Oneiric Ocelot Not Quite the Stuff of Dreams

One of the nicest things about Linux distributions like Ubuntu is that you don't have to spend the night standing in a queue just to get the latest version of an operating system on the day of its release.

Unlike some other (closed) systems where supply is deliberately constrained
to create an impression of even greater demand, Ubuntu is upfront and
relaxed about new versions.


I sat down at my Linux desktop yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see a popup informing me that the next version of Ubuntu Linux (version 11.10 a.k.a. "Oneiric Ocelot") was now available and would I like to upgrade?

With a smile of anticipation, I clicked Yes, and the upgrade began. My ADSL link showed a steady bandwidth of around 400 kBps throughout. An uneventful hour and a half later, I rebooted into Oneiric Ocelot. That was the kind of experience I've got used to with Ubuntu over so many online upgrades.

Most of the time, upgrades to Ubuntu are boringly anticlimactic. That's a good thing, by the way, because users hate surprises, and there are really very few nice surprises possible on an upgrade.

The dictionary says "oneiric" means "pertaining to dreams", but there was something almost nightmarish with this upgrade that was even worse than the upgrade to 11.04 ("Natty Narwhal").

Someone at Canonical has taken it into their head that a completely re-imagined user interface would be a good thing. The same someone has also arrogantly assumed that there's no need to give users a choice when changing a fundamental aspect of the user interface that they will use all the time.

My unpleasant surprise after both upgrades was the horror they call the Unity Desktop. I tried to be fair to them. I believe I gave Unity an hour of my time both times. In the end, I gave up. I just hated it. Sorry Canonical, I recognise you're trying, but Unity really doesn't work for me. From the number of similar comments I read on the web, I'm hardly alone.

What was far worse than installing Unity by default (without asking me if I wanted it) was not providing me a quick way to get back to the default Gnome desktop of earlier versions. I was actually forced to download the Gnome desktop, then re-login to select it as my default desktop.

1. Why didn't I have the choice to say no to Unity at the time of the upgrade?
2. Why wasn't it a straightforward option to return to the "classic" desktop?

For a distribution that is supposed to be the friendliest desktop Linux, this is very poor showing indeed.

My other major whinges are that the "Show desktop" button on the taskbar has disappeared, as has the "System" menu on the menu bar. I now have to minimise every window manually, and have no way to set several preferences. Cosmetically as well, the taskbar at the bottom and the menu bar at the top now sport a ghastly dark grey colour, and the desktop theme that I used to use has disappeared from the list of options. Since I've forgotten what it was called, I don't think I can get it back.

This upgrade experience has been anything but oneiric. I feel like I've been mauled by an ocelot.

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