After upgrading my laptop to 11.10 from 11.04, Gnome was removed entirely, and the interface was Unity when I first logged in.

Unity underwhelms me entirely. I'm not saying it's bad, I'm sure some people like it. I just don't care enough about it's features to learn how to use it when I'm already so familiar with Gnome.

I installed Gnome, and I was given three session options at the log in screen. Gnome, Gnome Classic, and Gnome Classic (No Effects).

Gnome (without qualifications) simply does not work. I log in, and I have no menu bars, just a desktop. Right clicking on the screen does nothing. All I can do is press ctrl+alt+del and get out again.

Gnome Classic and Gnome Classic (No Effects) both work, but the appearance is a little messed up. The icons on the top panel have odd sizes and the colours of the panel and the icons don't quite match.

It's not a huge problem, but the whole experience is making me feel like Ubuntu is going entirely into Unity, and Gnome, if supported, will always be faltering for lack of official support.

Are the problems I'm seeing with Gnome symptomatic of Ubuntu's break from Gnome, or can I expect to solve this issues and work with Gnome/Ubuntu as I always have?

  • please see this question and answer for your gnome classic issues: askubuntu.com/questions/58172/how-to-revert-to-gnome-classic – fossfreedom Oct 14 '11 at 8:32
  • I'm locking this thread because while it's not our usual style of thread (we try to avoid rhetorical/subjective questions in favour of ones people can answer), there is some interesting discussion. If people have specific issues they need help with, by all means start new questions. – Oli Oct 19 '11 at 6:06

Gnome has not been removed from 11.10. Unity in 11.04 is based on Gnome2, and in 11.10, on Gnome3. The Gnome you are familiar with (aka Gnome2) is no longer supported by the Gnome Foundation - the decision that has nothing to do with Unity. If you want to try Gnome3's default shell, install the gnome-shell package.

If you wish to keep using Gnome2, your best shot is a distro that still supports it, such as Ubuntu 10.04 - 11.04, Scientific Linux, Debian, etc.

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    So... Gnome2 is dying out, and unless I want to be stuck in the past, I have to adjust to new funkiness in Gnome3 anyway? In other words, whether I go Gnome or Unity, I have to adjust to a bunch of changes. – Questioner Oct 14 '11 at 7:58
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    Basically, yes. – RAOF Oct 14 '11 at 8:06
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    Yea, The Times They Are A-changin. Obviously, there are more options then Gnome Shell or Unity. You could switch to KDE, XFCE or LXDE, but IMHO, none of these are comparable to Gnome2. – mikewhatever Oct 14 '11 at 8:27
  • Blah. Here I go up another arbitrary learning curve, then. Thanks for letting me know. – Questioner Oct 14 '11 at 18:14
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    @DaveMG Unity is not hard to learn how to work in you just have to get used to it and that takes just some day. Learn the keyboard shortcuts to switch between applications, windows and virtual desktops (askubuntu.com/questions/28086/…) and give it a day or two and you'll see. Also see this video blip.tv/jorge-castro/how-i-multitask-in-unity-5015448 for an example. – N.N. Oct 18 '11 at 18:17

Ubuntu has never been a complete Gnome distribution. We've used OpenOffice instead of Gnome Office, Firefox instead of Ephiphany, etc. Most of the desktop is still Gnome though, even if we've not also replaced the email client with Mozillas Thunderbird. 11.04 was a special release because Gnome 3 was released only weeks before Ubuntu was released. That wasn't enough time to make the transition, so things like Gnome Shell was not available. It was always the intention to move back towards upstream Gnome, which has happened in 11.10.

You say that Gnome was removed in the upgrade to 11.10, but that's not true if you got the Unity desktop, since that is Gnome 3. Gnome Panel 2 is not available in upstream Gnome anymore. There is something called Gnome Panel 3, which is available in Ubuntus repositories, but it's not the same. In other words, you talk about "Ubuntus break from Gnome", but the contrary is true. Ubuntu has never been more in tune with Gnome than it is today. Sticking to the old Gnome, which you seem to suggest, would have been to break with Gnome.

"or can I expect to solve this issues and work with Gnome/Ubuntu as I always have?"

Gnome 2 is gone. There is a little talk about forking Gnome 2, but it's unlikely that it'll be a success since the technology it's based on is horribly outdated and hence doesn't attract developers. If you want a more similar experience, then you can have a look at Xubuntu, which uses Xfce. It's also possible to add Xfce panels to your Unity desktop if you want to have a taskbar, etc.

If you are experiencing problems with Gnome Shell, it's likely that it's because of driver issues. Gnome Shell works really well in 11.10. If I were you, I would boot a live 11.10 session, install Gnome Shell and see if it works there. People who added Gnome Shell to 11.04 can expect difficulties when upgrading to 11.10. Gnome Shell and Unity are based on different technologies. Unity is based on Compiz and Gnome Shell is based on Mutter. This can lead one shell to work well where the other does not. But Unity has the advantage of a second implementation that doesn't depend as much on the graphics adapter.

