back to article Leave it to Beaver: Unity is long gone and you're on your GNOME

Canonical has released Ubuntu 18.04, Bionic Beaver, as this one is nicknamed. The Beaver is a long-term support (LTS) release, which means it'll be supported until 2023. For those who only upgrade from LTS to LTS releases, this will be a major update, one you may not like. Ubuntu 18.04 will be your first without the Unity …

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  1. K Silver badge

    On the face of it

    Is there really any difference? Admittedly, I'm a Kubuntu fan, but if you stood a screenshot from 14.04, 16.04, 16.04 and 18.04.. they all look the same!

    1. Joe Werner
      Flame

      Re: On the face of it

      Yeah, what's new - besides Unity / Gnome / Wayland / Xorg? I'm actually using Mint on one machine (secondary, for now), and Lubuntu (thus: LXDE) on the "main" one, Unity sucked (i.e. behaved not as I wanted) last time I tried, so I stuck with something light-weight (used to use wmaker... but that's a different story).

      Rant: (and recently some upgrade was quirky and shot Xorg on the Ubuntu LTS, and thanks to the mess that is the system I will not name, the quagmire of buggy non-services that want to rule all, I had a hard time getting things run again - repeated reboots and "apt-get install -f" and other incantations while cursing the "software" writers name and his spawn until the seventh generation finally helped)

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Trollface

        Re: On the face of it

        It's funny as a non-Penguiny person. I've not read as much about Linux of late, so was amused to see a review talking about people being sad to see the back of Unity.

        Which is about the first pleasant thing I've read about it. Given all I remember is reading stuff from years ago from people saying I'm dumping Ubuntu and heading for Mint.

        So when do I expect the article mourning the loss of systemd?

        1. ROC

          Re: On the face of it

          Look for articles about the UpRise of Devuan

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: On the face of it

          So when do I expect the article mourning the loss of systemd?

          Sometime between the time the Sun expands into a red supergiant and the heat-death of the universe. And any articles that you do see will undoubtedly be from Redhat employees.. (or one in particular).

          The rest of us will be cheering. In a restrained, muted linux-nerd way of course.

          (Mind you, knowing the 'personalities' involved, whatever they come up with to replace systemd will probably be even worse. In a "you complained about Windows 8 so we've produced Windows 10 for you!" sort of way..

          1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

            Re: Death of SystemD

            May well come about the time Ubuntu gets to the "Zany Zuck" release.

            By that time, a lot of people (none here I might add) will be wondering what all the fuss was about.

            Such is life.

            1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Death of SystemD

              May well come about the time Ubuntu gets to the "Zany Zuck" release.

              I'll wait until the "Pulsating Pussy" release to take it for a ride

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Death of SystemD

                Pullulating Pudenda is the established phrase.

          2. Oh Homer Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Race to the bottom

            My first experience of Linux was Red Hat something-or-other, "Manhattan" I think, which was Gnome 2. I was easily impressed, coming from an Ultrix on DEC background, so it's hard to say how objectively good it really was, but it got the job done. Anyway, I quickly got used to it.

            Years later, along came the abomination of Gnome 3. I hated it. It seemed to be in a permanent alpha state, and the paradigms had shifted all the way into an alternate universe, ruled by an insular "Do-ocracy" that viewed the actual users as "the peanut gallery". To this day I still have no idea what they're trying to accomplish, but whatever it is it's ugly and dysfunctional.

            What I didn't notice at the time, because I wasn't really paying much attention, was the link between Gnome, Red Hat, freedesktop.org and the Poettering cabal, featuring mostly the same people with the same mysterious agenda. The assassination of the usr partition, the binary-blobification of syslog, the monolithic consolidation of init into something comparable to a separate OS in its own right (including its own DNS resolver, apparently), all symptomatic of this hostile takeover, seemingly coordinated between ostensibly separate groups but which was in fact just one, almost like a patent troll operating many shell companies.

            For that reason alone, I will never use Gnome. Not so much because I simply don't like it as a DE, but more because there's a wider agenda there that I find quite sinister, and which is certainly in conflict with every engineering principle I hold dear. It's also an agenda with a violently anti-choice mentality, which should set alarm bells ringing.

            1. Tansdale

              Re: Race to the bottom

              My first Linux installation was a Slackware distro, running on my 386 PC. It was fun trying to get it to see my Soundblaster sound card, and configuring it for my Cirrus Logic local-bus graphics card! I think I had to rebuild the core a few times to include other drivers etc that were not in the default build, but I learnt so much from it.

              Them was the days!

