I have been experimenting with Ubuntu 12.04 beta 2 64-bit in VirtualBox 4.1.10, and it runs as good as Ubuntu 12.04 beta 1 64-bit. Whatever refinements have been made must be under-the-hood adjustments since beta 2 looks and behaves the same. It is good to see that the developers are making improvements before the final release.
Since beta 2 should be closer to completion than beta 1, I spent more time with it. I so wanted to be friends with Ubuntu 12.04, but some things are just…not…meant…to…be.
Please keep in mind that much of this also applies to Ubuntu 11, but since 12.04 is nearing release, that is what this article focuses on.
Ubuntu 12.04 Beta 2 after updates includes Linux kernel 188.8.131.52-generic. (Enter uname -a in a terminal). The VirtualBox 4.1.10 Guest Additions installed perfectly, enhancing the desktop visuals.
Unity, Go Away!
To start, I wanted to switch to Gnome 3. This involves opening a terminal, typing sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback, and logging out. At the login screen, click the ubuntu/gnome icon located at the right of the username, and choose GNOME Classic to start with Classic Gnome interface.
Why not use pure Gnome 3? I couldn’t. It worked for a while, but choosing the Activities menu caused the screen to display colored lines inside VirtualBox.
This garbled screen was not permanent. Clicking the desktop made it disappear, but this made Gnome 3 unusable. So, Gnome Classic it was, which was okay — at least I liked it better than Unity.
Where is the Nautilus Location Bar?
The next order of business was to tweak the interface. Nautilus first. I need the location bar. It’s essential. Period. However, Nautilus only shows breadcrumbs by default. Yes, I can press CTRL + L to see the location bar, but this is not a permanent fix. The location bar must appear by default.
In Ubuntu 10.10, this is an easy matter. Open gconf-editor, navigate to apps > nautilus > preferences and check always_use_location_entry. With Ubuntu 20.14, Nautilus settings are stored in dconf-editor, which must be installed separately.
dconf-editor allows the location bar adjustment, but it is located in a new area: org > nautilus > preferences and check the always-use-location-entry box. It took a while to figure this out, which wasted time. There was probably a reason, but why change programs and locations? Why not be consistent? On the surface, gconf-editor and dconf-editor look the same.
Changing the Theme
The next task was to change the theme. Changing backgrounds is easy and I like the Appearance dialog compared to that in Ubuntu 10. The built-in wallpapers are mostly the same as Ubuntu 10, but they still look good.
However, changing Gnome 3 themes and icons was a chore. Gone are the days of simply dragging and dropping an icon set or GTK theme onto the Appearance dialog and watching it take effect.
Oh, no. That was too easy. Can’t have that.
With Gnome 3, I had to manually create a .themes directory in my home and uncompress themes there. Icons went to the .icons directory, which I had to create manually as well.
Next, I had to install a program called the GNOME Tweak Tool (called Advanced Settings in the Ubuntu Software Center) in order to adjust the themes.
In Advanced Settings, I was then able to change the window theme, icon theme, and GTK+ theme to my liking, choosing from those installed on the system.
Gnome 3 themes changed as they were selected. Shown in the picture is the MediterraneanNight theme with the Faenza icon set.
Finally having a visually tolerable desktop, my next order of business was to install several essential command-line tools.
I usually use Synaptic Package Manager for these, but Synaptic is gone from Ubuntu 12.04. So, I had to install that too. True, I could enable the Technical Results in the Ubuntu Software Center, but Synaptic is faster.
Gimme My Desktop Cube!
Saving the best for last, Compiz was next. After installing the CompizConfig Settings Manager, it was time to enable the whiz-bang desktop cube. Sadly, the cube did not work. Immediately upon enabling the Desktop Cube, Ubuntu 12.04 froze in a black and white screen.
Not sure if this is a VirtualBox issue or not, but I had to force reboot the guest OS (Ubuntu 12.04). However, since this is a beta release, this fault can be forgiven. Had this happened in its final release, well…that would be another story.
I am disappointed with the direction Ubuntu is going.
Despite being easier to use and more hardware compatible than ever, Ubuntu’s ease of use has spilled into the pool of oversimplification where the user interface gets in the way of using the computer.
Ubuntu 10.10 and most previous versions were superb. But Unity, along with several other design issues, changed everything. I like to see innovation, but when my older Ubuntu performs better with fewer hassles and saves time better than the newer versions, then something went wrong along the way.
For example, modifying themes in Ubuntu 12.04 is a chore. Installing themes was simple in the past. Download a theme or icon set, drag it onto the Appearance dialog, and watch it pop into action. That was it. Anyone could do it. New Linux users loved this ability, and it always made them smile. I enjoyed watching their jaws drop as they witnessed something so simple yet so convenient. It was one of the selling points over Windows.
There is no way a new user could do the steps I went through just to change the theme. It’s too time-consuming and beyond the abilities of most new users who only want to check their email and move on. I never thought I would say it, but Windows 7 is easier for a basic computer user to pick up and customize than Ubuntu 12.04.
Not only that, Ubuntu 12.04 forces you to install too many programs just to tweak the system and make it usable. The useful programs, like Synaptic, were tossed. In addition, you must relearn what you already know in order to accomplish the same tasks. I am all for learning new techniques, but if the new techniques are more time-consuming and more involving than what I am using now, then what’s the point?
I like Ubuntu, and it’s a good operating system, but it is becoming less and less of a system I can recommend to new Linux users and less and less of a system that I want to use for myself.
Thankfully, Linux is about choices, and many others exist. If Unity is not to your liking, then I would suggest trying other fine Linux distributions such as Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Linux Mint, and OpenSuse.