Ocelot in captivity by nbennato at Morguefile.com

Taming the Ubuntu Ocelot

The new Unity desktop is growing on me and the latest version of Ubuntu – 11.10, Oneiric Ocelot – is the slickest I have seen yet.  One of my personal metrics?  Although I have the computer set to dual boot between Ubuntu and Windows 7, I spend nearly 100% of my time in Ubuntu.

For long time Ubuntu users, there may be a couple of steps backwards and there are some things that used to be customizable that you can’t tweak any longer.  However, there is a lot to like about it.  I have been logging in to the previous versions – Maverick Meerkat (10.10) and Natty Narwhal (11.04) using the Classic interface.  I decided I would stick with Unity this time and as I get accustomed to its strengths and weaknesses, I’m enjoying it more.  It is strong in:

  • easy to add new applications to it – open the application, then right click on the application’s icon on the left side pop out navigation bar and select keep in launcher;
  • it is easy to do a system wide search which returns applications and files, which I am finding easier than hunting to determine which menu or folder a given item is in;
  • finally, it has my relatively dated Brother printer’s drivers built-in, so that, for the first time in a long time, I can print to my 2070N networked printer from Ubuntu with plug and play drivers.
[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/davidpwhelan/status/130265176900505600″]
It’s not entirely a bed of roses:
  • The side navigation bar for Unity is quite sensitive and, since Ubuntu places the window controls (minimize, maximize, close) on the top left corner, I often pop out the bar when I just mean to close the window;
  • Gwibber remains a mediocre Twitter client, but I replaced it with Qwit and am much happier;
  • Plugging my Dell Mini 9 netbook into a 1440pixel wide LCD and extending my desktop required me to log out and back in under Ubuntu 2D mode, since 3D mode couldn’t support the sum of the widths of my two screens;
  • There continue to be funky issues with permissions.  For example, when installing the Firefox version 7, a handful of files had the wrong permissions and so I was getting bookmark errors until I drilled down to the sqlite file and chown’ed it to my user account.
As I become almost entirely reliant on Web-based resources, Ubuntu becomes easier and easier to use.  I can use Dropbox to keep files in sync and Libre Office is great when I need to edit a file locally or in a simple RTF format.  For me, the Libre Office word processor and presentation tools are too hard to use if imported into Microsoft Word, although I use Libre to edit text in Word documents sync’ed to my laptop.  Google Docs and Microsoft Office Web apps are better alternatives for me, and of course Web browsers are almost entirely the same from one operating system to another.  Google Chrome does not sync all the extensions to Linux as it does between Windows PCs, but it’s close.
All in all, I am delighted with Ocelot.  Everything about the Ubuntu version of Linux seems to be maturing to the point where, blended with cloud technology and Web-browser-as-gateway, there is no compelling reason to use Windows in my setup.
David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.

1 Comment

  1. I just added two Brother printers to 11.10 and found the process painless. I discovered that I need to get in a sort of rhythm of working that is different from the old gnome.

    Sometimes I resort to another desktop like AWN or LXDE but that is the best part of Linux, I get to choose what desktop environment I want. I like the old desktop changer but I can live with Unity.


    John Kerr

Comments are closed.