On Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 11:21 PM, NoOp <gl...@sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> On 04/07/2011 06:38 PM, Rick Spencer wrote:
>> Hello all,
>> Back at UDS for 11.04 in Orlando, Mark set the goal of using Unity by
>> default on the Ubutu desktop. Given the current course of development,
>> it appears that we are going to achieve this goal, and Unity will stay
>> the default for 11.04.
> Please reconsider. Despite the gush of greatness posts, I'd like to post
> a usability comment as a user.
> For example (the same applies to most applications):
> I open SeaMonkey in G2 and keep multiple mail/news/browser windows open,
> see:
> http://img840.imageshack.us/f/screenshot9sw.png/
> [click to enlarge & scroll to the bottom]
> I can easily click on any of those, or use Alt-Tab to change.
> In Unity if I attempt to do the same, I have to use the SeaMonkey menu
> to select the window. I can of course use Alt-Tab, but afterwards I have
> no immediate idea about which/how many windows I actually have open.
> See:
> http://img820.imageshack.us/i/screenshot4wz.png/
> [again, click to enlarge]
> The inability to have that bar with windows that I can use is, for me, a
> complete show stopper.

As a long time Gnome2 user (and prior to that Windows), I agree that
not having the Windows-style "taskbar" is rather jarring for someone
used to having it. Changing between windows in Unity is a mystery, and
if you are running more than 2 applications it becomes unmanageable
and takes way too much time for multi-taskers. Surely the programmers
of Unity would have realized this while running Unity and developing
it at the same time; all the different windows you have to have open
to develop software would surely expose the problem... e.g. terminal
emulator; documentation sites / Devhelp; IDE / text editor; IRC for
collaborative development; bug tracker... The fact is that Unity just
doesn't scale for this kind of use case.

But after using the "present" feature of Gnome 3 (just hit the Windows
key on most keyboards), I don't miss the window list in the taskbar
that much anymore. On my small screen laptop (1024x768), Gnome 3 +
gnome-shell effectively eliminates the vertical real estate consumed
by Gnome2's bottom panel. But the window decorations are still there
(this is good, since I'm used to them), and the top panel is still
there (which is good, since I'm used to it). So on Gnome 3 + GS we
have *some* real estate savings, but we still have a lot of the
goodies that we're used to from Gnome 2. I'm running Gnome 3 + GS on
Fedora 15 Alpha right now, and I absolutely love it. It's got some of
the space savings + nice effects + "cool factor" of Unity, without the
usability trainwreck.

Having used current builds of Unity and Gnome3+GS quite a bit in
recent weeks, my conclusion is that I think Gnome3 has out-Unitied
Unity! It seems to accomplish many of the same design goals as Unity,
but it has stability, performance, wider free desktop community
acceptance, and a more familiar interface for users of Gnome2 on its
side. Unity seems to me like it has gone "too far" in adopting slick
screenspace-saving UX idioms; the result is that it's nearly
impossible to multitask efficiently. Gnome3 does not suffer from the
same kinds of limitations, even though at first it would seem that
Gnome3 has many of the same problems for old hands that Unity does.

My pipe dream would be to drop Unity (or just ship it as an optional
installable) and ship Gnome3+GS by default, falling back to Gnome2 if
hardware 3d rendering isn't available. But I know that (1) this would
be a very tall order to "turn the boat" so dramatically inside the
space of a month for the 11.04 release; (2) it is almost guaranteed
not to happen if only due to the immense pride of the developers
behind Unity, and their proportional level of influence in the Ubuntu
development process; and (3) breaking the time-based release schedule
in order to give us sufficient time to switch out a major desktop
component is even less likely to happen, simply because the whole
point of a time-based release is to be, well, timely. This point
applies equally to shipping Gnome2 by default as well, I guess
(although it's less valid there because the Gnome2 environment of
Ubuntu has been tested and refined extensively for years already).

>Also, note that the lack of a top tool bar where
> I can dock an application for monitoring cpu, temps, etc., with a single
> glance is as well. Not to mention being able to launch an docked
> application with out losing focus on the application that I am currently
> using.

I miss these things too, but for what it's worth, a top panel remains
in Gnome 3, so there is hope that we can develop Gnome-Shell plugins
to do these things in the future, if such features aren't already
available. So not to belabor my point again, but if you like the fancy
effects of Unity but want the usability of Gnome 2, take a look at
Gnome 3. It'd be worth your time.

> For example; if I want to launch LibreOffice while viewing a
> SeaMonkey (or Firefux page) in Unity, I first must move the mouse to the
> upper left corner, let it hover for a second or two, figure out if I
> actually have LO 'docked' as I can't see otherwise, and if so then click
> it. On G2, I see that it's there move the mouse & click.
> Note: I can also hide/unhide my G2 panels with a single click as well,
> so I already have the option to maximize viewable real estate.
> How do you propose to resolve that simple work environment example? Do
> you think that users will accept using Alt-Tab to go from one window to
> another (mail/browser)? How would one keep a System Monitor going to
> monitor cpu/temps, printer status, etc?
> I have tried Unity (and continue to try Unity) and find that it is a DE
> that reminds me of an ipodTouch without the being able to use a touch
> screen or lacking fingers. The insessant screen space to advertise
> available application downloads (Apps Available for Download) is
> unnecessary and irritating (particularly when you can't even easily find
> your regular G2 installed application), and overall lack of usability
> is, again IMO, unacceptable.

Yeah, it seems like the main tradeoff is between screen real estate
and convenience. In an extreme example on one end: if you had a quad
1920x1200 monitor configuration, you could basically lay out every
application, launcher, and piece of information you could possibly
want in a static location on the screen, and just never move any
windows or minimize them. You'd have so much screen real estate that
you would want to take the Gnome2 / KDE "lay out everything" approach
to an extreme, maximizing convenience.

