At the outset, I feel I should explain the title. I am using GNOME-Shell 3.4 again, having shucked Unity in favor of it.
But… but… you say. Didn’t you say that Unity was amazing? I did. And I don’t think I’m going to go back on anything I said in my previous posts. Remember, I won’t use a UI if I don’t like it. And I chose to use Unity for the past several weeks, and that means I liked it.
Ubuntu 12.04 has been described as the best release of Ubuntu yet, and I don’t fault that. Most of the hurrah’s Ubuntu has gotten on this release are for the improvements to Unity, the addition of HUD, and the many other minor fixes and tweaks along the way.
It’s been 2 years since the fall of GNOME 2. GNOME 2 had lots of minor bugs, but instead of fixing them, GNOME developers decided to scrap the whole project and move into GNOME 3 (a project which had been developed for 6-7 years and which had it’s own unique bugs).
For whatever reason, Ubuntu decided to not run with popular opinion, and quickly cobbled together it’s own GUI, which they called Unity. Unlike GNOME3 which had almost half a decade of slow developments under it’s belt at that point, Unity was kind of a flash project. It had bugs, some of them serious. And it would take entire distribution cycles for some of those bugs to be removed or even addressed.
And, looking back at the events which led to Linux User Interface Battle (Unity vs GNOME3 Shell), I find it almost ironic the bugs that have been tolerated on both sides all this time, because other problems are considered bigger.
And it’s still ironic what both of those UI’s CAN’T do correctly.
For example, both GNOME 3 and Unity have issues with mouse cursors. In case you hadn’t realized it yet, there are only 5 cursor themes installed on Unity (and only one of them works 100%).
So let’s say you download a mouse cursor theme and install it to the correct location on your drive. Remember GNOME 2 where you could bring up Appearance properties and change the pointer and preview it immediately? That is history… Now, in order to change your cursor theme you have to be a Linux wizard! First, to change your mouse cursor theme, you have to install gnome-tweak-tool and change the theme there. But that doesn’t work completely (it might only change the cursor for 40% of the programs you use, or for none at all). So then, you have to open the Terminal and type “sudo update-alternative —config x-cursor-theme” and select the x-cursor-theme you just opted to use in gnome-tweak-tool again to make it a systemwide change! But that still doesn’t work completely… Finally, you have to Alt-F2 and type “compiz —replace” and (theoretically) your mouse cursor should change after all that. But usually, one more step is required. You must restart your computer to make the change stick everywhere.
How retarded is that?
Another thing Unity can’t do is themes! You can’t theme Unity AT ALL! It is what it is. The only things you can tweak on Unity are whether the dock hides or not, and the size of the icons in the dock. And since Intellihide was removed as an option recently, hiding the Unity dock sometimes causes more problems than you bargained for (I believe the “My dock disappeared and won’t come back” bug is classified as a low-priority bug; the solution suggested is “Don’t hide it”)
So as long as the white cursor set works, and the dock is visible, everyone is happy. Mouse cursors are not an extremely high priority. Icons and window themes are not an extremely high priority. At least, not in comparison with the hundreds of other bugs that plague Unity and GNOME 3.
But it’s these minor inconveniences that really tweak some people off!
Which leads to my initial statement. I have decided to start using GNOME Shell again. You’re probably wondering why.
Here’s the thing, when you dig into one particular operating system enough, you’ll eventually find all it’s flaws. And I still have some issues with Unity. Ironically, changing the mouse cursors is a problem shared by GNOME-Shell, so I found no immediate resolution there, but when I went to check out GNOME-Shell it captivated me faster than Unity did… so I stayed.
In parting, I will admit there were a few things I truly liked about Unity. And there were some things I didn’t realize could be improved about Unity until I looked at GNOME Shell
The Ubuntu Software Center. I rarely used it since I favor other hardcore solutions like Synaptic. But I did like the graphical whoosh that USC did when you installed a program thru it. The program would fly from your USC to the Dash bar and stick there. It was cool!
HUD was another thing I liked. However, I rarely used HUD. It was much easier on my mind to explore a menu.
12.04 didn’t cause my laptop to overheat. The overheating bug is something that I refer to as a superbug, because it was a bunch of micro problems inside and outside the kernal that caused observable macro problems (HEAT!!). It took Ubuntu about a year and two distribution cycles to solve it.
When I first tested Unity on 12.04 I was impressed by the speed of the Dash menu. It wasn’t laggy like it had been in previous distribution cycles. I’ll touch on this later though.
There was one issue I mentioned in my previous article that I still stick to. It’s hard to multitask on Unity. Multitasking for me is a big deal! On a normal day, I usually have Chromium, Skype, the FatRat download manager, Synaptic, and 2-3 Terminals open all at once. When I have that many programs open, and I’m flipping back and forth between them, Unity can’t keep up! This is where Unity fails horribly and ends up slowing me down! The Unity taskbar shows that a particular program is open. I click on that icon to raise the program, but it will only raise the last used window in that program. What if I want a different window? Click again. It will spread the active windows of that program eventually. Then click on the window you want and it pops to the top. But if you click on a different program and then try clicking back again that window is what will display. Want a different window? Repeat the directions above… see, how Unity complicates multitasking?
So, after updating the repositories with ricotz’s PPA and GNOME3’s PPA and updating gnome-shell to the highest version, I switched to see what things looked like on the other side.
When I checked out GNOME Shell I discovered that as fast as Unity was (mentioned above), the Activities Overview in GNOME 3 was about 20x-50x faster. It found results as I typed individual keys, no matter how many programs I had installed and no matter how fast I typed. Unity always lagged slightly, sometimes by a fraction of a second, sometimes more. There was no lag finding the program I wanted on GNOME 3. Unity gets props for increasing it’s speed, but for me, GNOME 3 gets the vote because it’s still faster!
Despite the fact that the overheating problem (mentioned above) appeared solved, I have noticed that my laptop is running even cooler while using GNOME Shell. Unity deserved some props. Not overheating in the first place is good; but cooler is ALWAYS better, so GNOME 3 wins my vote.
GNOME 3 does themes! You can change how the desktop looks easily by writing up a CSS stylesheet and loading it into theme package. You can select the theme package using the gnome-tweak-tool. Unity I don’t think should even get a vote here because the Unity UI is locked and cannot be themed, except in very minor ways (mentioned above)
GNOME 3 has one issue in common with Unity. Mouse cursors. Neither UI does mice spectacularly. And GNOME 3 has serious complications with “compiz —replace” because GNOME 3 doesn’t use Compiz as a display manager. So both fail in this regard.
Multitasking is amazing on GNOME 3! Push your mouse into the left-hand corner and it spreads all the windows. Use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out of certain windows, or click on a window to select it. There are certain shell extensions which refine the process even better (select windows using Alt+#, native window placement, etc.) Multitasking has never been easier or more efficient. Unity approaches the UI in a different way than GNOME 3 does, so it’s hard to compare them on this area. For me, I’m torn between both… they both have individual facets I like.
Long blog summed up? TL,DR?
I’m using GNOME Shell now. My reasons are my own.