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Ubuntu Popularity: Blessing or Curse? - page 2

Installation

  • September 24, 2007
  • By Bruce Byfield

Like the installer, the desktop in Gutsy Gibbon has changed only in minor ways from earlier versions of Ubuntu. And, in many ways, that's not a bad thing, because Ubuntu's default GNOME desktop has always been well-organized. Its menu avoids overwhelming users with choices, and its organization of panel applets or logout options into several categories helps you locate what you need more easily. Sensibly, too, Ubuntu continues to offer only two virtual workspaces instead of GNOME's usual four--enough to make users aware of the possibility of multiple desktops on the same monitor, but not enough to drag down performance on older machines. Unless you are lucky enough to benefit from some of the extra free or proprietary drivers included in the latest version, you'll probably notice few changes in general appearance and functionality.

Yet despite the thoughtfulness that shows in the basic Ubuntu desktop, it also contains what might be considered over-simplifications. By default, the GRUB menu does not appear, so users might easily miss the availability of a recover mode or memory test of an initial option. Nor do users have an option to display boot messages, although of course they can review the log file later.

In addition, rough edges remain along with the highly polished ones. Although Ubuntu is well-supplied with fonts to display international languages, the quality of fonts for Western European languages remains limited. The default terminal font displays jaggedly at higher resolutions. For desktop use the most convenient is the Bitstream Vera family, which in other company would be mediocre. Other free fonts, such as Linux Libertine, Fedora's Liberation fonts, or other of the SIL International fonts besides Gentium would give users a much better-rounded selection.

Ubuntu also seems to have taken an idea from SymphonyOS, and placed key icons such as the logout, trash, main menu, and Show Desktop at the four corners of the desktop. Unfortunately, at high resolution, these icons are so small that they are easy to overlook, which defeats the effort to make better use of the corners of the screen.

Several years ago, Ubuntu made a promising start on its desktop. However, further evolution is either slow or overdue--and I'm not just referring to the mail browser, either.

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