            2. John Sanders
              Mushroom

              Re: Race to the bottom

              >> all symptomatic of this hostile takeover, seemingly coordinated between ostensibly separate

              >> groups but which was in fact just one, almost like a patent troll operating many shell companies.

              Yet strangely all of it perfectly GPL compliant.

              For fuck sake people.

              1. Oh Homer Silver badge
                Headmaster

                Re: "Yet strangely all of it perfectly GPL compliant"

                GPL licensed software is not somehow immune to circular dependencies, whether accidental or injected deliberately to exclude alternatives (a la the supposedly "modular" components of systemd). It's also not immune to the sort of propaganda campaigns designed to stigmatise and marginalise detractors of this hostile takeover, forcing them to either resign or capitulate, exponentially spreading adoption of something that, in the absence of such an orchestrated campaign, would otherwise have been rejected en mass.

                The tactics employed by the Poettering cabal remind me a lot of the Holocaust: invent some fictional problem, then blame a scapegoat as justification for a "final solution", in order to replace something perfectly good with something perfectly vile.

        3. thames

          Re: On the face of it

          @I ain't Spartacus - "It's funny as a non-Penguiny person. I've not read as much about Linux of late, so was amused to see a review talking about people being sad to see the back of Unity."

          The sort of person who is motivated enough to write a comment on an IT oriented web forum is generally not the typical user. There are loads of Unity users out there who are just using their PCs to get work done. Fans of the less commonly used desktops or distros seem to feel they need to slag off the major ones rather than promote what is actually good about their own. KDE versus Gnome flame wars for example go back to near the beginning of modern Linux desktop distros.

          I ain't Spartacus said: "So when do I expect the article mourning the loss of systemd?"

          Based on how these things tend to go, I expect we'll see that in about 10 years.

        4. bobajob12 Bronze badge

          Re: On the face of it

          (Darn it, I know I shouldn't respond to the troll, but hell, it's Friday and I'm on El Reg so my productivity is shot anyway...)

          systemd may end up as a highly controversial project that was doomed by forces outside of it's control. Specifically, in a universe that is heading full-tilt towards containers, and their special-needs requirements on a zombie-reaping PID 1 inside themselves, systemd might well be boxed out and relegated to nothing more than a container starter, with all the fun stuff happening inside the container...suing something small and lightweight, like s6. Wouldn't that be ironic.

        5. Mike Tubby

          Re: On the face of it [loss of systemd ?]

          Sorry, did you say "So when do we expect the article rejoicing at the loss of systemd?" ;-) Suggest you head over to the Devuan Project:

          https://devuan.org/

          Mike

        6. Zakhar

          Re: On the face of it

          That is because most people ranting about Unity are stuck with their habit and not patient enough to look at what is better.

          A good clue of this non sense rant is that those people give no objective reason. They are only subjective : "It's bad, I go elsewhere"... Admittedly taste is indeed subjective, and the beauty of Linux desktop is that you have a lot of choice.

          Let's be objective, I tried 18.04 live for a few minutes, there is an essential feature I couldn't replicate from Unity that I find essential: application menu in the top bar.

          Objectively, whoever decided screen must have a ratio of 16/9 made "vertical space" a scarce resource, and going back to a desktop where the "vertical space" is eaten by:

          - top panel

          - title bar

          - menu bar

          ... is a big big regression for me.

          No doubt I will find somewhere a Gnome Extension that fixes it, and true for the rest Canonical has done a decent job at providing a close user experience of all the bonuses we had with Unity.

          I'm also short of the "workspace selector" icon for the dock that was a click away in Unity, but no doubt it is somewhere also...

          So you are very right, look at "objective" features complaints, and you'll see Unity haters never give you any clue.

          1. ROC

            Re: On the face of it

            You are missing the point that "habit" is more efficient for those of us settled into it. We don't have to waste time/thought on task-distracting mechanics of how to perform basic mouse and screen management for the sake of the latest "efficiency" fad. Frequent UI change is anathema to people who want to focus on what they are doing without wasting time and effort on the how, once they have found that which "just works".

            If you can start off with something so wonderfully efficient, or change over to it, more power to you (literally!), but for me, if ain't broke, don't "fix" it.

            To each their own.

    2. Turbo Beholder
      Meh

      Re: On the face of it

      The difference is that Unity from the start was not designed as a coherent environment to be useful and even convenient, but rather as a widget collection to look well on screenshots and induce warm feelz in the fans of certain other OS. (e.g.: ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1745415&page=2#15)

      Admittedly, I'm a Xubuntu fan… from the day Unity thing was dropped on us, give or take a few hours.

