I placed the installation onto a bootable USB key and tried it out first – however, running from a restrictive USB stick means that it runs a little slow. It seemed good and rather than try it for a short while and move on, I decided that a more long term test would be better and I should really install it properly. So I did – as a 20GB partition (considering most of what I do on my Netbook is online, through Pogoplug or my 2GB Dropbox account, I thought this would be sufficient) running alongside Windows.
I then spent a good amount of time getting used to UNR (Ubuntu Netbook Remix), including installing the various apps that I use under Windows (or equivalent). I was left with a feeling that went from being underwhelmed to completely frustrated.
Underwhelmed because UNR is simplified but not obvious in use. For example, there’s a launch bar down the left hand side. Fine. It works a bit like the Windows task bar in that once an application is running and there you can right click on it and ensure it’s there permanently. But to add items, I was expecting to be able to drag the application icons onto it. Nope.
Click on the Ubuntu icon in the top left and you’re shown a big chunky menu – very simple in use, but clicking on an option either launches a single app (Internet launches Firefox) or takes you to a menu of programs that aren’t presented in the same style. It’s not obvious how to change the main menu or, indeed, how to re-assign which grouping your programs appear in. You can’t add to that main menu and, in fact, many options are missing (tools, system, etc)?
Within system settings there is a menu editor, but this seems to relate to the standard Ubuntu start menu (the equivalent of the Windows start menu), which is not used in the Netbook Edition. In the end you have to resort to the applications icon that’s (thankfully) in the launch bar.
Like most fresh OS installs, it needed a bit of tweaking to be more comfortable to my use – for example, I don’t like the touchpad tap option so I went to turn this off. I could but, maybe I’ve been spoilt by Windows, there were very few options relating to the touchpad. Next, I thought I’d tweak the “Effects” to improve performance (or even to give myself a more flashy interface). Sadly, this was greyed out (including, strangely, the message which told me why it was greyed out) and inaccessable, apparantly because of something else I had installed (and something that Ubuntu had come with by default). So, if it’s unavailable by default, what’s the point? How do I change the visual options? Nothing told me.
Next up, managing files and folders. There’s a file manager in the launch bar but this is a stripped-down version that allows you to open folders and launch files and pretty much nothing else – there’s no right click option, for instance. If you want to use the more advanced file manager, you’ll have to do some digging as it’s not even listed in the full application list. Once found, I quickly pinned it to the launch bar.
If I can’t work this out, how is the average person supposed to?
Then, to the frustration. If you want to install a program and it’s in the Ubuntu installation list you’re fine, as it will do all the work for you. Anything else and you’re back to the out-right madness that is multiple types of Linux installation file, each of which requires you to have root access and to perform various command line actions.
Pogoplug was the best example of this – a download is available from their site but with no installation instructions. A quick Google and I found some but to say they’re complicated (it involves installing FUSE, including which of the many FUSE files that you need to install, lots of command line stuff and mounting it as a drive) would be an understatement. I’d like to say this was just the fault of Pogoplug, but it wasn’t – this is just what you’d expect from Linux.
In fact, I was recently looking at adding the facility to my wife’s Asus EEE PC to synchronise the time automatically, but the instructions to do this are nightmarish. When was the last time an installation was so complex with Windows?
So, I struggled to make my away around the system and was having a frustrating time installing some programs (and, in the case of Pogoplug, I didn’t). In the end, I decided the trial was over and I’d remove it. The installation process is made easy but, sadly, uninstalling is a different matter -get it wrong and even Windows will fail to boot, leaving you without any OS. Indeed, I’m writing a follow up post just to cover how to remove a dual-boot Ubuntu installation.
[review]I want to like Ubuntu, I really do. I love the idea of a Netbook specific, speedy OS, but I really don’t think it’s yet fit for the public at large.
Unless you install something from the Ubuntu library adding software gets very complicated, very quickly, far beyond what the average home user would be able to cope with. And the Netbook interface appears thrown together, with a lack of capability in places and not obvious ways to do things.
Until this user experience improves, I can’t see Ubuntu being for anyone but the Linux enthusiast.[/review]