A Disturbing Dialog About Ubuntu and Unity

Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Nov 02, 2011 GMT
Bruce Byfield

Curious about how design decisions are made for Ubuntu's Unity? About how the development team reacts to criticisms of its efforts? If you are, then a moment of unusual -- and troubling -- clarity emerged last week on Launchpad, Canonical's development site.

The moment takes the form of Bug #882274, filed by Tal Liron under the title "Community engagement is broken." Although other people comment, much of the discussion is between Liron, an active bug-filer, and Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu's founder. Liron writes as an Ubuntu loyalist, mostly succeeding in maintaining his politeness and trying to be constructive, but his frustration and feelings of being ostracized are obvious.

The discussion covers a lot of territory, so let me summarize some of the highlights with a minimum of commentary:

"This bug is opened with love," Liron begins. "The issue appears to be a communications failure between the people who make Unity and its community of users. The bug is easy to reproduce: open a Launchpad bug about how Unity breaks a common usage pattern, and you get a "won't fix" status and then radio silence. The results of this bug are what seems to be a sizable community of disgruntled, dismayed and disappointed users, who go on to spread their discontent and ill will." He lists several bugs which fit this pattern.

Liron suggests four causes of this so-called bug. First, he suggests that the Unity team does not explain the reasons for not fixing a bug or feature request, beyond leaving the impression that doing so doesn't fit into the general plans for Unity. Second, Unity has been marketed so heavily that unrealistic expectations of perfection have been created. Third, the Unity team ignores "strongly-worded criticism." Fourth, the team often doesn't discuss its decisions at all.

Several others echo Liron's statement, complaining most often about a lack of transparency. Then Mark Shuttleworth enters the discussion. Among other things, he rejects the idea of more customization in Unity, saying:

"We cannot build an interface that supports every conceivable option that any given user might want. We simply cannot. Not because we're too selfish, or too stupid, or too uncaring, or too greedy, but because that is not a reasonable goal. More importantly, trying to accommodate too many different variants would result in a far buggier product, with far less usability. This is standard practice in professional development and design."

Shuttleworth also comments that, "If there is selfishness here, it's selfishness on the part of people who DEMAND attention and offer no constructive solution. Nobody has a right to expect someone else to devote their time to a mission in which they have no interest." If someone dislikes Unity, Shuttleworth suggests, "then don't use it."

Liron's reply is that, "your response proves that this bug is endemic." He also accuses Shuttleworth of "being impatient with and unsympathetic to community woes" and of not seeing filing a bug as constructive. He suggests an FAQ might be a useful way of interacting with the community without taking up a lot of time.

At this point, Shuttleworth moves to limit discussion, declaring, "This matter is settled, we will enjoy our collaboration more if we accept that and move on . . . . In Unity, when there is a disagreement, we defer to the designers."

Liron responds that design decisions not only have consequences for developers, but for community members as well who have to explain and defend those decisions. Apparently becoming frustrated, Liron continues:

"Mark has been very focused on perfecting the internal team process -- and has done an astoundingly productive job with it -- but the remaining problem is how to properly include us "outsiders." Unfortunately, I don't see this problem fixed given Mark's current attitude. He just doesn't think what we do is very valuable for Ubuntu at large. Apparently we're a tiny minority of nerdy curmudgeons who hate change and love to whine."

To which Shuttleworth replies:

"Do you seriously suggest I don't know anything about free software, or working to include the community? . . . My point is that what's broken is not the engagement; we're engaged. What's broken is the sense of entitlement on one side of this conversation - "do what I want, or I leave, and you're an idiot by the way". As I said previously, in a collaborating community, that sort of language is toxic. So I ask folk to stop doing it."

Shuttleworth goes on to point out that increased flexibility in Unity would cost time and money, and -- even worse, threaten to upset the positioning of everything else in the interface. "That's why iOS has a springboard in only one place, same for Android. These are modern interfaces, based on serious design work. Our goal is to compete with those, so we're not that interested in matching functionality that was in Win95, especially if we think that functionality will get dropped in Windows 8 or 9 or 10."

The conversation continues for many more posts, including an interesting one by Bazon Bloch that claims that Unity usability testing was done using only fifteen Windows and OS X users, and that "Unity is in fact not developed for the Ubuntu community."

However, the effective (although not actual) last word in the discussion is Liron's, saying to Shuttleworth: "In summary, this is yet another "won't fix" bug. Community engagement might not be optimal, you acknowledge, but there's nothing the Unity team is going to do about it."

Drawing Conclusions

This isn't the first time I've inferred and even seen the attitudes on both sides of the discussion on Launchpad, Ubuntu's mailing lists, or in the comments added to Shuttleworth's blog entries. However, I don't recall any other place where all of them were so clearly on display.

To what extent this discussion voices the opinions of Ubuntu members or Canonical employees is uncertain. However, the discussion reinforces my long-held inference that the needs of Ubuntu and Canonical are diverging as more of the decision-making power is claimed by Canonical.

Even more importantly, the discussion suggests a growing urgency in Shuttleworth -- most likely, to make Canonical profitable. Unless I mis-remember, at the start of Ubuntu's history, Shuttleworth seemed more tolerant of the usual give and take of community development.

Now, he sounds impatient, resorting to personal attacks and invoking his personal authority or the necessities of design or standard practice instead of offering explanations. At times, he seems to address issues that at best approximate what others in the discussion are saying. Exactly why this change has happened is uncertain, but it adds a sting to Shuttleworth's once-humorous title of Benevolent Dictator for Life. The change also tends to undermine his assumption that he knows how to work with a community. And if he responds in these ways to a supporter with a few doubts, then the break with the mainstream GNOME project becomes less surprising.

Not having a financial stake in Canonical, I'm inclined to side with those Ubuntu members who are wondering what is happening to the community they imagined they were building. If nothing else, their request for more explanation of decisions seems a reasonable request, and one necessary for the smooth running of any community or business.

But whatever side you take (if any), the course of the discussion seems unhealthy for both Ubuntu and Canonical, let alone for the larger movement of which they are prominent members.


  • unity

    switch to kubuntu and all problems are gone, kde runs well
  • I think I'll check out Linux Mint

    I've used Ubuntu since 2003 and it has always done what I needed it to do. I'm currently running 10.04 on an older machine and it's been rock solid for 3+ years. I started think about upgrading today and found that all new versions of Ubuntu come standard with Unity installed. I tested it out and I have to say -- it sucks. I use Mac OS X and Android every day. I've also tried Windows 8. The desktop is the desktop. The mobile device is the mobile device. There is no one-size-fits-all UI that will work for both. Apple figured that out early on (thus OS X for the desktop and iOS for mobile). Microsoft is still in the process of learning that it won't work (that sound you're hearing is Windows 8 tanking). It seems that serious Ubuntu users are switching away in droves. Mark Shuttleworth doesn't think it's a problem -- but, it will be. Who do you think installs Ubuntu on people's machines? Who makes recommendations? Who maintains grandma's computer? Geeks. That's who.

    If you don't make the geeks happy they are going to find something else and switch everyone over to that instead. That's what I'm doing right now. I'm testing out Linux Mint to see if I like it. If all goes well, I plan to switch over to a long term support (LTS) release and wave goodbye to Ubuntu on the desktop. Any future installs I do for friends, family, neighbors, or customers will most likely be some OS I like supporting. (Hint: it's not going to have Unity). So, good luck Canonical, you're going to need it.
  • unity performance report

    I gave unity a try, I really did.

    After recently installing ubuntu 12.04 on a MacBook Pro, I stuck with unity for a couple of months before going back to gnome.

    And guess what -- when I did go back to gnome, not only did I once again have a desktop organized along rational lines. But also my machine got about twice as fast. As a long time ubuntu user (5 years) I am shocked by how much unity was slowing down my machine. I just think it's a fail on all levels: usability, functionality, performance, and community engagement.
  • Grandma UI


    I've been reading the comments on how Linux has to be easier to use, have better driver support, and have better software... Unity being one attempt at the first one.
    I think Linux is a separate platform and no amount of cloning or tuning will make it a Windows or OS X.
    In the 90's, I started as a DOS user and then grew up in using Windows (95/98/XP). Then, I started using Linux (first Red Had/Fedora, finally (K)ubuntu) for getting the studies/work done: XP was left on the hard drive only for legacy software (mainly games). Meanwhile, I also got an Apple laptop and used OS X on laptops ever since.
    To me, the operating system scene looks as follows:

    - Windows is a platform for legacy software which doesn't play together with others (vendor lock-in, in a bad way). I seldom boot it, mainly for updating the system and the anti-virus. Hoping for WINE to run these things in the future.

    - Ubuntu/Linux is a reliable platform for working: most of the stuff is on the web anyway, and user data is the primary concern, not the tools editing it. KDE UI seems to work out of the box, but some new/immature hardware, like DVB, still has glitches. Most problems are caused by over enthusiastic developers switching frameworks between distro versions, and the initial versions of the new stuff are full of bugs: OSS -> ALSA was a mess, sound daemons were a mess, hidd seems to become deprecated but not replaced etc. In summary, you can have an old working system, or a bleeding edge system full of bugs. That's why, I'm sticking with LTS versions and not adopting them immediately.

    - Mac OS X is a reliable platform to some extent: main concerns being the crappy file system and the "planned obsolescence" of both OS version and hardware. As the hardware and OS come from the same company, they play well together and "things just work". This is the kind of stuff I need on the road (and having it on laptop makes sense). It's also mostly compatible with the Serious Workhorse (Linux), so less vendor lock-in from that side.