But trying to apply this same UX pattern to a small screen device
(1024x768 and below, or possibly even configurations such as a
single-monitor 1600x1200), you run into problems. Your web browser
looks like a tiny little window because you have all this stuff
robbing your vertical real estate: the top panel, the bottom panel,
the window decorations, the menu bar, the tab bar, the address bar and
the bookmarks bar. If you've ever used a 1024x768 screen with this
many "bars" hanging around, you know that you can barely even watch a
480p youtube video within your web browser because you don't have
enough vertical space.

So in that light, the Unity enhancements seem quite nice. Having your
browser truly full screen gets you right down into the action, letting
you focus on the application you're using. This would also make for an
easier time programming if you are just focusing on your IDE, because
you can see more code on the screen at a time. But as soon as you need
to task switch, the paradigm falls down.

Looking at Gnome 3, though, it seems like it doesn't detract too much
from the experience if you were running multi-monitor or at high
resolution. Maybe you'll disagree, but I think that by retaining the
menu bar, window decorations and top panel, most of the conveniences
of Gnome 2 can be adapted to Gnome3+GS. It's a nice compromise between
screen real estate savings and having stuff readily visible and
available without pressing keys or moving the mouse.

> As a longtime Ubuntu user, I highly recommend that Unity *not* be the
> default, and instead be an alternate to the standard G2 DE. Unity is an
> 'experimental' DE at best and should not be forces on 11.04 users as a
> default anything.

I agree with this final point. I have to admit that I will change my
word of mouth recommendations to others if Ubuntu ships with Unity by
default. I've used Fedora and OpenSUSE on and off over the years, but
I keep coming back to Ubuntu because it's always been the easiest to
get up and running. I will be seriously re-evaluating that decision
now, and looking into the possibility of running Fedora full-time.
When I recommend distros to others, I will probably recommend RHEL 6
derivatives (Scientific 6 or CentOS 6 if it ever comes out) for the
more conservative types, or Fedora 15 / OpenSUSE 11.4 for enthusiasts.
For ordinary "clueless" end-users, I'd probably point them to OpenSUSE
and spend a little time coaching them on how to use it. Once they
create a mental mapping between the fairly predictable Gnome2 UI and
what they're used to (which is almost always Windows), they'll be

I've always enjoyed Ubuntu, and sometimes it's your only option if a
proprietary software vendor chooses to target Ubuntu specifically
without concern for other distros. I've already seen a few examples of
software shipped in .deb format only, with no option for even a
.tar.gz to run it on non-Debian-based distros (and for that matter,
they probably don't even test it on vanilla Debian). But as an
early-adopter and someone who is fairly open to change, I am having
difficulty changing my habits and my usability requirements to make
myself content with Unity. My biggest gripe --by far-- is the
inconvenient way of multitasking between windows, but there are a
bunch of niggling issues that just add fuel to the fire. Unity just
seems to go too far in the name of screen real estate, sacrificing way
too much in the way of convenience. This is not a bug, but rather, a
(questionable) design decision. Pending a change of heart, I don't
think the situation will improve.

Just to quantify my position on the three DEs I've discussed (Gnome2,
Gnome3+GS, and Unity), I'll assign a rating from 1=unbearable to
10=fantastic for two criteria -- screen real estate and usability --
for each of the DEs. I've even thrown in KDE as a bonus; I don't use
KDE very often, but I've used it enough to be able to assign a score
to it:

Gnome2: Real Estate = 5, Usability = 10
Gnome3+GS: Real Estate = 7, Usability = 8
Unity: Real Estate = 9, Usability = 4
KDE 4.6: Real Estate = 3, Usability = 8

My final word on Unity is this: as with all software, it depends on
who your target market is, and what hardware they're running on.
*Assuming* that you can clear out the defects/bugs until the software
is production-quality, then only two questions remain:

(1) Do the strengths of Unity (screen real estate savings) really
shine on the hardware that people run, or do the weaknesses (lack of
panels for ease of access) outweigh the strengths?

The answer to this question is a function of the user's screen
resolution / number of monitors. For a small screen single-monitor
setup, the answer is probably "Yes, the strengths shine quite well".
For workstations with large wide-screens or multi-monitor, the answer
is probably "No, the weaknesses are overwhelmingly bad".

(2) Are you targeting Ubuntu 11.04 Desktop at people who are already
loyal Ubuntu users familiar with Gnome2, or are you targeting it at
new computer users who are open to learning any UI pattern you throw
at them?

This is just a question for Canonical's marketing department,
basically. My intuition is that brand new computer users would
probably find Unity appealing because it's "sleek", even if it isn't
incredibly productive for multi-tasking. But for anyone who has
wielded the sheer convenience of Gnome2 -- especially in a workstation
configuration -- it will feel like a major step back. So if you wish
to maintain your existing Gnome2 user base, then you need to make it
stupidly easy for them to revert to Gnome2, or else, be willing to
give up those users as they migrate to other distros.

Sorry if I've re-hashed a lot of discussion that has been said before,
but I haven't drawn upon others' arguments in coming up with these. So
if I have any misconceptions or share any common opinions here, it is
purely incidental, and you should consider it a "+1" to those
opinions, and maybe consider why those opinions are so popular before
shipping Unity by default.

I have much respect for the Unity developers for contributing to FOSS,
and I think that it has genuine utility in the netbook form factor. I
just don't think it's ready for the general purpose desktop. My wish
is for the Ubuntu Netbook Remix to continue, and provide Unity by
default there, but provide either Gnome2 or (preferred) Gnome3+GS for
the main Ubuntu desktop distribution.



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