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This is why Ubuntu Unity is developing into an epic fail. Jono Bacon has at least the good sense to admit he isn’t a designer. But he doesn’t take the next step and say “maybe I really don’t know what I’m doing and should step aside”.

One of the dumbest things Ubuntu is doing is hiding various controls. (Admittedly, this is a screwup Apple is making as well in OS X Lion.) In Unity 0.2 (Let’s not call it 2.0 or even 1.0. This nonsense isn’t even quarter-baked.) they chose to hide the window controls in addition to the menu. This is his justification:

My thesis as to why is pretty simple: people learn by exploration. Let’s do a quick exercise. Write down on a piece of paper the last three devices that you purchased. They might televisions, cell phones, kitchen appliances, games consoles, or whatever else. Every one of these devices comes with it’s own interface to operate it.

You learned those devices by poking around, trying things out, clicking, pressing, pushing, and otherwise playing with and exploring it. Some elements of the interfaces will have been obvious (e.g. buttons protruded to indicate that they can be pressed) and some elements less-so.

People like to explore, and it will take next to no time for Ubuntu users to discover that hovering over the text in the panel will display the menu and the window controls. [W]hen you have discovered that the menu is there, you don’t need it to be visible all the time.

I decided to look around at some things in my home to see what their interfaces looked like. I could not find a single one which had buttons unlabeled or hidden until I used it. My stove has a permanently labeled dial. Every button on every remote has labels on it. Surprising me, even the light switches on the wall said “ON” and “OFF”. Even the iPhone — which likely convinced people like him that the Mystery-Meat Interface is OK is pretty well labeled. “Slide to Unlock”. An icon forever on the bottom of the screen that says “Phone”. A push-button with a home icon on it!

More importantly, the devices that don’t clearly show you how to do things are the ones that are hated. Do you remember which sequence of buttons to press to set your digital watch? (They’re labeled, but poorly with vague words like “Mode”, “Date”, “Adjust”...and you have to push these in a special order to set the time, or the alarm, or whatever.)

Remember the game “Myst”? That one where you walked around for hours upon hours on a virtual island until you realized you had to do stuff like find clues and activate things and whatever. That might have been a fun game to play (and opinions vary on that), but no one wants to be forced to play Myst just to print a letter or exit Firefox. People don’t explore their interfaces anymore than they want to explore for the pencil they thought they left on the table. If they can’t find a command, they rightly assume the command doesn’t exist.

Perversely, the Ubuntu Unity designers discovered how to introduce the drawbacks of the command-line into the GUI. Now they want us to remember which magic light-up key hides the function we want and where they hid that magic light-up key.

OMG, Ubuntu!

#1 Posted by Adam_King on Sep 15, 2011 4:15 PM

It’s so bad, Windoze 8 is copying it! lolol

#2 Posted by FibberMcGee on Sep 15, 2011 4:24 PM

Yeah, no it’s not you dumbass. See how this picture horrified every Mac user in the world?

#3 Posted by Adam_King on Sep 15, 2011 4:26 PM

Win8 is a totally copy/paste job from Ubuntu Unity. Everyone knows it, idiot.

#4 Posted by FibberMcGee on Sep 15, 2011 4:30 PM

Windows 8 doesn’t even look like Unity. Unity is a piss-poor copy of what Freetards thought the iPad or OS X looked like, but with the foul-ups we’ve come to know and love from Linux.

Windows 8 pretty much steals the design Microsoft has been using since Media Center.

#5 Posted by DigitalAtheist on Sep 15, 2011 4:30 PM

Only better, more original, and created before unity, but yeah… total copy of Unity (copy of Mac but who gives a flying fv

#6 Posted by FibberMcGee on Sep 15, 2011 6:05 PM

Oh, I so love this. Someone asked whether the “Mystery Meat Menus” (I’m calling them that, now) worked with a touch interface. Jono Bacon (author of the blog post in question) didn’t know. Um, I think this could be important, since: 1) Unity is supposed to be the netbook/touchscreen interface before it became the OMG-Supa-Kool-Uber interface for Ubuntu. 2) You have to be able to see the target to be able to touch it. See my analogy above — they essentially invented the “magic-light-up-key” remote control, which only lights up after you push the button and your finger is blocking the key you pushed.

Likewise, Unity also fouled-up the scrollbars. The thin rails indicating a scroll bar will appear there is too thin to target with anybody’s fingers, and unlike with OS X Tiger/iOS, there’s no guarantee that gestures will work.

That they’re only finding this out during the beta of the second release of the desktop is pathetic. This should have been caught before Alpha-testing last year. Hell, those damn rails are too thin to hit with a regular mouse!

#7 Posted by FibberMcGee on Sep 15, 2011 6:36 PM

More: In response to “I’m not sure that my 55 yrs old mama likes to explore…”, Jono says,“Why not? I bet if you watch her on a computer she explores just like anyone else.”

No she doesn’t. Nobody does. Not if she’s trying to get work done. If she or anyone is exploring, she are lost, and she are likely doing so in the constant fear that if she presses the wrong button, the computer will explode. Well, if not explode then destroy her work or mess up her screen or do any sort of weird thing. Of course this is because pushing the wrong button will do any of the above short of blowing up the computer. Also the threat of “being charged hundreds of dollars on my credit/debit card” because she bought an app by mistake/got taken in by ransomware.