    - iOS, Android, Symbian etc. mobile phone OS... are just for using your mobile phone as a dumb terminal of some sort (web apps). Touch screens work well only for browsing/viewing content made by others, which makes it essentially a modern version of a TV. Handheld DVB may have flopped, but really a portable small screen without a serious keyboard is not good for anything else than staring at pictures (moving or not, streamed from the net or not). Phone calls work too, if the screen has a separate headset (or sidetalking blunk

    Now, end users don't want to be identified as handicapped. If my grandmother installed Linux on her computer, she would not select a "grandma UI" from the options, neither would she install "grandma Linux" which has it as the only option. Maybe, Unity/Ubuntu will be accepted as an easy-to-use computing platform by some, time will tell... One thing is for sure: being free to do complex stuff will require a system that enables the user with a rich set of stable tools.
  • I'm moving to FreeBSD because of Ubuntu

    After I upgraded from 10 to 11 and faced the ugliness that was Unity, I dealt with it silently. I didn't like it, I made no complaints to anyone, well only to my friends about how it was terrible. But I kept at it. Yesterday, I upgraded from 11 to 12 and it broke and trashed my desktop. I've my data backup, but to have to reinstall a lot of software packages? I did a lot of soul searching, this could happen with debian, or even opensuse, but less likely tho. Ubuntu seems to be just getting terrible in quality. I want a system that I can use, but also upgrade without fear of ever breaking and needing to do reinstalls during upgrade hence I have decided to go with FreeBSD. Yup, I will miss a lot of latest features, but I value my free time. I want to set up a system, run it and never have to spend hours redoing stuff for the next 3 or 4 years. Ubuntu pushed me to FreeBSD. sad
  • It's not just Ubuntu/Unity; and it could turn out well

    Unity is not just Mark Shuttleworth's seven-year-itch (tho 4 sure it is that, too). The phone-interface as desktop metaphor (Unity) is a broad trend across all major computing players. He's been at this for probably 3 years, as have the others, and he/they knew all along it was going to be a deal-breaker, for much of their "communities".

    Phones etc are the first & the only manifestation of computers that females have ever shown any 'active' level of interest in - let alone 'took ownership of'. They have always been dragged backwards into computers. Now, "serious" computer-business operatives are hoping that females' relationship with phones can be enticed to migrate onto their other brand-products.

    Done right, the Big Kids can justifiably salivate that their overall market could nearly DOUBLE, 'overnight'.

    That's only part of the scene, though. It has been the fond aim to consumerize computers, all along: envy of Apple's success with hand-held, touch, mobile devices that are whoefully inadequate as 'computers', is now sincerely expressed in imitation.

    Computers are to be no more about computing, than Ma Bell's telephones were about electronics, or communications. They became "consumer products", as quickly & completely as possible.

    Of course ... with computers, there has always been that underlying reality that 'enthusiasts' gloss over: that about half the population is actually somewhat hostile toward computers, and resentful of computerists (with, yeah, females being over-represented in that). There has never been a pervasive consumerism context in the offing with computers (and the Internet), as there was with Radio, and then Television, seriously dominating culture (and business!) through several generations in the 20th Century.

    Not until the cell phone, that is; aided & abetted by other 'cool' hand-helds. Now we are beginning to see glimmers of the kind of market-saturation that prevailed when a home without a TV would be the residence of people you just plain stayed away from.

    Comfortable Linux users, computing & software enthusiasts, hobbyists, etc, will not lead this new movement into computer-consumerism nirvana. On the contrary - they're in the way & part of the problem.

    The good news - for we who imagine computers to be 'ours' - is that Canonical's Unity runs on top of Ubuntu. And Ubuntu derives from Debian, who own the most important library since Alexandria, all of which is based on a GNU/Linux foundation that, while by no means hostile to commercial opportunity, isn't about to find Consumer Religion.

    You - we - still have the role we prefer. There is the real possibility that the ascendancy of Unity & Co. could clarify & define the enthusiast's role in ways that could well prove very happy & satisfying.

    But - if the Big Kids are successful - we will play second-fiddle to soccer-moms & college-kids and legions of phone-flippers who will grow increasingly suspicious to find that you don't have one (and that what you claim to be Linux doesn't look ANYTHING like theirs).

    The core of the issue for Linux users lies with Choice & Control. We can step off the Unity-bus (and make no mistake, the new Gnome & KDE ventures, too) at multiple transfer-points, and board routes that lead to our preferences, instead. Many of these alternatives are currently tuned for old computers, fast performance, or for old-school 'Nix culture ... but they are eminently adaptable to step into the vacuum ... which, we can be sure, Mr. Shuttleworth realizes is being created by Unity.

    It's a fairly easy step for Linux people to take. We can go Mint, or we can finally buck up and go real Debian ... but the best of all worlds will be to 'show love' in the Window Manager field, and encourage them to ... fill that vacuum, on our behalf.
  • People always forget that they get Ubuntu for free!

    People should come to realise that Canonical owns Ubuntu. It has the right to shape the "default" UI of Ubuntu. To say that Canonical doesn't listen to the community isn't entirely true, otherwise you won't find Xubuntu or Kubuntu in Ubuntu's repositories. The community shouldn't be that angry just because that "default" isn't the way they like, and that Ubuntu mimics Mac or Windows (which is totally wrong). People also forget (or just can't see) that Unity is just Canonical's fingerprint on Ubuntu, and it has all the right to develop a UI of its own. Unity is not 100% ready yet, but there is always room for improvement (not to forget the limited resources & man-power). I think people should spend more time help the developers getting Unity ready to compete and spread the word of Ubuntu (which is a free, safe, open-source Linux-based OS).
  • Unity = no thanks

    I'm a long time Linux user. I still have my first set of Infomagic 6-CD set, dated November 1995. I've been using Linux as my primary desktop since 1995. The power of Linux is it's trouble-free nature, coupled with its infinite customisability. When you introduce a ton of new bugs with a half-baked UI, and you *force* people to use this crap, well, that's just not the "Linux way". I've been an Ubuntu fan, and I still use 11.04 AMD64 as my primary desktop, it's a fabulous OS. But I'm now looking at what other options are out there. Mint? Or CentOS? I'm not sure where I'll go. But so long as Ubuntu wants to force the hand of its user base, and ignore completely the Linux tradition of flexibility and customisation, I can't see myself staying with it. I want my workstation to function as a workstation. I don't want it to look or feel like a phone or a tablet.
  • Here's the thing about Unity...

    So I've basically given up on Ubuntu as a desktop OS. It's still fine as a server OS, but to be fair that's more to the credit of Linux in general (or at least to Debian) than to Ubuntu, since Ubuntu for all intents and purposes IS its desktop. That's pretty much what it brings to the mix -- an easy-to-use desktop experience for Linux.

    In Ubuntu's credit, all of the things that attracted me to it are still strong; it was -- and, I believe, is -- the easiest distro to set up, with the most wide hardware support. Yes, I know that those drivers will work on just about any distro, but the thing is that with Ubuntu, the odds are that with any "normal" hardware, the drivers were "just there" and you didn't have to spend an hour going to another computer and downloading some obscure NIC drivers and putting them on a flash drive and hope they compile-- oh crap, I forgot to install build essentials, now what...? No, with Ubuntu, the odds are that after the initial install, your system would function fine at a basic level out of the box.

    The problems with Ubuntu have always been UI related, for me -- the system would frequently get into a UI unbootable state that I simply did not want to spend hours correcting, again, and again, and again. I consoled myself that "well, that's not Ubuntu's fault, it's crappy old XWindows" and it was true.

    Then, along came Unity. Now, all of a sudden, not only did I have all of the XWindows issues (they're still there, making the whole house of cards shaky and fragile), but I have a whole raft of new Unity-specific problems. Oh right, key repeat randomly switches off, now I have to .. uh... go to the keyboard settings and toggle the switch on and off (gonna fix that, ever, Unity team? or are you too busy working on "new features?"blunk Ahh, the Unity bar auto-hide is dodgy at best; sometimes it gets stuck un-hidden, forcing you to do the magic mouse dance trying to make it go away, or just give up and accept that you've lost the left 50 pixels of your screen. Oh, and if you want to move the bar to someplace that works better for YOUR workflow? Why, you're an arrogant self-centered bastard for even asking! In short, instead of staying out of my way so I can use Linux the way I need it, Ubuntu and Unity have started dictating how I do my work, and they're dictating it in a craptacular, bloated, buggy way (at one point because Unity 3D was sucking up so many resources and bogging down my wimpy work machine, I switched to Unity 2D on the recommendation of Lifehacker; MISTAKE! the next system software update COMPLETELY bricked my machine into a basically unrecoverable state... it's like the Unity guys are TRYING to lose customers...)

    So, pre-Unity, Ubuntu had rough spots and issues -- like all Linux distros -- that I was willing to work with in order to get my job done. Now, post-Unity, it has all the same rough spots, but it has a whole raft of new bugs, plus it is basically trying to dictate my workflow for me (no, you shall start all programs from THIS button in THIS position, and if you don't like it you're just an arrogant longbeard Linux loser, so sayeth the Shuttleworth! All hail the Shuttleworth!)

