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Thread: Ubuntu's Unity Still Crashes A Lot, Usability Problems

  1. #31
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    When it comes to bugs and crashes, I'm fairly confident that the team will fix them. Maybe not every single one but given the rate of progress I'm assuming they're throwing a fair chuck of resources at Unity and bugs will get squashed sooner than later.

    But....

    It's not the bugs I'm worried about. The genuine usability issues are where there could be trouble. If they're not prepared to be flexible and take onboard the findings of end users then they might wind up with an enormously reliable, stable and dependable desktop that's a pain in the arse to use. From what I've seen in the past Canonical are generally receptive to their users although the buttons on the left of title bars issue without an easily accessible option somewhere suggests this doesn't hold true in absolutely every case. But hey, no ones perfect.

    I'm finding Unity is generally sound but there's usability issues specific to a triple head system that will need addressing at some stage in my opinion. They'd also be relevant in a twin head system as well.

    Strangely I'd say initially the most alien aspect for me was how the global menu system works. As an Amiga user, my first proper exposure to a real GUI based machine had a very similar system. With multiple apps open when you needed to access an apps menu you'd first need to have one of the apps windows selected, and then hit the right menu button and to the top of the screen you go. I worked full-time for years with Amiga's, and this was programmed into muscle memory for me, but after many, many more years on the wrong end of Windows based machines I've become accustomed to the way things are with menus in the window, not the top of the screen. There's much deja view in this particular aspect of Unity and I'm getting used to it again, but it has taken the best part of a week for it to start to become second nature.

  2. #32
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    I forgot to mention for what it's worth, I can't see how they can ship Unity as the default desktop. It makes sense to have it on the disc and also push it heavily for those more experimental users, but not the default, at least not yet.

    I'd hope any system integrators will be setting systems up for end users with the classic desktop for the moment. I'd say Unity's still a little pink on the inside for most lay people who generally prefer their desktop well-done.

  3. #33
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    I'm really hoping it increases interest in other desktops.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanL View Post
    I'm really hoping it increases interest in other desktops.
    I'd say for those looking for a nice fresh change and who are displeased with Unity they'll probably give GnomeShell a go before they'd go back to Classic.

    It's strange to hear people say things like, "Unity sux, I'm moving to Arch!" when all they need to do is log out and log back into classic desktop but there you go. Reading the comments on OMGUbuntu can be funny sometimes.

    I personally haven't tried GnomeShell yet but I'll be making space on a partition for it next week. It sounds pretty interesting.

  5. #35
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    I tried G-shell (using debian experimental) after its official release and didn't care for it. I was interested in seeing opensuse's take on it (since they seem to be good at integrating DE's), but alas, the opensuse liveCD kept trying to load rv770 firmware for my rv710 card, so no 3D accel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugginz View Post
    I'd say for those looking for a nice fresh change and who are displeased with Unity they'll probably give GnomeShell a go before they'd go back to Classic.
    They'll need another distro or to use experimental PPA's to try GS, and the PPA's don't always work correctly. I see more people sticking with Ubuntu, but using xfce, g classic, or kde. I switched to mainly using KDE on my laptop (KDE 4.6 is good).

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugginz View Post
    When it comes to bugs and crashes, I'm fairly confident that the team will fix them. Maybe not every single one but given the rate of progress I'm assuming they're throwing a fair chuck of resources at Unity and bugs will get squashed sooner than later.

    But....

    It's not the bugs I'm worried about. The genuine usability issues are where there could be trouble. If they're not prepared to be flexible and take onboard the findings of end users then they might wind up with an enormously reliable, stable and dependable desktop that's a pain in the arse to use. From what I've seen in the past Canonical are generally receptive to their users although the buttons on the left of title bars issue without an easily accessible option somewhere suggests this doesn't hold true in absolutely every case. But hey, no ones perfect.

    I'm finding Unity is generally sound but there's usability issues specific to a triple head system that will need addressing at some stage in my opinion. They'd also be relevant in a twin head system as well.

    Strangely I'd say initially the most alien aspect for me was how the global menu system works. As an Amiga user, my first proper exposure to a real GUI based machine had a very similar system. With multiple apps open when you needed to access an apps menu you'd first need to have one of the apps windows selected, and then hit the right menu button and to the top of the screen you go. I worked full-time for years with Amiga's, and this was programmed into muscle memory for me, but after many, many more years on the wrong end of Windows based machines I've become accustomed to the way things are with menus in the window, not the top of the screen. There's much deja view in this particular aspect of Unity and I'm getting used to it again, but it has taken the best part of a week for it to start to become second nature.
    For me, having used a combination of Gnome 1, Gnome 2, and Windows for most of my life, the global menus are more or less a dealbreaker. I've done global menus on the Mac, but they seem to handle them a lot more intuitively there -- I dunno, it just wasn't as much of a PITA on Mac. Maybe because they have proper support for easily switching between windows (the dock at the bottom).

