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So what’s wrong with Ubuntu?

Sunday, 14 October 2007 linux ubuntu

While there’s definitely progress in the latest release of Ubuntu, there are still problems: some limited to Ubuntu, some ingrained in gnome and some endemic to Linux as a whole.

I’ve, as I said in my most recent post, been using Gutsy for some time and other versions of Ubuntu for even longer, yet I’ll admit there are a few things, even in the latest version that don’t key in 100% with what I’d really like. Some of these things are gripes with Linux in general, or at least that no one distribution seems to get acceptably correct — at least not to my liking, anyway.

I’ll also just say now, as I mainly said last time, that there are a raft of great improvements that do really improve the system in terms of usability and performance. I just want you to know this isn’t a “let’s kick it before it’s out” session… That said, let’s aim the cannons and fire a few rounds into Ubuntu’s flank…

1. Default settings

When trying PCLinuxOS, one of the things I have to say I was impressed with is the fact that it configures my mouse buttons with some intelligence (although not perfectly). I have two great mice that I use with Linux, both Logitechs: a MX1000 (8 buttons, 2 mousewheel axes) and my main system one a G7 (4 buttons, again, 2 mousewheel axes).

Plug either of these great mice into Ubuntu and it figures you’ve got a 3-buttoned mouse. No support for a “back” button, heaven forbid a forward button and you’re just balmy if you assumed side-scrolling or quick-scroll would work. Hell, the middle-mouse button doesn’t even behave how I’d expect. It’s madness of the highest order because I can’t believe for one second that all of the numerous Ubuntu developers operate on two-buttons and a scroll wheel.

It’s just one of those annoying things that you have to set up on an Ubuntu machine. Mapping buttons to keys to do certain things all via config files. Yuck! How about binding the Windows/Super key to the applications menu? No? Pah!

There has also been a lot of criticism over the monitor-mode detection. This still seems to happen with Gutsy, at least for me. I had a lovely time trying to get my LCDs (native 1280x1024 @75Hz) going any faster than 54Hz. Flickerific! The nvidia-settings panel fixed that but that isn’t included on any menus by default…

2. The default Gnome menu

Please, please abandon it! It’s old, slow to use and thoroughly time-exhausting. This is one thing that Microsoft have done extremely well in Vista. The Start menu is superb.

By default when you enter it, you’re placed in the search box, which once you begin typing, locates installed programs and displays ordered by the likelihood you want that application. I#ve trained mine to such a degree that launching Calculator equates to pressing the Windows (Super) key, pressing C and hitting return. The same is similar for dozens of other applications.

It goes further, adding document searching into the mix. It’s not perfect but it’s such a massive improvement that I find using XP and most Linux installs (especially KDE for some reason) wildly unintuitive to the level where I find myself going through the Run dialogue.

Novell is pushing Linux in the right direction here. Their Slab menu replacement is very similar but it still needs a bit more tweaking — The new K menu in KDE4 looks like it’s going to be on the money too — so it looks like it’s just a case of time but I really hope people would realise that this is the menu style of the future and drop the current shabby

I’m raving on so much about this because application launching is the primary directive of an operating system. Sorry to say but who gives a damn if you can draw fire on the screen if navigating your applications is still painful?

3. The Ubuntu colour scheme from hell

I realise the orange-brown thing has become part of Ubuntu’s identity, but like many other Linux users who do look at more than just the one distribution, I have to say that the brown is starting to make me feel a little ill.

I know I can (thankfully) change it all in a couple of clicks but when people that are deciding which distribution to go for, looks certainly do make up a portion of their decision. When you compare it against Mandriva or Fedora, Ubuntu just looks messy and old.

In conclusion…

It has its positives. It’s beautiful. It’s stable. It comes in a myriad of languages. For the most-part, it’s well organised. It’s by no means nearly as atrocious as Susan Linton suggested (to who I say: buy a network cable) because it really is positive progress. If you liked Feisty, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll like Gutsy just as much, if not more…

… I just feel there should be less attention given to bundling codecs and graphical effects and making some of the key elements of the operating system better…