    For an operating system that is barely clinging to life in the desktop market, with a dedicated user base that is their core constituency, this is almost a case study in how NOT to grow your business. Anyone else remember the Netflix/"Qwikster" thing and what happens when a successful business decides unilaterally to go in a new direction, current users be damned?

    I don't see good things ahead for Ubuntu, with this kind of attitude. You simply can't just decide to piss all over your users and expect to succeed. Unfortunately, now I need a new distro that's just as easy to set up as Ubuntu -- with all of the great hardware support out of the box, and the easy setup process, mostly compile-free, and hopefully with less bloatware crap on it -- to do my Rails dev on. I may just jump ship and finally switch over to *shudder* MacOS for it...
  • Ubuntu now sucks!!!

    I am a power user(System admin + security). Most of time i use Terminal . For my need i customize Linux and the Ubuntu was the best choice for me. 2 days ago i removed Ubuntu 10.04 and installed 11.10 . When i start exploring the new ubuntu i did not even find the terminal because i need to search it or press CTRL+ALT+T . The Terminal(Command line) should be the main tool for UNIX/LINUX but now we need search this terminal. OK, Then i try to change some icons and try locate my ICONS directory but where is "Location Bar" ? So i need just to click (Crazy!!!)?

    Linux is Linux and it is not buggy windows ... Current version of ubuntu is like buggy windows for new looks. I know i can install KDE ,XFCE etc anytime but it is just wasting the time. Ubuntu was is the good choice for all kind of users such as Security Engineer, Programmer, Server administrator etc. But Now Ubuntu only for buggy peoples .

    It is nice to develop a new look but not such a way. They should make the things Usable . The current Ubuntu is only support "Search" , "Click" and sometime "Key shortcut(But it is our reponsiblity setting up a shortcut)".

    Ubuntu now exists with Garbage!!!

    Moving to another distro or using KDE soon .

    Good Luck with it..
  • Just passing through

    I'm a windows user, and have been since I was a kid. I have tried to make the linux leap many times, but every time I have found that it actually made it more difficult for me to accomplish tasks I do daily. I am capable of using it just fine, including terminal of course, but I still find it lacking for my uses. I recently tried to switch over again using Ubuntu, and found Unity as the desktop. I gave it a few days, but I uninstalled it and went back to windows.

    Sure, I could change to something else like KDE or Gnome3. But if I were going to bother with that, I would have just installed a different distro or an older ubuntu build. I don't like it when others decide my desktop should look like an ipad. I refuse to use Windows 8, if they continue to push metro, for the exact same reason. My desktop is not a touchscreen and never will be as long as I have a say in it. I also found that my past linux experience was pretty much useless with unity since common things like connecting to a server seem to be buried (and even then didn't work, but worked fine using gnome).

    The part I find most confusing about all of this is that linux is known for being used by people that don't want others telling them how to use their computer, yet ubuntu has decided that they are going to tell people how to use their computers in much the same way that Apple and Microsoft do. I fail to see how ubuntu's decision cannot be construed as a violation of this core principal that linux users hold dear. After all, why not simply let users have the choice to install the desktop they want during installation if this is truly a response to user requests as they claim? If users are clamoring for this, as they claim, then why are they so afraid that people will choose something else?
  • Time to look at reality

    I have been a linux user on and off for 10 years now and the one reoccurring theme continues to play out. You always hear the hopeful calls that "one day Linux will catch up to Microsoft". The problem with that is as long as the core users of Linux refuse to accept that not everyone is a super user, nor do they care to be, Linux will remain a toy for the 1%.

    Until 3 areas are addressed, this will never change.

    1. Ease of use
    2. Driver support
    3. Software support

    With Unity, Ubuntu is trying to address number 1 and to a great deal of animosity by the community that would rather cling tightly to their pitiful scraps than to help move a great distribution into the future as a mainstream option.

    All Linux distro's suffer from driver support and as long as hardware developers see Linux for what it is, 1% of the market, they are never going to dedicate resources to support drivers. The same goes for number 3 and software developers. You can say there are Open Source options and there are quite a few very good projects. Unfortunately those are in the minority and if you are in serious business, very few if any of them are supported by mainstream business. I would add, that I would absolutely be happy to pay for software to run on Linux provided it was stable and was something I needed.

    The problem with Linux isn't the desktop environment. It is the ego of many of the users. You only have 2 choices. Embrace change that will help infuse new users into a tiny community in hopes of attracting more support across the board, or continue to play with a toy that will never be taken seriously by your average computer user.
  • thinking is forbidden

    This is not targeted to granny or to existing users. This is targeted to new users (kids). They shall learn: this are the programs you SHALL use, this are the music that you SHALL listen, this are the movies that you SHALL see..

    They want to transform the PC and internet into something like TV. Provider->user system.
    Thinking is forbidden.
  • Some of us just want a distro / community that's right for us.

    There is already an easy, familiar, comfortable distro for disgruntled Windows users.

    It's called Mint.

    What we need now is a comfortable distro for those of us who grew accustomed to something better. (Ubuntu / Gnome 2 users)
  • Most of us would like to see more people using Linux

    To get more users on Linux, 2 things would be great - cost savings when buying a laptop with Linux instead of Windows (to achieve this, a lawsuit preventing laptop manufacturers from defraying the cost of Windows licenses by preloading spyware is needed) and a distribution that is a good fit for a novice user to switch to when they bring a tech expert a machine full of viruses. Soon (2014) Windows XP will not get security patches - this will be the greatest opportunity ever for Linux to gain market share. Paying $100 to upgrade to a new Windows when new computers are easily available for $300 is just stupid. Most users will take their chances and stay insecure - but when they get a virus, that is the perfect opportunity to change them into a Linux user - IF there is a Linux that is either easy enough or Windows-like enough to satisfy them. Many novice users and Grandmas have their problems solved and do very well by switching to a Mac- that is proof that if the UI is easy it does not necessarily have to be a clone of Windows. Ideally, there would be 2 good Linuxes - one that is almost an exact clone of Windows XP, and another one that is really easy to use. Unity is a step towards making a grandma-friendly Linux, and that is a great thing. Future users of Linux could outnumber current users by a factor of 30 to 1 - if even a third of XP users get viruses and switch to Linux that would be 30 times the current number of Linux users. Building something that ignores current Linux users and is designed to be easy for grandma is exactly the right idea.
  • A good decision

    Ubuntu is a fantastic product in search of a (better) market and the switch to Unity is what may bring Ubuntu closer to such a market.

    Any realistic observer will agree that Linux adoption as a desktop OS has been much lower than expected. But Linux and Unix have met with surprising succes on mobile platforms.

    First, Apple took BSD, added in a gorgeous Graphic User Interface, and successfully launched iOS on iPhone and iPad.

    Second, Google took Linux, throwed in a new Graphic User Interface, and hardware manufacturers happily adopted Android on many smartphones and tablets.

    Third, Intel & Nokia took Linux, changed the Graphic User Interface to MeeGo, and launched the N9.

    The common pattern here is the new Graphic User Interface. It's not Gnome, it's not KDE, it's not Xfce. The difference is not just cosmetic, it's mainly under the hood.

    Ubuntu is undergoing a similar change. Unity is probably the best trade-off they had in terms of GUI if they didn't want to reinvent the wheel. The price may be losing a significant number of fans but the potential pay-off is huge. We better get used to it.

    I love Ubuntu. I will wait for 12.04. Cheers!
  • there is no problem at all !

    Many people complain about unity and gnome3,
    You don't need to , just switch to KDE, there is fo eg. Kubuntu , 11.10 version is very good in my opinion.

    I switched to it, and i am happy with it.

    It looks and works similar to gnome, but have much more features which are not present in any gnome version nor unity.
    But if you do not need all the features, thats no problem, default settings work fine too.

    So what is the problem? Let Ubuntu do what they want, don't stick to things you don't like.
    Linux is not only ubuntu, gnome and unity. There is much more. Open your eyes happy


    or fedora, it has few versions : gnome, kde, lxde, xfce, you can chose whatever you like
  • Ubuntu community

    Its sad to see how peoples opinions change very easily. One second people are calling him the benevolent dictator or the benefactor and now suddenly people are so anti Ubuntu and Mark is the epitome of evil. I think Mark should have put a price tag on Ubuntu. The Bill of Gates fame is anti Linux and anti open source but I dont think he is getting one tenth of the negative feedback as Mark is getting now. Atleast not from his paying customers. He is only getting negative reviews from Open source enthusiasts and Linux users which I dont think will bother him a lot.

    Did Mark create an Ubuntu community or an Ubuntu "Mob"?? The poor man has risked his savings he got from Thawte into Linux and look at the thanks he is getting.

    There is an old saying. "Don't give anything to anyone for free."

  • controversy

    It is some dramatic missunderstanding. Unity is not ready and it shows. There are many things good in it. What I don't like and don't accept is sick attitude towards long time users and castomers: like it or leave it!
    My Windows 7 is similar, but more stable, I don't have so many hardware problems. There is nothing wrong with plans and new things if they work as promissed, if not smile and work until they do.
    Linux is fun but it will be a long time before it will replace MS and Apple products for the common user. When my needs are neglected I start to feel that I am waisting my time...
    Best regards, I hope developers will squash bugs, not users blunk
    Best regards...
  • unity is not all bad

    while i think the whole unity deal stinks, it is making progress to something borderline usable. my biggest issue is lack of forward communication, mark is saying that unity is your primary choice and telling those of us that prefer gnome 2 to shut up if we don't like the current method.all i really want is him to admit that its still a work in progress and that the features we are asking for may come in future releases. i can understand stability comes first and that our functions have to wait till ready. but at least admit that there is a .
  • get involved

    Quick show of hands:
    How many of you are members of an Ubuntu Local Community group? How many of you go to group events, pitch-in, help with Ubuntu?
    Ubuntu will get stronger and better and more fun when we let go of the hatred in blog comments and bug reports and get engaged with our communities on a local level. Find your local Ubuntu group, join it, and see for yourself.
    Ubuntu will also get better, stronger and more fun when we stop flogging (and blogging) dead horses.

