A Fork in the Road

The skies are falling. All of them.

Unlike some ancient professions, such as plumbing or carpentry, my profession changes constantly. In order to continue crushing my competition, I have to stay on top by reading about the latest threats and opportunities. In fact, change disrupts everything like a politican ruins the economy. I’m trying to think of more current events jokes, but I can’t figure out how tie in Twinkies with our discussion. Either way, brace yourself for another exhilarating episode of Teknosophy.

Current Desktop Computers

Even today, consumers suffer with computers that were NEVER meant for the general public. PC software requires constant maintenance, attention, and skill. It brandishes confusing technical errors at random, and security violations are rampant. However, for those of you who are sick of this, I’ve been installing Ubuntu. (What’s an Ubuntu? Click here for my article explaining that.)

Basically, it’s a desktop Operating System (like Windows XP or MacOS) that runs on most PCs. If you have multiple computers in your house, I can take an old/spare/messed up one out of the closet and pop Ubuntu onto it and bam! Fresh machine. It looks and acts like Windows, except you can’t have problems. That’s right, no viruses, spyware, popups, Bing Bars, or Nigerian hoaxes. It just works and it leaves you alone. Even senior citizens like it!

My customers have seen how my eyes light up when describing to them the beauty of Ubuntu. Many of them are in culture shock and cannot believe it when I reiterate, “You can’t have viruses with Ubuntu. It just works and leaves you alone.” I could go on for hours about how the contrast between it and its competitors is so drastic.

So, why am I worried? Because Ubuntu’s changing too. In an attempt to shoot itself in the foot (a precursor to the digital house of horrors that is Windows 8), Ubuntu decided to destroy its User Interface (the way you use it) completely, and replace it with a ridiculous joke that scares away anyone and everyone. This joke is called Unity and it’s a huge piece of garbage.

The original Ubuntu interface looked like this:

Ubuntu Screenshot

Now, Unity looks like this:


As you can see above, the Unity interface throws a pile of icons to the left side of the screen. Fine, everyone has a widescreen now, it makes sense to plop the icons to one side. However, if you want to actually explore the programs available to you, you have to click the magical “Start” button at the top left, THEN TYPE IN THE NAME OF THE APP YOU WANT, which requires that you read their minds first AND KNOW WHAT’S AVAILABLE AND HOW TO SPELL IT. No more clicking the Applications menu and exploring to see what’s in the computer.


The rest of the flaws in Unity involve the titlebar of each maximized window being integrated into the top of the screen, meaning you can’t easily restore/move/close/minimize windows. Icons and mouse cursors fly around at random sometimes, too, misinterpreting what you actually wanted.

A terrible change for change’s sake. Makes everything LESS easy to use. Sure, this might seem trivial, but when the general public is already intimidated by computers, this is very poor design.

How to solve this issue:

1 – stick with Ubuntu 11.04 or earlier. (11.04 specifically allows you to go back to the old interface – at the login screen, choose Ubuntu Classic.) There’s no reason to upgrade. Just periodically update Firefox and you’re fine for a long time.

2- If you install Ubuntu 11.10, remove Unity by following the instructions here. It’s not going to look quite right when you’re done, but close enough.

3- Switch to another version of Linux, such as Mint or Zorin. These two Operating Systems are based on Ubuntu’s solid underpinning, but have prettier, more conservative user interfaces. In fact, after the release of Unity, Mint’s popularity SURGED.

What I Do

I’ve been putting older versions of Ubuntu on people’s older machines, and using the latest copy of Zorin on newer machines – Zorin is EVEN MORE similar to Windows as far as icon placement, so many people wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference!

MORAL OF THE STORY: What feature-happy nerds forget is, CUSTOMERS WANT CONSISTENCY, NOT CONSISTENT CONFUSION! Think for a moment about the commercial success of Windows XP, or DVD movies. Both have outlived their supposedly more advanced successors – why? Because people are sick of HAVING TO BUY & LEARN more things ALL THE TIME, even if there is some sort of marginal benefit in the newer version.

Postscript: It gets worse…

I might as well add another fighter to this beat-down criticism fest of my beloved Ubuntu: Richard Stallman. This “weird beard,” as the Register fondly calls him, is a HUGE stickler when it comes to… well, anything sticklable. He doesn’t believe in eating meat or shrimp, coal mining, going to Applebee’s, shaving, web design, and rumor has it, air or water. Anyway, Richard claims that recent versions of Ubuntu include a bit of software that collects information about you and reports it (just the data, not your name) to Amazon. Amazon can then pop suggestions onto your desktop.


Sure, it helps Ubuntu raise money, and sure you can turn it off (Do users really know what these things are and how to disable them? The answer is almost never.) but… nope. I’m siding with Richard on this one. No way, Jose. No thanks, Ubuntu. Spyware belongs with common folk in the Windows world, not with enlightened users such as my customers.

Thanks for reading this episode of Teknosophy! More to come!

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1 Response to A Fork in the Road

  1. Pingback: The UpDating Game | Teknosophy

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