4 May 2011

Fighting with Ubuntu 11.04 (Unity)

Ubuntu 11.04 is one of the most expected releases this year. Yes, there were lots of pre-release discussions, reviews, controversy and so on. Finally, it was released.
As you may know, my laptop is quadro-boot. One of the systems I had there was Ubuntu 10.10, which was upgraded from 10.04.
Of course, such an event like Ubuntu 11.04 release could not be bypassed by me. This time I decided to go through fresh install route and replace my Ubuntu 10.10 with Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity desktop. Before going for final installation, I ran it in Live mode from Live USB. First impression was positive, so decision was made to go on.

I must admit that Live mode of Ubuntu 11.04 was less problematic than installed mode.
First problems were noticed during the installation phase.
I could not manually enter names for mount points for partitions on my HDD. You can only select them from the list of pre-defined options. Yes, it is OK if you only have 2 systems: Windows and Ubuntu on your HDD. You can assign /windows as mounting point for your windows partition. What if you have more, like me? I wanted to create /kubuntu and /debian for respective partitions, and failed. Yes, this issue is easily resolvable by editing fstab file on post-installation phase. But this function worked differently in Ubuntu 10.04 installation program. Why was it changed?
Another issue was only noticed by me when installation was over and I was asked to reboot. Ubuntu 11.04 automatically installed GRUB2 without asking my wish! I am more or less sure that I did not see such question or option during the installation. That is arbitrariness! The reason for my disappointment is that I have GRUB2 configured for my purposes in my Kubuntu installation. I had to run sudo grub-install from Kubuntu to solve this issue.
Unfortunately, driver for my Broadcom 4311 WiFi card did not work after installation. That was a surprise because I allowed closed-source software use during the installation (of course, only those bits which are delivered in iso image). And it worked "out of the box" in Ubuntu 10.10. All the experiments with deactivating/reactivating of driver via "Additional drivers" part of configuration panel were useless.
I was in despair! It was a fight which I expected, and I thought the easy win here. But why had Ubuntu (almost) beaten me? The answer was in dmesg and log viewer. Driver was activated and... blacklisted! Why????? I felt myself very baffled at that point.
Of course, solution was found: Ubuntu is famous for its support base. To make my card working I had to connect laptop to LAN cable and follow steps described in Ubuntu Forums post. WiFi card was on and working as expected. I write this blog post from Ubuntu 11.04.
Next step is to connect my network drive share. Samba not included into Ubuntu 11.04 package. I had to install it from Software Manager. But even with Samba installed, I could not mount my network drive. Neither mount command nor fstab worked. I got error message "CIFS VFS: cifs_mount failed w/return code = -22". This error message means that username is not specified. But I always have "-o guest,nolinux" as part of my mount command. This issue was solved by installing smbfs package from Ubuntu Software Centre. As usual, solution was found in the Ubuntu's giant support team - Internet. This issue was discussed and resolved before.

Once external network drive is connected, I could try to play the music which I keep there. Unfortunately, it was not immediately possible. MP3 codec was not installed, even though it was requested during installation. Probably because they are to be downloaded? Not sure... Anyway, I did some downloading of codecs and then added my favourite player VLC. Now I can listen to music.
Another usual step which I do is to add Russian keyboard layout to my system. I had no issues in this area, as I have already tried it in Live mode.
My favourite browser, as you may already know, is Google Chrome. It is not directly availably from Ubuntu Software Manager (Chromium is there instead). I had to download .deb installer from Google's page. Installation itself was cared of by Ubuntu Software Manager. Unexpectedly is hanged up when installing Google Chrome from .deb file. Most interesting is that installation itself was OK. Google Chrome (v.11) works without any issues.
I use QutIM as my favourite internet messenger. It is one of the few to support Mail.ru Agent "out of the box". Unfortunately QutIM does not work properly in Ubuntu 11.04. For whatever reason, it does not place an icon to the menu bar, like Skype does. I found forum messages about this, but they are not resolved yet.
Do you think that I listed all the issues I had with Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity desktop? The very last was waiting for me during shutdown. Basically, the issue is that Ubuntu 11.04 does not shutdown or reboots itself properly. It hangs. Looks like this bug is already reported, but not resolved.
It would be unfair to note only bad things which noticed in Ubuntu 11.04? There are some positive things too.
Ubuntu 11.04 comes with much newer version of Linux kernel, compared to latest available for (K)Ubuntu 10.10: 2.6.38-8 and 2.6.35-29 correspondingly.
Then, Ubuntu 11.04 boots much faster than Ubuntu 10.10. It takes only ~43 seconds to take me from GRUB2 screen to fully functional system with WiFi enabled. Big improvement from ~65 seconds for Ubuntu 10.10! Of course, the result is fixed in Racecourse Scoreboard!
My general feelings about Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity desktop now are very inconsistent. Yes, Unity has its benefits like additional screen real estate and speed. But then it makes system to stumble out of the blue. And it is also less customizable compared to GNOME (v.2) or KDE.
Anyway, I will keep Ubuntu 11.04 installed on my laptop. Maybe I'll get used to it some time.