    ~ from Vancouver, home of UVLC.

  • Give Unity a Chance

    I can't comment on the relationship between Canonical and the Ubuntu user community, but I do think that some users are being a bit too sensitive about Unity. As it happens, I rather like it, but within half and hour of installing 11.10, I had also installed the Gnome-shell (Gnome 3), to compare the two, and I've also installed Xfce4, in case I want to revert to a more traditional setup. So we existing Ubuntu users have plenty of choice, even without moving to another distro (such as the excellent Linux Mint).
  • Community is everything, mr. Mark Shuttleworth, without it you're nowhere!

    Shuttleworth should consider one thing.. His Ubuntu project stands and falls with the community.
    By pissing on the current community, he doesn't automatically create a new one.
    The current community is needed to champion the new users into the Ubuntu fold, with Unity (if that's what Ubuntu wants).

    Sure, any paradigm change and new user interfaces will have teething problems, but without proper communications to your current userbase, the interface will fail completely.
    From what I can see, there is no attempt to defend design choices other than saying "won't fix", even a single work-around would help. "Oh you want Y, well you can achieve something similar with X and Z."
    Just a "won't fix" is a slap in the face of anyone trying to help the project further along the track.

    That said, I had moved away from Ubuntu around the time that 11.04 came out. I'm now running Linux Mint 11, looking forward to Mint 12. Because that project seems willing to listen to qualms of its users, and even actively trying to sort out the issues that people have with Gnome3. (The screenshots I've seen from Mint 12 look stunning)
  • StarTrek foretold the past

    Sorry, but I'd have to do the death scene from StarTrek, when Khan goes bat-guano -crazy spewing the epic death scene from Moby Dick. I really REALLY came to despise KDE. I was seeing REAL cpu hoggage going on from some of the stupid information gathering schemes running that I couldn't turn off nor remove. I really don't care for some daemon to waste 24 hours reading and indexing my files and documents. Then Unity appeared...

    Joachim: Our shields are dropping.
    Khan: Then raise them!
    Joachim: [pounds fists on console] I can't!
    Khan: The override. Where's the override?
    Joachim: There isn't one, we're running KDE!
    Khan: To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!

    ~meanwhile~ on the command deck of the Enterprise:

    Saavik: You lied!
    Spock: I exaggerated.
    Kirk: Hours instead of days! Now we have minutes instead of hours!

    ~Unity had been installed by Spock without telling anyone, by orders from Starfleet~

    David Marcus: Every time we have dealings with Starfleet, I get nervous.

    ~Spock defends the installation~

    McCoy: Dear Lord. You think we're intelligent enough to... suppose... what if this thing were used where a good desktop already exists?
    Spock: It would destroy such desktop in favor of its new matrix.
    McCoy: Its "new matrix"? Do you have any idea what you're saying?
    Spock: I was not attempting to evaluate its moral implications, Doctor. As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.
    McCoy: Not anymore; now we can do both at the same time! According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now, watch out! Here comes Unity! We'll do it for you in six minutes ...during an update!
    Spock: Really, Dr. McCoy. You must learn to govern your passions; they will be your undoing. Logic suggests...
    McCoy: Logic? My God, the man's talking about logic; we're talking about universal Armageddon! You green-blooded, inhuman..

    Yes, the future holds infinite possibilities to screw ourselves over.

  • About that 200 million users goal

    "In Linux Mint 11 we made the decision to keep Gnome 2.32. The traditional Gnome desktop, although it’s not actively developed by the Gnome development team anymore, is still by far the most popular desktop within the Linux community. As other distributions adopted new desktops such as Unity and Gnome 3, many users felt alienated and consequently migrated to Linux Mint. We recorded a 40% increase in a single month and we’re now quickly catching up with Ubuntu for the number #1 spot within the Linux desktop market."


  • Usability!

    Thanks for the awesome post, really informative!

    I think the decision to move to Unity is a strategic one, that quite a few commenters seem to have missed! Yes, it was risky. Yes, it can be annoying.

    However, it's strategic purpose is to attract those 180 million users within 3 years... it's MUCH simpler and more intuitive to use for people who care absolutely nothing about computers, and just want them to WORK. No fiddly options, no messing about, you switch it on and it just intuitively works!

    My brother had just about given up on Ubuntu with Gnome in favour of Win7, it was just too annoying and buggy for a non-power user. He's pleasantly surprised by how well Unity works, and I think that if Ubuntu has any chance of growing out of its tiny niche, users like him are its future.

    I've been a dedicated Ubuntu user and preacher for almost four years, and I fled from GNOME over a year ago to LXDE, because it was lighter and snappier. Now I'm happy to make the adjustment.

  • Until 10.10 is dead...

    I've given up even doing support in the IRC channels - let alone bothering to go through the mailing lists - I've become nearly as disillusioned with Ubuntu as I have with MS Windows, Novell and Apple. Sad that. I can't remember in the past 20 years, a move so "blatant" and "non-community" as the entire Unity fiasco.

    For all that I have tried - either in using Unity or Gnome3 - I cannot find any reason or justification other than "someone else" is trying to turn my desktop into a mobile phone. Um, this is a desktop, NOT a mobile phone. Mobile phone interfaces are not meant for desktop workstations. They're meant for mobile phones or other "smart devices".

    I'll stick with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and 10.10 on my systems until it's reached its EOL time. And then probably still leave them that way until I find another happy environment.

    As one of the folks that has spent YEARS working and giving away time to assist and support, I feel that the gist of attitude has shifted completely away from "community" as the overall perspective appears to be that the "community" doesn't seem to know diddly-squat - according to corporate decision (um, that's you, Mr. Shuttleworth). Thank you for the subtle insult, and assumption that I'm dumber than dog doo.

    Decisions like this with Unity - along with what's gone on with Microsoft and Apple in the past ten years, has caused me to completely reconsider what I have chosen for a career path - IT consultant - and my resulting decision has been to move completely out of the entire IT game - it's become more a farce than what it was intended to become - and truth and reality mean absolutely nothing in comparison to mass-marketing, advertisement and corporate decisions.

  • The message is clear

    I think the message is clear: the new Ubuntu target is the mobile market and Canonical aims to become profitable. That will not happen if Canonical heed the demands of the (current) Ubuntu fans. Ubuntu Desktop users need to realize that they have options that are not enabled by default. It will take a while to have a fully functional Unity interface and, in the mean time, perhaps the "Unity-related" bug reports should be more along the line: "How can I easily switch to the Gnome|KDE|<enter_your_choice> desktop permanently?"
  • Nobody Wanted Unity To Begin With

    The biggest problem with Unity as I see it is nobody wanted it to begin with. Nobody using Ubuntu was asking for a new desktop interface. And when Canonical forced it on the community. Unity turned out to be a pile of stale crap. It turned what was a stable Linux distro into something that suffers the random crashes I'd expect to find in Windows 3.x. Ubuntu 11.10 was better. A bit more stable. But Unity is still crap and lacking even basic features.

    I think this is a make or break moment for Ubuntu. Canonical either fixes this mess or people will begin to move away. And in a sense that's already happening. A lot of Ubuntu users would rather suffer Gnome Shell than Unity. Mark Shuttleworth should know better. He can't speak to a volunteer community like a corporate manager just excusing away concerns. If that's the way it's going to be we might as well all go buy Macs.
  • Comparisons to iOS are non sequitur

    Mark has a serious problem brewing and I don't think he can see clearly.
    He is making the mistake of trying to compete with iOS and Android in an environment where these two do not exist... the desktop. Mark, does Mac OS/X have an iOS or Android-like UI?
    If there is a UBUNTU tablet OS then Unity (and even Gnome 3) would fit perfectly, but on the desktop they are clumsy and a pain to use... problems that a GUI is supposed to overcome.
  • I don't get the Unity Hate at all.

    KDE4 was a threat to an established interface that users had grown dependent on. Gnome 3 is a threat to an established interface that users had grown dependant on. I understand the hate for Gnome 3, and I'm still getting over KDE4 myself. But Unity isn't replacing anything but a defaut, and that was going to be replaced anyway. forcing anyone to give up anything. Users can install any desktop you want into Ubuntu.

    I've tried Unity on the Desktop, and I'm not switching but I like it. Unity really and truly doesn't need any setup configuration, none at all. I drag what i want to use to the docking bar and I'm ready to, and unlike Gnome Shell (I believe) I can drop files and links to the Desktop folder, because the Desktop metaphor is retained. It's a little bland for the Desktop, but it should be great on a tablet, and I love being able to familiarize myself with unity on the Desktop before running out to get my Ubuntu tablet. And if I can afford it, I will definitely be doing that.

