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Ubuntu Netbook Edition

Ubuntu 10.10: Maverick Meerkat Benchmarked And Reviewed
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Now that we've gone over all of the wonderful things that Unity is supposed to be, let's see how it works in UNE 10.10.

Installation

Installation of UNE 10.10 was a breeze, just like its Desktop Editon counterpart. Setup options were completed during installation, along with restricted packages and updates. Proprietary Broadcom drivers for the Mini10v's Wi-Fi card were already active upon the very first boot. From this point on, things took an abrupt turn for the worse.

Is There A Desktop, Or Not?

We noticed that, although there is no traditional desktop in UNE, a Desktop folder still exists in the Home directory. After opening a text file from a USB thumb drive in gedit, we attempted to perform a Save As. The Desktop folder was the default location--fair enough. So, we'll just have to get to the Desktop folder from the file manager. Unfortunately, the Files & Folders entry in the launcher lacks a Desktop folder! Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and even Downloads are present, but no Desktop (or Templates, Public, Examples). We changed the sorting in the Files & Folder screen from All Files to Other, and it displayed this:

Nautilus, the GNOME file manager, can be accessed via a folder icon shortcut in the upper-right side of the Files & Folders screen. Another way to open Nautilus is by inserting a new volume like a USB thumb drive and selecting its icon in the launcher. And there is always the terminal. However you do it, pin Nautilus to the launcher when you get it open. Files & Folders is not a suitable file manager, and a poor file browser. You will need Nautilus.

Keeping Up The Suspense

When we switched back to gedit from the Files & Folders screen, the Mini 10v went into suspend mode--only the first of many times this would happen. The Mini 10v again went into suspend while switching desktops. Although beautiful, the new launcher partially disappeared on us several times as well. While it eventually came back, it required using the slow and anemic new home screen to navigate.

The home screen isn't without problems either. Selecting the Web entry again put the Mini 10v into suspend. After we logged back in, closing Firefox caused the entire GUI to go black and rebuild, as if X was reset. This behavior happened on several other occasions.

Though we're not sure what was causing the GUI to reset, disabling suspend and the screensaver seemed to have fixed the awkward issues. It seems that the system does not go into suspend at the set time interval, but if that interval passes, it will go into suspend the next time you click anything (in effect, when you want to come out of suspend).

The Fail Train Keeps On Rolling

The fact that Unity places the window buttons and file menu of the forefront application in the upper panel like OS X isn't necessarily a bad thing. When the window buttons fail to appear, it is.

This alternative windowing paradigm is also a problem for the world's fastest growing Web browser. There are two ways that Chrome (or Chromium) handles this: using the built-in window buttons, or using the system theme buttons. Both options produce duplicate window buttons.

We also noticed that newly-installed applications cannot be pinned to the launcher until the system is restarted.

And then there was this:

Mutter is the compositing manager for Unity, which is based on Clutter, the toolkit introduced in Moblin. To be honest, we're not entirely sure how this happened, or the circumstances surrounding the appearance of this error. So many problems surfaced in UNE that it became difficult to document each one before another cropped up. But it happened, and we grabbed the screenshot.

Workspaces

The one aspect of Unity that I thought was bound to be imperfect, was the workspace switcher. In reality, that was the one aspect that actually worked... really well. The action on the Workspaces tool is surprisingly snappy, and we experienced no noticeable lag activating it. The zoom in and zoom out animations are very smooth, and moving applications between workspaces is fluid. Returning to an application or switching to another workspace is also very quick, but had a tendency to restart the GUI on occasion.

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