Ubuntu Unity, I’ve had enough

I had over time upgraded to Ubuntu 11.10 then 12.04 and with it to the the Unity desktop. Unity cause me increasing grief, though I was not always sure it was the cause. It also makes some things really inconvenient. The only person I see it being beneficial for is someone who never has more than one or two apps open at the same time.

But I have 5 to 7 browser windows open all the time, each with one to 30 tabs. I know whats more or less where in non-Unity systems because they are all iconified in a row at the bottom of the screen. With unity, you have to click the big FF icon on the left hand bar. Twice. Which then shows you all the browser windows in miniature. It looks so cool. Too bad the order changes so you have to browse them to figure out which one you want.

Also, the toolbars of all apps are absorbed into the Unity top bar. This is fine if you only have one or two things open. But as a developer, I’ll have several things. And each time I want to do something, its a trip to the window of interest to force focus, then way up to the top of the screen to invoke a menu item, than way back to the window. I nice screen space saver, a pain in the butt for getting complex work done.

But the thing that had me curse the most was having the screen lock. That is, the machine is left on all the time. Walk away, it locks the desktop. Come back later, or the next day, you would expect it to wake up on a swipe of the mouse, show a login box, and away you go. Not so. The login box would take up to half an hour to show up. All I’d get is a black screen with a mouse pointer that barely moved. An ssh login from another machine was deadly slow. It was clear something was eating up cpu/ram/threads/something. At first I thought it was Firefox leaking again. Until I noticed the same thing would happen without it running at all. Without anything else running. Some internet searching tells me this is a common problem. No cure (oddly, not a problem in 11.10).

Except there is a cure.

I discovered I could install the Linux Mint “Mate” desktop on Ubuntu. Linux Mint is built on Ubuntu so this was not that much of a surprise. I just had never seen it before. So a couple apt-get operations later, I have Mate installed on Ubuntu.

What a difference! I can find stuff. My menus don’t get taken away. And the screen unlocks near instantly. It is a thing of beauty. And it was so easy to do.

I have a similar situation at work. On upgrading there, I reached Ubuntu 11.10 and Unity. So on goes Mate. But the version of Mate compatible with 11.10 renders fonts poorly (on 12.04 its flawless). I messed about trying to improve that without success. It should be fixable, but I am expected to produce product, not piss away hours tweaking my desktop.

I have Xubuntu running in a virtual machine on it though. And that behaves itself revision after revision using the Xfce desktop. It turned out I could install the Xubuntu-desktop quicker than even Mate. So on it went. Goodbye Unity, hello Xfce. Another pleasant difference, and fonts render perfectly.

I gave Unity several months of time for me to get used to it. And I did, as far as I could. But those little (and one big) gotchas left me too frustrated to continue with it. Unity has a lot going for it, but ease of use for me as a s/w developer is not one. I’m just the wrong audience for it.


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