    Do power users like Unity? I'm going to go out on a limb, and guess that some do and some don't.

    okay, i think I get it. Now that I've had some time to think about it, it seems to me that people are anxious because they see Unity as a sign that Ubuntu is giving up on the desktop. We've been awash in predictions that the Desktop is over, and it makes some people nervous. Shuttleworth may be right in assuming that the angry user don't represent everybody, but he still needs to understand this kind of anxiety better. The predictions are overstated because they're made by people who want to sell you the new stuff.
  • Linux, Ubuntu and Choice

    I'm a relatively late comer to Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular. One of the major things I've noticed over the past few years is how Linux users are resistant to change. Kind of the, "My Daddy did it that way, and my granpappy did it that way..........." sort of mentality. They don't like anything that changes how they have done it all their lives. The great thing about Linux, and Ubuntu in particular, is that YOU have choices. I've been a very happy Ubuntu user for about four years now, albeit a Gnome "disliker". I prefer the KDE desktop layout so I use Kubuntu. To follow another analogy above, when you open the hood of that Mercury you find it has a Ford engine. There are several variants and everyone should be able to find something that they like.

    Most of the time in cases of major change it gets released before it's ready for prime time, KDE4 and Unity for instance. Given a chance things generally work out if you give it some time. With the first release of KDE4 there was much gnashing of teeth, sack cloth and ashes. Now no one even mentions it. Give Unity some time to mature. I'm sure that Gnome had some issues when it was first released.
  • Running to Mint

    I find it amusing that people are running to Mint (LMDE not mentioned as far as I can see) from Ubuntu. Mint /is/ Ubuntu to all intents and purposes. It is much like running from a Ford to a Mercury.
  • Liking Unity is not the problem

    When 11.04 was released I began a serious trial of it. To my surprise I really liked it. It was vey intuitive and really suited my workflow. 11.10 builds on that and refines it. The next LTS should be a well polished product. I often see comments about the failure of Ubuntu's 6 month release cycle. It's been well documented in the past that this is not the case. It is a 2 year cycle with development releases in between. I don't see this as being alot different to the release cycle Debian except that their development repos are rolling.

    That said there is much I dislike about the business model that Ubuntu/Shuttleworth is applying and this bug sums it up well. As open source advocates I can't see how anyone with a passionate belief in its process can continue to support Shuttleworth's attitude to the community that made Ubuntu what it is today.
  • On who wags whom

    It would appear Mr. Shuttleworth has an unsatisfactory user community. Clearly he needs to fire it and get a new one.
  • Read the origional

    Thanks for the blog and the link for the bug report. It is always good to the original bug report before coming to conclusion. I request every one to read the bug before coming to any conclusion.

  • A simple solution for Ubuntu

    I have been a happy user of Ubuntu for the last 4 or 5 years.

    All of what I have tried, seen or heard about Unity does not convince me to say the least. But Mark Shuttleworth has the right to try to innovate, maybe that's is duty or his Karma. As I switched back to the LTS 10.04, i will eventually try to upgrade to the future LTS or install Mint or Debian.

    This position of uncertainty regarding th future is not very comfortable. I am not alone in that case. We are a lot of "professionals", that is people with a demanding job (eventually in research, university or teaching..or industry...) and not necessarily "power users" who need an efficient OS, stability, continuity. We have not the time, usually, to "play" with a new interface, nor to "try" it for the pleasure of knowing if we like it or not. For many of us, when we adopted Ubuntu, there was some kind of a "silent contract" between us and the Ubuntu community. The type of contract that Debian, or the Linux Foundation has with the community: seriousness and continuity.

    Reading the answers to that questions (continuity) by Jono Bacon and Mark Shuttleworth in different blogs gives the bad impression that these "professional users" are left in the middle of the river. "If you do not like Unity, there is plenty of other distros that might satisfy you". For me this is not a very "professional" answer. What will be the next whim of the Canonical team? If I was in charge of 1000 computers in a university or any community I would think twice before installing Ubuntu.

    If Mark Shuttleworth wants to keep the reputation he has, rightly, gathered for the development of Ubuntu, he would rather listen to people who followed him and also participated in the extension of the community. And above all he would secure and eventually promote a simple interface (like Gnome2) for the sake of continuity and stability. This is not too complicated as many participants of this debate have illustrated.

    The interest (and certainly the financial interest) of Canonical, Ubuntu and the community is without any doubt to "care" of the people who followed you and not to try to discourage them. It would be sound to listen of the innumerable voices who criticize Unity, usually for the same reasons. If Mark Shuttleworth was really confident in Unity...he would provide the necessary continuity of a "Gnome2" equivalent desktop....and he would just wait for "hard boiled power users" to be convinced by his new UI.

  • It's about functionality

    I feel like Mark and the Canonical team might be misinterpreting the negative feedback about Unity. As a (to date silent) Unity-hater, my issues are with the missing functionality when switching from Gnome 2 to Unity.

    When Facebook updates its design, I feel like those that complain disagree with the new layout and appearance, which are largely subjective choices. At the end of the day they can still upload pictures, make status updates, search for friends, and all of the other Facebook features. That's why the furor dies down eventually, they can all get on with the business of using the site.

    When I switched to Unity, it wasn't the layout or appearance I had a problem with. I was kind of psyched to have a new design with a nice looking launcher. The problem was that functionality I use every day, no hundreds of times a day, was not present any longer. I can't easily see the titles of the windows I have open, I can't browse the menu, I don't have a status panel with icons, my panel drawers that I rely on for accessing commonly used documents and applications were gone, and so on.

    My suggestion for at addressing these common-desktop-paradigms-are-missing concerns would be for Canonical to engage with the community and generate a list of agreed upon functionality that must be present and easily usable in any desktop environment. Then Canonical can implement that however they see fit, and the users will only have subjective complaints instead of substantive complaints about functionality.
  • Ubuntu 11.10 is good, 11.04 was horrible

    I am using Ubuntu 11.10 and it is all good, but I did hate 11.04 very much because it was not ready at all and it was very buggy. There is a lot improvement in 11.10 so I am waiting for LTS version to be superb. Also friend who is computer illiterate likes Unity on 11.10. Both running 64-bit and 2GB RAM.
  • Maybe "entitlement" isn't the issue

    Mark talks about a "broken sense of entitlement" on the part of the community. I think he's missing the point -- it's not about entitlement, it's about fair warning of consequences.

    Does running ubuntu, filing bugs, helping in support forums, submitting patches, or doing other community chores "entitle" anyone to override the design team and demand design changes? Clearly no.

    But if the attitude is "shut up and go somewhere else if you don't like it", then he might want to ask himself first what is the value of those users, bug filers, bug patchers, community support providers, free promoters, etc before escorting them to the door.

    People will help out a community effort as long as they feel it's a community effort; as soon as it looks like one party is unfairly dominating and benefitting, that desire dries up quick. Imagine a church potluck where the guy bringing drinks suddenly decides to start charging for them.

    Is Canonical prepared to go it alone?

    Good luck with that.
  • Unity haters are just marginalizing themselves.

    I strongly object to people like «IGnatius T Foobar» when they make claims like «Existing users of Linux quite overwhelmingly hate Unity.»

    Who are you? I first came into contact with Linux in 1994, started to actually use it in '98 and I've been using Ubuntu pretty much since the beginning. And I really love Unity. It's really easy to develop for, it's easy to use and it's very productive. That doesn't mean I hate Gnome Shell, Gnome Panel, Xfce4-panel, Lxpanel or any other shell. Quite the contrary. I love all of them as well. They're different tools for different use cases -- and they're good at it.

    But you're telling people that unless we adopt your hatred, then we are not worthy of being members of the Linux community. We certainly have no right to an opinion or to write software the way we want software to work. You achieve _one_ thing, Mr. Foobar: you're making your own opinions irrelevant. You're marginalizing yourself. And if you don't understand that, then it's probably just because I'm both evil and stupid.
  • Disappointing

    After reading Mark's first post in the Bug report, I opened a new tab and started downloading Mint Debian for three reasons:

    1) If i wanted an OS where all design decisions were ultimately in the hands of one person who answered user complaints with the equivalent of "I know best," I would have purchased a Mac years ago. Mark is right that someone ultimately does have to make the final decision. However, that person should take real user concerns into consideration, especially when the design doesn't work for a lot of people. What good is attracting new Windows and Mac users to Ubuntu, if the old users leave? Linux is about more than just being free; it's also about the freedom to do what you want with your computer. Mark's attitude that if you don't like Unity switch to something else, isn't good enough. I should be able to install a distro and customize the design to fit my needs. That's the minimum I expect from a distro.

    2) Unity doesn't work for me. I think it's a horribly designed interface. Why when I'm mousing up to my browser's back button do I so often open the launcher, thus obscuring the button I want to click? Maybe that's just an issue for me. There's a solution to it though: let me move the launcher like every other desktop OS lets me. That's just one small example. There are many more that I won't mention for the sake of brevity.

    3) If this is necessary for a Linux distro to become popular on desktop PCs, then I'd rather that Linux distro not get popular. A Linux OS should strive to give users more options and more voice in those options. It shouldn't strive to do the opposite. Yes, that might make for more bugs that requiring fixing from time to time, but ultimately it will result in a better OS that users want, not just one the designer wants them to want.
  • Unity

    I'm certainly a power user, having got into Linux originally because of the (at the time) greatly superior support for development compared to Windows and the pre-Unix MacOS. I used Redhat for years, changed to Ubuntu because of exasperation with repository problems.

