Proposed removal of GNOME Classic desktop would be a serious usability and accessibility regression

Bug #830404 reported by Daira Hopwood on 2011-08-21
This bug affects 7 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
NULL Project

Bug Description

In , Mark Shuttleworth said,

"... we have the Classic desktop fallback in Natty, but will not in Oneiric."

This is worrying. Any attempt to remove support for the Classic desktop is likely to cause serious problems for many Ubuntu users, either because Unity doesn't work on their hardware for some reason, or because they just don't like it -- and it's abundantly clear that many people don't like it.

For the purpose of this bug, it doesn't really matter why people don't like Unity or why it breaks for them. (In my case, it's because I have a 4480x1440 total display area, for which many of the tablet-oriented design decisions in Unity make absolutely no sense.)

It could be argued that that anyone who doesn't want Unity can stay with Maverick or Natty. However, since those aren't LTS releases, they are only supported until April 2012 and October 2012 respectively (including for security fixes). So that's not really an acceptable alternative to continuing to provide the Classic desktop until at least the next LTS release. In my case, I switched from Windows having no idea that Ubuntu would make such drastic changes to the interface in the very next release. (If I'd known that, I might have installed Lucid instead. But downgrading from Maverick to Lucid to get the LTS support doesn't make sense; that would just cause stuff to break.)

It is possible to switch to KDE or some other alternative to Unity, of course (although making that switch from a GNOME/Metacity-based install is not without problems). Other environment/window manager combinations are usually selected using the same login screen menu that is used to select Classic vs Unity. Assuming that menu is still there in Oneiric (it will be, right?), and assuming that all the classic desktop packages are still available in the Oneiric apt repositories (they will be, right?), I wonder what simplification is really available from removing Classic as one of the environment/window manager options. If no simplification is available, then there is no justification for removing the option.

So, we need some clarity:
 * what does "we will not [have the Classic desktop fallback] in Oneiric" mean precisely? Does it just mean not installing packages needed for the Classic desktop *by default* on new installs (but keeping them in the repositories and in a working state, and not messing about with them on existing installs), or does it mean more than that?
 * will anything that might be necessary for a particular setup currently using the Classic desktop to work, be uninstalled or disabled on an upgrade to Oneiric? (such as disabling the proprietary NVidia drivers as in bug 772019, for example)
 * if a user has explicitly changed the default environment back to Classic desktop in Natty, will installing Oneiric override that preference, and if so will changing it back again cause regressions like there were with the Maverick->Natty upgrade? (bug 734373 and bug 735861, for example)
 * for those users who do use Unity, will critical usability and accessibility regressions such as bug 654988, bug 739812, and (not specific to Unity) bug 762806, block the Oneiric release?

Changed in ubuntu:
status: New → Confirmed
Jon Foote (jonfoote) wrote :

I will not use Unity unless it becomes *much* more configurable. For a start, the icons have to be shrinkable to the sort of size you can get them down to in GNOME 2. I've been using Ubuntu (Maverick then Natty) for less than a year; the Classic desktop is configurable and I can get it pretty much as I want it. Being forced onto a barely configurable Unity is the last thing I expected or wanted. I also can't stand the Menu Bar for an application getting confused with a part of my desktop which is operating-system-related, not application-related. And I don't get on with looking for things which are hidden until you move the mouse near them.

Why are people being pushed that way? It's clearly been designed for touch screen devices, which many of us don't use, so there's no advantage for us. As a laptop GUI it is, IMHO, not fit for purpose.

I totally agree with David-Sarah Hopwood's concerns and questions. Canonical are losing a lot of goodwill over this divisive "Unity" platform.

ernest (ernest-bywater) wrote :

From looking at what Gnome 3 does, it's clear to me it's intended for a very small screen on a light hardware system that will have minimal apps; in short, is for a bloody cell phone or a tablet only and is not designed to work on or for a full blown desktop system with lots of apps. The fact it dumps all the apps into one widget makes that clear. The downgrade from 11.04 to 11.10 yesterday saw the apps widget get stuffed with 184 apps in it, and it took forever to find any app that didn't start with the letter A. As for opening WINE, I could percolate a new full pot of coffee while delving through the crap pile of apps the widget created.

Gnome 3 is the small touch screen version of Gnome and has NO PLACE in an OS designed for use on full blown computers.

I've been recommending Ubuntu to lots of people for years, but Gnome 3 and Unity is NOT suitable for anyone with eye sight issues or the older people using older hardware or anyone using a lot of apps on their system; in short, they aren't for over 60% of the users.

What needs to happen is for Gnome 3 to either fork into Gnome for computers with the Classic and menu driven capability and Gnome for Touch Screens with Widgets and Unity, or to have both available in Gnome 3 with an easy selection process like they have in Gnome 2. In my opinion, and OS that uses Gnome 3 as it currently is is NOT suitable for a desktop computer or a full laptop or notebook computer as it greatly reduces productivity due to the very bad user interface of Unity.


ernest (ernest-bywater) wrote :

More problems with Ubuntu 11.10 and the Unity default set up - maybe it should be called DisUnity.

