Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

Summary: With the release of Ubuntu 11.04 Linux, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth talks about the latest release of his popular desktop Linux.


Ubuntu 11.04 has been out for a few days now and while, generally speaking, I like Ubuntu’s new Unity interface, I know some people really dislike it. So, who better to explain why Unity looks and works the way it does than Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and the company behind it, Canonical?

Shuttleworth opened by saying that the main point of Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity was “to bring the joys and freedoms and innovation and performance and security that have always been part of the Linux platform, to a consumer audience.”

How did Canonical do it? Shuttleworth explained that it was a combination of user design testing with professional design work. “We committed to test and iterate Unity’s design with real users, and evolve it based on those findings. We’ve documented the process we’re following in that regard, so that other free software projects can decide for themselves if they also want to bring professional design into their process. I very much hope that this will become standard practice across all of free software, because in my view the future of free software is no longer just about inner beauty (architecture, performance, efficiency) it’s also about usability and style.”

That design decision really annoys some hardcore Linux users. On the other hand, I can’t argue with it. Just look, for example, at GNOME 3.0. I haven’t written about it yet, but I find it hard to disagree with a blogger named Juan Rodriguez who wrote, “Gnome Shell is Defective By Design.” GNOME 3.0, like too many Linux/Unix interfaces, was designed by software developers for software developers.

Is Unity too simple for power users? Yes, it is. But, as Shuttleworth tells us that’s by design. If you don’t like simple, consumer-oriented desktops, you’ll want to look at another Linux distribution because that’s exactly where Ubuntu is now and will continue to go.

So where did Shuttleworth and company get their ideas? Shuttleworth explained, “In the design of Unity we chose to be both humble and bold. Humble, because we have borrowed consciously from the work of other successful platforms, like Windows and Mac OS. We borrowed what worked best, but then we took advantage of the fact that we are unconstrained by legacy and can innovate faster than they can, and took some bold leaps forward. In category indicators, the dash, overlay scrollbars and other innovations we are pioneering desktop experiences that I am sure will be emulated elsewhere, in both the free and proprietary platforms.”

Of course, he continued, “This is the public '1.0,' there are rough points which will affect some users more than others, but we will iterate and polish them up one by one. Our goal should be to continue to set the pace and push free software to the forefront of usability and experience, growing the awesome Ubuntu and Unity community that shares those values and is excited by those ideas.”

I’ve found some of those “rough points.” For example, the global menu bar has trouble fitting on some of my displays from time to time. Curiously enough it does best on my smallest screen—my Dell Mini 9 netbook with its 8.9” display. I also found that in the Ubuntu Software Center I can’t seem to click up the recommended to install program list.

At the same time, Shuttleworth recognizes it’s not all about Unity. Shuttleworth wrote, “Of course, Ubuntu is far bigger than Unity. And the needs of the Ubuntu community, and users of Ubuntu, are far more diverse than simply Unity could address. So I’m proud of the fact that the Ubuntu community publishes the whole expression of software freedom across its archives. Kubuntu continues to improve and set a very high standard for the KDE experience. Lubuntu, the LXDE based expression of Ubuntu, is moving towards being 100% integrated. There is unique work being done in Ubuntu for users of the cloud and other server-oriented configurations. While we can be proud of what’s been achieved in Unity, we are equally proud of the efforts that go into ensuring that the full range of experiences is accommodated, to the extent possible with the effort put in by our huge community, under the Ubuntu umbrella.”

And, I would guess that, if there’s demand for it, there will continue be an old-style GNOME 2.x Ubuntu or even a GNOME 3.0 Ubuntu. Even if Canonical won’t sponsor them, someone else can always create them. This is Linux after all. If you really want a Linux that looks like Windows XP, you can have it.

So, while Canonical will stay focused on Unity, Ubuntu’s door remains open to other desktop paths. That said, for the time being, Unity is its number one desktop.

Related Stories:

What you need to know about the new Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux 11.04’s Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

Beyond Ubuntu CDs, Ubuntu Devices?

The new Ubuntu Desktop: Unity

Topics: Linux, CXO, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, IT Employment

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  • Don't like Unity, selected Ubuntu Classic

    I tried Unity and quickly decided I don't like it. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes had simple instructions on how to default to Gnome (select Ubuntu Classic), so I switched to that.<br><br>I did install the Gnome 3 interface--which is not officially supported yet by Ubuntu--and found it a bit "rough around the edges" on Ubuntu. For instance, there is no "power off" setting. I had to open a terminal and run shutdown from the command line. Although I had Compiz and the fancy windows effects working, when I installed Gnome 3 none of them worked. It defaulted to Standard interface with no other options. I reinstalled (it was a test install) 11.04 with the Gnome 2.3 interface and I'm using it to write this.<br><br>It is my understanding that Canonical plans to integrate Gnome 3 support for 11.10, so users will have the choice of that or an improved Unity. That is probably the best approach. Power users will want more options easily accessible than Unity can easily provide but casual users will prefer the simplicity of a handful of icons for the applications they use almost exclusively.
    • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

      @Rick_R I switched to "Classic" 30 seconds after I read Adrian Kingsley-Hughes instructions. Guess what? Unity's Ubuntu implementation breaks key "Classic" features for me. I don't mind progress but this is regress.
      • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity


        I hated Unity within 10 minutes of completing the upgrade, found "classic" buggy and couldn't even get LXDE or Xfce to work correctly in 11.04. I've switched to Linux Mint for now and will go to Linux Mint Debian later this week, when I have time to go through the install process. So long Ubuntu. It was nice while it lasted.
      • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

        @keepitsimpleengineer@... It was by far the worst Linux upgrade I have ever experienced. And I've been through 10 years of them and used at least 7 different distros over the years. It basically boiled down to the fact that the nVidia driver would not work because Xorg did not know where to find it. However I basically had to find the answers myself because the folks in the forum were of little help (and I was obviously not the only one who had the same problem), and if it had not been for my Gentoo experience I never would have been able to fix it. It may have been nVidia's fault, I do not know, however it never should have gone to stable in that condi<a href="">t</a>ion, and it should have offered an alternate driver, even the vesa driver, to get the machine working.
    • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity


      That is only going to work till November. "Classic" goes away in the next version of Ubuntu. In the next 12 months the choices are a) run an out of date distro b) learn to love Unity or c) leave.

