Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook review

UbuntuAfter reviewing Ubuntu 10.10 and Kubuntu 10.10, the next logical Ubuntu edition to review I think should be the Ubuntu Netbook Edition, or UNE. As the name implies, UNE is the edition of Ubuntu optimized for small screens, such as you will find on netbooks and tablet computers.

Like Linpus Linux Lite 1.4, UNE features two desktop modes. The default Netbook interface, and the standard desktop interface. The Netbook interface is available to computers that meet the minimum driver requirements, while others can only use the standard desktop interface. Other than the netbook interface, there are very few significant differences between UNE and Ubuntu. The installation program and process, installed applications, and system tools are all the same.

So rather than rehash what has already been covered about the installer, installed applications, and system tools in reviews of Ubuntu and Kubuntu, I will focus this review on the new interface in much the same manner I did for the KDE Plasma Netbook interface.

Unity Interface:
The new interface on Ubuntu 10.10 is called Unity. It is touch-capable, and optimized for use on netbooks and small, mobile computers. The image below shows what you see when you first log in to a UNE-powered computer. Just an empty desktop with a standard GNOME top panel and applications launcher panel (Launcher) to the left. The Launcher plays the role of the bottom panel on a standard GNOME desktop. It features launchers for the most popular applications, and will expand to show the launchers for open applications that are not on it by default.

Unlike the KDE Plasma Netbook interface, the Unity Launcher takes up valuable desktop real estate, without adding any real significant advantage to the interface.

Main page

When an application is open, a pair of small arrows will appear to the left and right of its icon on the Launcher, and if there are more than one open applications, the application in focus will be the only one with the pair of arrows. The others will have just an arrow to the left. The arrows come in handy when you have more than one open applications and the one in focus is maximized. By looking at the Launcher, you can tell which other applications are open.

Open applications

Due to the nature of the Launcher, the real usable size of the desktop on Unity is reduced by an amount equal to the width of the Launcher. This is especially noticeable when an application window like that of a Web browser is open and in focus. As shown below, an application window like that develops an horizontal scrollbar at the screen resolution that is just above what you will find on netbooks. So while Unity is designed for netbooks and small screen mobile devices, the launcher puts a dent on the real usable desktop space.

Space issues

By default, Unity features the same number of virtual desktops that are available on most KDE and GNOME desktop. There is an icon for gaining access to the view shown below on the Launcher. The small shows which icon it is.

Virtual workspaces

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  1. If you hover, you see a caret indication looks like a tool tip. You can not add a new link here but remove an item with dragging it by left click and from the right click sub-menu. You can rearrange the launcher icons by dragging them to up or down with left mouse click.

  2. It’s great to finally see an honest review of 10.10’s Unity.

    The initial reviews (all released on Oct 10) were all praising the interface, and centred around the additional software changes.

    I actually use a Netbook (unlike the designers of Unity) and it took just 10 seconds to realise that my upgrade from 10.4 was a mistake.

    Not only have they wasted screen space with a non-customisable chunker, they’ve got this search thing running to waste CPU cycles and memory!

    An absolute joke of an upgrade. They must have got the worst Aspies in to get ideas and implement it.

    To Josh, who wrote
    “I don’t think the public in general should be so upset about the change because if Unity is not for you, you can always put your preference of DE/WM shell back on your system. Its not that big of a deal.”

    Yes, it is that big a deal. Ubuntu is meant to be one of the more user-friend distros. They go and make this ugly unusable POS the default for netbooks, then some nerd tells them that they should just put a WM shell on! What the hell? How is an average user going to know what that even means? What about the limited disk space on Netbooks?

    If Ubuntu want people to use them, they should may their software good. An often ignored, but I think crucial, rule of business.

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