back to article Natty Narwhal with Unity: Worst Ubuntu beta ever

Last year, Mark Shuttleworth christened Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal", saying the disto would be stylish and create a good, lasting first impression. While its debut in beta form is smart looking and definitely chases the fashion in operating-system design it's also the single worst beta release of Ubuntu I've ever tested. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    What goes around, comes around

    Over the past few years the press has been 'Ubuntu this... Ubuntu that....".

    Perhaps their bubble has burst and Unity is one step too far.

    I am sure that the other community distros will welcome with open arms any disaffected Ubuntu users come the release of 11.04.

    Either that or return to your natural home, Debian.

    The grenade is for the Ubuntu can do no wrong fanbois.

  2. Chika

    Narwhals, narwhals, swimming in the ocean...

    "Ubuntu has always offered a bit more polish to its interfaces than other Linux distros, which is perhaps part of the reason this beta feels so woefully inferior to its predecessors. Unity has potential, but it's tough to escape the feeling that it just isn't ready yet."

    I think this paragraph sums up this article. You could read the first bit as "Ubuntu takes care of its front end better than other distros" or "Ubuntu is more tarted up than other distros" so means very little and the second part would seem to underline the fact that this is a beta release and, as most folk should be aware, a beta often contains flaws of this nature no matter who is doing the code work.

    In other words, and forgive this cynical openSUSE user's opinion here, we shouldn't read too much into this until we at least reach the release candidates. I'm not Umbongo's biggest fan but I'd at least like them to get a fair go before we harpoon the narwhal.

    Now I just have to get Weebl's "Narwhal" song out of my head!!!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Repeat ad nauseum

    "Hopefully Canonical will sort out the various bugs before the final release, but even if they do, missing features may well make Ubuntu [INSERT_CURRENT_VERSION] a release best waited out"

    I love it how these guys are still acting like there's no competition. As long as they can depend on a rabid fanbase of long-haired freetards, Linux is never going to go anywhere.

    1. Sam Liddicott

      rather rabid too

      that was rather a rabid post, if you don't mind me saying so

    2. Tom Wood


      "Hopefully [COMPANY] will sort out the various bugs before the final release, but even if they do, missing features may well make [PRODUCT] [INSERT_CURRENT_VERSION] a release best waited out"

      Anyone remember Windows ME? Or Vista?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      "rabid fanbase of long-haired freetards"

      Well I know 7 people using Ubuntu, including me, none of us have long hair and none of us use Ubuntu exclusively, using combinations of OSX and Windows. We work in various IT areas from Windows based front-end web development to back room unix system admin.

      You need to slip off the blinkers and realise that life is not all as black'n'white as you seem to think, there are a hell of a lot of fuzzy grey areas!

    4. Rex Alfie Lee

      You are a dik...

      Firstly, linux runs on far more hardware than any other OS. It runs on most super comps or mainframes as well as small hardware not to mention Android enough is just a version of Linux. So what is your point, dik-boy?

    5. Rex Alfie Lee

      No ideals, no integrity...

      The fact that software advocates have some integrity & belief in what they do only goes to show what a small-minded cretin you are. If you an understanding of the reasons they do what they do & you still didn't respect them then you are a fool as well. The software you buy today is made much cheaper because of them & the choices available. Don't be an arse-hole...

      1. Crofty616

        "So what is your point, dik-boy?" know...ah why bother : /

        1. LaeMing


          Because the greatest inuslt any male can receive is being called out on his posession of a penis?

    6. Michael 28

      Unity was on netbook remix 10.10, if i remember correctly..

      ... and works ok on my aspire one fine.. not too keen on it. Still ,it works !

      Don't quite understand this post...competition for what? Market share? Hearts and minds?...

      and as for the "rabid fanbase of long-haired freetards" .. last time I looked at the financials, this demographic wasn't the one with the personal hygiene issues.

  4. Pawel 1

    Give it another try

    Problem is it runs gnome settings converter at a few boots after install which eats all the ram for some stupid reason and causes the kernel to kill random processes (which it displays as "crash"). It is actually a single, but rather critical bug you're seeing. Boot it, leave it for half an hour (and re-login if you a message that it crashed. )

    1. Anton Ivanov


      However this means that yet another lesson of the KDE 3->4 trainwreck has not been learned.

      KDE3->4 settings converter was similarly a total disaster (on par with KDE4 itself).

      In any case, it looks like for people who want their desktop to work and no eye candy the choice is now between xfce4 and xfce4. Long live the variety and differences between the all-mighty proper desktop environments (all of them equally unusable).

      1. Rex Alfie Lee

        Have you tried it recently?

        I think not our you wouldn't speak with such a commanding understanding of something you know nothing about...

  5. Mark McC

    I don't think I'll ever like Unity

    I remember spending an afternoon with a Win 7 beta tinkering with all the cool things the new taskbar allowed me to do, and consistently being surprised as I discovered more and more nifty features.

    Having spent the same amount of time with Unity it's a case of running into more and more things I expect to work that simply don't or aren't there at all.

