My intention today was to write a short piece about having loaded the latest Ubuntu Precise Pangolin pre-release onto various of my computers. Not much commentary, because I don't want to "review" software that is still in development, and not much detail because I'm honestly not much of an Ubuntu user any more. But then I loaded it on my "main" laptop system, whch is on my desk with an external monitor attached and... well... it's going to turn out to be a bit of a rant.
I have two displays configured on this system - the laptop display and an external monitor. I use them both extensively, with every Linux distribution I have loaded, or have ever had loaded for that matter, and even with Windows. My preferred configuration is to have the "default" desktop on the laptop display, with whatever panels, menus, icons and other decorative bits on it, leaving the larger external display completely free for workspace. But now, after loading Ubuntu 12.04 and telling it not to mirror the displays, I get this:
Who the heck told anyone that I wanted the Unity Panel and Launcher on BOTH DISPLAYS? Setting aside for a moment the fact that I don't like Unity in the first place, I don't want the Panels and Paraphenalia to be shown on both displays for ANY operating system, period! I've more or less gotten used to Ubuntu's high-handedness, dictating to users what they want, or at least what they are going to get whether they want it or not, but this is just too much. Where is the logic? What purpose is this supposed to serve? For my normal use, the two displays are side by side, does it make sense to have the decoration on both? Another situation where I typically two displays is when I am making a presentation (connected to a beamer) or a slide show (connected to a television or other large monitor). Does it make sense to have the decoration shown on the second monitor in either of those cases? NO! In fact, I'm having a very difficult (impossible) time thinking of ANY situation where it would be a good idea, or useful in any way.
Trying to move beyond this extremely aggravating mis-feature, and accomplish at least some of what I originally set out to do...
This is the first Pangolin pre-release that I have actually been able to load on any of my systems, so I suppose that is progress. Until now, ubiquity (the Ubuntu installer) always crashed when it got to disk partitioning, apparently because it didn't like the number of partitions I have on my disks. This time it got through that, so well done Canonical, you have re-fixed a bug which I first reported and was previously fixed about six or seven releases ago.
So far I have loaded it on this Fujitsu S6510, the Samsung N150 Plus, Acer Aspire One 522 and the HP Pavilion dm1-3105 with no problems. However, it would not load on the Samsung NF310 - it gets to the step where it should want me to choose a picture for my account (or take a picture with the built-in camera) and it just hangs forever. I have no idea why, I've tried to look into it a bit, but it seems to be just looping and eating more and more memory until it hangs the system completely. I also loaded it on the Samsung 305U and it seemed to work ok, but the wireless networking wouldn't connect. That is not unique to Ubuntu, though, I have the same problem with every other Linux distribution I have tried.
A few hours of using it on several different systems hasn't done anything to change my about Ubuntu and Unity. I have seen a number of articles since development of 12.04 started, going on and on about the wonderful improvements being made to Unity, but I don't see much of a difference in it. Thinking back now, it seems to me that most, if not all, of those articles were written by Ubuntu developers, on in interviews with Ubuntu developers, so I'm guessing that is just a publicity blitz by Canonical, trying to deflect the massive criticism that Unity has drawn. My own opinion is that if you didn't like Unity before, this release is not likely to change your mind. Well, at least not in a positive way - I can easily imagine that someone who was willing to tolerate Unity until now might be completely put off by the problem described in my rant above.
Summary. Hmmm. Ok, here's the best I can do. I hope that this is some sort of extremely poor April Fool's joke, and if I try it tomorrow (not likely) it will work properly.
Update - As noted in the comments below, the "Launcher on All Screens" behavior which I rant about in this post is in fact a new "feature" of Ubuntu 12.04. There is a setting in the Display control to turn it on/off, which I overlooked when writing the original post. My apologies to any and all who might have been mislead by this. None of which changes the fact that I don't like it, I would prefer for it to be OFF by default rather than ON, and as stated above, I still don't like Ubuntu/Unity.