// January 15th, 2012 // 11 Comments » // Free Software
Giving Unity Another Go
Yesterday I installed Unity5.0 and I was pleasantly surprised by some of its new features:
- I can set the panel background colour. By default, the Unity panel adapts itself to match the wallpaper colour. This doesn’t always work out, and with certain background colours it looks really horrible with the icons on it. I set mine to a none-harsh, dark grey and can now see my icons without any desire to fork out my eyes.
- I can set the launcher panel to be ever present. I have plenty of horizontal screen space and I find it annoying not having a window list present on my display. When I have to hover my mouse to the left edge and wait a few hundred milliseconds before I even see the list of open apps and where they are positioned, it just annoys me. Having them always on-screen is just so much easier.
- It’s fast and more stable. Unity 5.0 is noticeably more snappy than it’s predecessors. It also feels less buggy. What drove me away from Unity on Oneiric was that the window placement snapping got horribly confused now and again and the only way out of it was to kill Compiz or otherwise restart Unity. My session is 24 hours old already and still going strong
Some Areas that could do with Improvement
Update: I thought it’s worth mentioning that removing the Gwibber lens removed close to *500MB* of that extra 1GB RAM that was used. There also seems to be an issue where gdbus and dconf worker are way more busy than they should be (at least on my machine). I’m figuring it out and will file bugs if I can confirm them. When they behave better then memory usage in Unity and Gnome Fallback shouldn’t be that far apart.
- Global menus still get confused about running apps. Sometimes I’d get a Thunderbird title in the menu space and Thunderbird has already been closed. This is kind of weird when you’re not aware of the bug.
- Memory usage is high. I’m currently using around 1GB more memory than I typically would when using the Gnome 3 Fallback session with the same software running. I’m hoping that it stays there and that it won’t continue to rise due to memory leaks and other memory issues. This is a deal breaker on application servers.
- The Dash isn’t very pretty or user friendly. I guess the dash didn’t get much work or research done due to the focus on getting bugs fixed, so it’s probably not all that bad. At least you can right-click on the Ubuntu icon now and get a list of installed Unity lenses. The Dash home should really be customisable, and I’m not sure how users are supposed to do some rudimentary tasks like connect to a network share.
Unity has improved a lot recently. I feel that I can continue using it if it’s memory consumption stays under control. I’m testing it on Ubuntu 12.04 which is currently in an early pre-release state. Unity crashed twice while writing this blog entry so I hope it’s just some underlying bugs that will be solved by the time Ubuntu 12.04 hits release.
As for deploying it at client sites, I don’t think I could recommend that until it’s memory issues are resolved. Losing 1GB of RAM is a lot. Simple day to day tasks should be more intuitive (finding recent docs, accessing menus, accessing what used to be known as ‘Places’, etc), and it would help a lot if the Dash home were customisable (I couldn’t find a way to do it from within Unity or anything about it in the documentation). The Gnome 3 Fallback session is very solid and very familiar and I think I’ll continue to recommend it for the typical user desktop. At the rate that Unity is improving though, that might soon change.