Goodbye Ubuntu, hello Debian

I’ve been having issues with the direction that Ubuntu/Canonical are taking since a couple of releases. The latest release finally made me decide that it’s time to try something else. Things that are going wrong IMO:

– The notification system was one of the first things where Ubuntu unnecessarily forked away from the already good Gnome notifications. I don’t like the Ubuntu version because it doesn’t have that close button with which I can quickly click a away a notification. For example, if somebody chats me, I want to be able to click it away in case my boss is looking over my shoulders. Also, if I remember correctly, it doesn’t pick up themes that well. I’ve never seen the point of this effort, but I did not care that much either.

– The communications icon in the status bar I never used that much. Except for launching Evolution, Empathy, etc, which is a bit stupid since it makes app launching inconsistent (some apps from the app menu, others from the icon, etc).

– The logout button in the upper right corner I liked. However, it became a little bit of a sink for other stuff as well. The recent move to put the system settings there is complete bullshit IMO. Who would intuitively get the idea that system settings hide behind the ‘on/off’ button?

– The window close/min/max buttons on the left side I didn’t really care much. It’s a clear MacOS ripoff which I personally found a bit pointless. Maybe it makes more sense with Unity now, but this is even more pointless.

– The global menu bar is one of the worst ideas ever, IMO. It might be ok for maximized apps, in which case it pretty much behaves like the normal menus (except that you need to hover over it to make it visible), but for everything else it simply disconnects an application from it’s menu. It’s especially crappy for (e.g.) empathy, which usually sits in my lower right corner of the screen. Now I need to take my focus from there to the upper left corner of the screen (and hover over it) to find the menu. Complete fail. And another pointless MacOS ripoff.

– The new scrollbars I actually hoped would be a nice idea. But the implementation sucks. I cannot simply click in the lower corner of the scrollbar to scroll there in one shot. No, I need to find where that little scroller sits (which is difficult, because it’s only few pixels wide), hover over hit, then grab the little knob and drag it around (or click it to get page scrolls). I understand the intention behind it to offer something that works both on desktops and tablets, but the realization so sucks. Maybe Canonical will improve it in a later release, but given it’s history I have my doubts. What is worse is that some apps have this new scrollbar, some apps the old Gnome one, and some even seem to have the old with strange colors (e.g. gnome-terminal). Completely inconsistent, and another pointless deviation from standard Gnome.

– And finally, Unity, the most pointless deviations from Gnome. It’s conceptually the same as Gnome Shell, it behaves similar in many respects, but just that little bit less usable in a couple of aspects. E.g. I found it trivial and straightforward to launch an app in Gnome Shell (click activities, click applications, choose), where is was quite unobvious to find in Unity: find app menu, which looks more like a zoom button, get a list of favorite/recently used apps, which never really work (haven’t they learned this lesson from windows??), figure out how to get a complete list, search list, find applications after X seconds, click. Complete fail. It’s so beyond me why Canonical did not simply invest in Gnome Shell and build on that. It is this attitude of selfbrewing half baked stuff that drives me crazy about Canonical.

From now on, I will make Debian my default, and keep an eye on Ubuntu inside a VM or such. I was actually quite surprised how well Squezze works. It probably helps that Linux (as a whole ecosystem) is at a point where bleeding edge (which Debian is not) doesn’t do much to improve the user experience (and except of breaking changes like Gnome3, hardly noticable at all). The less bleeding edge but rock solid stuff in Debian is actually quite enjoyable. And it makes clear that the relatively vanilla Gnome (2.30) is much more usable and consistent than the Ubuntu modified Gnome. Let’s see how it goes.

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