My son tried installing Ubuntu 11.10 on his system but found it unusable after installation, luckily he put it on a different hard drive and just changed boot drives to go back to 11.04 and wipe the drive with the new install as a recovery option. The problems he encountered were:

- Graphics drivers in the install would not work his Nvidea card properly.

- The monitor drivers did not work with his widescreen monitor; system would only allow 800 x 600 and it come out very distorted on the 27 inch screen.

- Had to chase up another keyboard and mouse as the system would not work his wireless set from Logitech.

- System would not work his USB trackball.

He didn't complain about the touch screen widget issues as he was aware of them from me and didn't like them, he was interested in seeing if Ubuntu 11.10 would run on his Intel i7 system, and it doesn't run worth a damn.


PS When he had the screen issues, it reminded me I had similar problems with my install and the first restart wouldn't get past the splash screen until I hit the reset button and logged in using the Unity 2D option.

Bob Bib (bobbib) wrote :

When Ubuntu 11.04 came with Unity as default option, I played few minutes with it and switched to "classic mode".

And now with 11.10 I have no such option.
I tried to install full GNOME 3 (sudo apt-get install gnome-shell), an it's not better.
Then I Installed GNOME 3 fallback package (sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback), which shows up as "GNOME Classic" in LightDM.
It looks like a somewhat crippled version of classic GNOME, but it still possible to work with it after adding some applets.

Strangely enough, when I use the GNOME mode (no matter new, classic or pseudo-classic), some Unity services were still running in the background, such as Zeitgeist (user activities logging / indexing service) and BAMF (application matching framework). Solved it with uninstallation of these packages, though it also removes Unity (no remorse).

tags: added: usabilty
tags: added: usability
removed: usabilty
ChuckL (c-j-lingo-cox) wrote :

Ernest Bywater,

I have Logitech wireless mice that I can switch between 11.10 and 10.04 with no problems. My preferred one is model 305.

While shopping for a wireless keyboard and mouse combination, a wireless desktop, I was told by a sales man that Logitech has included software, or firmware, that locks their new equipment to the computer on which it is installed first. This might be your problem if it is actually true. Perhaps someone can confirm or refute this possibility.

ChuckL (c-j-lingo-cox) wrote :

While we are on the complaints to the programmers, I should like to add one of my pet peeves. I am no longer in kindergarten. I left that 69 years ago. I find it to be insulting to always be ask if I really want to do this when I issue a command by clicking on a mouse button. When I click "SHUT DOWN", I mean "SHUT DOWN". If I screw up and do this accidentally, I shall still lose less time waiting for a new boot, than I waste when I total my confirmation time for these messages.

If programmers believe these verification questions are beneficial, leave them, but give me the option to turn them OFF in the SYSTEM PREFERENCES. And please do it individually. Providing a way to delete files while bypassing the Trash Bin doesn't do a lot of good when I am ask every time, "ARE YOU SURE". With the choices of "Move to Trash" or "Delete" both available, drop the check.

Stop trying to hold our hands as if we are still preschoolers. We are NOT preschoolers. By eliminating this "hand holding" you will teach the few preschoolers using the system to think ahead.

This is NOT a BUG report, but a request to be treated like an adult without additional complications. Please follow these rules.

If the "improvement" makes the system less intuitive or harder to use, it is NOT an improvement. You must make this evaluation from the standpoint of the average user, not based upon your own abilities.
Never make an operating system change that obsoletes the user's applications without advising the user, and providing an easy way to return to the previous setup. Compress the existing system and write it to a DVD or set of DVDs. Include a "RESTORE PREVIOUS SYSTEM" command. Include a small OS with the capability to execute this command from a wiped system on the DVDs. Perhaps "CLONE" and "RESTORE_CLONE" would be the way to do this. These commands could be included in the APPLICATIONS or SYSTEM menus, although the SYSTEM menu has been removed from 11.10.

There are only 2 reasons to reply to this message.
1. "These ideas will all be included in the next release of Ubuntu.
2. "It ain't ever going to happen.

I shall try reinstalling 11.04 and if I can make it work to suit me, I shall keep it. If not I shall reinstall 10.04LTS and continue my search for stability in both OS and applications.

I just want something that works well and reliably without obsoleting my applications.

ernest (ernest-bywater) wrote :

G'day ChuckL,

The wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse set he has is several years old and has worked on six other systems. At the moment he sometimes takes between two desktops and a laptop, so it can't be hardware locked to a system - but the newer ones may have that issue, I don't know.