This is where Jono shows he is a computer nerd. We love to mess around with computers. (I am too.) We’re not afraid to break something — in fact, I’ve learned a lot through accidental and deliberate breaking of stuff. In this case, we’ll take the computer or software apart and put it back together again. However, when it comes to cars, asking me to open up the hood is enough to intimidate me. To me, under the hood is spinning things and hot things and shocky things which could blow up at anytime.

That is what a computer is to most people, and what software is to many more. Those people don’t give a care about the source code any more than they or I care about how my engine works. I’m not going to explore the engine, and she’s not going to explore Ubuntu Unity.

#8 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 15, 2011 7:22 PM

“Hell, those damn rails are too hin to hit with a regular mouse!“
Seriously, who invented those damn clickable rails? They make no sense from usability perspective. My guess goes to Nokia, and their horrible S60v5 release, which had touch elements kludged on a system that wasnt touch based (the whole OS was a usability nightmare).

You can either have non clickable rails (like Android/iOS have) and move the screen by swiping/gestures, or have clickable scroll bars. Clickable rails screams “i want to make my OS look like iOS but i dont have proper support for swiping and other advanced touch features“.

#9 Posted by need2bfree on Sep 15, 2011 8:54 PM

Well if M$ and CRApple are copying Ubuntu’s design then it must be good.

#10 Posted by FibberMcGee on Sep 15, 2011 9:14 PM

The only way for anyone to argue that it is Microsoft or Apple who is copying Ubuntu is if either company has invented a time machine. And gone blind while doing so.

#11 Posted by FibberMcGee on Sep 15, 2011 9:18 PM

More stories from the “Who needs testing” crew.

Looks like making a Mac-like menu doesn’t work with the Linux innovation of “focus follows mouse”.

#12 Posted by Linsuxoid on Sep 15, 2011 9:58 PM

Hidden scrollbars are not a problem on a touch screen. Most scrolling is done by panning stuff directly. Hidden menus are horrible, though. So are hidden scrollbars on a mouse-controlled machine.

#13 Posted by administrator on Sep 16, 2011 1:19 AM

What’s really ironic is that Adam King claims the Windows 8 interface is just like Unity; Mystery meat navigation.

Meanwhile, it’s a better navigation experience than the iphone or android because there’s a clear indication when it’s possible to scroll via content spill. The only indicator on other devices is a small dot or paging icon.

#14 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 16, 2011 11:34 AM


Stop replying to obvious trolls.

#15 Posted by Ian on Sep 16, 2011 11:53 AM


The Ribbon in Explorer isn’t actually that bad, though. I thought it would be a bit too much, but when I used it, it was just fine, and quite useful. It can be minimized as well… But then again, I am no Mac user :P

“This is where Jono shows he is a computer nerd. We love to mess around with computers. (I am too.) We’re not afraid to break something — in fact, I’ve learned a lot through accidental and deliberate breaking of stuff. In this case, we’ll take the computer or software apart and put it back together again. However, when it comes to cars, asking me to open up the hood is enough to intimidate me. To me, under the hood is spinning things and hot things and shocky things which could blow up at anytime.”

I have always been helping out my grandpa with his computer, and he is just like every old person with an old computer — as you can imagine.

He calls up, tries to explain the error by saying things like “It said something about the browser something or other,” thinking that its descriptive enough for the hundreds of thousands (or more) error possibilities which could occur in a browser… So I remote desktop into his computer, mess around till I fix it, and I’m done.

It could have been solved by himself (as all issues can be), but he doesn’t explore. He asks how I can know everything about a computer when in reality, right in front of him, I was screwing around with the computer until I get it to do what I want (unless I have had the issue and can fix it without dicking around).

Its the same with the rest of my family and friends, because they are afraid of the computers. It is why Apple is so successful, because they do their best to make it “just work.”

And Unity on a netbook is horrid, as you have probably guessed by now, because there is so much wasted space. You have the top bar and a fat ass sidebar, which I was never able to figure out how to make it smaller. I don’t believe you could have gotten rid of the top bar without losing the ability to find other applications to launch other than the ones pinned. Windows 7’s taskbar would be just as bad if it wasn’t for the fact that you can use small icons…

#16 Posted by administrator on Sep 16, 2011 2:39 PM


I like feeding trolls like Adam. They bring some quality unintentional comedy to the table.

Besides, at this point Adam is reverse reverse reverse trolling.

#17 Posted by ChrisTX on Sep 16, 2011 11:53 PM

I have just one question… IE9 does the same, how come?
The difference? IE9 saves space by this. Ubuntu does not.

#18 Posted by nickgoeshere on Sep 17, 2011 9:04 AM

I just want to add that Myst is quite possibly the best game i’ve ever played.. That, or Shadow Of The Collosus.

#19 Posted by pete_mw on Sep 18, 2011 8:51 AM

Yes, it is fun to explore things and learn new rules. That’s why games like Myst and Nethack are so popular.

However, what’s being proposed here is that Ubuntu force that on people who didn’t sign up for it. As a rule, this sort of thing is not appreciated.

#20 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 18, 2011 9:41 AM

Wow, I just read the Baconhead article.

That has to be the lamest defence of a stupidly unusable interface ever. I particularly like the reductio ad absurdum of Word “with all the toolbars turned on.”

It takes a perverse genius to get stuff this wrong.

#21 Posted by FibberMcGee on Sep 18, 2011 3:40 PM
#22 Posted by administrator on Nov 26, 2011 2:50 AM

LOL @ Printer connected via parallel port.

LOL x 2 @ The author’s foot note remarking about the exact same thing.

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