Back to the future for the Ubuntu desktop

The Register has a review of the Ubuntu 11.04 beta release which suggests there are some rocky times for existing Ubuntu users ahead.  The part the article that stuck out to me reads:

The highlight of the current launcher is the plethora of keyboard shortcuts, which let you to launch applications, open file browsers and call up system-wide searching without taking your hands off the keyboard.

This is basic functionality which X11 window managers have had for years.  I use IceWM which has had these features available through editing simple text configuration files for as long as i can remember (probably more than 10 years, since the SourceForge history for icewm’s 1.2 branch extends back to the year 2000).  And icewm provides many keyboard features which are simply not exposed to the user in current versions of the default Ubuntu GNOME desktop (e.g. go back to the previous virtual desktop used regardless of which number it was).

The paragraph continues:

There are also a few nice touches in the various indicator apps – for example you can simply hover your mouse over the volume indicator and use the scrollwheel to adjust the volume without ever actually clicking anything.

Again, this is basic functionality.  I use this feature in Amarok 1.4 (a really old version that i’m not supposed to admit that i still use – but that’s the subject of another blog post 😉 all the time.  Is it really so innovative?  Not only that, Ubuntu has been pulling functionality (like tooltips which tell you how much battery time is remaining) out of the indicator apps for the past several releases.

What this all suggests to me is that we’re about to embark on a period in Ubuntu’s history where functionality will be back to basics.  (Similar to what happened when Apple first released iOS and it lacked basic functionality like cut & paste.)  As for me, i’ll stick with Ubuntu classic desktop or perhaps take refuge on Debian while things settle down.  At the moment, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS actually fulfills all of my desktop/mobile computing needs, and i’m not prepared to iron out the bugs for them on a user interface which is targeted at users with very basic skills and with much more limited functionality needs than my own.


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