Before you switch to the new and not improved Ubuntu, you should know that Unity is now the default desktop. There is no Gnome classic version. So like it or not Unity is what you will get. On newer systems you can run the 3D version, on older systems you will default to the 2D version.
So what’s wrong with Unity? In my opinion it is taking several steps back. It takes away so much of the flexibility and usefulness of the old Gnome desktop. In all fairness to Ubuntu, the real problem is up-stream. The Gnome Project made some major changes and it has effected everyone down stream. Even Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, hates Gnome 3. So Ubuntu has decided to create their own shell to run on top of Gnome 3.
Honestly, in my opinion, both shells suck. I have got to the point where I can use the new Ubuntu Unity desktop, I just don’t like it. However, I can see how it would work fairly well on a touch screen device. And this is what I think they are really aiming at. But in the process they are leaving us desktop users behind.
So what advice do I give to users? Don’t install Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot! Burn yourself a live CD and test drive it first. Don’t install it unless you are sure you like it.
For those still running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS don’t upgrade. Stay with it for as long as you can. This is what I am doing on my main system. I used my laptop to test the new Ubuntu 11.10. So that is my first recommendation – stay with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.
For those of you who just have to have the latest and greatest Linux, I recommend Linux Mint. This is my first recommendation to those just beginning to use Linux. In the next version of Linux Mint they are going to try to fix Gnome 3 to act like the old Gnome 2 that we all loved. I am not convinced that they will fully succeed, but at least it is a move in the right direction.
For those who do not have issues with Ubuntu shoving Unity down your throats, there is always the option of one of the alternative desktops. The closest to Gnome is Xfce, but LXDE is also maturing and feels a little more like Windows. Then for the more adventurous there is always KDE. KDE feels a little like Windows 7 to me. It is very flashy and has a very good group of programs that go with it. It is not very good for older machines, but then neither is Gnome 3. If I have to stay with Ubuntu I think I would switch to Xfce, called Xubuntu.
So there you have it, my thoughts on the latest and saddest Ubuntu to date. I went from an Ubuntu fan boy to an Ubuntu hater. Yes I hate where Ubuntu is going and that millionaire Mark Shuttleworth does give a damn about what the users want. He could have fought for the old desktop that we can to trust and love, but he didn’t. He could have forked off a Gnome branch of Ubuntu and let Unity be a separate thing. But no, he knows better than us.
If I had to make the switch today, Linux Mint would be my choice. But I am waiting to see what happens in the Linux world in the next few years. Canonical will provide support for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS until April 2013 for the desktop version. At that point I will have to make a choice. That will give Gnome 3 time to mature to the point where the damn thing might actually be usable. I blame the Gnome project as much as Mark Shuttleworth for messing with a good thing – Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx.