Saturday, 23 April 2011

Ubuntu Unity losing to Gnome Shell

Battle of the Interfaces
In Linux-land we're at something of a crossroads in terms of the user interfaces and standard desktops presented by different Linux distributions. The two currently in the news are both controversial, partly because working versions are very late arriving, partly because of the changes they impose on the user and partly because of the massive compatibility issues we're having with both of them. 

Given the Open Source community doesn't always have the latest hardware, this is a blow to compatibility with older machines, notwithstanding that both Gnome Shell and Unity are causing trouble on current hardware as well...


The Open Source desktop environment Gnome 3.0 finally made a release last week and it took me that long to get hold of it, interestingly via a Fedora 14 Live CD.

We are also up to Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 2, running the Unity user interface. I've managed to update to this version on a virtual machine and on physical hardware.

Mixed Results
So to summarise:
  • I got Unity working in Beta 2 for the first time in a virtual machine on newly releasedVirtualBox 4.0.6, Complete success!
  • I didn't get the Gnome 3 Live CD to run Gnome shell in VirtualBox - but I did get the classic Gnome 2 desktop and a lovely automated bug reporter to wing the messages back to Red Hat. Partial fail.
  • I then got Natty Beta 1 to work on the AMD Athlon test box - on Gnome 2 without Unity. Partial success.
  • I persuaded the Beta 1 to upgrade to Beta 2 and promptly lost anything like a working install. Not a working xorg session any way I try to work it, mainly because xorg gives up before or at the GDM login screen. Assuming I get that far as both mouse and keyboard usually drop out part way through the boot process. Nothing! Nada! TOTAL FAIL. More on this later...
  • I did get Gnome Shell in Gnome 3 to work on the AMD Athlon, without any issue at all; straight in! Go figure. RC

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