      1. Spender

        Re: On the face of it

        More or less my exact sentiments. A twenty minute interaction with Unity left me cold. I've tried all of the Ubuntu "flavours" including Mint, but xubuntu is where I stuck. XFCE is minimal and sweet.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: On the face of it

          XFCE is minimal and sweet.

          Yes! I have been using it for years after finding that both KDE and GNOME left the path of sanity, making counter-productive UI changes while increasing bloat to unbelieveable levels. XFCE evolves in a predictable way (basically, not much), and does not try to fix what is not broken,

      2. ROC

        Re: On the face of it

        Whichever release started the Unity default is when I opted out for Mint, and its Gnome 2 choice, then Mate. I do not care for UI change when what I am used to is not broken (for me....). Although I did just recently find a "fix" for one nagging UI issue, the total lack of window borders that I can actually "grab" easily with a mouse/trackpoint for resizing. It seems the Crux window style (and a few others) actually has a discernible border (maybe only 2 pixels? I did love Windows up through XP with its almost infinitely resizable borders).

        As long as Mint keeps Mate, and does not eff up any other way, I will not change again.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: On the face of it

          Train up the muscle memory that alt-leftclick will drag a window (from anywhere within its area) and alt-rightclick will resize (from anywhere within its area). So so so so so so so so much easier. I hate it when I go back to using Windows.

          1. ROC

            Re: On the face of it

            Thanks, just tried that for resizing, and don't like it. It is much less intuitive to my 20 years of Windows muscle memory, and would seem a bit dicey if I happen to have the mouse cursor in a spot that might respond to mouse clicks for other actions if I don't get my hands coordinating their timing (happens to me...) vs just single-handed click/drag with the borders. Anyway, the Crux setting works fine for my long-term preference - too bad UI docs are not so ubiquitous for Linux DE's as for Windows.

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Overloading mouse buttons

            There's a lot of applications where Alt + Click and drag does something.

            That's one of the two most common 3D navigation paradigms.

            As an application developer, I do not want the windowing system to eat any mouse shortcuts that happen inside my client area.

            Resizing functions need to be kept to the decorations provided by the windowing system, bevause that way I don't need to know what they are to support them on all platforms.

          3. John Sanders
            Windows

            Re: On the face of it

            The alt+right mouse is cool if you know it, and aren't mum, dad, grandpa or grandma.

            No reason to have 1 pixel window borders on the default theme, no reason.

        2. Dave559

          Re: Grabbable window borders

          I am completely in agreement about the importance of grabbable window borders! Sadly these seem to fallen out of “fashion” (yawn) in most current window themes, which is both annoying and a real backwards step for usability and accessibility.

          Similarly, there are sadly also very few current window themes where those window borders change colour on all sides of the window (not only the title bar), making it extremely easy to tell which window currently has the focus as you move the pointer around (because “focus follows mouse” is of course what the wise men and women of old handed down to us, and the lack of it on MacOS, and, especially, Windows, is unspeakably frustrating!).

          1. ROC

            Re: Grabbable window borders

            Right on. Back in the pre-Win 7 days on Windows, I always set the borders for active windows to bright red, and that outlined the entire window nicely. However, "focus following mouse" is not what I started with, coming from Window and OS/2 graphical UI's (maybe they had that option, but it was not default?), so I have never could get used to that jumpy window effect as I "jittered" around the screen with the mouse - sort of like a booby trap effect (for this booby at least).

        3. John Sanders

          Re: On the face of it

          The window borders 1 or 2 pixels wide are the most annoying thing I have ever encountered, it is one of the easiest things to fix ever yet 7 years down the road they keep doing the same.

          I know about using alt+right mouse to scale a window, but Grandma and Grandpa want to aim with the mouse and won't use a keyboard short-cut.

          It is the only shame I can find in Xubuntu and it is shocking no one has ever thought on that.

      3. John Sanders
        Pint

        Re: On the face of it

        >> Admittedly, I'm a Xubuntu fan…

        My man!

        >> from the day Unity thing was dropped on us, give or take a few hours.

        I would add Gnome3 to the mix of undesirable DEs

        Mate or XFCE all the way. Mate is now a better Gnome than Gnome ever was, Mate does seem to succeed in an area where Gnome3 fails consistently, and this is bug fixing.

    3. thames

      Re: On the face of it

      @K - Even the version numbers on your middle two examples are indistinguishable.

