Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ubuntu Netbook Remix's Desktop-Switcher Isn't Broken, It's Gone

Desktop-switcher is an application that allows you to switch between Ubuntu Netbook Remix's user interface and the standard Ubuntu Gnome interface. It has been plagued with bugs and problems since Ubuntu 8.04. Desktop-switcher has killed many desktops and has lead to some very frustrating moments for users, and wasn't getting any more stable. While desktop-switcher was available during Karmic's pre-release, Ubuntu 9.10 shipped without desktop-switcher.

The official reason from the UNR developers:
The architecture/design of desktop-switcher of trying to update the live configuration (GConf settings and others) makes it really fragile and error prone; desktop-switcher also takes some backups of gconf settings in ~/ and attempts to restore them, which creates more code pathes and potential problems. It's easy to end up in a completely broken setup with some minutes of playing.

desktop-switcher was intended to help hardy UNR users to disable clutter/opengl when their setup didn't support that nicely. Nowadays, we except these to just work, so it's kind of not required.

Finally, desktop-switcher duplicates the settings from ubuntu-netbook-remix-default-settings, so we need to update two places when we change them,

In karmic+1, we'd like to implement this feature by having an UNR session on the GDM screen along GNOME, that would be a much more solid and clean design. This would also solve the duplication.

So to sum up, we'd like to unseed desktpo-switcher in karmic's UNR and revisit this differently in lucid. We will still attempt to fix top issues if time and complexity of the fixes permit.

UNR is an excellent desktop environment but sometimes the "standard" Ubuntu desktop is better suited for some tasks. Not having the desktop-switcher really hurts UNR usability and because of this I am dropping UNR support on the blog. Until desktop-switcher returns I cannot use/support a broken user interface.
I am excited to try the new dekstop-switcher implementation in the pre-release of Ubuntu 10.04 , but until then I'm focusing on other things.

This saddens me, as many of you know I'm a huge fan of Ubuntu Netbook Remix and loved using it even though it was slow, bloated and clunky.

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James D said...

I suppose there are two sides to every coin. I'm the sort of guy who misses the Windows 3.1 Program Manager, never really liked the icon-on-desktop metaphor (and tended toward ultra-minimalist desktops with only three or four icons on them). I'm glad for a stable UNR without the option of switching to the oceans of useless empty space a more vanilla GNOME desktop means to me. But I suspect we agree that this is all a matter of taste.

redDEAD said...


You are absolutely right. I'm glad you like UNR on 9.10. It's pretty awesome -1 (for having no desktop switcher).

anjilslaire said...

I'm curious what functionality you need from the regular desktop? You can also add the full gnome menu to the UNR titlebar, giving you access to most everything easily.

Jonas said...

my (up to now) stable workaround is to do a

gconftool-2 --type "bool" -s /apps/maximus/undecorate "false"

disables the undecoration feature, meaning all the windows get their frames back.

then you've a taskbar on the upper corner.

Having "normal" windows for my programs is all i needed from the switch to the desktop, i only use it when i work with external monitors.

John said...

Jonas' fix to get the windows buttons back worked well. Thanks. One major desire fulfilled.

But I still hate the fixed icon-based menu system of 9.10. It's frustrating having to go back to the desktop, thus covering whatever open windows I had, click on a category, then ... I really want back the top panel menus.

D Morse said...

So I'm kind of lost here.
Is netbook remix the sum of two parts:
1) in-your-face window management
2) this application launcher program?

Why is running this application program any different from any other program? Because it runs in the root window?

Red Onion said...

I agree with Red. UNR is awesome conceptually,but it's missing the final touches to make it perfectly usable.

In the meanwhile, I've been using kupfer, wbar (or docky), and global-menu on my netbook. While this makes it look a bit more like a osx clone, it really saves on screen restate. I no longer have space taken up by a bottom panel, and the menu bar is moved into the top panel. You just have to use Fn+Z (F11) to full screen most gnome apps should you require that.

Although, let's see if the UNR will change radically with Gnome 3.0

Plug for global-menu