    I quite like Unity. I'm not very impressed by anyone who describes it as "unusable". Out of the box, maybe - but any self respecting "power user" can get soon everything working pretty well. There's Cardapio for those (like me) who much prefer hierarchical menus to typing searches, for example.

    Gnome Shell has its fans, certainly, but Linus isn't the only one who dislikes it a lot, and I can easily understand Canonical wanting to break free of it.

    I'm glad Unity is out there and being actively developed. I look forward to it being more configurable, sure. I'm glad too it isn't the only option for a Linux desktop. But the choice is a lot of what makes Linux so much more fun than Windows or Mac.
  • Published too early, missed a doozie

    In case the current Ubuntu faithful are unclear on where they stand with Mark Shuttleworth

    "We have about 20 million users today. We want 200 million users by 2014.
    The extra 180 million users are not in the Ubuntu community today, so
    you can in a sense say that it's true - Unity was not developed for the
    Ubuntu community of today, it was developed with love for the Ubuntu
    community of the future. You're invited to that community, but not
    required to join it." --Mark Shuttleworth, https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/882274/comments/38

    Basically by the time Ubuntu has 200 million users, the 20 million people who use it today, and especially the percentage that are unhappy, will be a mere rounding error, so who cares?
  • Ubuntu has jumped the shark.

    Existing users of Linux quite overwhelmingly hate Unity. Mark Shuttleworth is determined to stay the course and alienate the majority of the substantial installed base they have taken years to achieve. This is a disaster in the making.

    If we're all switching to Xfce to get back to desktops that actually look like desktops instead of overgrown smartphones, what's the point of staying with Ubuntu at all? The selling point of Ubuntu was that it gave us a good looking desktop that "just works" -- and now it's time to abandon Ubuntu for the exact same reason.

    Ubuntu has jumped the shark.
  • Some actual information

    Tim Penhey's comments are the most actual useful information I've seen from anyone connected with Canonical.

    If more responses were like that I think there would be a lot less controversy.

    Most of what I've seen so far is more like "we know what we're doing - go away".

    There may be good reasons for why Unity is like it is, and good plans for where it's going, but this needs to be communicated. Not knowing what's happening make the frustration much worse.
  • It's disappointing, that's all

    I’ve been using Ubuntu since the first time it appeared on Slashdot. I was happy with it for a very long time. Then, about a year ago, Ununtu started doing things that I didn’t like. For example, an automatic update for Ubuntu disabled my Samba broadcasting, so that none of the windows machines that I had on my home network could browse for my Ubuntu desktop anymore. There were similar configuration changes around the same time that were difficult to fix, totally unannounced, and mean spirited.
    Just before Unity, there was a driver update that caused my xwindows system to shatter. I’m sorry if I’m being vague, but I really can’t think of another way to describe it. My app windows would just shatter. Like glass on my screen. For no good reason either.
    When I switched to Unity, the problem was gone… until I switched back to “Ubuntu Classic.”
    There’s nothing wrong with dramatically changing your user interface.
    But the fact of the matter is that Shuttleworth has gone a lot further. He’s actually taken the whole thing a lot further, taken a page from the Microsoft playbook, and gone so far as to intentionally alienate users who have been loyal for years.
    I totally understand that they want non technical users.
    But they’ve had almost a decade to achieve that and failed.
    Desktop Linux as a whole has failed at attracting non technical users. No amount of investment, no claims to the contrary, and no change of focus in the project to focus more tightly on failed demographics is going to change that.
    As a desktop distribution, I think they just need to come to terms with this very important reality, and work harder to please their power users… rather than working really hard to drive them away like this.
    The reasons I couldn’t continue using Ubuntu with Unity are too numerous to get into here. It’s just not reasonable to ask me to give up that much control over my system.
    Right now, I’m using Mint, but Mint has some serious power management problems.
    I’ll probably go back to Debian sometime this year.

  • The other side of Ubuntu

    Here's the thing: There are a lot of us who have preferred Ubuntu as a server OS. It's had a lot of the benefits of Debian, while being more current on some packages. And unlike Red Hat it handles upgrades between major versions without having to do a fresh install - a big plus over the longer term. YMMV, but Ubuntu's done well by me for servers.

    Okay, having it on the servers, it makes sense to have it on my workstations too. The servers are headless with no GUI of course, so this whole desktop design issue doesn't matter there. But now Canonical is screwing it up for workstations, IMHO. That's a problem. They're also making it less useful for servers by going to Upstart rather than standard init scripts. Between these two issues, and with Debian having gone a long way towards catching up lately, I'm going back to favoring Debian as server OS ... and so for my workstations too.

    I get it that Shuttleworth wants a piece of the smartphone/pad market. I just don't know how he bends his distro towards that without giving up being a serious contender in the server market. Servers need to be maximally configurable, and those tending them, being comfortable with customization, want workstations with the same OS under them, which are likewise fully configurable. Much as I appreciate fine industrial design, it's what's inside that counts for server admins, on our servers and workstations both.
  • Gnome Shell

    I'm not a huge fan of unity, but Ubuntu has more than just the one desktop. You can install apt-get install gnome-shell. After using gnome-tweaks-tool and adding a couple of extensions I am very happy with my new gnome setup.
  • Canonical is really needing money

    That's not secret that Canonical kinda struggle to get money. They spend lots of money, sponsoring UDS,
    sprint by paying travel for their employee, a headquarter in one of the most expensive office in London

    Canonical have been doing OEM projects since a long time, look at https://launchpad.net/canonical-oem-services . Do we see that much laptops with Ubuntu ? Not really.

    Canonical is also trying to bad mouth Red Hat and Suse , see https://undacuvabrutha.word...s-for-the-cloud-and-heres-why/ , and that's clearly some kind of move that may not end well for them ( because besides Red Hat and Suse, there is also Oracle, IBM, and a lot of smaller shop doing local consulting, some with people being part of the community ). That's not gonna be pretty IMHO once they will have to compete with their own supporters.

    Canonical tried to have money with Ubuntu one, but fighting against dropbox and itunes didn't really worked ( they even had to reduce their pricing to match dropbox, while offering a less portable solution limited to Ubuntu ). They have been offering landscape, pushed the client by default on some LTS, without much success either.

    Some big migrations such as the french assembly have been done without them getting anything, and now, the pressure is such that they are pushing the interface of the netbook remix as the default one. Why ?

    Because despite being a growing company, there isn't enough coders to take care of both gnome and unity ?
    Because they want to have a lot of feedback ? because offering it by default for free will make people ask for it on their next computer ?

    I can imagine they all tought it would be great. Maybe they are right. Maybe they didn't all, and I guess that those that didn't may have simply leaved. Maybe that explain why Matt Asay, Scott Jeames Remnant, Kees Cook and Matt Zimmerman all leaved in less than 1 year.

    If the answer is simply "we didn't finish the interface" as said in a comment here, then there is 2 questions :
    - why simply not say it in all bugs about it
    - why was a not ready version pushed and marketed as such ?

    Fedora pushed gnome 3, but their goal is to test technologies. Ubuntu don't, and they alienated their users.
  • If you don't like it, fork it (or move to Linux Mint)

    All these discussions around the Unity and Gnome 3 changes have learned me a lot. People don't like change. Even Power Users.

    I am not a Power User. But I do tweak every GUI I use to make it a bit more to my liking. I tweak KDE 4 (enough possibilities to do so). I tweak Gnome 3 (with the Gnome Tweak tool). And I also tweak Unity (with CCSM or by adding a show desktop icon to the launcher). I like graphic fidelity, so I like both Unity and Gnome 3.

    But nobody is forced to stick to Ubuntu. This counts for every Open Source project. The Banshee team decides on the direction of Banshee. If you don't like it, use Rhythmbox or Amarok or Clementine. Or change the source code or develop a plugin, and release your own version of Banshee.

    Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu. And so are Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Kubuntu. Enough interface choice I would say. And the Gnome 2 desktop is already forked. So a G2Buntu is probably going to exist in the future. The only thing is... all these alternatives are not supported by Canonical.

    Canonical likes Unity and has decided to stick to it and improve it. I applaud that. That's just one organization. They should have the freedom to do so.

    Some Power Users (probably a vocal minority) want to pressure Canonical to move away from Unity and back to Gnome 2. These Power Users are not respecting the freedom of Canonical to pursue their own goals.

    Not respecting this freedom, is not very Open Source like.
  • Ubuntu is not community driven or enven listening

    Interesting article which emphasizes again that the decision power lies only with Mr Shuttleworth.
    Anyone remember the "freaking" discussions of the windows buttons from right to left ?
    Well at time i laughed , but this was only the beginning ...
    Mr Shuttleworth is "SteveJobs-inflected", more and more i'm expecting dictats from Canonical.

    I don't question his motives or decisons, they may sound reasonnable or over-ambitious but i can't help to think of all the community contributors that will come to realize that they past their prime interest for Canonical and will feel betrayed (not so much by outright lies but convenient omissions ...).

    Canonical is aiming at :
    1/ Entreprise (good luck with that if you compare to the level of professionalism of RHLE)
    2/ Maintream users : PC, Tablets (provinding a static GUI that wil not be changed or tweaked for the sake of Unity).
    3/ Phone users (too late but one never knows).

    The power user are not fitting is any of those goals (or targets).
    Time to move on or swallow the Blue pill guys...