    First thing was trying to move it to the bottom of my main monitor. I have 2 monitors with the right-most one being my primary, so by default Unity sits in the middle(!) of my screens. The solution? There isn't one, it's impossible to move it!

    Now maybe I'm just silly for having my primary monitor on the right and should move it to the left. Oh, except I used to have it that way but Ubuntu's bizarro notifications system (you know, the one that 4 releases later still doesn't allow you to click on a notification) then popped up all it's messages half-way off the very top right corner of my second monitor, prompting the change.

    I hope to see some improvements in Unity but given the recent lack of improvement to every other hastily introduced element in the last 2-3 iterations I doubt it. Official policy seems to be to introduce a badly thought through element in each new release, then abandon any work on improving it in favour of adding another new half-baked UI element.

    1. ricegf2

      It's a feature

      @Mark: "Ubuntu's bizarro notifications system (you know, the one that 4 releases later still doesn't allow you to click on a notification)"

      It's different than Windows, but not a bug as you imply.

      One thing that always bothers me with Windows is that, as I'm typing and working away, notifications pop up and grab focus. This results in two problems - the first Enter I hit clears the notification (which I may not have even seen), and focus then returns to the system rather than the app I was using. Since I touch type, I can lose quite a lot of text before realizing that Windows has removed focus from the app of interest due to a notification.

      Ubuntu's system solves my problem, and so I prefer it's approach.

      YMMV, but you shouldn't assume that Windows == Right, or that one approach is best for all users. Use cases in the real world just aren't that tidy and distinct among a large user base.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: It's a feature

        "Since I touch type, I can lose quite a lot of text before realizing that Windows has removed focus..."

        Doesn't sound like touch-typing if you're looking at your fingers instead of the screen.

        1. Chris Pollard

          Please enter a title

          If he can touch type then he doesn't need to look at the screen or keyboard does he.

  6. irw
    Thumb Up

    Quote of the month?

    "GNOME-like bar at the top of the desktop, which looks like a GNOME bar, quacks like a GNOME bar, but is definitely not a GNOME bar."

    1. Sam Liddicott

      The Gnome Bar

      Tasty chocolate covered gnomes

      1. Ian McNee

        Mmm...yummy Gnome Bars!

        And even better dipped in open sauce :-p~


      2. Chika

        With nuts?

        And a creamy filling too?


        1. Marcelo Rodrigues

          Must refrain... Must... stay... calm...

          I´ll make it. I´ll make it....

          mwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!! Epic fail for me: didn´t make it.

          Too many jokes, too many jokes.

          You owe me a new keyboard, mouse and chair. :D

  7. Slow Joe Crow

    This is why I use Xubuntu

    I have never liked Gnome (mostly due to Nautilus) and while I used KDE for years, the change from 3.5 to 4 lost me when I couldn't do some of the things I used to do and the rest became harder. XFCE was a revelation, fast light, and a file manager (Thunar) that didn't irritate me. SO now I use Xubuntu on one box and Fedora with XFCE on the other box ad grit my teeth when I have to use Gnome. I also found the pseudo OS X look of Ubuntu 10.10 annoying, but a theme change in Gnome or switching XFCE banishes it.

    1. Anton Ivanov


      Same here. After 9 years with KDE I similarly went the xfce4 route and I will never look back.

    2. vic 4

      Why not all three on one machine?

      Why not have gnome, kde and xfce on one machine/one installation and simply choose which one you want for your session when you login?

      1. gerryg

        @vic 4

        which is extraordinarily easy to do if you use openSUSE, and you can have FVWM too

    3. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
      Thumb Up

      XFCE ftw

      Honestly, I started running this on resource limited machines a while back and have not looked back since.

      Of course, I have to say, gnome and KDE do not please me much, and there's always a terminal open no matter what I run so take from that what you will.

  8. Mystic Megabyte

    Yea but

    I installed it yesterday and I have to agree it's rough around the edges.

    On the plus side the graphics are as fast as hell and I don't have a brilliant card in this laptop.

    Just for this reason I may stick with it when the release becomes stable.

  9. keithpeter Silver badge

    linux = lego

    Remember everyone that Linux = Lego. You don't have to use default Ubuntu and you can go for minimal with a basic desktop manager like dwm or ice or fluxbox or openbox. ICE reminds me of windows 2000 of which I have fond memories (as a supported end user). S*it off a shovel fast and customisable key bindings.

    More important to me than Unity shenanigans and Ive Envy is continued kernel support for older hardware (apm &c)

    1. frymaster

      not wrong but...

      you're not wrong, but the default experience is still critically important. All new users, and I suspect even a very large proportion of existing users who upgrade, will judge ubuntu on what it chooses to present to them, and why shouldn't they?

      This doesn't affect me so much since my main experience of ubuntu is via ssh terminal ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: You don't have to use default Ubuntu

      I suspect a lot of the people Ubuntu is trying to win over - won't know or understand this, so if the default is bad they will revert to previous version/move on

    3. Random Handle


      >Remember everyone that Linux = Lego. You don't have to use default Ubuntu and you can go for minimal with a basic desktop manager like dwm or ice or fluxbox or openbox

      You could make the same argument with Windows, but the % of folk who replace the bundled Explorer shell with stuff like SharpEnviro is fractional - its worth the effort, but definitely a niche thing. Most people stick with minimal customisation of whatever ships.

