Not all that impressed with Ubuntu 11.04 (review)

So I, like most Ubuntu fans, have been counting down to the Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) release.

When it finally arrived I eagerly clicked the install button and essentially stared at the screen for an hour and a half as it downloaded over 1.6 gigabytes (!) of files and began what eventually became an overnight series of endless installs and updates.

When it finally completed by morning, I clicked on the Main Menu dropdown only to find myself staring at Wine, the Windows emulator for Linux. Now, I'm sure Ubuntu probably made the by-default-install-wine move to lure more Windows defectors, but to be honest, it totally ruined the experience for me. When I left Windows, I never looked back and seeing Wine in my default dropdown menu was like Christopher Reeve finding a penny in Somewhere in Time. Not only does Wine make your OS less secure, but it adds unnecessary overhead and clutter to an otherwise clean and streamlined system. Before squashing it like a bug, though, I decided to give it one chance to solve an annoying problem: run Internet Explorer and Safari browsers natively in Linux for web debugging and testing. Right now, I have to load a full-blown Windows XP image in VirtualBox to test my code in those browsers. So, when I came across PlayOnLinux (which runs on top of Wine), I decided to give it a try. Big disappointment. IE6 failed to install and their version of IE7 didn't support VML. I didn't even bother proceeding to Safari. Goodbye PlayOnLinux and Wine!

I also noticed the "Ubuntu Software Center" in the default dropdown. At first it looked promising, with a list of currently installed software and an easy search engine for finding and installing new software. But the excitement soon wore off when I discovered the installed software list isn't alphabetized - a major oversight. Also, the installer doesn't allow you to queue up a bunch of installs and then begin the overall installation process. Bottom line: I'll stick with my Synaptic Package Manager for now.

The upgrade also automatically included something called Byobu Terminal, which IMHO clutters the elegant simplicity of the standard Ubuntu Terminal (if I need to know my memory usage, System Monitor is a click away).

The latest Flash version was totally messed up in Firefox. The screen would flicker and jump around, buttons would disappear, etc.
Update: after doing some research I found a solution: Flash-Aid. Install it, restart Firefox, click the Flash-Aid button in the top-right corner, click the "Execute" button and follow the instructions. Worked like a charm!

One hoped for change that didn't occur was Nautilus still defaulting to the lame "Search documents and folders by name" when pressing Ctrl+F instead of the more powerful "Search for files..." option in the Accessories menu.

Ubuntu also now assumes everyone and their neighbor's dog is on Twitter and Facebook and so automatically installs Gwibber, which (if you hadn't guessed) also irked me. I'm probably the last person on earth that hasn't transformed into a lemming.

Overall, the only positive addition I noticed was the decision to include Libre Office. Although still in its infancy, at the end of the day it's the best option so far for free office functionality.

Conclusion: Bring back 10.10


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