      The reason that Ubuntu bailed out on Gnome 3 in the early days is that it had a very unstable UI that was not ready for prime time and the Gnome developers were no longer supporting Gnome 2. Quite a few people in those days thought that the Gnome project had committed collective suicide and would soon be an ex-parrot.

      From that came Unity. It addressed the major usability problems with Gnome 2 (dock moved to the left and reduced use of vertical window space to work with modern display proportions, bigger dock icons, integrate the dock with workspaces, etc.) while keeping the keyboard short cuts and underlying assumptions as similar to Gnome 2 as possible.

      After that the user facing stuff remained more or less the same with changes mostly just polishing what they had. The latter though did include a good deal of major work on the underlying bits and pieces to account for major changes in common PC hardware and driver support. The biggest example of the latter is the work they did for compositing desktops when the third parties Ubuntu had been depending on dropped work on their own support for older hardware.

      And all that suited most Ubuntu users quite nicely. The Unity desktop worked and was based on sound ideas so why change it? Ubuntu started out as just a much more polished and more up to date version of Debian Gnome 2 and was very popular as that.

      Several other currently popular desktops got their start in a similar way. Now however that the Gnome 3 developers have cut back on the crack smoking and have stopped changing how their desktop works every other release and have quite frankly copied some of the better parts of Unity, the reasons for continuing with Unity have to a large extent gone away and Ubuntu can go back to its roots of being a better (and with commercial support available) version of Debian.

      Some of the major criticisms that I have of Gnome 3 at this time are the support for keyboard short cuts are not as good as with Unity (this is the biggest complaint I have), the dock is not as well integrated with workspaces or application indicators, and the non-traditional workspace concepts (such as variable number of workspaces and only linear navigation between them). I made very little use of Unity's HUD, so it's loss doesn't bother me much.

      Most of the complaints about "Ubuntu" on forums such as this one seem to come from people who are using third party derivatives with non-Unity desktops (I'll avoid mentioning any in particular to avoid flame wars). These non-Unity desktops are put out by community members rather than Canonical, and simply don't have the resources to put the same degree of polish into them that full time distro maintainers do. I've tried some of them and salute the volunteers who work on them for their effort, but I'm more interested in using my PC than in experimenting with desktops. As a result I will be using Gnome 3 after the upgrade notification comes in.

      Existing users of Ubuntu will get the upgrade notification in July when Ubuntu 18.04.1 comes out rather than on release day. This is the same policy as was used with 16.04.

      1. czarnajama

        Re: On the face of it

        I switched to MATE shortly after Unity replaced Gnome as the default. It's stable and configurable ... and in a few days I'll be upgrading from 14.04 to 18.04. MATE has really served me well.

    4. bobajob12 Bronze badge

      Re: On the face of it

      As a refugee from the earthly delights represented by the last three releases of Windows, this is a Good Thing in my book. It works, it looks the same, someone's done some refinements under the hood, I can get on with actually being productive!

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: On the face of it

      "they all look the same!"

      Apparently, that's what Canonical wants to see. And using 'Gnome shell' rather than 'Unity' probably cuts back on the level of effort they need to expend to get it.

      As long as Ubu continues to support Mate I'll be able to use it. Then again, I'm installing Devuan into a VM at the moment...

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: On the face of it

        using 'Gnome shell' rather than 'Unity' probably cuts back on the level of effort they need to expend to get it.

        It's not exactly 'vanilla' Gnome. That was the stated expectation when Unity 8, convergence et all was abandoned, that Ubuntu were going to go with vanilla gnome.

        Then...a change here a change there, some to lessen the crossover for users now used to Unity, others, basically to polyfilla in some of Gnomes rough bits.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the face of it

      Running 12.04 here, CLI only and no reason to upgrade, security patches still seem to arrive regularly

  2. Tom Melly

    A Curious 'curious'?

    "Curiously, if you upgrade you'll be asked to opt in rather than out."

    Perhaps it's just me, but that doesn't seem curious at all - it's completely logical.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Curious 'curious'?

      It's opt out when installing, but opt in when upgrading. What manner of logic are you applying that does not find that contradictory?

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: AC

        If you're upgrading it defaults to keeping the same data collection settings you already have - none.

        That's logical.

        A new fresh install could be a new user entirely so it makes sense Canonical would want some info to know what causes them issues and which doesn't.

      2. ragnar

        Re: A Curious 'curious'?

        Changing the behaviour on upgrade by default would be breaking the 'contract' the user already had when they installed the first time; that no data would be collected.

        For new users, it's a new agreement, so they can pick their preferred option.

        1. jamesbooker

          Re: A Curious 'curious'?