  10. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Down

    lots of talk but

    No-one has explained how Unity integrates with GDM. On nearly every linux system I've used you can install alternative desktops and switch between them at the login screen. No-one in any review has told me whether Unity works like that, or whether Gnome, KDE, etc. become mysteriously unavailable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They have told you!

      Or maybe you just missed the stuff I happened not to miss.

      You can log into a "Ubuntu Classic" session --- Gnome.

      (Or so they tell me: it's what I get anyway as all this Unity stuff doesn't seem to work at all in my VirtualBox VM)

      1. Robert E A Harvey


        so why all the apocalyptic panicking?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Possibly because...

          You can do this now, but they plan to leave gnome out altogether very soon.

          Still not apocalyptic, I grant you, as it will be installable --- but there will be a lot of people who will will see a quick few clicks in the package manager as "having to write 200 lines of code before I can even use the thing, which is why Linux is not ready for blah blah blah"

          But it will be a hassle, especially for those who have put a lot of work into crafting their desktop the way *they* want it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    6 months to develop it was no where near long enough. I know, it was in the netbook version first, but it was a dog on that.

    What they should have done is have unity at RC quality by 11.04. They could have released it parallel to the last version to serve gnome 2.x. and tested and improved it for the whole 6 months and present it as "new" for 11.10 with very few other changes. But canonical have always had a shoot first ask questions later approach.

    What is a real shame is all those things we've been promised in ubuntu that have never happened. Things like power management, which if done properly could have made Ubuntu a really good choice on notebooks. Also a new theme. Something about a linux distro being purple is just stupid. (let's be honest, 99% of the users are 20-40 males, purple not being the most heterosexual colour..)

    Seems it's becoming time to look at derivatives of the derivative. Ubuntu was great, but unity is just sloppy.

    1. Havin_it


      Purple is GHEY? Who's going to break this to Prince? Rather you than me!

      I'm mystified by your colour-sexuality thesis, but just to run with it for a minute, what then is the sexual orientation of the old brown livery?

      1. Walking Turtle

        Snookie & the Rainbow

        ..."what then is the sexual orientation of the old brown livery?"


        Or for that matter the KDE3.x "Pumpkin" theme?


        YMMV of course. But for my own time=money the ol' 'Keramik' theme with a twist of Pumpkin color-scheme is The Thing. The app-window elements' coloration falls somewhat near the middle of the visible spectrum (thus no eyestrain at all) and the additional Keramik Window Control 'Decorations' (especially the 'Keep Below/Above" and "Windowshade" buttons really help the day along.


        Fact: In actual small-model field tests, KDE3.5.10(final) proves the most *stable* and easily transitioned-to desktop suite of them all thus far. Prior Redmond-users seem to adapt somewhat instinctively to their most-familiar forms and functions on the New-made Linux Box right away. The comments of "Gee, I always *WISHED* my computer would do this - and now it does!" that subsequently emerge are very sweet to the ear too.


        In comparison to which, all other desktop-suite baubles 'n' notions be mere Experimental Eye Candy and Proof of Concept - at least on full-size desktop boxen (this year).

      2. Peter Kay


        Google 'bisexual flag'




        Brown is simply for people without taste, or possibly those with leanings scatological..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Paris Hilton

          Do women count?

          Dude, lots of Hetero women like Pink. Where do they figure in your scheme?

          1. CollyWolly

            Lots of women

            "Dude, lots of Hetero women like Pink. Where do they figure in your scheme?"

            Lots of women don't use Linux either.

      3. Sadie

        Somerset College of Art and Technology

        That of the 2 girls with one cup?

    2. Rex Alfie Lee

      Anonymous coward speaks for everyone...

      What do you know about that allows you to make the judgements you make? As far as I can tell you've made the whole lot up & know little. I'm not your 20 to 40 range but I fit the rest of your ideal 99%-ile & straight but I love the purple & another asked what sexuality does brown represent? Effluent perhaps? If not brown then what?

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      It's not that it's purple that bugs me...'s the blotches of other colours that make me want to reach for a screen degausser, until I remember that that has not been a problem for 20 years on CRT screens, and has never been a problem on flat-panel monitors.

      And at least on the login screen, it is not obvious how to change it.

      Yes, I've done it now, so I don't need anyone to tell me, but it should not be difficult on an OS aimed at ordinary users.

  12. Number6


    I looked at that screenshot and my immediate reaction was "yuk". I don't think I'll be using that desktop for some time.

  13. kissingthecarpet
    Thumb Down

    This is depressing

    I hope none of this rubs off on Debian's rep - this Ubuntu version sounds like the Anti-Debian.

  14. The Envoy


    And I was looking forward to this release. That is, until I'd read this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Can Ubuntu ever be taken seriously?

      ... while each release continues to be stricken with a silly name? Nutty Narwhal, indeed!


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