Ben you may have seen this but Ars…

Ben, you may have seen this, but Ars Technica has posted a review of Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal).

As a new user, I’m just starting to become comfortable (or less uncomfortable, anyway) with Ubuntu; I think this review is spot on, and in particular it does a good job of summarizing some of the deficiencies in the Unity shell, better than I would have been able to do.

In particular, the reviewer identified two problems that have definitely frustrated me, although I didn’t know whether the problem was me or Unity:

  • The Mac-style global menu bar. This continues to be nonintuitive for me, and I see that I’m not the only one. I’ll eventually get used to having to move my mouse pointer up to the top of the screen just to see what menu choices there are, but I shouldn’t have to.
  • The so-called “application lens,” which seems to be the nearest equivalent of the Windows Start menu. I’ve found this nearly impossible to use, but I thought it was just because I hadn’t learned my way around yet.

It’s not all bad. The app lens does have a built-in search capability, so if I know the name of the app I want to run, I can just press the Windows key and type. (For that reason, I ended up not installing GNOME Do.) But the app lens provides no good way of exploring what’s actually there (I didn’t know I had a video editor, or what it was called, before I read about it in the review). Launching the calculator is easy enough (it’s called “calculator”), but if I don’t know the name of something, the app lens makes it pretty painful to find it.

I’ve also been frustrated by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any easy, UI-driven way to configure a volume to mount at startup. Each time I boot, I have to open my Windows partition just to force it to mount; creating links to files or folders that live there won’t work. I know I can remedy this problem by editing fstab, but jeez, I shouldn’t have to do that.

Having said all that, none of this is fatal. Ubuntu continues to work well for my core tasks (Web browsing, e-mail, text editing, and word processing), and I’m continuing to learn my way around. I realize that part of the fun is tweaking the system, and I’ve actually found myself using my netbook more in the last few weeks than I had for a while; it feels like a new toy.