Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot)

Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot)

Summary: The latest release of Ubuntu fine-tunes the Unity desktop, introduces a much-improved Software Centre and updates the bundle of preinstalled applications.

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Released to schedule on October 13, Ubuntu 11.10 (codenamed Oneiric Ocelot) sees the end of official support for the GNOME desktop, the OS relying instead on Canonical's own Unity desktop in either the default 3D or 2D mode. Oneiric is something of a consolidation release, with improvements mostly limited to completing the switch to Unity begun in 11.04, along with general polish in terms of look and feel. You can peruse the official Ubuntu 11.10 release notes and take an online tour of Oneiric at the Ubuntu web site.

LightDM Log-in
In Oneiric, the opening screen display and login has been changed from GNOME Display Manager (GDM) to LightDM, which is lighter on code. Its WebKit back end allows login screens to be modified using HTML, CSS or JavaScript, making this a more flexible solution.

The login graphics have also been redesigned, and a different wallpaper can be displayed for each user login.

The Unity desktop
Historically, Linux desktop distributions have suffered from messy, poorly organised desktops. Mark Shuttleworth is a fan of the Apple user interface and there is a whiff of Malus domestica about Unity, which is all about a simpler and less cluttered desktop. User control areas are reduced to a top menu bar and the launcher bar on the left of the screen.

The Unity desktop owes more than a little to Apple's Mac OS X look and feel

Simplification by hiding is all very well, but it's also disorienting — with Unity, you find yourself asking 'now where is...' rather a lot. The interface still feels a little clumsy: GNOME's cascading menus are arguably faster and require less mouse movement than un-hiding the Launcher and then opening and sorting through Dash to find the application you want. However, Unity is now starting to look like a serious UI — although it's slanted towards touchscreen and tablet use rather than the traditional desktop.

The Unity Dash, in top-level and expanded modes

Customisation requires you to install the Compiz Settings Manager, which is not preloaded. You can then, for example, reduce the size of the launcher icons, which by default are quite large — presumably to make them touchscreen friendly. Some third-party icons, originally designed for display at a smaller size, look very crude when scaled up alongside higher-resolution icons.

A single click on a launcher icon will open the associated application in full screen and hide the Launcher bar, although the top menu remains and becomes the menu for the opened application. Task switching is accomplished by holding the cursor at the extreme left of the screen until the launcher eventually slides out of hiding. The Alt+Tab window switcher provides a faster way to move between open applications than waiting for the Launcher to emerge.

The Software Centre
The huge number and variety of applications available for Linux has been both a strength and a weakness: the volume of software on offer can make it hard to choose, and users often have difficulty installing software. Ubuntu's Software Centre, now at version 5.0, has changed all that for the better.

Ubuntu 11.10's Software Center has a much-improved look and feel

A lot of effort has been put in to improvements in the look-and-feel of the Software Centre in Oneiric. Icons have been enlarged, it's now touch-friendly and is claimed to be faster — although on our test machine it certainly seemed to take its time starting up.

Ubuntu One
On activation with a one-stop-sign-on, Ubuntu's cloud sharing app suggests installing DesktopCouch for added sync functionality. Previously, on activation, Ubuntu One would ask for a designated folder, but now it creates an empty Ubuntu One folder as a sub of the Home folder. This avoids an immediate and perhaps unintentional filling of the free 5GB of cloud storage with the contents of a folder that's already in use.

Ubuntu One lets you put 5GB of your data in the cloud for free; an Unbuntu One folder is created on your system and its contents synchronised

Ubuntu's long-term plans involve increasing integration of the OS with the cloud. When you consider that cloud services are ultimately about renting storage space and giving another party some control over your data, this seems slightly at odds with the principles of free and open-source software.

Default applications
As is often the case with a new Ubuntu release, the mix of default applications has been fine tuned. For example, the Evolution mail client has been dropped in favour of Mozilla Thunderbird, while the new Deja Dup backup application makes backups less of a chore.

Ubuntu 12.04
Due in around six months time Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (codenamed Precise Pangolin) is a Long Term Support version, which means it isn't likely to see any huge changes from Oneiric.

