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If the change in appearance is intentional, will someone kindly point me to some reading material about why it is so?

Edit: I haven't installed CCSM or fiddled with Compiz settings.

Normal menu-bar normally With the Dash open menu-bar with Dash open With the HUD open menu-bar with HUD open

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I think it is intended, because the HUD/Dash has a little line or bar going over the indicator menu, and my best bet, is that if you go into your CCSM and turn off and blur or retinizing effects of the HUD/Dash menu overlays, then you would see the indicators normally. –  TenorB Jul 25 '12 at 16:41
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The behavior is intended. "We’ve also integrated the panel and the dash, so indicators are rendered in a more holographic fashion inside the dash. Together with efforts to mute the contrast of Launcher icons the result is a more striking dash altogether: content is presented more dramatically." Source

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