Ubuntu 11.04 - Notes, Tips and Warnings

Ubuntu 11.04 - Notes, Tips and Warnings

Summary: As anyone who has any interest in Linux at all knows (and most of those who don't have an interest, for that matter), Ubuntu released version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" yesterday.


As anyone who has any interest in Linux at all knows (and most of those who don't have an interest, for that matter), Ubuntu released version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" yesterday. The Internet is overflowing with reviews and screen shots of the new release at the moment, so I am not going to bother posting YANR (Yet Another Natty Review). I have made a few notes while installing and testing it on various of my notebooks and netbooks, which might be of interest to others or might save someone else some time and frustration, so I will post them.

First, the management summary. Let's get the question of bias out of the way. I am biased. I don't like Natty - in particular, but not exclusively, because I really don't like Unity. I will say up front that the final release is noticeably better than any of the pre-releases has been, so that is a positive point. But I still just don't like it. I will keep it installed on several of my systems, but I can guarantee that it will not be the "default boot" or "operating system of choice" on any of them. Having said that, let's get on with the real information.

- The Ubuntu installer (ubiquity) uses the "new style" scroll bars. This means that you don't actually see the bar unless you are sitting on it, otherwise there is just a small colored line at the side of the window where the scroll bar will appear when the mouse cursor moves there. This can deceive the user into thinking the scroll bar is missing, or the window is "too big", especially if they are working on a netbook and have experienced that kind of problem before, and they are not familiar with the new scroll bars. This happens in the keyboard selection screen, and in the custom disk partitioning screen if you go there.

- When installing on a system which has a Broadcom 4313 WiFi adapter, such as my Samsung and Lenovo netbooks, the Ubuntu Hardware Drivers utility will still offer to install the STA driver for it. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS! The brcm80211 driver is included in the Natty distribution, and it is the correct driver for the 4313. The STA driver has serious performance and reliability problems with the 4313 adapter.

- When installing on my beloved HP 2133 Mini-Note, on first login it informs me that it "does not have the hardware required to run Unity". It will fall back to the "Ubuntu Classic" desktop, which can be permanently selected as described below. That will keep it going for this release, but as thing stand now, when Ubuntu 11.10 comes out, systems like this will be left out in the cold. I hope that changes, because if you are going to demand that users have the latest and greatest hardware, you might as well change your name to Microsoft...

- The only system on which I had a wireless networking problem was the Lenovo S10-3s, and even that was better than it had been with the pre-releases. Basically, there is a kernel module called acer_wmi which interferes with the brcm80211 driver on this system, so you have to go to /etc/modprobe.d and add "blacklist acer_wmi" to the blacklist.conf file. Then reboot, and wireless networking should work normally.

- If you don't want the Unity desktop, or you can't use it as in the case of my HP 2133, after the installation is complete you can select the Gnome 2 desktop. On the login screen, select your login name and then before entering your password click the session selection list at the bottom center of the screen (it probably says "Unity"). Select "Ubuntu Classic", and then go ahead and login. Once you have done this it will stay selected, so you don't need to do it every time - but if you want to go back to Unity, you can select it this way again.

- Improvements in the Unity desktop - the two biggest ones that I noticed were that the side and top panels now auto-hide when necessary, so you don't lose that screen space permanently. This is particularly important on netbooks. Also, it is now possible to simply drag-and-drop icons from the "Applications" window to the side panel to add them there.

- Problems/confusion in the Unity desktop - Applications which have menu bars, such as Firefox, will display those bars in the top Panel of the screen, not in the top of their own window. This can be particularly confusing if the application is not full-screen, it is located somewhere around the bottom of the screen, and you need to get to the menus to get to something like the Firefox "Options" or "Bookmarks / Import-Export".

- You can still suppress the irritating 30-second delay on shutdown or reboot, by using Alt-F2 and then run gconf-editor. I got a bit confused when I did this, because the window that comes up on Alt-F2 looks a lot like the "Applications" window, but it is certainly not the same. In particular, just going to Applications and typing gconf-editor does not produce any interesting results.

- When using the Applications window to start a program, it is a lot easier to just type a bit of the program name - any part will do - and then choose from the list it presents, rather then try to slog through all of the Applications sub-menus to find what you want.

- Don't forget that you can Maximize/Un-Maximize a window by double-clicking its title bar. I find that a convenient short-cut when I keep going to the right corner of the window looking for control buttons. I suppose if I used Ubuntu more these days, I would eventually get over that habit - but I won't, so double-clicking will save me some time.

That's about it for now. Good luck.


Update - I've come across the first piece of useful additional information sooner than I had expected. As I mentioned in the original post, Firefox menus show up on the top Panel (I believe this is called "Global Menus" or some such, and I hate it) rather than in the Firefox window itself. I haven't figured out how to get rid of the Global Menus, but at least I can activate the menus in the Firefox window itself again. Start Firefox, then go to "Tools/Add-ons/Extensions". You should see the "Global Menu Bar Extension" listed there; disable it, and restart Firefox. After restarting you will see the normal menu toolbar. If you want the "new" Firefox 4.0-stype drop-down menus, just go to "View/Toolbars" and de-select the Menubar. You will be left with just the little "Firefox" drop-down tab. Whew.

Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • I just "upgraded" this morning and frankly the new UI sucks, big time.

    I'm glad to find out that I may be able to revert to the older UI because the new one is a monstrosity. I can't find anything and it does not even come close to following the "Principle of Least Astonishment."

    Whatever the designers were smoking ought to be confiscated immediately.
  • Installed it last night as live USB and having used it for about an hour it has certainly solidified Mint as my main distro.

    The Unity desktop is not the step forward that I expect of most Linux distro's, and it wont win new users over.

    RIP Ubuntu
  • This version of Ubuntu is very polarizing. I for one, love this version of Ubuntu and have no gripes with global menus. Unity will improve even more after several release cycles. If unity is not your cup of tea, then there is always Fedora 15 w/ Gnome 3.
  • I've tried GNOME 3 from a PPA, and it's just as bad as Unity. The "Classic" interface also has some shortcomings, such as not being able to move the app buttons in the Window List panel applet. I think Canonical has shot itself in the foot here. They may not realize just how many people use two or three monitors, have their panels arranged just how they want them and have a desktop full of carefully organized launchers and symlinks. Unity is fine for a phone, okay for a tablet, and pure crap for anything else. So is GNOME 3.
  • I've been looking to replace a Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Install as it will be no longer supported after the 12th May 2011. I use this on a now long in the tooth, but reliable 'sofa surfer' Toshiba Laptop with an 'Intel Centrino' + Dothan 1.4 ULV Processor + Chipset with 82855GM Graphics - everything just works, and every version of Ubuntu I've tried since 8.10, doesn't, in some form or other.

    Ubuntu 11.04 live CD boots fine into the Classic Gnome 2.3 desktop, bluetooth doesn't work, but otherwise not too bad, its a bit messy on loading up - plymouth display problems, but are in essence, cosmetic issues.

    After trying various different Linux Versions - Mint + others,
    I've reverted to Fedora 14 (have tried Fedora 15, which boots fine with the 82855GM Chipset, though is choppy in terms of video under Gnome 3 with 3D effects).

    Fedora 14 works really well with the 82855GM Chipset, not sure what Fedora have done, that Canconical couldn't with regard to 3D Graphics, but the 3D works under Fedora 14 - cube effects etc on the Intel 82855GM Chipset.
    I found Fedora 15 Beta/Gnome 3 to be problematic, copying large files across to a NAS device, the progress file information disappears from the screen, its there but only when you switch to overview, can you find it again.

    My NAS's raid was damaged, on cancelling the file transfer, to the point it couldn't be repaired without removing the files first, and reformatting the drives - not sure if this was an issue with Fedora 15 beta, but its the only time its ever happened. Luckily, files were intact to be transferred elsewhere.
    Flash (and in particular BBC iplayer) performs best though, without any 3D graphics - so this has become my default Fedora 14 Gnome 2.3 desktop. It's just about rock solid as it can be, and refreshed an old laptop for another couple of years.
  • Waaah!!
    It's different than before
    I HATE IT!
    Make it the same as before!!
    Call me a Waaaahhhmbulance!

    Dickheads: It IS different, that's because it is new.
  • Thank you very much for jumping on this as quickly as you have and giving us the benefit of your experience in such an objective, lucid, detailed manner.

    I have dreaded the days following 11.04's release, because I knew they would/will be filled with people who've come no closer to 11.04 than press releases by Canonical, gushing about its virtues, and who have NO knowledge of its foibles and quirks.

    Around the first of April, a member of the press declared that this was (at that time) the worst Ubuntu beta release ever (name and publication available; I'm not at the proper computer. I believe the gentleman works for a publication called "OS"' or "Operating Systems").
    How can the community expect a terrific final product just twenty-eight days after a preliminary review like that?

    In on of my posts, I personally congratulated Mr. Shuttleworth for trying to turn Canonical into the Microsoft of the Linux world. I think he has delusions of adequacy. Simply my opinion.
    I also feel that yours is just one among the first of VERY many objective, less-than-flattering reviews of 11.04.

    Once again, thank you for the warning against wasting my time on this je ne sais quois.
    Warmest regards...
  • I used Ubuntu 11.04 for atleast 12 hours and got it is the best version yet. The only thing i dont like is Unity UI. I use Ubuntu Classic instead of it. This version is fully bug free as there are lots of bugs in 10.10 & 10.04 LTS. After all its gonna be my favourite version of any Linux.
  • Wow, there have been a lot of very strong feelings expressed in these comments already - and this when I thought everyone was supposed to be completely absorbed in the Royal Wedding!