Topics: Operating Systems, Reviews, Software

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6 comments
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  • I have just installed Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot and I find the user interface very bad. The Unity is brings the stupidity of the Apple Interface to Linux. I admit for beginners and non users it may may things easier( the new user in my office does not like it).

    I will try to explain why Unity interface sucks.

    The concept of have active programs and quick launch in the same panel is very bad. It is great to autohide your selection panel. This panel contains your favorite applications, time, logout,..., BUT you should always have access to the active program panel. The only indicator of the active program is a small arrow on the right side of the launcher/status icon.

    The program menu has been moved from the program window to the top panel. I know Apple does this but for people that have to look at more than one application at a time this is very confusing. Also if the running application is small and does not take the full screen, you have to look and move the mouse across the display to use the menu functions. Very bad!

    I need to run two shells at a time, but Unity does not allow me to do that, clicking or double clicking only brings up the terminal to the front. It takes a right click, move and click.

    The size of the Unity panel is HUGE. It wastes too much screen space. So, just change the size of the icon, right? You have install compizconfig-settings-manager, What install a program to customize your interface, really lame. I tried it but it still does not change.

    OK, Unity is a very bad interface, so just install gnome again, NOT!! I Installed gnome and it is very broken. If Ubuntu is going to not install a working Desktop, they should at least have a simple way to install and other Desktop, and have it work.

    Next, what is this mono stuff? Only two install programs and one game use it. It i wanted crap I would use MSWindows. Even Microsoft is moving away from .NET.

    Make a interface that form idiots and only idiots want to use it. If you only have one program running at a time, very new to computers, or used to Apple, You may like the Interface. If you know computers, do development, or have many programs running at once the the is very bad.

    My review, Give it to Grandma, but you stay with Ubuntu 11.04.
    linuxchina
  • Unity might be nice on a 10" netbook, but it's really stupid on my 27" monitor.

    I've used Ubuntu a long time, now using 11.4 with Gnome, but seems Canonical wants to pander to the airheads for whom a taskbar panel seems way to complicated. This seems silly, as those are already sold to Apple marketing, or couldn't be bothered to find out the diffrence between an OS and a printer.

    I'm not sure if i'll go with pure Debian or Fedora, but the current install is my last Ubuntu.
    Paladin-e36ee
  • What I can say is that Unity is not nice on a 9" netbook either.

    Large or small screen, the whole concept is critically flawed and does not come anywhere near achieving what it is claimed on the most basic level.

    The bad news is GNOME3 follows a broadly similar approach.

    I don't know who is feeding these developers with their ideas, but it certainly doesn't appear to be the wider user base.
    twozero3
  • I really like Unity and the last versions of Ubuntu are great. I think it's comfortable in every single way. I have been using Unity from Ubuntu 11.04, and it took me a few days to adapt to the new desktop, at first it seemed strange, but now I feel every day is getting better. I guess there are many negative persons just saying nonsense, at the end they don't have a better idea than saying windows is the choice or even mac. Just shush, and enjoy the best of Linux, Ubuntu with Unity!
    heamaya
  • I would have to disagree with a few points. Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10 are both excellent for widescreen laptops. The entire premise of the changes of Ubuntu were due to the prevalence of widescreen monitors, and with the removal of panels at the top of applications and at the bottom for icons, more of the precious vertical space could be utilized efficiently. As for your inability to navigate through the files and apps via lenses, I find that Ubuntu is now the fastest OS I've ever used in actually finding and opening any file or program. I hit my Windows key (or any other key you wish to designate to trigger the dash), type three letters or so of the program name and hit enter...viola. It takes a little getting used to, but if you take the time to learn a few keyboard shortcuts, you can absolutely fly with Ubuntu and Unity. Give it time, with a little work it grows on you.
    chenson1014
  • Anyone reading this short review and those who left the comments above might find it useful to read my blog post on my continuing experiences with Ubuntu 11.10. Things are not as bad as you think and if you don't like Unity, but prefer desktop UI's with cascading text menus, it is very easy to add GNOME 2 as a choice - http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/zdnet-uk-first-take-10013312/ubuntu-1110-oneiric-ocelot-and-other-shells-10024840/
    terry@...