Having been running Ubuntu 11.10 ALPHA & now BETA on an Advent 4211 and it would seem the Alpha ran better, no more normal desktop, have to log into the 2D version since Beta. Also performance is very poor right now, everything is laggy or takes significant time to load. The performance of the Unity bar is as predictable and as jumpy as a groundhog. Right now it has nothing but potential! Chrome is working pretty good though.
11.10 - The 2D Desktop
I do not like how the standard indicators stretch almost half-way across the top-panel, and this is before anything useful like weather or workspace indicators are added. Moving the status indicator from your name to the mail indicator I think is a regression. Setting my availability from my name seems to make more sense, with notifications reserved for the mail icon. Thunderbird also seems to be poorly integrated, clicking contacts opens a whole new window for instance, rather then simply switching to a contacts section within Thunderbird, requiring you to close out of contacts to go back to mail. Also without an integrated calendar why bother with an email application an office suite? One would think all these would be essential for those who want to work from their local machine rather then the cloud.
The software centre icon looks like an exploding handbag! Not sure if this is a comical gesture, but the previous icon was much more clear, on message and Ubuntu branded. Again, replacing synaptic with the software centre still feels like form over function, especially as the software center is currently so slow, and keeps showing up double entries. But there is potential!
The Dash refuses to resize correctly on the screen. In fact I had no idea that the lenses lived on the far right if it was not for a screenshot I saw online. I keep using the maximise and minimise buttons to try and get it right, but having to do it every time I open the dash is becoming a chore. Also why on earth has the dash been given those buttons? They are poorly integrated into the dash appearance.
OK...this is BETA and there is still several weeks to go in development, and this is the last major push of new features before the 12.04LTS (codename expected anytime now). I have been involved in Alpha and Beta testing of Ubuntu releases since 2007, so I know this can be a bumpy road with possible borking of machines.
Personally I think there are confused signals from Ubuntu/Canonical right now. They have the amazing Ubuntu One service in the cloud, and quietly integrated Zoho docs a few release ago (instead of Google Docs as the former does not require a login). One of the huge plus points of most Linux distros are the vast repo's of software available to use and download. Looking at Chrome OS, or any other OS, you get a bare bones system with links to download all the full featured stuff. There has been talk of Ubuntu moving from the 700mb download to even larger, I would argue the exact opposite, go much smaller! Give the end user an OS but with options to add-on whatever they want during or after the install. On the website have example's of a home, business or government (police and more) user, many of us submit statistics to Canonical, surely they can figure out the rest?
Overall I have really loved 11.04 and the Unity interface, I disliked mutter on the netbook and that initially made me very sceptical of Unity, but I think what they have now is on the right track and gives Ubuntu a nice slick user interface that is different from the others. I just hope that they are asking the right questions or focusing on the right things with the focus groups they have been running. 11.10 is going to set the tone for 12.04 and potentially most home users Ubuntu experience until maybe 2014.
Ubuntu, should it still be aiming to be linux for human beings or dare it be the OS for human beings?
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