    I started to write a comment here with some thoughts and suggestions on this, but it turned out to be much too long, far beyond the maximum comment size here. So I am writing a new blog post with a lot more detail. But here is the "management summary": Is there some way that both sides of this discussion could give the other a break? If you like/love/whatever Unity, that's great, you may very well be part of the wave of the future. But those who don't care for it are not "cretins" (or worse), they may well have good reasons, or it may even be a simple question of personal preference. If you disklike/hate/despise Unity, that's fine too, you may turn out to be right about Ubuntu going off in the wrong direction with this. But only time will tell if that is the case. Whatever happens, we have one huge advantage going for us - diversity. Exactly the thing that uninformed critics are constantly bashing us over the head about. There are lots of Linux distributions available. If you like Natty and the Unity desktop, use it! Great! If you like Natty but not Unity, sit tight for just a little while, and Linux Mint 11 will be along. If you don't like Natty, or you don't like Ubuntu, or you object to what they are doing on principle, look around, there are loads of alternatives. If you don't like Corn Flakes, you can choose Special K; or maybe Chocolate Covered Sugar Bombs are more your style. Whatever, it's all there for the taking, just make a choice and give it a shot - and don't waste a lot of time and effort screaming and cursing at people who have an honest difference of opinion with you!

  • There is a poll on What do you think about Unity here: http://www.proprofs.com/polls/result/?title=what-do-you-think-about-unity-4
  • i have this strange feeling that Unity is gonna become bloated just like KDE 4
  • Ubuntu 11.04 - I decided to wipe 32 bit Ubuntu partition and go with 64 bit this upgrade so I can see if it will help if trying to edit Videos
    - Skype looks like it will work yeah no fiddling,
    I tried installing Googles Picasa, it appeared to install but no Icon, and could not find in search, Google Chrome - no install , Old Brother 5440 MFC printer - no automatic install , ready to quit- I was downloading www.ultimateedition.info tweaked Ubuntu 10 on another computer a behemoth 2.X Gig and in the meantime found how to start 11.04 without Unity, my classic version popped up a message of broken files and how to fix them. Picasa appears to work now and I am typing this in Chrome, also appear to have managed to manually install the printer but see I need a new ink cartridge to confirm.
    Under version 10's 32 bit driver it was only necessary to download the .deb file and double click on it, trying it with 64 bit gave a message that it was not correct consequently the need to follow Brothers instructions on a manual install.

    Try the update to Ubuntu 11.04 but be thankful one isn't required to use Unity.
  • I should point out to the reviewer Unity 2D can be used with netbooks and devices that can't run Unity 3D.

    It needs to be installed from the Unity 2D PPA repository and then one has to log out and log in again to see the new interface.
  • I've used ubuntu for ages and so far its been great :) BUT;
    Not one thing on 11.04 is better so i wont write a huge list! Why take something good and make it suck this bad? Wahey a bar with buttons, you can put your favorite stuff in, anyone heard of icons? they came out in win 3.1! But in 11.04 every thing important takes longer! NO NO NO NO NO NO, NO MORE CLICKS! Took six hours wasted time to "upgrade" over the net, five min to see how crap it is and one hour to re install the brilliant 10.10! Oh and it also failed to work with a belkin dongle, rubbish :(
  • Unity 2D does not require a PPA to use. Just install from Software Center like everything else.
  • Hopefully Canonical will listen to its users and adapt accordingly, without burning any bridges along the way. It sounds like some of the UI changes aren't really necessary and I can understand that some of it is outside of Canonical's control. I don't use Ubuntu (I've gone with Fedora instead), but from the sounds of it, there are a lot of changes and more to come in the future. I just wrote last week about UI changes, too, and how it is important for open source software to stay on track with user requests and feedback. Fedora 15 is going to introduce Gnome 3.0 which will be a big change as well. In conclusion, we must ensure that open source software doesn't make the same mistakes of Microsoft.
  • Whenever a software maker (or in this case, a distro) changes direction with their UX, there will always be a number of people who are vocally against the change. You can never make everyone happy.
  • I finally made Ubuntu my home o/s of choice a year or two ago. I installed Natty on a new "Sandy Bridge" machine and found that it crashes and dies or just hangs immediately after login. That's not just bad, it's incompetent, as this release was specifically supposed to be compatible with the latest chipsets - and I know that an awful lot of others are having terminal problems with this release. Yes it does seem to be heading in Microsoft's direction but at least we don't have to pay for it.
  • Did you not have problems with installing 11.04 on your 2133? I've been going at it for a few days, and every time my computer connects to a wireless network, the entire device locks up soonafter. Did you encounter anything like this?
  • @byroncheng - I have not had that problem with my 2133, but I have heard about it from others quite a few times, and not only with 11.04. The problem seems to be hardware or configuration dependent, but I haven't been able to figure out exactly what or how. I suspect it is something related to either the screen resolution or the amount of memory installed.

    I did notice that 11.04 only seemed to offer the STA driver for the Broadcom wireless network adapter, and not the b43 adapter. I don't remember for sure, because I didn't have the problem myself, but I think the people who had it said that the two drivers had different problems - I believe it was the STA which caused the system hang, and the b43 did not wake up properly after suspend/resume.