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I've had problems the last few upgrades. Things have been added to Ubuntu that I don't particularly care for. Window buttons have moved, Indicator Applets have sprung up, menu icons have vanished and each upgrade I've found myself having to "fix" things to get them back to how they were.

I'm not going to get bogged down in whether my opinion is "correct" or otherwise, just that I'd like to stay the same.

The upgrade to 11.04 poses major issues for me where all of the following statements are true:

  • I like new versions of packages
  • I'd like to be on the current version of Ubuntu to help people with that version
  • I'm too busy to spend hours recovering my panel-based desktop configuration
  • I have no desire to try Unity now. I may want to in the future, but not today, thank you.

My understanding is that the default upgrade would dump me in a Unity environment regardless of my previous desktop settings.

I'm aware of the Classic mode. My understanding is it's currently a completely new configuration of panels made to look more like Unity. I realise I could battle it to the death to get my current theme/panel-settings/pannel-applets back, but unless it just defaults to my current desktop, I'm not very interested in it. I'd rather not upgrade.

So the question is: Can I upgrade to Natty without destroying my desktop? Is there a clean upgrade path for users (for example) who have hundreds of users they can't afford to retrain right now? Or are we stuck on Maverick for the foreseeable future?

Edit: I guess to clarify a sub-questions would be: What does Classic Mode show when you do an upgrade? The old, previously configured desktop or a new stock configuration? I might have to test this in a VM to see what happens but it's a lot of bandwidth to spend on an experiment.

Edit I upgraded today. Took me to Unity, I logged out and into Classic (as expected). Most of the settings appear in tact, Compiz has a whole load of new defaults and lost settings (fair enough), most of my panel applets (window lists, clock, notification area) aren't loading. There will be a follow up question.

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If you refer to the issues with classic gnome pointed out by Martin Owens, they have been fixed. – Egil Apr 13 '11 at 9:52
@Egil Well that's something at least. I've added a clarification at the bottom of the question now. If I upgrade, will classic mode by my current configuration, or a new default configuration? – Oli Apr 13 '11 at 10:59
up vote 3 down vote accepted

In short, probably not.

Forgetting the desktop, there were a handful of applications that I had installed on a Lucid -> Maverick box that were removed by Natty B1 installation because of missing dependencies. These weren't mainstream applications - most of which are maintained and thus version compatible with the Natty libraries, and none of them were critical to what I do so I don't remember which were removed.

Unlike that other operating system, there isn't the overbearing market need to ensure that your copy of Lotus 1-2-3 from 10 years ago still runs on the new shiny.

If you've got hundreds of users, surely one of them won't miss their computer if you "borrow" it as a sacrifice machine. Failing that, carve off some disk, or get another disk (they are stunningly cheap these days) clone off your config and upgrade the copy to see how insufferable the damage is. It may also be useful in your environment to be able to dual boot Maverick/Natty as needed.

Added: You are asking for a guarantee that only empirical testing can afford you. Ubuntu is such a hypercomplex maze of interdependencies that given a huge static survey of your current installation, I'd be hard pressed to give you a definitive answer to what will change or break. If this wasn't so, you could just upgrade the packages you wanted. But you can't do that without entering dependency hell which the modern distros work so hard at avoiding.

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+1 Applications aren't such an issue for me (I hope!) as I'm using fairly generic things. It's more the config that comes with them that may overwrite my own. Definitely a good tip to test it out. I might have to create a Maverick VM, customise the desktop a little and then upgrade it to Natty to see what the damage is. – Oli Apr 13 '11 at 11:11

If I understand correctly "Unity" (3d) is a compiz plug-in and runs on top of gnome 2.3.

Included in the the release will be "Classic" this again running on gnome 2.3 and having normal panels etc..

The thing you are confusing is Unity 2d this will not be included but will be available if required.

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It's a bit more than that, panels are not used and under traditional Gnome these are quite tightly coupled with the desktop. I'd be happy using Classic if I knew it would use my current configuration rather than a new one. – Oli Apr 13 '11 at 10:25
As far as I know Classic uses panels and you can add and remove widgets from these the same as you can in 10.10 – robin0800 Apr 14 '11 at 2:59

Oli, I've decided to wait to see how things shake out. Perhaps you want to consider that. You can always create a VM of Natty (or 2, one with Unity, one without) as a means of helping other people out.

I created a virtual machine of Natty beta and was pretty thrown by it UI wise. For grins I created a LiveCD of Gnome 3 and liked it much better. The experience of playing with Gnome 3, has told me to leave well enough alone for now.

Just my 2 cents.

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