  • Ease of use for new users

    The ease of use for new users is what's always given me the most issues with Ubuntu. It's a distro that claims ease of use, yet resolutely fails to deliver in so many important areas, in my view.

    Historically Ubuntu has always lacked in out of the box GUI elements for user configuration. Unity seems to take that several steps further.

    Now maybe I'm not the target audience, I'm a well-seasoned Linux user and have tried most of the major distro's settling on Mandriva over all others. The primary reason for this, which may be heresy to some, but reality for many, is it's the most Windows-like of the distro's in terms of ease of configuration. I appreciate the power of the command line as much as anyone, but if I can click a few buttons instead of searching the web for the commands I need, I will take the former option every time.

    Almost everything can be configured and set up through an intuitive GUI, from a central location, which makes the user experience so much easier. Connecting printers, scanners, samba and even nfs shares is trivial. This 'central control panel' a concept prevalent in the most popular OS's on the planet, and subject to years of UI development and more resources than any open source project is likely to have, is an intuitive and easy to understand and more importantly, easy to discover, concept.

    It's this 'ease of discovery' element of the UI that seems to be so often missing.

    In Unity I click on a button that displays a panel, at the top of which it says 'All Applications' yet the list displayed is incredibly short. Are these all the apps I have installed? How do I scroll to the others? How do I find the system configuration options, there's no icon for that visible?

    This user interface is not intuitive or user discoverable in a way that the familiar program launchers, with their clear, differentiated, categorised lists are.

    Frankly it sucks, but I've seen this attitude from the Gnome developers in the past, user interfaces should be simple and intuitive, yet be customisable for power users who need more options. The developers it seems take a different view. I'd love to see just how much research was put into the UI development, because to me it's neither a power users interface, or an interface your Gran could use.
  • Deferring to the designers

    Mark mentioned that when there are multiple ways to implement something, we should defer to the designers.

    I for one am happy that there are actually some usability specialists working on open source software.

    It was mentioned above that the usability studies didn't have existing ubuntu users in the past. This is true. It has also been rectified. Future usability studies are also going to include existing ubuntu users. The usability studies have found many issues with the current design, and they will be addressed by the designers.

    Unity isn't perfect. It is making big leaps and bounds to better usability for everyone. People working on big monitors, or those with focus follows mouse, these are things we are hoping to address in the 12.04 cycle.

    At the current UDS which is happening now, the designers have said that the lack of configurability wasn't a design decision, just a development priority.

  • A New Direction

    Give Pinguy OS a try.
  • Comedy Moment

    I installed Ubuntu (with Gnome 2) on my girlfriend's laptop about a year ago - she is the archetypical user Ubuntu is going after: totally non-technical, wants a computer to have a browser and a word processor, to be easy to use, and not much else. Anyway, I finally updated her system a week or so ago, and she laughed when presented with Unity... yes, *laughed*. Once she'd calmed down she asked me to 'make her machine like mine'. What am I running? Gnome 3 on Debian Sid.

    Unity might actually kill Ubuntu, or at the very least Ubuntu has squandered what it's achieved in the last few years. How can such intelligent people make such awful decisions?
  • Thanks

    Thanks for the balanced (and kind) write up.

    And also for bringing up the elephant in the room: the acrimonious break with GNOME, which was painful for everyone involved to observe, because we all thought it was entirely unnecessary for it to have happened that way.

    I was trying to be as focused as possible in the bug report, but obviously, as you point out, there is an unsettling overall pattern. If I had to identify it, I would say it is a crisis in leadership. I don't mean this as a comment on Mark's abilities personally, but rather to point out the overall structural weakness of these big, important, evolving projects.

    Often it seems, to the great glee of the proprietary software proponents, that there's no grown up in the free software room. My own conclusion is that free software -- as a process, as a structure, as a loose blueprint for working projects -- is far less mature than we'd like to think. Really, despite our strongly held positions, we're making this "free software" stuff up as we're going along. As Mark astutely points outs in this discussion, it's an "article of faith" that community engagement is important, and he shares this faith, but it has never in fact been proven.

    Despite the fact that I opened the bug, I myself am not sure how important it is that it be fixed. I see free software as an important cultural experiment, and I think it's crucial that we try several approaches at once. And so, I'm glad that Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth exist, and RedHat, and Linus Torvalds, and Theo de Raadt, and Richard Stallman, and the "That's it! I'm switching to Mint!" curmudgeons on Slashdot. I just sometimes wish this important competition was held with more patience from all those involved for all those involved.

    Canonical has proved over and over again, that six months is NOT enough time to build a reliable system.
    It is time for a new paradigm.
  • Moved to mint

    I gave up on Unity after about five months. I still couldnt find anything. I swtiched to linux Mint.
    That was a personel choice. Ubuntu has a great community but as the project grows more comerical the community will have less of a say in its devolopment. There has to be someone in charge and that person is Mark Shuttleworth. If canonical want to take Ubnuntu in this direction they are entitiled to.
    It was fun while it lasted. Good luck to the Ubuntu commmunity I might check it out in a release or two when the kinks are ironed out.

  • Ubuntu on DistroWatch

    Ubuntu is about to lose its #1 position on DistroWatch to Mint. Why? One word: Unity.
  • Xubuntu

    The Xubuntu community is still strong. For now. So sad to see what's happening to the Ubuntu community.
  • Feh

    Maybe its the developer in me, but I side with mark.
  • Unity side bar

    You can move unity side bar to the bottom-

  • Trapped

    Uh, I'm feeling a bit f*cked as Ubuntu user. I don't like Gnome3 and I have only the harsh word shit for unity. But what are the options? Back to Debian isn't the way I wanna go. Ubunt has been the perfect mix between "has everything and you can change it to your will" and "easy to install, use etc."

    Especially the using part is impossible for me. Having pads or cell phones as the ultra device this is not true for normal work. I have a keyboard and a mouse, I don't wanna see finger prints on my screen, with pads and cell phones I'm not even a third that productive, they simply are good for surfing, watching movies etc.

    Right now I'm using XFCE together with compiz. It's not a good compromise. KDE4 is a big fat bloat as it has been in the past. What now? Searchin for a distribution again? Maybe Mint Linux, because it's the better mix of Debian & Ubuntu? I'm really undecided right now but Ubuntu won't be the future way for me.

    Anyway, I'm using Linux since 15 years now (first contact 1996, but complete work since 2000/2001) and always found solutions. Going from SuSE to Debian to Ubuntu. It's ok after those years to go to new spheres. I guess I'll wait a bit, maybe one year to look at Ubuntu's way, but if this is the way, I'm wrong here.
  • Disturbing Dialog About Ubuntu and Unity

    Mark has presented compelling, decisive reasons. Liron aspires to guide Ubuntu Linux for reasons of love, but just isn't paying close attention to the mountainous difficulties.

    Given time, because of "the good heart" motivation, he is bound to clobber himself with the realization that his precious brother Mark Shuttleworth...has worked and sacrificed for us indefatigably, with the same love...and genius...divine genius, punctiliously trying to walk the razor's edge of perfection.

    Finally it has to be accepted, it HAS to be accepted, that wherever you go, beings have different styles. No two can be in perfect accord. So we always have to smile and relent. Always. And have fun doing it.

    Thank you, Tuxie...for showing us the path through this ... hard Age ... to where we are going. The teleology, the cosmic plan of superconsciousness. And that day is coming ... when money will no longer intercede in place of love. Love and inspiration will suffuse everything that is designed, and done. Thank you, thank you, thank you...Liron. And glorious Shuttleworth. And the world-wide Community of those devoted to universal good.
  • Design by commitee is _bad_ design

    There is no single right way. Ubuntu is configured/designed out of the box with mostly one goal in mind, to be usable for non-power users. Adding layers of configuration to the ``default'' UI to cater to /all/ the different use cases is detrimental to that goal. The majority of users to whom Ubuntu is targeted will not care about configuring a multitude of different options to use their desktops. To them Simpler == Better. The power users who know their way around can change their desktop environment, or window manager to one that fits their needs better. Or just use a different distribution that does that by ``default''.

    I use debian incase you were wondering.

    P.S. What is wrong about Canonical monetizing from Ubuntu? How does that aid your argument in any sense?
  • eh it's not so bad

    As a desktop PC user, I find the current UI and system design motto "one size fits all (but it's really made for slow touchscreen devices first and foremost)" annoying, but what can you do if it's taking place everywhere?
    At least Unity offers much better usability than v3 of "mainstream GNOME". You can see that some actual thought went into its design. Like, incorporating program menu into the old taskbar space and do away with the titlebar for maximized applications - pretty damn smart.
    While GNOME looks like a lame WinXP remake for touchscreens (all pretty and bubbly, with lots of wasted screen estate, killing off features of the old mouse driven design but not providing any viable alternatives), made just for the sake of making a change.
  • "Suggestions welcome, orders ignored, we love you."

    To everyone trying to get a sense of the community's overall feelings about this, do understand that those who are extremely pissed will be loud, and those who are extremely content won't be shouting on Launchpad. Every time a team of developers take over an open source project for the sake of progress, community contributors get pissed. When I say contributors, I mean all types. Even loyal non-power users feel like contributors. When Facebook users get pissed about a UI change, it's because they FEEL like they own the product.

    But! I think the Canonical team could do better by managing expectations HEAD ON (sorry for the all-caps, it's scary I know blunk ). Canonical could be aggressively upfront about the fact that they are taking over design of the default UI in Ubuntu. Something like:

    "Suggestions welcome, orders ignored, and if this is deal breaker for you we'll be sad to see you go. This is the evolution of Ubuntu that Canonical believes in."

