff training to use a database to replace the cardfiles is not worth the benefit, which would be precisely zero'.

(Stock control was a card for every item, with a number at the top - the part number and another number, which was how many items were left in stock, which you crossed out and reduced when items went out of stick to the shop floor or to customers.. When new stock came in, you made out a fresh card, added the number in the bin to the number in the shipment, and that was how you did stock control. I think it cost about £100 to set up, and staff training consisted in working with the storeman a day till you got the hang of sharpening the pencils, and subtracting one from any number.).

:-)

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Paris Hilton

Re: My thoughts on this ...What is it about file managers that developers find so difficult?

Creeping Featurism.

I run some sshfs mounted files on a very remote server.

File managers take minutes to display directories that 'ls' displays instantly.

Why? because they must needs download loads of information - even construct thumbnails - that is totally unneeded.

Why? Because people they think like to see thumbnail images rather than renaming files to something human comprehensible.

When all you have is a GUI everything looks like a clickable icon.

"My little pony Sep 2016.JPG" versus "DSG_0901893257.JPG"

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Linux

Re: My thoughts on this ...

Agreed but then wasn't that one of the reasons behind Cinnamon coming into being, much like MATE? The biggest problem, as I see it, is that too many UI developers don't pay enough attention to what users actually want and while that isn't necessarily bad - it's worth trying new things to see what can be accomplished - it has given us some pretty awful UIs (including Windows) over the last five or so years at least.

So yes, while I like Plasma 5 more than I ever liked KDE4, for example, I recently built my new box around Mint and Trinity 14 since I much prefer KDE 3 even to this day.

And yes, it's good to have choices. It's the biggest reason why I have dumped openSUSE after about two decades of use since they have their noses well and truly up Redhat's anal passage and Leap is becoming too unwieldy to modify to my liking.

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Gimp

Re: My thoughts on this ...

Yep, mate for me wins over XFCE but not by much.

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Re: My thoughts on this ... @badger31

I've never been a fan of Apple, but Apple's refusal to "converge" iOS and MacOS/OSX is one thing I've cited as something they did right.

Yes, from a sales basis, they'd rather you buy an iPad and a Mac, but that's also better from a technical standpoint. While it's tempting to look at a tablet and see what looks like a laptop screen (if it only had a keyboard attached), the truth is a lot more complicated.

Simply attaching a keyboard to an iPad does not, of course, make it a Mac. Macs run x86 software, and they do it on hardware far more powerful than even Apple's best-in-class ARM hardware. Macs have more memory, more GPU processing power, and far more secondary storage (HDD/SSD) than iPads.

In order to make a convertible iPad into a credible Mac when the keyboard is snapped on, it would need to be able to run x86 Mac programs at a usable speed. Given that ARM processors are marvels of low power consumption, but not so much at raw processing speed, an emulated solution is unlikely to make happy customers. The ARM CPU itself natively isn't even fast enough to be a credible Mac, let alone trying to do it with the large overhead of emulation.

That means that to deliver the same quality of experience you'd get in a native Mac laptop, you'd have to have a secondary x86 CPU for Mac mode within the base (keyboard). You'd have to do the same for storage (Mac programs take up a lot more room than iOS apps), with a separate SSD in the base unit. It would need its own RAM and a separate GPU (separate from the ARM one, not necessarily separate from the x86 cpu).

By the time you've gotten done adding all that stuff, you've essentially got two separate devices. The only shared bit would be the display itself. When you're carrying that laptop around, the weight of two of everything is always there, and so was the cost at the time of purchase. It would cost about as much as a separate iPad and Mac, because it essentially is.

MacOS and iOS can't really be converged without a serious design change. MacOS has poor touch support (if any), from what I've read, and iOS is so locked down that it's not credible as a real computer. Apple has shown itself to be very inflexible in making the iPad (and iPhone) any more friendly to "real computer" features like being able to see the file system. They can't be converged without major philosophical changes.

You could add a keyboard to an iPad... people already do this. If that's all you need, then further convergence is of no use. If that's not all you need, though, then you need a real computer... one without the many limitations of the mobile platform. You're better off getting a separate laptop and tablet (and/or phone) rather than trying to meld the devices together to save yourself one LCD screen. That way, you can have a PC processor in your PC (term used in the generic sense, not to mean Windows device), with a PC operating system running on it, using PC programs with a PC level of storage available on board. When you need more mobility, you've got your tablet, with everything similarly tailored to that platform.

You don't need to be running one device as a PC and a tablet to get them to work well together. They can seamlessly sync via "the cloud", and both of the devices can have their own related (but still separate) software to use the synced data. It seems "gee whiz" cool to be able to run exactly the same app on tablet/phone and PC, but what use is it? PCs are far more powerful, have way more screen space, and have better input devices (mouse and keyboard blow touchscreen away ergonomically). Why use apps that are designed for relatively limited mobile devices on a PC when you can do so much better?