      There is going to be an exodus away from Unity in the next year. The question is will OEM customers with Unity pre-installed outnumber current Linux users who switch?
    • There's Always Xubuntu, Kubuntu, and Lubuntu

      If another desktop appeals to you and you don't want to leave Ubuntu, then you can run one of the variations to avoid this issue.

      I have an Ubuntu Studio install, and a Lubuntu install (both still 10.10 at the moment). I also have a Slackware 13.1 install and an AptoSid install. I'm not really concerned with what they do with the default desktop that much since I never used Gnome anyway. I'm not terribly concerned about Ubuntu in general, even Lubuntu seems a bit heavy to me compared to Debian, AptoSid, and Linux Mint Debian (I have Debian stable and Linux Mint Debian on computers in my office).
    • Nice to have the option, though

      I'm having a hard time getting used to Unity myself, but it's sweet knowing that the classic look is just a logout away. I also appreciate the GUI remembering which look I used the last time.
    • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

      You did as I. At the release of 11.10 I'll switch to Xubuntu, which for me is the new hit in the Ubuntu family.

      I particularly like the combination of a (new!) dock and the continued existence of an easy, clickable menu. No need to type bloody queries, no unspeakable suggestions to install new stuff from Software Centre that you don't need.

      For years, Xubuntu has been a bit sleepy and without a clear reason for it's existence. But now it has become the fine alternative for those who hate Unity.
    • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

      it is not a matter of "don't like" or "like" , Unity has serious usability issues :
      1- the unity bar is situated at left side of the screen not auto hiding (by default ) so it takes unnecessary space there. when it is in auto hide mode it frequently get into my way while i move the curers to click the file menu of an application.
      2- the difference between icons of running applications and icons of non running applications is minimal , i have to look carefully to find if an icon represent a running or non running application. it is a mere example of stupid design.
      it sucks!!
      • Maybe they fixed these already

        @docesam I just D/L'd it today & the bar auto-hides; and it takes a bit of waiting (1/2 sec) to get it to come up so you probably have time to click on an app menu, a momentary touch doesn't bring up the bar. My wide screen has "unnecessary space over there, anyhow, so why not use it?
        2. There's 2 little arrows beside running apps. Easy to see. If it was just the icons being a little different, it would be hard to notice.
  • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

    Ubuntu is Super-fast, great-looking, intuitive operating system. Ubuntu does everything you need it to do.

    • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity


      How much did they pay you Shill?
      • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

        Calling someone a name so sad.
  • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

    While on one hand I respect Mr Shuttleworth's right to do whatever he wants with his pet project, on the other I am leaving. Already got Aptosid KDE version ISO downloaded. I also don't think I am alone in this. Ubuntu boasts 12 million users or so they say. I'd bet real money the majority of those are not casual computer users, Mr Shuttleworth's target demographic. I would wager they are mostly like me, Linux enthusiasts that got sick and tired of manually installing blob drivers. This maneuver by Ubuntu will not bring any large number of windows users over, nothing has in 20 years. It will however drive away his real base. I suspect that Ubuntu will go the way of Linspire.
    • RE: Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

      @rustydebian Unity is diversion the Ubuntu community does not need at the moment. I suspect we are going to see some minor instabilities for the next 2 years, after which there will be a usable unity desktop. The end result will be a Gnome 2.x (which has a few rough edges as is) and 3. Both will be stable, but not really polished enough to even compete against Mac OS X and windows.
  • Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity is better than expected

    Mark Shuttleworth has done a great job in having vision which is sorely lacking in the Linux world. Unity is fantastic, even at ver 1.0, and he's correct in saying that Unity will improve faster than the others.

    I have done a clean install of Ubuntu 11.04 on my Dell Latitude 2100 netbook and it works perfectly. The stock theme is a great choice and is not distracting and flamboyant. The Ubuntu font is clear and easy to read. Ubuntu One is much improved. The notification area and global menu I like. Unity works great, even though there is still much work to do, it's a work in progress, not the final iteration.
  • Just as I expected

    Even Linux distro builders are turning their backs on the community. Attachmate, Google, and now Canonical. They are building their own "communities", based on their own proprietary projects. I'm really not that surprised either - when it comes to business, the OSS community is too large and doesn't move fast enough to innovate (which is what the OSS community says about Microsoft), so for-profit companies step in and take over and get the job done. Hmmmm....and Windows 7 is outselling any previous operating ever released. Ya I guess Microsoft is too big to get an innovative, successful product to market that people actually want to pay money for....
    • Why does it have to be one or the other?

      And why does your post scream "us vs them"?
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Flv player.......................

        "us vs them" / The one or the other................? Is the fact one or the other, if you want to argue you need two - one or the other!
    • Yeah too much infighting and competing visions

      @Joe_Raby Besides, much of development is boring work--but important work--and so people need to be paid to do the dirty work. And after work, should I devote my limited free time to working on Linux or should I instead focus my effort on developing Apps to sell on one of the mobile platforms?