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Upgrading to Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal": You Don't Have to Use Unity

With all the noise surrounding Ubuntu's new (and evidently very crashy) "Unity" UI, I was concerned that I might get trapped in an upgrade, my beloved no-frills Metacity-based desktop taken away from me. I removed Compiz quite some time ago, as I haven't felt a need for any of the typical 3D-desktop frills (not to mention instability and bizarre bugs, like the IBM implementation of Java Swing being incompatible with Compiz).

Luckily, this has been a pretty smooth upgrade. In fact, the only thing that seems to have been intrusively installed is something called "Gwibber," which evidently has a purpose to fit its name -- integrate social networking into the desktop. Easy enough to remove through Synaptic. It looks like an ad for cloud service Ubuntu One was installed as well. I can't blame them for trying. Purged.

My Gnome Do preferences were nuked, which seems to be a regular occurrence for that application. Other than that, Gnome seems to have picked up right where it left off; applets like Glipper are the same as ever. Incidentally, everyone should try Gnome Do. It's great.

I am, of course, curious to see where these new UIs like Unity end up going, but there's no clear benefit to battling its problems for me right now.

Also, the Ubuntu upgrade process still suffers from a huge problem, namely, that it's not fully automated. I assume that the server upgrade process is better. But I had to keep one eye on my laptop during the entire multiple-hour install process to hit "Accept" about five or six times. And all of the questions asked would be baffling to normal users -- configuring the MIME type database? Or they didn't have a clear reason for existence, like asking for approval before restarting services, or asking for permission to upgrade glibc. These are things that are done automatically all the time with apt-get. Expecting ordinary users to go through that is too much.

This is my first experience with Firefox 4, and it seems like the developers are trying as hard as they can to distract the user. First, there's the jumpy status bar that only shows up when you hover over a link: my eye keeps getting drawn to the bottom; a small cognitive drain. The Status-4-Evar extension brings back a reasonable facsimile of the old status bar.

Second, someone must have been bored and decided that slowing down the opening of new tabs by animating the process was a good idea. This is easy to change through about:config. The variable is browser.tabs.animate.