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

One good reason to not make XFCE the default is on the computers - I have used with rel 16.04 with XFCE and if the monitor is disconnected (or switched using KVM switches), video is lost and apparently can only be restored after the computer is rebooted. I tried this on 3 computer and had the same result on each. That one reason is why XFCE should not be a standard desktop. Now if that problem has been addressed and solved, XFCE would be a viable desktop.

Personally, I freferred the Unity desktop ever since it was introduced. It is easily configured and the easiest to navigate. I will miss it, but adjust. On some older equipment, I have gone to LXDE to solve compatibility issues with Ubuntu 14.04 and above.

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Re: My thoughts on this ...

Whilst I agree with your last paragraph, in that trying to get a UI to work on tablets and desktops is a stupid idea, your first line about Mac's finder, I disagree with.

I've always used Windows, since 3 and before, and the file manager in that has always bugged me. By Windows 10 it has got less and less intuitive. A few months ago, I managed to get hold of a Macbook and what a refreshing change! The file manager seems to remember where you were between uses; it's easier to find folders, it remembers that I prefer the downloads folder in reverse date order (so when I go to pick a file to attach to an email it's easy to attach the thing you just downloaded, for example). The file picker. as well as the file manager parts of Mac's finder are far simpler to use than any other file manager I've used.

I even tried (again - I try every two years or so) to use Ubuntu last year and the one thing that put me off was the file manager. Not intuitive, difficult to navigate and slow.

But all in all, what's kept me wowed by the Mac is the Finder file manager. It's definitely one of the Mac's strong points.

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Re: My thoughts on this ... @Julian

Before the turn of the century, I liked the version of twm that added a virtual desktop. The version I used was called vtwm.

I actually found the source for it a bit back, and compiled it up. It still does the main part of the job I need a window manager to do quite well (and in an absolutely tiny footprint), but the lack of integration with things like the network manager for wireless keys, no applets and a number of other niggles prevented me from going back to it full time.

I suppose I could have spent more time investigating getting it working better, but I just lost interest. We get too used to the extra luxuries of modern desktops, unfortunately.

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Re: Is it done yet?

As a bonus this made it somewhat easier to avoid being infected with the Systemd virus and other Poettering baggage.

I've suspected systemD is Lennart Pothead's way of punishing the Linux/unix communities for disrespecting pulseaudio.

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Lovely article written by someone who clearly loves GNOME.

</sarcasm>

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Only unity fans really affected

Surely if someone really prefers a particular desktop, they will grab that tailored distro ( I like KDE so kubuntu) or if no tailored distro tehn manually install & set up.

Anyone

Only the unity fans lose out as they will have to manually set up unity (so long as fan base keep it alive) instead of a ready made distro

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Facepalm

Re: Only unity fans really affected

"Surely if someone really prefers a particular desktop, they will grab that tailored distro ( I like KDE so kubuntu)"

You know, in a galaxy far far away, of which noone heard about yet, there does exist a distro named Debian which asks a user to select between GNOME/KDE/XFCE/LXDE/MATE/Cinnamon during installation.

In this galaxy user doesn't have to pick a separate distro for each and every desktop, can you believe it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only unity fans really affected

But you do need a separate distros if you want a different init system.

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Terminator

Re: if you want a different init system

That choice is rapidly disappearing, not so much because distro maintainers actually want to standardise on Systemd, but mostly because more and more of the upstream stuff those distros depend on is becoming increasingly hard wired to it, starting with Gnome itself. It's the Poettering Effect: a self-fulfilling prophesy in which the monolithic and exclusionary nature of Systemd makes it "necessary".

Systemd is not only an overreaching abomination that is an affront to the Unix philosophy, but it's also single-handedly destroying the freedom and diversity of the Linux ecosystem, to the point that eventually there simply won't be any point in there being more than one distro, more than one Desktop Environment, or more than one anything. The anti-choice brigade applaud this development as a great victory, like a bunch of cloth-cap-wearing nationalists applauding the deportation of foreigners.

The last bastion of "real Linux" is down to just Devuan, and possibly Gentoo (for now). The rest, or at least any not based on the above, are destined to be assimilated by the Poettering Collective, if they haven't already.

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Flame

Re: bastions

The Funtoo project has been very clear about not going there. Apparently they won't prevent you from taking it there, either-- which is also cool-- but I never unmasked systemd to try to find out. Being the other Gentoo-derived distro started by the guy who started Gentoo, it ought to get more notice, IMO... maybe people just don't like heating their rooms with GCC as much as I do :D

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Re: if you want a different init system

You can include Slackware in the "no systemd" ranks.

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Nemo ... Files ... pah!

Caja is the only one worth using. It carries the (old) Nautilus torch and carries it well.

What's that? ... You disagree with me? .. Then it will be pistols at dawn!

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Re: Nemo ... Files ... pah!

I wonder how many people will return from Mint, after Unity pushed them away. Ubuntu always did excellent polishing of their releases (compared to many, at least), but Unity's forcible and massive change drove many users away.

I really like Mate, but Caja's lovely usability is failed by a surprising lack of stability, at least on the machines I've used it on. Seems like transferring large files or large numbers of files makes it get wonky in a way that I don't remember Nautilus doing. I do keep wishing that I could find more dual-panel file managers for other desktop environments, and other OS's.

