UnityA new look for Ubuntu Netbook Remix is on the way. Dubbed Unity, it was discussed at length by Mark Shuttleworth on his blog on Monday. Having been busy with the iPad review and some other back-end goodies for the blog I completely missed the news and only happened on it today. I decided to give it a spin and see what all the hype is about.


Unity

The name kinda says it all. A unified desktop interface for Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and possibly (if you read between the lines) a future look for Ubuntu as well. It heralds an expansion of the Netbook Remix interfaces touch screen friendly philosophy. I think it will do well on regular Ubuntu as well.

New Layout

The stand-out feature of Unity is the new sidebar. It replaces the bottom panel in functionality, showing icons for open programs. If you look at the screenshots featured on Mark Shuttleworths blog it seems like it features a desktop switcher as well.

The top panel in Unity is also all new. A new unified menu replaces the traditional Ubuntu three menu layout, and it is much cleaner. It seems that the normal quick launch icons for applications that people would pin to the top panel would now go on the sidebar.

The New Unity Desktop

The New Unity Desktop (Click For a Larger Image)

Want to try it out?

Well you can, kindof. Unity is available for install via a repository. Be warned: it is very early stages and some of the features don’t work, like the menu icon for one. I installed it and ran it via terminal a few times, and then I rebooted. Metacity is gone, and Unity replaced it. Problem is that ALT+F2 doesn’t work, so I cannot launch a terminal to kill Unity and get a working desktop again.

Unity with Firefox and Evolution in the Sidebar

Unity with Firefox and Evolution in the Sidebar (Click For a Larger Image)

Unity certainly is pretty. The sidebar with its metal effect is gorgeous and the icon set is very cool as well. If the guys have put this much effort into it so far chances are Unity will definitely feature in Ubuntu’s future.

Summary.

Unity is cool, a new direction for Ubuntu Netbook Remix and maybe Ubuntu. You can read a much more in depth discussion about Unity by Mark Shuttleworth here, and if you are brave there are links to the Unity Launchpad page where you can activate the repo and install it to try yourself. On there you will also find details for Ubuntu Light, that is available to OEM’s already for testing. It is basically a minimalistic Ubuntu build that boots into desktop in less than seven seconds. The aim is to get you on the internet in less than ten. Exciting times ahead indeed!

Stuck?

So you, like me, decided to be brave and give Unity a spin. If you are lucky it will be rather functional, but if you, like me, are stuck with a broken desktop interface you can follow these steps to get sanity back:

  1. Pres CTRL+ALT+F1
  2. Log in with your username and password at the prompt.
  3. Type: sudo aptitude remove unity
  4. Enter your password at the prompt.
  5. Answer YES if asked that you want to continue.
  6. Type: sudo reboot

Your system should now reboot and you will have the regular Gnome Desktop. No more Unity though.

Have Fun!

(UPDATE: There is a Seven Day Challenge up for Unity – Read our adventures using Unity for SEVEN DAYS HERE.)

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