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Tom's Hardware Dissects Ubuntu 11.4's Interface and Performance 272

Posted by timothy
from the hey-it-takes-a-while-for-all-the-screenshots dept.
An anonymous reader links to an exhaustive look at the latest Ubuntu, running at Tom's Hardware. "The new Unity interface is broken down into its individual elements and explained ad nauseam. Overall the article is objectively balanced, the author does a good job of pointing out specific design flaws and shortcomings instead of complaining about how Unity doesn't work for him specifically. The walkthrough of the uTouch gesture language is exciting (wish I had multi-touch), though a full listing of keyboard and mouse shortcuts come in handy, too. Towards the end of the article there are benchmarks between Lucid, Natty with Unity, and Natty with the Classic interface. The performance of the Unity interface isn't bad at all, but that kernel power issue does rear its ugly head."
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Tom's Hardware Dissects Ubuntu 11.4's Interface and Performance

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  • Polish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:02AM (#36415732)
    I still think they released it way too soon. I would never point a new user at 11.04 due to its stability, regardless of its usability. I really expected to see some of the problems fixed by this point too, but the patches seem to be just starting to trickle in. I'm hoping they don't yank out the 'Classic' Gnome interface on 11.10 as planned.
  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao&hotmail,com> on Sunday June 12, 2011 @01:23AM (#36415786) Homepage

    Yes, but which is it: "just gotta fix this and that" broken, or "this thing is a complete mess" broken?

    I'll take the latter, as my impression of Unity was pretty much the worst possible; absolutely nothing works as a regular user would expect. It's like they went out of their way to make things as cryptic and unfamiliar as possible. It's nearly unusable. Oh, and Gnome 3? It sucks too. Both are like a goddamn cell phone interface crammed into the desktop -- seems to be a trend now. Well, fuck this shit: it simply does not work!

  • Overall the article is objectively balanced

    This is how it starts:

    Let's start with the meaning of Natty. Here in the States, Natty is short for Anheuser-Busch's bottom-shelf line of “Natural” beers. If you were ever a struggling student, there's a good chance you subsisted at one point on ramen and Natty Ice. Consequently, it has also come to mean cheap, trashy, or sub-par. How's that for a rough start?
    And for that matter, what is a narwhal? I mean, look at that thing.
    Apparently, Canonical's name for this release gets worse. The word narwhal dates back to Norse seafarers who explored the Arctic waters where this horned beast lives. Narwhal quite literally means “corpse whale” because its skin resembles a water-logged corpse. Oof. Ubuntu 11.04: Cheap, Drunk, Dead, and Bloated.

    The technique of associating a product with negative images is an old one - it's called Poisoning the Well.

    This review is anything BUT balanced.

  • by Cwix (1671282) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @02:17AM (#36415934)

    He was complaining about the name, if you were to read the conclusions page you would notice that he didn't exactly roast Ubuntu over hot coals.

    15 frigging page review you read the first half a page and determine its not balanced. Don't karma whore for the " I RTFA" karma if you didn't read the fucking article.

  • Imagine a car (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @02:36AM (#36415970) Journal

    Yes a car anology, on slashdot, I am that original!

    Imagine a car, they replace the brake with a handle on the dashboard. The gas pedal is a set of buttons, one for each 10km/h speed range on the dashboard. To drive you always need your foot on a pedal on the floor. Sound silly? Trains are like that. It works perfectly well. So would you want this arrangement in your car?

    The steering wheel you say? The need for the steering wheel in your car would make the train controls unusable?

    EX-FUCKING-ACTLY.

    That is the entire problem with both Unity and Gnome 3. ALL the controls in your car are not just there because of how they would be best implemented but because they have to work together with the other controls. And that can create some interesting designs. Take the UPS trucks. Where is your stick shift? Why is it not in the same place in cars like that? Because it would get in the way of the driver crossing the center to get out on the other side of the car. Most busses got an entiry set of control on the left hand side of the driver because they can because the door is not there. But this means the driver has to get out through the counter area for the passengers. British double deckers did not have the driver interact with the passengers, and he was in his own cabin, excitting through his own door, making it impossible to put controls like the handbrake in there. Function dictates design.

    Changing the interface we are all familiar with can be done, if there is a need but you got to be careful you don't upset all the other needs.

    What are my needs in a desktop? To manipulate windows, to arrange them to according to my need to look BETWEEN them. I am a developer, a common need there is to have one window to read data from, another to put data into and a third to test the effect. Normally you do this by having a sufficiently large screen and arranging at least two of them side by side and maybe the third with a shade effect or overlap. Alt-tab in fullscreen mode is often not functional especially if there are other windows active. These windows can typically be quickly accessed from a bar at the bottom or top where all windows have a link side by side.

    So, what does Unity and Gnome3 and Windows 7 do? HIDE things behind multiple clicks.

    Unity and Gnome3 especially seem aimed at smaller screens operating in full screen for applications. That is great for an author who writes uninterrupted in the same writer. It works when you are watching movies and only have a file browser open in full screen and then launch a single player from that. It is possibly great for the casual user.