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Linux

Re: it will be pistols at dawn!

Surely "Distros at dawn"?

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Re: Nemo ... Files ... pah!

Cinnamon + Nemo? I've not had any stability issues with it, and Nemo and Caja at least have the same philosphy, if not exactly the same features (i.e. make a Nautilus fork useful again by re-adding removed features and adding new features). Similarly, Cinnamon and Mate have a similar philosophy.

I wish there were an official Cinnamon version of Ubuntu (perhaps they've got room for another spin now Unity has gone). At work we have to use Ubuntu (Mint is verboten), but can install alternate desktops. There are unnofficial PPAs for cinnamon, but I'd be happier if it were in the main repos.

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Re: Nemo ... Files ... pah!

"I wonder how many people will return from Mint"

Fair question, especially considering that even though I prefer to be as "noob mainstream" as possible in Linux (helps a lot with the 24/7 search for "how do I fix/do <$issue>" apparently obligatory whenever I'm trying to use some Linux distro) and that kinda used to mean Ubuntu, I'm still going to take the Mint route instead, even after Unity going away. It's just that Mate was the only thing I could find that would get me a proper classic desktop experience, and last time I checked Mint's version of it was (after a fair amount of un-mintifying) significantly more polished and free of aggravating sticking points than Ubuntu's. This may have changed since but I have serious doubts...

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Re: Nemo ... Files ... pah!

> This may have changed since

Guess it depends what your aggravating sticking points are. I run Ubuntu MATE all day at work and find it to be excellent. It also tracks "main" Ubuntu very closely - I heard somewhere that there are only 30-odd packages different between the two (no, I haven't checked).

Might be worth another look.

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Re: Nemo ... Files ... pah!

Both Files and Caja are based on Nautilus. All suck, IMO.

When I want a file manager, I reach for an xterm and type "mc" ... Does everything I want in a file manager, without having to lift my fingers from the keybR0ad.

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Re: I wonder how many people will return from Mint

What is this "return" you speak of? Mint has always done an excellent job of removing the baked-in stupidity one found in Ubuntu. Unity was just a huge increase in stupidity compared to earlier versions.

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Re: Nemo ... Files ... pah!

It's just that Mate was the only thing I could find that would get me a proper classic desktop experience, and last time I checked Mint's version of it was (after a fair amount of un-mintifying) significantly more polished and free of aggravating sticking points than Ubuntu's.

Yup. Linux is the best engine and gearbox, Ubuntu is the best chassis, and Mate is the best interior and dials.

I'm staying with Mint because its supplies all three in a well integrated package.

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I wonder how many people will return from Mint, after Unity pushed them away.

I would hope that anyone who was put off Ubuntu by Unity -- and by Unity alone -- would simply have run Ubuntu with a different desktop. No need to run to a different distro altogether (but a lot of people seem not to have understood that).

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Won't install properly

Still no support for a bunch of Realtek wifi dongles, the manufacturers drivers won't compile correctly and there are issues with the included nVidia drivers that crash the system. Standard open source seems to be more stable, but sloooooooooooooooooow.

I'll try again in a few weeks.

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Re: Won't install properly

Unless the nVidia drivers in the repository are back-level compared to other distributions, blame nVidia themselves for the poor quality.

As I understand it, both nVidia and AMD (ATI) provide a binary blob that is wrapped to allow it to be plugged into X.org, Mir or Wayland for each distro. As long as that blob is wrapped correctly, any instability will be caused by the blob. Also, are you sure it crashes the system, and not just the GUI? X11 or Mir drivers should be running in user mode, so should be incapable of taking the whole system out. Have you tried Ctrl-Alt-F1 to get to a console so that you can kill the X server?

If the repository is out-of-date, then pick up the new blob from the nVidia or AMD website, and compile it into the wrapper yourself.

Personally, I find the open-source drivers sufficient for my needs, and much less prone to have the code to drive my older graphic cards removed with no notice (which has happened more than once). But then, I'm not a hard-core gamer.

I suspect that the code that Realtek provide for their WiFi dongles (presumably you mean USB devices) hasn't been updated by Realtek recently, and may not compile because the Kernel version and library stack has moved on from when their code was written. Try engaging Realtek to ask them to provide a copy that will compile on what is, after all, a mainstream Linux distro.

But the basic point is, get the chipset vendors to support their hardware better on Linux rather than griping at the distro maintainers. Or buy hardware that is more Linux friendly.

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Re: Won't install properly

If you want the latest stable Nvidia driver just add this PPA - no need to manually install the binary

https://launchpad.net/~graphics-drivers/+archive/ubuntu/ppa

info -> http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2015/08/ubuntu-nvidia-graphics-drivers-ppa-is-ready-for-action

Anyone running Nvidia really should be using the latest drivers or you are missing out on many performance fixes (vulkan in particular )

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Re: Won't install properly

I avoid nvidia and amd for their crappy drivers and always go for intel GPU. Less performance but at least it works reliably. And I only play Nethack and for that, Intel GPU is sufficient.

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