    I just can't get used to it. I hate global menus. I didn't particularly care for them on Mac, but they're terrible on Unity.

    I didn't like the min/max/close buttons on the left either, but at least that's something I could get used to. Left vs right is not nearly as difficult to adjust to as global vs application-level menus.

    I can't overstate how much I miss the window list at the bottom of the screen. That's my biggest gripe by far, and it also applies to Gnome-Shell. I notice myself using alt-tab a lot more, but if I have 8 or 9 windows open, "alt-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab" is a lot more work for my fingers than moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen and clicking. I'm more of a visual memorizer than a muscle memorizer: I remember where each window is in the window list relative to the others, so I know just where to move the mouse to switch to another window. That ability is lost now, on both Unity and Gnome-Shell.

    I'm using Gnome-Shell on two Fedora 15 computers now, and I still like it a lot more than Unity. But they both have similar design goals and limitations. The difference is that Gnome-Shell is much more polished and stable right now; Mutter performs better than Compiz on the open source drivers; and each DE has its own slightly different Super Key shortcuts. Fedora 15 isn't to be released until next month, and it's already much more stable than Ubuntu 11.04 which is being released in two weeks. A perfect storm of Unity bugs, Compiz bugs and open source graphics stack bugs are primarily responsible for the problems on Natty. Mutter seems to deftly avoid any potential buggy paths in the open source drivers; either that, or Fedora has pulled in a newer version of Mesa with important fixes.

  8. #38
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    Exclamation Utter Crap

    Im sorry, but with every redesign comes quirks and uproar from Kde, to gnome3 to Unity.

    perfection takes time, but deadlines are to be met, confusion can be sorted in the next release for refinements - lets not make it a delayed and ever changing experience like that unfortunately happened the really cool gnome3 - which was plagued with controversy also - but was pushed back too.

    Im just saying for the timeframe, its not as bad as what might seem - Canonical do realise it wont be for everyone this time round and will ship the classic desktop too - so its not as if people have to stick with 10.10 like what this article said or even more bizare switch , thats a pile of hopeless rubbish - it will be like any other upgrade for those not ready for unity, and many improvements have been made to the installer, software centre and more and people shouldn't spite themselves a great upgrade for some article saying that unity will prove problematic for those users.

    Come on like.... 11.04 will be a great upgrade to the latest Ubuntu for early adopters and classic desktop fans alike.

    Get over it, and Its great to see that Ubuntu is carrying out usability tests so these shortfalls can be cleanly rectified and made simple for the end user.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by allquixotic View Post
    For me, having used a combination of Gnome 1, Gnome 2, and Windows for most of my life, the global menus are more or less a dealbreaker. I've done global menus on the Mac, but they seem to handle them a lot more intuitively there -- I dunno, it just wasn't as much of a PITA on Mac. Maybe because they have proper support for easily switching between windows (the dock at the bottom).
    I didn't find global menus very different to OSX myself so I wonder if that's a consequence of my Amiga experience coming back?


    Quote Originally Posted by allquixotic View Post
    I didn't like the min/max/close buttons on the left either, but at least that's something I could get used to. Left vs right is not nearly as difficult to adjust to as global vs application-level menus.
    At least with that positioning of the buttons there was a way to send them back to where they once lived. I made a post on how to change it here --> Lucid_Alpha_Window_Button_Position

    Quote Originally Posted by allquixotic View Post
    I can't overstate how much I miss the window list at the bottom of the screen. That's my biggest gripe by far, and it also applies to Gnome-Shell. I notice myself using alt-tab a lot more, but if I have 8 or 9 windows open, "alt-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab" is a lot more work for my fingers than moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen and clicking. I'm more of a visual memorizer than a muscle memorizer: I remember where each window is in the window list relative to the others, so I know just where to move the mouse to switch to another window. That ability is lost now, on both Unity and Gnome-Shell.
    Having a direct path to your window list such as in the Gnome2 panel or WIndows task bar is another habit that can be broken, but some people may wonder why anyone else would want to.

    If you replace this functionality with a dock of just about any description there's probably a need to acclimatise to it. Even the default Windows 7 behavior can take a little getting used to even though it's probably the closest to the old way of any of the newish desktops. Even just activating "auto hide" to a Windows XP task bar can throw some people.

    Still, it's not always broken to just want what you're used to. Although if you find the Unity launcher particularly more broken than it needs to be from a usability perspective then that's different although myself I'm mostly happy with it.


    Quote Originally Posted by allquixotic View Post
    I'm using Gnome-Shell on two Fedora 15 computers now, and I still like it a lot more than Unity. But they both have similar design goals and limitations. The difference is that Gnome-Shell is much more polished and stable right now; Mutter performs better than Compiz on the open source drivers; and each DE has its own slightly different Super Key shortcuts. Fedora 15 isn't to be released until next month, and it's already much more stable than Ubuntu 11.04 which is being released in two weeks. A perfect storm of Unity bugs, Compiz bugs and open source graphics stack bugs are primarily responsible for the problems on Natty. Mutter seems to deftly avoid any potential buggy paths in the open source drivers; either that, or Fedora has pulled in a newer version of Mesa with important fixes.
    I'm fairly sure we'll either see drivers get fixed so as to reliably support Unity or we'll see Unity be coded to work around driver bugs but either way we'll see stable platform support for Unity. Code can be fixed. What I want to see is any bad usability design be changed or at least alternative work flows be supported.


