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Old 04-29-2011, 03:37 AM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default An In-Depth Look at Ubuntu 11.04

After months of anticipation, Ubuntu 11.04, codenamed 'Natty Narwhal', has launched in its final form. The big news this time around is that the OS ships with Canonical's 'Unity' desktop environment as default - a large risk on behalf of the company. To see if that risk paid off, let's take an in-depth look to see what Unity's made of.

Read through our in-depth look at Ubuntu 11.04 and then discuss it here!
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Old 04-29-2011, 08:01 AM   #2
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Default Search & Run?

Hi,

How do you think Unity compares to KDE's 'Search & Run' environment?

Thanks.
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Old 04-29-2011, 12:32 PM   #3
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If you weren't such a merciless taskmaster, I'd probably satisfy my morbid curiosity and give this a shot.
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Old 04-29-2011, 12:34 PM   #4
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If you weren't such a merciless taskmaster, I'd probably satisfy my morbid curiosity and give this a shot.
Here here!
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Old 04-29-2011, 02:38 PM   #5
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Hi,

How do you think Unity compares to KDE's 'Search & Run' environment?

Thanks.
For the most part, both methods are the same. A menu pops up, you search for the application, wait a second for it to show up, and then hit enter to launch. I have found this feature to be more reliable on KDE, though, for one simple reason: keyboard shortcuts work only half of the time in Unity. This is one of the complaints I was going to talk about in next week's article.

The default association is Windows Key + Q and Windows Key + A to launch either the "dash" or the applications menu, and I only found that half of the time anything would launch when using those keyboard shortcuts. And sometimes, nothing would ever come up. In KDE, I've assigned my KMenu to launch with Windows Key + A, and to my knowledge, have never had it simply not launch.

Where searching for files is concerned, that I can't comment on too much. I don't even have an indexer active in my KDE install because I tend to know where everything is at and can get there in a few quick clicks. But where Unity is concerned, I do wish that I was able to launch up the finder (Windows Key + F) and search by file extension (eg: *.png), but I wasn't. I was a bit surprised that 'pictures' worked. For the most part, every other reasonable term I came up with worked as well though, assuming I had documents to match it.
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Old 04-29-2011, 06:17 PM   #6
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Does unity feel faster?
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Old 04-29-2011, 06:45 PM   #7
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Does unity feel faster?
Compared to GNOME 2.x and KDE 4.x, no, not at all. The performance is acceptable, but the draw rates of the windows, for example, when moving them around the screen, doesn't seem to be as fluid as with other DEs. To be fair, though, part of this could do with the fact that AMD Radeon graphics (and perhaps NVIDIA, I haven't tested), aren't agreeing 100% with Compiz + Unity at the moment. Wobbly Windows, for example, doesn't work well at all, and tends to crash Unity entirely (once again, something else I was going to tackle in next week's article).

Even when logging out of Unity, the transition from desktop to the login screen background is not fluid, telling me that there do exist issues that either Canonical, or the GPU vendors via an updated driver, need to fix. I am confident this poor performance is related to Unity specificially, because on my native Gentoo+KDE install, AMD's drivers accelerate both KDE and Compiz just fine.

Again, NVIDIA's drivers might prove a bit better for Unity, but I wasn't able to test this out, due to sheer inconvenience of messing with my rig (I may test it out before my follow-up article next week). Aside from Compiz, though, games and other GPU-accelerated applications ran for the most part fine, with no noticeable detriment to performance.
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Old 04-30-2011, 09:42 AM   #8
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I have used Ubuntu since the 7.04 version. But I am not sure if Unity is a progress realy.Looks nice but I find some bugs and it just not feels ready yet.I guess it be better in the next version.But for now I would rather recommend Pardus 2011."works out the box" with all mediacodes pre-installed, It also got Firefox 4 and LibreOffice.And I think newcomers to the Linux would feel more comfortable with it to in general.

Here is a swedish review of Unity. I translated it with Google:
http://translate.google.se/translate...ntu%2F&act=url
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Old 05-01-2011, 11:15 AM   #9
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Rob will kill me for saying this, but sounds a little like another OS I know... 11.04 is the first Ubuntu (perhaps first Linux distro?) to ship with a hardware accelerated desktop. The last OS I know to do that was Vista... *ducks* And it always seems to come back to those GPU drivers doesn't it.
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Old 05-01-2011, 03:18 PM   #10
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I have used Ubuntu since the 7.04 version. But I am not sure if Unity is a progress realy.Looks nice but I find some bugs and it just not feels ready yet.I guess it be better in the next version.But for now I would rather recommend Pardus 2011."works out the box" with all mediacodes pre-installed, It also got Firefox 4 and LibreOffice.And I think newcomers to the Linux would feel more comfortable with it to in general.
I will have to give Pardus a go soon :-)

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Rob will kill me for saying this, but sounds a little like another OS I know... 11.04 is the first Ubuntu (perhaps first Linux distro?) to ship with a hardware accelerated desktop. The last OS I know to do that was Vista... *ducks* And it always seems to come back to those GPU drivers doesn't it.
That's exactly why, and no, Ubuntu is not the first distro to have a 3D accelerated environment. KDE 4, which came out in January 2008, would have been the first "official" desktop to ship with built-in 3D features. However, prior to that, anyone could have installed the Compiz package in order to turn their desktop into a 3D environment. Yes, even before Vista hit the market.