    I'm a power user, I love Unity, and I can still install Gnome if I need to. I'm excited about the direction of the Ubuntu project, I'm just saying that Canonical could manage expectations better.

  • Dictator burnout and design by committee

    When Unity hit 10.04 I used it for about 2 days before I swapped it out for XFCE... with 11.10 I'm giving it another go. I think that the Unity team are doing some innovative work, especially with regard to an interface which is visual but also accessible to users who want to keep both hands firmly planted on the keyboard.

    I think Mark has taken some of the community criticism pretty badly and I can't really blame him. When you're putting your heart and soul (not to mention piles of cash) into a project I can only imagine how difficult it must be to hear a cacophony of criticism from a wide array of users who have little or no skin in the game. I really hope that he and the Ubuntu team stay focused on achieving what they've set out for in Unity. Linux on the desktop has a magnificent array of window managers at the moment and Unity is another great development in that family. Ubuntu is also lucky in a way to have users who are so passionate and engaged in the direction of the project. Unfortunately passion and diversity aren't always attributes that achieve cohesive product design. I don't think Mark Shuttleworth and the Ubuntu team should be at the disposal of a select group of Unity critics. As one Ubuntu user I really hope that they keep deferring to their designers in-spite of mounting community criticism. If they don't succeed guess what? People will vote with their feet and choose something else.

    If you think Mark and the Unity team are ruining an opportunity and spoiling a software project that you're passionate about why don't you do something about it... and I don't mean do something by starting a propaganda campaign in the Unity issue queue, I mean download the source, get cracking with your C++ and move the project in the direction you'd like it to go.

    Does Canonical owe something to a select group of Ubuntu users? Are they obliged to deliberate over every dissenting opinion? I don't think so.

    About the only significant obligation they have is in regard to the GPL. And ultimately it is the GPL which should be the starting point for critics who want something different.
  • ubuntu

    I suppose since I don't like unity it's time to find a new linux distribution. This is an annoyance.

    You aren't supposed to compete with Windows and OSx on their terms. You will always loose that battle.

    BTW, the captcha in this site, this is like the 4th time.
  • Get over it - both sides

    This sounds like 2 different sides expecting each other to change. Strange thing is people with strong opinions rarely change.

    Change happens and will continue to happen. Find the change that works for you and move on.

    Complaining from the side lines makes no difference.
    Not listening to what your customers want is a great way of losing your biggest fans.

    Canonical has a very specific business plan they are executing on and nothing is going to stop them. If their plan doesn't match your needs then guess what you're going to be pissed off.

    Personally, I've been using Ubuntu since 7.04 and I'm currently on 11.04. (I wait a few months before doing the upgrade to let the silly bugs get addressed)

    Once I reduced the side panel to 32 pixels made it always visible I've enjoyed Ubuntu more.
    Yes it's different than before, but once I'm in Firefox, GIMP, gEdit, Thunderbird it doesn't matter.

  • Taking out words out of thin air?

    > Now, he sounds impatient, resorting to personal attacks

    Personal attacks? Where?
  • More tolerance?

    Frankly, I don’t understand the criticism.

    Mark Shuttleworth takes Unity into a certain direction, which is what a leader is for. If somebody does not like that, they do not need to use Unity, let alone work on it. There are tons of alternatives in the Linux world; there are also projects run on different principles that you can join.

    So why not be more tolerant of Mark’s approach? Given that doing everything “the Linux way” has consistently failed to achieve certain goals – in particular, getting “normal” people to use Linux on the desktop in any significant numbers – there is something to be said about trying a different approach.

    If Mark’s approach doesn’t work, it’ll be mostly his loss – there will be plenty of other options around. If it does work, it will be a win for the entire Linux community, because Linux will have managed to break out of its ghetto, and other distribution can follow.

    If you don’t like it – fine, go with another project. But vilifying the project just because it doesn’t want to be all things to all people is over the top, IMHO.

  • Back in the day

    I remember that back in the day Ubuntu was all about community.

    Not community looks like is relegated to the dirty stuff, and Canonical and their people will take care of the rest for you. And if you don't like it, feel free to leave.

    That was a big change, but it started two years ago. Ubuntu it's not about community anymore.
  • power users

    Power user, that can't change default WM? Don't make me laugh blunk

    I've never used default distro WM before.

    I believe that the decision to make Unity default, is to make it easier for users new to linux. My Mom doesn't have the skill to customize linux herself, any decision to make it easier for such users is A Good Thing.
  • Good riddance

    As someone who worked on open source software for many years, I'm on Shuttleworth's side.

    The root cause is, as I've observed it, is that open source projects evolve in waves. Whenever a certain level of stability is achieved in any aspect—be it code, performance, documentation, design—a new group of people show up. To them the software was completely useless before, whereas now it is viable to incorporate it into their workflow. They will demand for that level of quality to be maintained unquestionably, and will moan incessantly and indignantly when it stops being provided.

    In this case, the Linux desktop world has been catering to the OCD control freaks for far too long. If you threaten to ignore their particular tastes, they will get upset and annoyed and demand options to accommodate their needs. This cloud of 'fans' that surrounds any project rarely contributes meaningfully, and often prevents the project from evolving past its initial trappings. You cannot expect everything to remain the same while demanding things get better.

    And indeed, the complaints only prove the point: if the older versions were indeed so much better, the old guard would simply keep using those (or make a new fork based on them). But no, they demand the new shiny thing anyway.
  • Ubuntu is an eyesore.

    It's frekin' orange and purple. Let me repeat that... Orange. Purple. Together.
    Ubuntu make NASCAR look tasteful and refined.
  • The key problem with unity.

    The key problem is that its designed with small screens and laptops in mind, and pushed to things that it isn't really designed for like Desktops. The screen sizes are increasing on desktop, I'm using 30" monitor, and 55" monitors are not too far away in the future, by quad HD-TV:s coming down in price.
    In its current state unity makes pretty much unusable having lots of applications same time on window, as I cannot use multiple applications menus at same time. Its just insane trying to use menu off an application thats running in bottom left corner of 30" monitor on unity. Right now I'm running classic gnome on Ubuntu, and as long as I have choice to use that I'll keep using ubuntu with it. The Unity makes sense for small screens based on my experience with it, actually it saves pixels and makes it far better for small screens.

    So here's my take on unity problem, its "It's better for my system." problem. It's better for small screens and low pixel counts. Its worse for large screens and huge pixel counts. Guess what unity developers use? Guess what good fraction of nerds use?
  • its about choice

    I personally love Unity. Thanks Mark! But thats not my point here. The point is, Linux has always been about choice. If you don't like Unity, isnt there a few dozen other window managers you can install? Why are users acting as if they are forced to use Unity? Its just what comes with it by default. If you want something else, why don't you just install it. Back when linux users were power users, they would install any of the dozen window managers they wanted.
  • No problem with new interface

    have been using ubuntu for >6 years. i installed new ubuntu and have no problem with its user interface EXCEPT that annoying (unmovable) side bar. everything else is streamlined pretty well and i loved the ease of use. i don't get why some people complain about it though. if you're a power user (who mostly are sys admins), you have terminal, which is what you guys use all the time.
  • meh

    Shuttleworth is a retired billionaire, all he has is time and money. The guy has been like this for a couple of years now. Complete ego maniac who did something good then ruined it. Unity is completely unusable. His dreams of making another billion by converting Apple and Windows users isn't happening. Instead of innovating he's copying.
  • Power Users And Unity

    On power-users, unity and simplicity:

    I find this to be a very odd conversation. I consider myself a power user (software engineer, vim ninja) and appreciate a simplified desktop since the power is in the keyboard and certainly not in the ability to 'click' stuff.
  • Shuttleworth: Linux Power Users Aren't too Cool for Unity

    Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu Linux, delivered a keynote address today [October 31, 2011] at the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS), reminding the Ubuntu faithful of the progress made this past year. He also delivered his vision for the road ahead, which involved leveraging Unity to bring Unity to multiple types of smart screens including phones and tablets. -- http://www.datamation.com/o...-arent-too-cool-for-unity.html
  • My bets on too stupid

    Nope, the design team is too stupid. Yesterday I watched one mouth off. They have a piss poor understanding of what it is they actually do.

  • Disturbing and delusional

    My impression of Shuttleworth kind of crystallized yesterday when I read this in softpedia:

    "Mark Shuttleworth delivered yesterday morning his usual keynote where he talked about the future of Ubuntu. He thinks that power users don't hate the new interface of the Ubuntu operating system. 'There is a bit of a myth, I think, that power users don't like/aren't interested in usability and ease-of-use. And I think that's absolutely nonsense. I think power users, developers, engineers, system administrators love ease-of-use and love simplicity and love having things just work, so they can concentrate on the pieces that they need to get done.' - said Mark Shuttleworth."

    Previously I just thought I had a different opinion from Shuttleworth about what the objectives of the UI should be. But the above represents a level of silliness that goes way beyond that. He claims power users don't hate Unity - showing that he really hasn't been paying attention - and then tries to claim that the reason they must like Unity is because it's a myth that they don't care about usability - so he invents a false strawman in an effort to deny the very possibility that there could be a usability problem with Unity! Is he delusional?

    A happy ex-ubuntu mint user.
comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More