Do you want to try Ubuntu 11.04 yourself, but cannot download image and burn it to CD yourself? You can check the page Buy Linux CDs and make an order there.

Useful links:
List of top-rated applications to be installed in Ubuntu 11.04: http://www.ubuntuvibes.com/2011/04/17-top-rated-applications-in-ubuntu.html
How to remove chat and mail icons from system tray in Ubuntu 11.04: http://shortrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/04/ubuntu-1104-natty-narwhal-how-to-remove.html


  1. I will definitely test Mint before the new Ubuntu / Unity if I find the time to start with a new distribution. :)

  2. @Go2Linux:
    Which Mint? They have good half a dozen different types of Mint.

  3. Mark Shuttleworth stated somewhere that Ubuntu 11.04 is "simple by design"... You don't want custom mount points, cause you don't know what a mount point is. You want grub autoinstalled on your MBR, cause you don't know what a boot manager or an MBR is. And so on... This is fine by me, cause old users like myself can go for a different distro. However, I do think that something like an "advanced options" tab would be nice, in case someone does know what a mount point is.

    Canonical takes a risk of not gaining a good amount of new users (because desktop market is a tough one) and on the same time losing a good portion of their existing userbase. I hope that doesn't happen, because what benefits a Linux oriented company, also benefits the rest of the linux ecosystem.

  4. I'm waiting for Linux Mint 11 with GNOME 3 (not GNOME Shell), before I consider upgrading. If I'm not happy with GNOME 3, I'll more than likely move to XFCE, and probably go for the Linux Mint Debian Edition.

    I am looking forward to getting my 10 inch Tablet with Ubuntu 11.04 though

  5. Yes an advanced configuration for thigns like Grub, partition mount etc is needed. Its true that novice uses may not want to configure these, but advanced used may.

    And many novice users may at some stage seek to get some assistance from an advanced user ,... and if the distro does not cater for advanced users and they keep away from it, novice users will eventually be the losers.

    So Canonical, please do think of advanced users as well.

    And yes 11.04 - is so far the least stable release for me!

    1. lost sound
    2. Unity is not functional on older machine
    3. Unity 2D is not as customisable
    4. Gnome3 does not work with my NVidia card
    5. Desktop Switcher does not work for me in U2d
    5 Some issues with Unity in VirtualBox
    6. Not sure .. but I think it takes longer to boot that 10.10?

    So am sticking with 10.10 for now.

    BUt am willing to give it time to mature . so hopefully 11.10 will be much improved. Much like KDE 4.0 took it to 4.6 before it became usable.

    So Canonical you got work to do .. but you can do it!

    This is Linux after all and Open Source!!

  6. You can decide where you want to put Grub with the Ubuntu installer. It's a small little line at the bottom of one of the screens (I can't remember which one). I had the same issue of having it installed on my MBR (over my Windows boot manager) so I had to remove everything and reinstall it later. On the second install, I found the spot to select where I want Grub installed and I moved it my /boot partition.

  7. Yeah, I tried it out and wasn't happy with 11.04. So I decided to try out Mint 10 and I'm loving it. Mint Menu is snazzy yet highly functional and I haven't run into a problem yet.

  8. @Anonymous:
    I hope that was just Mark's joke and they will return back to normal installation procedure.
    Otherwise Canonical goes Apple way - to decide what customer needs and what does not need.

  9. @Dany:
    Where is poll station where I can sign your petition?
    Although, I'll move to 11.04.