    But for me? I have a very large screen area, switching the pointer to the top every single time I want to do something, that is NOT efficient. If I have multiple windows over of the same app, I have that for a reason, I do NOT want them treated as one. I do NOT want to click more then is absolutely necessary to get things done.

    Unity and Gnome3 feel like they were optimized for a very specific use case, tablets and other small screen setups, that just ain't the norm for PC's especially PC's that are running Linux. And they changed EVERYTHING. Nothing works anymore as it did before. All the apps in your task bar? Gone, especially in unity. Customization? Gone. Stability? Gone!

    It is like they took your old reliable volvo car interface and replaced it with a new one that you hate with the build quality of a trabant painted in an exciting mix of puss and shit.

    Unity and Gnome3 should have been kept as an option for a long time until the kinks had been ironed out, a very clear and fun to watch tutorial had been out to show EVERY single current use case redone in the new style and until it absolutely worked smoothly, stable AND without taking loads of functions away.

    Instead Gnome and Ubuntu tried to emulate MS by pulling a Vista. They redesigned things people didn't want redesigned, and removed functionality and replaced it with instability.

    Do not WANT.

    I tried it,

  • by jojoba_oil (1071932) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @02:36AM (#36415972)

    I'll take the latter, as my impression of Unity was pretty much the worst possible; absolutely nothing works as a regular user would expect. It's like they went out of their way to make things as cryptic and unfamiliar as possible. It's nearly unusable.

    I think that's what happens when you aim to mimic the Mac's UI conventions: ensure absolutely nothing works as a reasonable user would expect. Unity was an awful mess in 10.10's Netbook edition, and I haven't bothered trying 11.04.

    Who ever thought it was a good idea to move the menu bar outside of the window which it controls and relates to? With Unity's approach, there will be one menu up top (maybe) and one menu inside the window (maybe) depending on how much work was put into the software to make it compatible with Unity's API. What problem is solved by this new mac-style menu bar?

    It also seems like hiding the menu bar altogether is a growing trend (eg Firefox 4, Unity's menu); because I want computer unsavvy people to have to look harder to find the functionality they want. Sure, I can understand hiding some UI element if the space is absolutely necessary for something else; but in the case of Unity (from videos I've seen on 11.04), it seems like the menu bar is hidden just to hide it. It reminds me of Windows's Aero theme, where they make window borders translucent and gigantic just because they can. Does it help user experience? Does it solve a problem?

    </rant>

  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao&hotmail,com> on Sunday June 12, 2011 @03:42AM (#36416098) Homepage

    Well, I'm a long time Mac fan, and I'd say the problem is not that they aped the Mac, but they did it in a "cargo cult" way: they aped it without understanding why it works, consequently making it NOT work.

    They put the menu bar on top, good; then they make the menus hide -- d'oh. The advantage of that single bar on the top is that it's easier to target what you want to click, but they make it so you can't target without the intermediate step of putting the cursor on the damn thing. What's the point, then?

    They add a Dock-like launcher, okay; they put it to the side rather than the bottom -- d'oh. They make it auto-hide -- d'oh again, nobody likes that. They make the apps stack in a weird pseudo-3D way -- and d'oh yet again. Cherry on top of the shit-flavored cake: they give you no easy way to customize that. And then you decide that migrating to a different system must be easier than getting used to this madness.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @03:57AM (#36416142)

    The classic complaint of unfamiliarity comes with every single interface change. I heard it with Windows 95, Windows XP, definitely heard it with Windows Vista, and Windows 7. I heard it to a lesser extent with various major versions of Gnome, and KDE. I heard it about the iPhone, I heard it about the Android.

    One of two things will happen. Either in 5 years everyone will love it, or in 5 years it will be a forgotten bad past in UI design. Either way right now it's just another case of a very sarcastic, "Unfamiliar? Really? Say it aint so!!!!"

    I'm actually banking on the latter given the moves to interfaces such as in Honeycomb, both Gnome and Unity, and from the Windows 8 preview. I hate to break it to you but I think the start menu / window system may be going the way of the console in general purpose computing.

  • by Loopy (41728) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @04:17AM (#36416204) Journal

    The UI has everything hidden behind searches or submenus or whatever to free up screen real estate on smaller screens. On my dual-26" monitor setup, I don't want buried and simple. I want the 10-15 main apps/scripts I use on the front page and the start menu to show me all the admin/config options in a standard menu the way I've had it everywhere else.

    Maybe I'm getting old and fuddy-duddy but I found this interface a clunky and unusable attempt to look like a mix of Windows 7, iOS, Android and Mac OSX. The search box in Windows 7's start menu still shows me all the control panel/admin task items just like the start menu. The Unity search box could not find my network config, my updater app or a bunch of other apps I'd been happily using before switching.

    I'll be honest and say I read no documentation or tutorials on how to use Unity but I can't remember the last time I had to read a book on how to use a flippin' menu system.

  • by Gunfighter (1944) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @12:51PM (#36418270) Homepage

    ... were easily solved with four little words:

    "Ubuntu Classic (No Effects)"

    I don't need eye candy. Perhaps I should give Xubuntu a look?

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