    On the side of weird perspectives (especially from the OMGUbuntu commenter's) I have seen some criticisms of both Unity and GnomeShell ultimately come down to something like

    "It's not how Gnome2 works so it's broken. Make Unity/GnomeShell into Gnome2 and I'll be happy."

    But then when it's suggested they simply stick with Gnome2 they can still find reason to complain.

    I even had one guy say pretty much "Sure, you can stay with the old desktop, but there's an alternative desktop that's nice and shiny and it makes me feel like I'm stuck in the past." Yet he has critisised Gnome2 for various reasons. Even though it's plainly obvious that it's impossible to change and move forward while also staying exactly the same as before, it doesn't stop people from kind of ultimately asking for just that. Weird.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by allquixotic View Post
    Well, a few things:

    Look at the specifications for the test system that Canonical used for this study. This is a typical Lenovo business laptop with fairly high-quality components, but the IGP is an Intel "HD Graphics". This tells me it's in the G45 family most probably, since the i3-370M is not a Sandy Bridge CPU. So this Intel IGP is in its prime right now: Intel has had years to work on the G45 generation's drivers; Intel IGPs continue to be immensely popular; and it has all the hardware features you could want for supporting something like Unity. It's a much more advanced chip than the 965G generation that preceded it, and it's been on the market much longer than the Sandy Bridge chips that, if they had used those, I'd have understood the crashiness to be a driver problem this early in the SNB game.

    But, I've been running Fedora 15 Alpha using Gnome 3.0 and Gnome-Shell on my Lenovo ThinkPad X61T for close to two weeks now. The only things that have crashed are the Humble Indie Bundle games, and PulseAudio. Gnome-Shell has never crashed, and the PC has been on and in-use 8 to 20 hours per day. I'm using the open source graphics drivers on the 2.6.38 kernel, just like Ubuntu Natty would do. What's the difference? No Unity, no Compiz -- Gnome-Shell and Mutter instead.

    The performance is also fantastic, even with the X61T's aging 965GM chipset. Transitioning from a maximized browser window to a gnome-shell window present (tap the Super / Windows key, similar to Unity) is smooth as silk. Now on my Radeon HD5970, the same transition does lag a bit sometimes, but I chalk that up to performance issues in r600g yet to be resolved :P

    But on both chipsets, with Unity, I can get the same rate of crashes, drops in FPS (noticeable lag when hovering over icons), and lag when viewing the "Present" view of open windows, as reported in the usability study. So I'm basically one more person able to confirm the problems with Unity, and I've tested on both r600g and i965 classic.

    And don't think the binary drivers are any better, either. ATI's support for Unity in Catalyst is still pretty rough around the edges; they made a release specifically to get it minimally working on Unity, but they admitted that there are still defects and crashers present. I've tried the same Catalyst driver on Fedora 15, and while still being woefully proprietary, it does indeed work well with Mutter and Gnome-Shell.

    I can't speak to the NVidia binary driver as I don't own an Nvidia card.... but if the Nvidia binary driver is the only driver that works well with Unity, that's still a really big problem. The percentage of people who (a) have an Nvidia card and (b) know how to get the proprietary drivers working is probably about 20 - 30% of all Ubuntu desktop users, conservatively. Don't believe me? Look at the past Phoronix Linux Graphics Surveys, where some 80% of users just run whatever driver is installed by default in their distro. What's that for Nvidia cards? Nouveau, am I right? How well does Nouveau cope with Unity? Fermi cards?

    All that aside, I 100% agree with you that Unity can rock. Any software can be trivially said to have the potential to be excellent at some point in the future, because no software is ever barred from the possibility of future enhancement, refactoring, etc.

    And indeed, Unity is already doing things that would predispose it to rock in the near future. But will it be near enough for Natty? I still have my reservations!
    Having run GS for well over a year now (must be getting close to 2 I think) I can say that if you follow the development WITH the nvidia blob you are getting crashes...alot (for me, it happens nearly exclusively when entering overview). OTOH, I put alpha on a a first gen acer aspire one netbook and to my knowledge it never crashed (I'm not the primary user of it, so I can't be sure, but I know that gdm had issues, but I heard nothing about GS itself) AND the animations were very smooth (compared to the stop motion of my nvidia card).
    Now, we put the latest fedora snapshot on my gf's T510 (intel graphics) and it is absolutely velvety smooth and stable.
    My last experience with Unity was back in Nov and then I had never gotten it to work on the netbook. Froze on login ever time.

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