  10. @Anonymous:
    You have tempted me to run installation again.
    Nope, I'll not. I'll trust you.

  11. @Bunty:
    It depends... I don't like Mint menu hence Mint. It's much better in XFCE version though...

  12. I too had trouble with 11.04. It would not let me load unity, my mouse pointer kept disappearing and lots of glitches during reboot. I went back to 10.10, it works well on my old Dell OptiPlex GX 4OO. 1GB RAM, 1800 MHZ CPU AND 20GB HDD. This is the first time I had any problems upgrading since 8.04. Hope this gets fixed.

  13. @Anonymous:
    Have you considered to use Kubuntu or other *buntus? Or maybe switch to GNOME in 11.04?

  14. i wil stay to maverick,,,
    i feel my system now stable, and i dont change anything again...
    in my opinion, 11.04 like vista, i hope in 11.10 will be better...

  15. Hi, actually I'm quite new to Linux(6 months with Ubuntu), I've upgraded to 11.04 a week ago and I'm absolutely disappointed, Unity makes me crazy and now I'm using Xfce.
    The main problem for me is that it took a lot of time and reading to make 10.10 look and feel the way I like it and now what, do it again, no way!

  16. @My Mind:
    I think Maverick will not live for long... It will be put off the support eventually.

  17. @Anonymous:
    once you learnt what you need to set up for your own convenience, you can repeat steps faster. That's not a big deal from my point of view.
    If you forget to restore something, than it is not so important for you.
    Anyway, XFCE is pretty slick DE. I reviewed SalineOS and Linux Mint XFCE, they are very good. search for this blog for details.

  18. I too had many of the problems stated here and in addition I had Gray Screen "Oh Know" which has a shut down button which didn't work. This took me back to the old days of the Blue Screens of Windows and I wasn't going to put up with that. My screen saver hung and I had to cold boot to get out also. After several of these cold boots I removed 11.04 reinstalled 10.10 and restored my backup. As for 11.04 being faster, hmm... I have a quad system and for sure 11.04 wasn't faster from grub to main screen. I figured 25% slower. I would for sure call this a Vista version.

  19. @Anonymous:
    I have serious thoughts about migration from K(Ubuntu) to something else. Since I have 4 systems installed and 2 of them are *buntus, I have space for manoeuvre.
    I seriously checked boot time on my machine with stopwatch. Ubuntu 11.04 takes less time. Check in Racecourse Scoreboard.

  20. Great review.Unity has to be one of the first DE's I used for a long time that I used and felt that the strong working parts of the system and what was actually new were the problem. I hate the Global Menu it has to be one of the worst features of OSX. The lack of customisation features force you to adopt a Unity style of working when I'm used to bend DE's to my way of working. The last nail in Unity's coffin, for me, is compiz and failing to work well (read at all) with my Wine apps.

    Unity is new and brave and fresh. It just isn't any good.

  21. @themainliner:
    I don't think we need to put last nail into the coffin. I'd say we need to wait until Unite gets out of cot.

  22. Hi, My name is Ken, I have been introduced to ubuntu linux i thing the number is 11.04 by a friend of mine. I only know Microsoft windows. Its been over 1 month now so i will give you all my unbiased opinion. My printer i use through windows i have not been able to use since day one. i have the new kodak all in one. my usb stuff seems to work ok but i can no longer use my gps softare, Tomtom. I've been working very closely with my friend to find compatible software with my software i use through windows and to be honest very disappointing. The operating system seems to be ok but reminds me way to much of my apple ip-touch. This does not appeal to me. The layout of everything is just wearied and i have a difficult time finding what i have installed and have to remember how to get to things without a menu that i'm used to.

    All in all i tried it, but there is nothing here to keep me using it on a daily basis. So my friend will be taking it off soon.


  23. @Ken:
    I am happy to see you on my blog.
    Unfortunately, there is no Linux version of TomTom Home software. That is one of reasons I still keep WinXP on my drive.
    Printer - I think you need to search for forums about Ubuntu. Maybe ask question about your particular model. I can't help without knowing the model number.
    I encourage you to try different desktop Environment before dumping the Ubuntu. You have tried Unity which is quite controversial. You already have an option to try GNOME 2. If you still dislike it, try Kubuntu. You can download it yourself from the Internet and burn CD to run Live mode (without installation).