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    With respect, I think you're so close to the issue, you can't quite see the forest for the trees. Whether Unity is built on Gnome or not is kind of irrelevant to me. What's relevant to me is that I was comfortable with the interface I had before Unity came along. The Unity interface just does not add enough benefit for me to take on the learning curve of figuring out where everything is. I want an interface that I am familiar with, and my issue is that no currently supported version of Gnome or Unity or whatever else offers it. – Questioner Oct 14 '11 at 18:12
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    Well, Ubuntu didn't decide to remove Gnome Panel. Gnome decided it was time to put them to rest. Ubuntu had no real choice. They could've departed from Gnome, but that would mean loosing the entire Ubuntu desktop that everyone knows. I have real difficulty understanding that you don't see Gnome 3 as worth taking the time to know. – Jo-Erlend Schinstad Oct 14 '11 at 22:48
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    Okay, so Gnome decided to stop using panels. However, when Ubuntu decided to develop Unity, they could have decided to recreate them. The didn't, and that's why I am now faced with an entirely new interface. I can not stress enough that I am completely uninteresed in what technology or group is responsible for what decisions. As an end user, I only care about how I use my computer. The current situation is simply this: I have no option but to learn a new interface where all the options are arbitrarily moved around the screen. I have to spend time learning instead of just continuing using. – Questioner Oct 15 '11 at 2:27
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    Okay, I think I get what you're saying. Gnome2 died, and took everything with it, including panels. The Gnome people decided to make Gnome 3, and Ubuntu decided to make Unity, and both projects decided since they were creating shells from scratch, they would innovate. Fair enough. And I do appreciate that this is free software that I'm lucky to have. I guess what it comes down to is that I disagree that the innovation went in the right direction. Gnome2 might look like Win95, but it worked fine, and nothing in Gnome3 or Unity really makes my experience "better". It's just a new learning curve. – Questioner Oct 15 '11 at 8:48
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    I wasn't talking about looks wrt win95, but the technology used behind the scenes. It looked ok, but underneith, it was horrible. Xfce is very similar to how Gnome 2 should've been. You should give it a try. – Jo-Erlend Schinstad Oct 15 '11 at 19:17

I had the exact same problems upgrading, so you're not alone :) I have to use GNOME Classic and it reset everything I had before--dismaying, because I had a lot of custom launchers and such at the top. I hope Unity gets better, but I have two different sized monitors and an nvidia card, and I seem to need the computer equivalent of duct tape and twine to get it to work correctly, and Unity acts strangely (and only works in 2D mode).

Something that helped me though, in Classic for some reason just right clicking things doesn't let you add launchers or move things like I was previously able. I had to alt+right click. I had another question in about that... so just in case you run into that, save yourself some frantic posting and complaining on G+ about that obnoxious middle clock or whatever else you like to customize :D


I would like to say how much I agree with DaveMG (see is text after mine),

Frankly I do not care what drives what with what technology behind the Gui the desktop or if the thing is now cable of making coffee. What matter is that an update was offered and I downloaded it, it even said that some services would be disable but I would be able to restart them using ... something ... But after I rebooted I had a new interface and that means that before I can finish my assignments I would now have to learn a new 'shell' what ever that is. I installed Ubuntu SPECIFICALLY because it is described as a O/S for users NOT developers. The computer is TOOL for me not a toy to marvel at its new prowess. So I decided to reboot and load my old 11.04 with all my desktop the way I am used to. But I can't!! When I reboot I am stuck with this new 'Shell'!! So here is the point I am a consultant when I do not deliver the work to my client I do not get paid: Today I will not get paid since I was unable to produce anything, thanks to this upgrade that forces something (useless) down the throat of the user. If someone somewhere in this Linux universe wants to have users move from MS or Apple to Linux you will HAVE to stop sticking it to the users. Some people use their computer to be productive. Any one would have a solution for me? Anyone understand my point? (and I certain that I am not alone). I simply do not want to have to re-learn how to drive every time I want to go to the grocery store.

'With respect, I think you're so close to the issue, you can't quite see the forest for the trees. Whether Unity is built on Gnome or not is kind of irrelevant to me. What's relevant to me is that I was comfortable with the interface I had before Unity came along. The Unity interface just does not add enough benefit for me to take on the learning curve of figuring out where everything is. I want an interface that I am familiar with, and my issue is that no currently supported version of Gnome or Unity or whatever else offers it.'

  • I sympathise with having to learn a new interface, but it's wise to at least look at the new features for an Ubuntu release before taking the update. I would always at least boot a new Ubuntu update from a live CD, and usually I do a fresh install in a 2nd root partition - if the new Ubuntu works well (and often it takes a lot of tweaking, new kernel, new graphics driver, etc) then I mount my /home and /usr/local partition and pull across the key old config from /etc. This can be time consuming but I can always boot back into my current Ubuntu setup. – RichVel Oct 15 '11 at 6:51

Short answer: Yes.

But Ubuntu is still using Gnome, just with Unity on top. Gnome is touting their own Gnome Shell, which is kind of the same but different.

  • No, Ubuntu is not still using Gnome, it uses Gnome 3 now which is inferior to Gnome 3 from a usability and configuability point of view, as it it targeting kids, ellderly people and people sufferring from add syndrome as their main users and gives old Gnome users a big kick in the prolonged back. Off to KDE, no looking back to Gnome, never ever! – Jeannie Oct 18 '11 at 10:41

Gnome-shell does not support ATI drivers, if you are using them. Probably why its not working properly. (The new catalyst 11.9 work)

  • That's strange. I'm using a Radeon HD5850 with the radeon driver and I've had no difficulties or problems with Gnome Shell. -1 – Jo-Erlend Schinstad Oct 14 '11 at 8:42
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    I meant the fglrx proprietary driver with 11.10 gnome-shell – Kashew Oct 14 '11 at 10:19

I rather think, Dave, that you are stuck with a new interface, thanks to the increasing popularity of touch-screen interfaces. Windows 8 has also jumped on the bandwagon -- see YouTube for previews.

Which interface you prefer is a matter of opinion, of course. However, your learning curve for Unity will be short. It took me all of 30 minutes to find my way around it.

Here is a useful learning link. http://castrojo.tumblr.com/post/4795149014/the-power-users-guide-to-unity

I know this does not answer your question directly (others have done a great job of doing that), but this should give some aid.

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