I must be missing something. Here we are with a new interface for Ubuntu, a new KDE, a new Gnome, a new GTK, and I haven’t yet been able to figure out what was wrong with the old ones. I used Ubuntu for more than a year, and I have used Mint, which largely entails Ubuntu’s interface, for more than a year, and I haven’t yet found anything that I want to do which the interface prevents me from doing.
Let me be clear on that. There are a few things — I can count them on the fingers of one hand — which I would like to be able to do which I can’t. One is using the right mouse click menu in Nautilus to send files to locations other than my Home folder and the Desktop. Another is to have a different wallpaper background in each workspace. A third is to be able to delete or rename files in the File Open and File Save dialog boxes. But none of these seems to require a complete overhaul of the OS and its graphic interface, as far as I can tell. On the contrary, they seem to be the kind of thing a competent programmer could fix in about ten minutes.
So I am puzzled: who, exactly, said that Gnome 2 was all wrong? Who said KDE 3 was no good? Who said that the previous Ubuntu interface was terrible, and confusing, and needed to be completely revamped? It wasn’t me, or anyone I know, or know of. Everyone I know seemed to agree that things were going pretty well. Yes, hardware changes all the time, and we need new drivers, and new software to take advantage of the new things we can do. But all that should take place below the surface.
So I am getting a nasty sinking feeling that Canonical at least — and maybe the Gnome and KDE gurus too — are being sucked in by the same misconception that sucked in Microsoft when they came up with Vista and later Windows 7; the misconception that change is good just because it is change: that you can make something look and work better just by making it different; that you can — at one and the same time — please your established audience of productive users and provide a new toy for the fanboys and fangirls with short attention spans. It may even seem like it’s working for a while, because it’s mostly the fanboys and the fangirls who write the reviews, and everyone likes something new to talk about for their magazine or their blog or their podcast. But for every bleeding-edge superuser there are half-a-dozen people actually trying to get some productive work done: and every change in their software means delays, and catastrophes, and painfully relearning what you thought you knew already.
I may be wrong: perhaps Unity and Gnome 3 will blast a path to the future for us. But somehow I doubt it. Change is like pain: it’s best when it happens infrequently, and in small doses.
And my impressions of Unity, running in VirtualBox:
1. What the hell is this?
2. How do I alter it?
3. How do I turn it off?
4. Where is Compiz?
5. Ah, so I can turn it off when I log in.
6. Oh, but I chose automatic login. Sh**!
7. That’s a pretty wallpaper. Where did my toolbar, panels and menu go?
8. How the f*** do I shut down and remove this pile of steaming crap from my system?
Let’s hope that the Mint team are wise enough to stay off the bandwagon of change for change’s sake.