          Exactly it's a perfectly logical thing.

          Furthermore, the author seems to assume that ALL upgrading users will be asked to opt-in, when it's probably more likely (without confirmation from Ubuntu it's hard to tell without installing and testing) that it asked HIM to opt-in because he has previously opted out (based on the tone of that section of the article it seems Scott would likely have done so) - a user who previously opted in may be asked to 're-opt' in using the new version, as a confirmation of sorts - in fact this is likely since Canonical's privacy statement is likely to have changed in the time span between releases also.

  3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Stop

    More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

    "the technical GNOME term is client-side decoration, which merges the title and menu bars into a single mess of icons, titles and, well, just about anything the app wants to throw up there. I find them difficult to use in nearly every way – harder to click menus, harder to drag windows and generally a giant usability fail, but they are here and there is no getting rid of them."

    When software authors pull the "we know better, so no configuration for you" stunt, users get angry!

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

      I think Gnome solved that by ceasing to listen. (If I'm being fair, I've avoided them for the past few years, so maybe they've... hang on, think a pig has just crashed into the window...)

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

        I've honestly never really understood the appeal of Gnome (or Unity) at all. But, (Ubuntu aside, as they sortof break this), that's the beauty of having the DE being distinct from the OS -- you have a choice of desktop environments.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

          "I've honestly never really understood the appeal of Gnome (or Unity) at all"

          In the 'gnome 2' days it was a pretty good desktop, a bit lighter weight than KDE (or that was my impression of it), with plenty of compatibility if you wanted to run KDE applications. It tried to do things that irritate me [I don't need auto-mount, it gets in my way, and I don't need a network manager or power manager] but I could always shut those things off. And the panel design (back then) was pretty nice, VERY flexible, configurable the way you want it. "Mac-like" menu at the top, or "windows-like" menu at the bottom. Whatever you wanted. And in gnome 2 you can position icons wherever you want on the panel.

          Gnome 3 broke a LOT of what was good in gnome 2, particularly with icon spacing on the panel. In gnome 2 (and now, mate), I can cram 30 or 40 shortcut icons onto the panel for the things I typical.ly use. In gnome 3 you're lucky if you can do HALF of those, and you have to use triple-bucky keystrokes to alter them (instead of a simple right-click).

          So when you say 'gnome' I assume you mean what it's de-evolved into, rather than what it was when it gained its popularity.

          Well, at least you're not FORCED into 2D FLATSO with Gnome 3, at any rate...

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

            Well, I'll be honest here, I haven't seriously tried Gnome after 2. Gnome 2 wasn't my speed, but perhaps I failed to understand it sufficiently. I could never get it to behave in a way that made me happy.

          2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Gnome 2 refugees

            Come over to Mate for a trip down memory lane

            https://mate-desktop.org/

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

      The GNOME guys lost the plot years ago. It's not surprising to hear that GNOME is still useless. They think they're doing great work, but given they seem to not listen to anyone else I can't see how their delusions can be dispelled, not whilst RedHat are calling the shots on so many aspects of Linux these days.

    3. Nano nano

      Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

      That happened earlier when Terminal in 16.04 removed the menu and cmd-line options to rename the terminal window.

    4. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

      "the technical GNOME term is client-side decoration, which merges the title and menu bars into a single mess of icons, titles and, well, just about anything the app wants to throw up there.

      I believe that's the reason that Mint is undertaking the X-apps project (not a reference to X11 or Xorg). GNOMEified applications get de-GNOMEd and restored to the proper File, Edit, View... menubar that is still the best option available for mouse and keyboard PC users (in other words, nearly all of us).

      It seems that in time the devs responsible for any software project ultimately decide to go in some strange direction that looks like suicide from those of us who are watching. Firefox, Ubuntu, GNOME, Windows... it happens to all of them in time, but the worst that generally happens in the free software community is having to deal with yet another fork. With closed software, you can beg, harass, bargain, threaten to leave, editorialize, write a petition... and when all of that fails (as it does), you can either fall into line or try something else.

      When Windows went that way with 10, I got friendly with Linux Mint, and while it does have issues of its own, they pale in comparison to the rolling disaster that is Windows 10. If ever there was an OS that deserved to be taken behind the shed and disposed of, it's Windows 10.

    5. ben kendim

      Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

      "When software authors pull the "we know better, so no configuration for you" stunt, users get angry!"

      Well said! After 5 years, I still have not forgiven Mathworks for going from the perfectly functional menu interface in Matlab to the Microsoft inspired 'ribbon' abomination.

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