Some advice for setting up a hard drive, if you don't already do this.
Create three logical drives, one of around 20GB for the system, one for the size of the swap file wanted, and around 20GB or more for the Home directory. I've been doing this for years and whenever I have to rebuild a system I point at the Home drive and set that as the Home directory. The result is when I'm rebuilding using the OS it picks up most of my personal settings from the Home directory.

When I rebuilt using Ubuntu 11.04 after killing the rubbish Ubuntu 11.10 I found I had to reformat the drive with the operating system or it would crash while loading, but it accepted and used all my personal settings from the data stored in the Home directory.


Kay Martinen (kay-martinen) wrote :

I don't like the Unity Desktop at all, because it seems it runs several processes more than others and i can not disable because there is no config-switch to disable them. Additionally i have only a Athlon 1700 with 2 GB and it runs veeeeery slowly on it. I can't go and buy a new PC only for unity. This would be like MS urge us to do. And i don't want that.

So, i want the Classic Desktop too and i see no real need to urge Ubuntu users using Unity (which most don't want).

I please you to "Fix" this Problem. Thanks.

Bob Bib (bobbib) on 2012-02-17
tags: added: natty oneiric regression-release
Bob Bib (bobbib) on 2012-03-31
tags: added: precise
removed: natty
affects: ubuntu → gnome-session (Ubuntu)
Changed in gnome-session (Ubuntu):
importance: Undecided → Wishlist
status: Confirmed → Invalid
ernest (ernest-bywater) wrote :

G'day all,

well, I just got an email saying this bug is confirmed invalid and it means I'm confirmed as no longer using or recommending Ubuntu to anyone. The move from userfriendly menus and desktops for computer screens to handle held screen widgets in both the KDE and Gnome versions of Ubuntu means I no longer support or recommend Ubuntu to anyone for any reason. no to go looking for a version of Linux that doesn't use widgets. If all else fails I'll go back to using something stable and sane, say Windows 98SE.

Goodbye, and thanks for nothing.



Daira Hopwood (daira) wrote :

Yes, I'm going to be switching to Mint at the earliest opportunity.

ChuckL (c-j-lingo-cox) wrote :


I am tired of waiting for the bugs in Ubuntu 1010 to be corrected.
I will not use Unity,
I have therefore reverted to 10.04 LTS until I am able to find another operating system.
I shall no longer recommend Ubuntu to anyone.

The failure to provide upgrades that simply upgrade the usability and functions or the operating system without requiring that the complete system be replaced is not acceptable.

I used IBM's OS/2 WARP, versions 3 and 4 and the follow-on "eComStation" from Serenity Systems from early 1994 until IBM sold out on SOHO users, and Serenity Systems graduated to another supplier for OS/2 under a different name, but apparently only for business users. Apparently because we home users did not generate enough revenue from this extremely stable system. The continual upgrades to the operating system did not require replacement of the applications, as Ubuntu always does.

There is a fix, which I should be happy to see, but doubt that it will be forthcoming.
Separate the operating system from the applications. In this way it is possible to upgrade any without affecting the others.

You might find that following my request will also improve the use in business as your continual upgrade problems is a (fill in the expletive) which would prevent me from using Ubuntu in a business.

The problems are:
The operating system and the applications can not be upgraded individually by the user. (If they can this is a well kept secret procedure from the ordinary users.)

There are only three things needed.

STABILITY in the continuation of usage of the operating system. Complete replacement of the operating system should be possible without requiring massive upgrades to the applications.

Applications should never be arbitrarily changed by the OS supplier, but an alternate application may be offered.
When this is done, the OS supplier must provide, if the alternate app supplier does not, a conversion utility to convert data for use on the alternate app. This may not make the data useless on the original app.

RELIABILITY in the continued availability of the applications.

SECURITY OF DESIGN. This means that security must be considered in the design of the system to as far as possible thwart malware. I suggest that the administrator's password must be required to add, modify, or remove any application. This requirement may be changed by the administrator for a period of 24 hurs. The OS will then restore it.

affects: gnome-session (Ubuntu) → ubuntu
affects: ubuntu → null
Bob Bib (bobbib) wrote :

(If you wish, you can test it in virtual machine):
get a Xubuntu / Lubuntu 12.04 Beta 2 installation CD ISO image (it doesn't contain Unity, KDE 4, GNOME 3 or other desktop environments you may don't like);
install it;
sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback
select "GNOME Classic (no effects)" session at the login screen;
panel context menus can be accessed by <Alt> + <Mouse Right Click>;
(do you need something more?)

ernest (ernest-bywater) wrote :

G'day All,

Sorry about all the typos in my last comment, need a new keyboard as the paint has worn off most of the keys on my current one and my memory on what key is where isn't always the best.

Found Zorin OS and it's good. It's based on Ubuntu and uses the Ubuntu repository, but has a whole swag of other interfaces available. I'm using the Windows Classic interface - they call it Windows 2000.



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