Monday, October 29, 2012

Ubuntu Goof

The GUI you get with later editions of Ubuntu, Unity, has been the cause of no small controversy.  For one thing, it is almost completely non-configurable.

This is downright odd, but I'm actually OK with it.

Or would be.

If the software worked.

Here's what the left hand side of my Unity desktop should look like.

The "ribbon" down the side is the "launcher".  In a remarkable nod to the idea that I am after all actually trying to use Unity to actually do something with my personal computer, Unity generously allows me to add icons to this strip for applications I use frequently.  This feature may be an oversight on the developers' part.  Perhaps future versions will decide for me what applications to run, but I digress...

Every now and then, at intervals just great enough that I forget it happens, I look up at my screen and out of the blue, for no reason I can determine, I see this.

All the icons in the launcher are crammed up into the top, it appears.  It will not repaint.  The icons are gone, and unreachable, and the launcher is now useless.

The only way I have found to get the launcher back is to restart.  That's right, restart.  Check the calendar...  Yes it really is 2012, and I have to restart to get my computer usable again, running Linux!

Just...  Wow.

I have two computers with completely different hardware, both running Ubuntu and Unity, and they both do this.  And had for the last two major Ubuntu versions.

If you Google around, you'll find some proposed ways to fix this involving various unity reset commands, from the command line (if you have one out, because you can't launch a new terminal when in this state).  I have had mixed results from these commands.  The results range from A) piling all the windows together on one virtual desktop, in the corner, with no frames to move them.  To B) completely locking up the computer so as to require a hard power-off.

Of course since Unity is so "simple" and not configurable, there is no easy GUI reset command really, of the sort more "primitive" X-like windowing systems have.  No Ctrl-Alt-Backspace or anything.  No repaint.  Logging out, if you can doesn't even help.  Because, you know, why would you need all that?

I even figured out how to get Unity to not auto-hide the launcher.  I thought maybe it would work better if it wasn't repainting all the time.  Since Unity knows best what I want, this change is not simple and easy by the way.  Nor did it help at all.  And after an update, what I did reverted anyway.

Look Ubuntu...  It's 2012.  I just want a computer that can run a few simple programs and a web browser.  Has technology really not progressed enough in the last 30 years to provide this?  Maybe I should switch to Windows 8.  After all, I have not had to hard power-off a Windows box in awhile now.