Ubuntu 5.10: Now more endurable

Nine months ago, I published a list of 69 usability problems I noticed in my first two days using Ubuntu 5.04. Then three months ago, Ubuntu 5.10 was released.

So, how many of the problems on my list have been fixed?

  1. The icon in the top left corner of the screen is now an Ubuntu logo, not a Pythonesque non-sequitur foot.
  2. The alert asking for an administrator password no longer has an incorrect title.
  3. The unlock dialog no longer includes what looks like a “User” field.
  4. The unlock dialog no longer tries to double as a clock.
  5. The unlock dialog no longer features an unnerving gauge of how much time you have left; it just disappears after 30 seconds of inactivity. (Fading away over a couple of seconds would be more understandable, but that’s coming in the next version.)
  6. Choosing “Log Out” now shows a dialog in which one of the options is for shutting down. (This is highly unintuitive and quite slow, but at least it’s faster then logging out and then shutting down from the login screen.)
  7. Shut Down” is now spelled correctly.
  8. When I plug in my digital camera, its icon no longer appears on top of an existing icon on my desktop.
  9. The alert asking if I want to import my photos no longer has the title “Warning” or an exclamation mark icon. (Unfortunately, it now has the title “Import photos from device?”, when alerts should not have titles at all.)
  10. Firefox no longer has a non-functional “Import Wizard”.
  11. Evolution’s menus are substantially improved: there is no longer a meaningless “Actions” menu. (There is still room for improvement, as the “Message” menu is still 19 items long, and Mail’s “View” menu is 18 items long.)
  12. Evolution no longer has a non-functional “Exchange” panel.

Other problems have become less severe, while not being fixed yet.

  1. The incorrect capitalization of some menu items has been fixed (“Four-in-a-Row”, “Recording Level Monitor”, “Volume Monitor”, and “Shared Folders”), but others remain incorrect (”Xsane image scanning program” and “Run as different user”).
  2. Ubuntu now shows a nice logo and progress meter while starting up. Unfortunately it still displays a lot of technical gibberish underneath the progress meter, even if nothing is going wrong. And if any step of the startup takes longer than about 30 seconds (for example, if you’re not connected to the Internet), Ubuntu reverts to full gibberish mode for the remainder of the startup.
  3. The text in the login screen is now bigger (though still too small if you have vision difficulties), but the field for the login name itself is still tiny.
  4. Ubuntu can now put my laptop (a Toshiba Satellite) to sleep, though this function is not available from the menus (and the screen oddly says “Linu” [sic] while waking up). A separate “Hibernate” function is available from the misleadingly-named “Log Out” menu item, but when trying to wake up from hibernation, Ubuntu hangs.
  5. Ubuntu 5.04’s bizarre behavior of closing a folder window whenever you opened a subfolder from it has been fixed in 5.10. Unfortunately, Ubuntu now defaults to using the same window for every folder you open. This means moving and copying of files are still expert-only functions, because it is still extremely difficult to get source and destination folders open simultaneously for dragging and dropping.
  6. An audio CD now opens in Sound Juicer for easy playback and extraction, rather than Nautilus. (Oddly, the “Open” and “Browse Folder” commands are both available for a CD, but do exactly the same thing.) So the number of programs involved in managing audio CDs has dropped from four to three, which is an improvement, though not a complete solution. Unfortunately…
  7. … It’s still not possible to copy a music track into a folder by dragging it (though at least there is no longer misleading drag feedback). Sound Juicer is jarringly inconsistent with the file manager in other ways, too: it’s not possible to select a track and choose “File” → “Properties” to get information about the track, it’s not possible to return to the “Computer” window by choosing “File” → “Open Parent”, and so on.
  8. Double-clicking a track in a CD window no longer shows a badly-designed error alert. Unfortunately, what it does do is quite unpredictable. Though the first click anywhere in a track’s row highlights the row, double-clicking in some parts of the row plays the track, and double-clicking in other parts does nothing at all.
  9. Evolution’s account settings are now in the same window as the rest of the preferences. This window no longer falls off the bottom of the screen at 1024×768 resolution, but it is still far too large at 800×600 or lower.
  10. The Help window now takes about five seconds to open instead of eight, which is still far too slow, but a substantial improvement.
  11. A lot of work has been put into improving the installed documentation — probably to little effect, as the front page of the help system is still intensely hostile to people who want help. The “Quick Guide” is now called the “Starter Guide”, which is less misleading. Unfortunately the guide is still caught up in technical navel-gazing: “The source code for this book is written using Docbook XML and is kept in a Subversion code revision control repository.” (Or as normal humans would perceive it, “The marklar marklar for this book is written using Marklar Marklar and is kept in a Marklar marklar marklar marklar.”)
  12. The shade of brown is slightly more pleasant. But it’s still … brown.

In summary, substantial progress has been made, and there are several other items on the list that are scheduled to be fixed in Ubuntu 6.04. Well done to everyone involved.

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