If Linux had better GPU drivers, I don't think a lot of the issues that exist graphics-wise would. Windows Vista was able to be released with GPU support right out of the box because both AMD and NVIDIA pour most of their development time into that OS, as they should. On Linux, we're always waiting for better graphics support, although as far as I'm concerned, AMD has been the biggest hold-up. Until maybe a year ago, its Linux drivers were horrible, whereas NVIDIA's has been for the most part rock-stable for eons (there are still minor niggles, but there are for Windows as well).
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:00 PM   #11
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Yeah, I think drivers are definitely the major problem with Linux. Fix that, and it would be perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but close!

After using Windows 7, which is really amazing in some ways, I remember why I like Linux/GNU so much. It's free, unrestricted, and has so many tools. Of course, Microsoft may justify the exclusion of some of these tools with the fact that most people wouldn't use them. I use them though. Why can't Windows 7 mount iso's? Why no checksumming utility, etc?
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Old 05-01-2011, 07:11 PM   #12
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Oh, I forgot an important one: Why doesn't Windows Explorer have tabbed browsing?!
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Old 05-05-2011, 01:48 PM   #13
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Hey Rob,

Have you had the chance to use Gnome 3.0 yet? If so, how does it compare to Unity? They look relatively similar, and seem to have the same overall goal in mind. I'd also imagine that since Unity is a shell running on top of Gnome 2.x, while Gnome 3.0 is its own environment, that Gnome 3.0 would perform better and be more efficient overall. Is this the case?
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Old 05-05-2011, 07:12 PM   #14
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Microsoft may justify the exclusion of some of these tools with the fact that most people wouldn't use them. I use them though. Why can't Windows 7 mount iso's? Why no checksumming utility, etc? Oh, I forgot an important one: Why doesn't Windows Explorer have tabbed browsing?!
The thing I find interesting is that there exists a -lot- of software on any Windows install that most home users won't even touch, but it's there. And at the same time, like you mentioned, simple but useful features have never been implemented, especially something like a hash-check tool (MD5 or SHA support would be nice). I guess like the NTFS file system, Microsoft just doesn't care about data integrity ;-)

I don't think I'd ever use a tabbed file manager (I haven't in the past), but I could see how it'd be useful, and should be there. Can also agree on the mounting of ISOs, though thankfully a few easy-to-use and free tools exist for that.

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Have you had the chance to use Gnome 3.0 yet? If so, how does it compare to Unity? They look relatively similar, and seem to have the same overall goal in mind. I'd also imagine that since Unity is a shell running on top of Gnome 2.x, while Gnome 3.0 is its own environment, that Gnome 3.0 would perform better and be more efficient overall. Is this the case?
I haven't, but I'd like to soon. For the most part, I do assume that it's quite like Unity, but I have heard that there are subtle differences that might sway you to one or the other. You might be interested in taking a look at this:

http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/osr...-is-Better.htm

Performance-wise, I don't think there would be a huge difference. At the end of the day, GNOME 3 is still a shell that sits atop requires libraries (GTK+). Windows is much the same, with Explorer.exe (close it, and the entire desktop environment goes with it). It's true that GNOME 3 would have an advantage in that GTK+ is built around its inherent environment, but performance-wise, Ubuntu could easily adopt the same base libraries and code its own environment.

This isn't to say that one performs better than the other, however, but that might be a little tough to test. Compiz is the biggest killer of performance, especially when lower-end graphics cards are concerned - or poor drivers. I had experienced rather poor performance on an AMD Radeon HD 5970 with Compiz under Unity, and I suspect drivers have a lot to do with that. I got fed up with that GPU screwing up an older MMO I play, so I plopped an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 in here, and will test Unity again to see if things like Wobbly Windows performs better.

I wouldn't worry too much about performance in general, though. At the end of the day, both environments are rather "bloated" compared to their old counterparts (same with KDE 4 vs. KDE 3, but it still runs great).
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Old 05-05-2011, 09:19 PM   #15
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If it weren't for gaming, I'd ditch Microsoft entirely I think. I'm trying to get into game programming, and DirectX appears to be the superior choice. I wonder if I could still develop on Linux for Windows? It might be difficult. There's always SDL, but I'm not sure I want to go that route.

I just ordered a few books on game programming, and one on Linux kernel development. Check 'em out here: http://amzn.com/w/3A8TDQNR87X8W. I love this kind of stuff.

I'm sort of hoping I can get into game development. Too bad there's none in New Brunswick. My dream scenario would be me and some of my cohorts doing our own. Failing that, I'd like to go to British Columbia or Quebec (there are booming game industries in both these provinces). This is an idea I have, at any rate.

I haven't tried Gnome 3.0 yet, either. I'm curious, though concerned that they may have sacrificed functionality for this.
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