It finally happened. At the end of my first week of using Ubuntu 11.10 with Unity, full-time, 8-10 hours a day for work, the system crashed. I fumbled a few keystrokes, hit some combination of keys and froze LibreOffice Writer. And the whole system locked up. This caps a week of chronic little struggles that have made me look longingly at my Windows 7 machine. But I've had some good moments, too.
To recap: I am on a two-week mission to see if I can quit using Windows 7 in favor of Ubuntu 11.10, code-named Oneiric Ocelot and Canonical's Unity interface instead of GNOME (or KDE). So far, I've discovered that there is a lot I like about Unity -- but there are so many flaws with it, that I'm now feeling more annoyed toward it than anything.
When Writer froze this morning, I was in a hurry to get an article to my editor. I waited for Writer to unfreeze itself. One minute, two, three, four. None of the other windows were working, nor was the Dash Home button or access to it via the Windows button. As a long-time Windows user, my instinct was to try control-alt-delete. That got no response. In 11.10, control-alt-delete will bring up a screen asking if you want to log-out ... it isn't a task manager.
THE CHALLENGE: Giving up Windows 7 for Ubuntu 11.10 for two weeks
There was no way to access Terminal, either, as nothing was responding. A hard reboot later and I logged back on -- and happily discovered that Writer's recovery feature worked great. I lost none of my work -- only about 15 minutes of my time. I was, however, in a hurry to send the article in, and not thrilled about the delay.
In my first week, I've had some pleasant experiences, and problems.
Day 2: More monitor/boot problems. As I mentioned earlier, rebooting with dual-screens simply doesn't work. The big monitor doesn't wake up -- or the laptop screen won't. A reader told me to put a shortcut to the Display setting on my desktop. After poking around a few minutes, there was no intuitive way to do that. Right clicking on the desktop only gives me the option to add a new folder or a Writer document. There was no way to drag the displays settings to the desktop.
It wouldn't have worked anyway. Firing up the display setting didn't fix the problem. The only way to fix it was to unplug the monitor, reboot and plug it back in. Not the healthiest thing to be doing to the PC's video port.
While I'm at it: no intuitive way to add shortcuts to Dash Home. I clicked and hunted and read through instructions. I don't seem to be able add my own shortcuts to the Dashboard, although it is easy to add them to the Launcher.
Happily watching Hulu: At day's end, I fired up Hulu and watched some of my favorite TV shows. I expected no problems and got none.
Day 3: Ignoring mouse clicks. I am increasingly annoyed at the random way that mouse clicks don't work on Unity buttons. This is particularly true of the Settings button on the top right screen, which allows me to mess with the display screen, log-off, shut down. Sometimes I click and the drop down screen stays open. Sometimes, the drop down won't stay open, and you have to release the mouse button to get the option to work (Mac style). Sometimes, none of that works, the drop down vanishes before I can click. When this happens, I can't control the box. On several occasions, as I was trying to navigate to the button I wanted, the machine thought I clicked on log-out ... and logged me out.
With the dual monitor problem, I have spent more time logging in and logging out than on any machine ever. The irony is that Windows 7 hellacious log-in times is one of the reasons I'd like to move to a version of Linux. The old Ubuntu GNOME machine I have has none of these problems.
DETAILS: What's in Ubuntu 11.10
Day 4: LibreOffice Writer is excellent. I am pleased with LibreWriter. It has all the features I need, including the ability to track changes. I can upload ODF files into Google Docs, but Microsoft's Windows Live isn't so forgiving. It lets me store ODF docs, but won't open them to edit in the browser. However, LibreWriter can save as a "doc" format, problem solved.
I haven't had reason to pound on the other LibreOffice apps yet.
Day 5: Windows are driving me batty. Whoever decided the window controls should be moved to the left AND the vanishing/reappearing Launcher should also be parked there should be fired. Or worse, should be forced to have to use Unity to get work done every day. Half the time when trying to manage a window, the Launcher is activated, stopping the action until the mouse can be positioned just right. Why am I not allowed to move that Launcher? Plus, the one Windows 7 feature that I turned off -- Snap -- is emulated here and I still hate it. When trying to move windows around, the feature is always making the window go full screen or snap to the side instead of staying where I put it. I am spending a lot of time messing with windows.And no ability to minimize all Windows at once? I will admit that this is just a Windows-user habit. Clicking on the Workspace Switcher and moving windows about is just as easy but I still miss that feature.
Minimized windows vanish, too, and are just replaced by a carrot symbol next to the icon in the launcher. In Windows 7, I can hover over the start bar and see all the open Windows of a particular application.
I had expected to be loving Unity about now and vowing never to go back. We'll see how I feel next week ...
The Source Seeker blog is written by Julie Bort, editor of the Open Source Subnet site as well as the Microsoft Subnet, Cisco Subnet sites. Indeed, Bort is the Online Community Editor for all of Network World. She also writes The Microsoft Update blog. If you have an idea for a blog, or a news tip on open source, Microsoft or Cisco, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 970-482-6454 or follow Julie on Twitter @Julie188.
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