Story 2014-05-06 3K1 Ubuntu 14.04: don't touch those buttons!

Ubuntu 14.04: don't touch those buttons!

in linux on (#3K1)
Ubuntu keeps working on optimizations of its controversial UI, and they haven't all been equally liked. This one, too, is sure to cause some controversy: They've removed the ability to choose whether the buttons go on the left or right side of a window .

That's not necessarily an option that everyone cares about, but those who do, care strongly about the now-removed feature. From the AskUbuntu forum:
It seems that Canonical went the totalitarian way and ordered that users should not be allowed to change the buttons position (you can find more technical details of this change on the bottom of this post).
As for now the only way to have windows buttons on the right side in 14.04 is to switch from Unity to the Gnome Flashback session (what I personally recommend). More details on how to do that are presented below.
That is, the days of being able to make this personalization to your config, once easily handled either via the gconf-editor command line tool, or the equally comfortable command: gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences button-layout ":minimize,maximize,close" have drawn to a close. Hope you like Ubuntu's choices, everyone: they're the only choices you get!
Reply 19 comments

Not the only choice (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-06 20:00 (#1EA)

It's not the only choice you get. You also have the choice not to use Ubuntu. It's not as if there were no viable alternatives.

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-06 20:06 (#1EB)

Since Mint is based on Ubuntu, will their upcoming 14.04 versions also have this restriction?

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 2, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-06 20:26 (#1ED)

Since the restriction comes from the window manager, and Mint has its own window manager (well, actually two of them), I strongly doubt it.

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 3, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-06 20:36 (#1EF)

They call their UI "Unity" for a reason - "Binary" would imply there is at least one other option!

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 2, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-09 09:14 (#1GB)

I think the word you're looking for is Urinary.

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 3, Informative)

by on 2014-05-06 22:23 (#1EK)

Even if using Ubuntu, one is not constrained to using Unity. Gnome, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, Cinnamon and others are available .

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-07 02:42 (#1EN)

Exactly. Given how easy it is nowadays to download a version of ubuntu that comes packaged with your favorite DE or WM, this isn't that big of an issue. They have chosen to remove customization because they don't want to support a feature they view as non-essential and possibly harmful to their interface, you can react to this by just opting to use a DE or WM that gives you power to customize it.

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-07 14:25 (#1F1)

Also worth noting, just in case we have some nooblings around here in the dark, is that you don't NEED to have a version of ubuntu packaged with another window manager/desktop environment to use one; it's as simple as "sudo apt-get install ". I almost appreciate Canonical being this locked down with their default environment, as given how much they've done to discourage people needing to learn a thing or two to use GNU/Linux at all, it's nice to see them now encouraging people to learn a thing or two because the defaults, while functional, get uncomfortable fairly quickly. And if you don't want to learn, well, you still have a working system and won't be running back to Windows because the learning curve was too high.

Not as system I'll personally be using in the near future, but it does seem to have some pluses to it for its target userbase.

Re: Not the only choice (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-07 16:02 (#1F5)

That's true, alhtough I have had some difficulties in the past getting this to work properly. Sometimes some configuration files can conflict, and of course when you pull the DE or WM from upstream, it might not look as good or be as functional out of the game as one that comes packaged with the distribution.

I did get Awesome WM to work on XFCE the other day and it was lovely.

The list of things I do on a new ubuntu install... (Score: 3, Interesting)

by on 2014-05-07 02:44 (#1EP)

Hasn't changed with this. The very first thing I do is dump unity:
apt-get install gnome-shell gnome-panel compizconfig-settings-manager and presto... I can use
gnome classic.

I like 14.04 LTS.. I've hated Unity since it began. Seems almost every new revision makes my list of things I
need to tweak longer.

Re: The list of things I do on a new ubuntu install... (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-07 03:05 (#1ER)

I've been considering going to a ubuntu based distro, since there seem to be a lot of commercial packages that are supporting it. Xubuntu seems to be a nice alternative, I just need to take the time and figure out how easy everything will get along if I throw openbox and my crunchbang settings on it.

Re: The list of things I do on a new ubuntu install... (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-07 18:50 (#1FA)

To the argument with the commercial package support, you can basically extract any deb package and adapt it to a custom package format, if there are shared library dependencies you can add them to the package if your distro doesn't provide the old versions. I have run Archlinux for quite a few years (until they forced systemd on me and abandoned BSD's KISS principle) and I needed a lot from printers to other specialized hardware monitors and stuff and it was always possible to make it run. It requires a tiny bit extra work, but Arch's PKGBUILD model lets you do that in 5 minutes in the usual case.

stayed with ubuntu and unity (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-05-07 12:15 (#1EW)

Over the years, I have drifted from Redhat, Gentoo, Debian and finally to Ubuntu about five years ago. I just found that Ubuntu was a reference point for many project releases even if the projects also release source code as well. I guess the latest high profile version of this is Steam on 12.04. Anyway, aside from linking Amazon to search queries which I disable, my functionality and use of Linux has not (yet) been greatly affected by Canonical's decisions with its Linux distribution and Unity window manager. I guess I don't really care where various UI elements get put at the end of the day as long as I can find them. I quite like the Dash search.

That said, I remain puzzled why Canonical seems to care to fix UI elements to particular places in the first place? I am not sure what they gain from this?

Re: stayed with ubuntu and unity (Score: 4, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-07 17:27 (#1F8)

I remain puzzled why Canonical seems to care to fix UI elements to particular places in the first place? I am not sure what they gain from this?
The motivation is simple zealotry on the part of their UI priesthood. They know what is the Only True Way in every detail, and by god, that is all you will get. Some might theink there must be a rational motivation: that rigidity and removal of customizability reduces the code complexity and footprint. This is a false attribution. Do not underestimate the religious fervor of deside wonks with the bit in their teeth.

Re: stayed with ubuntu and unity (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-08 11:27 (#1FS)


It was pretty hard even for me to figure out what word I was trying to type only yesterday. Maybe I had a cold :-)

Re: stayed with ubuntu and unity (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-07 20:19 (#1FD)

They think that removing options will reduce support costs and increase user adoption. This is the same mentality that Apple and Gnome have.

I think its a terrible idea, and a waste of time and effort. If you are creating something new from scratch, then by all means limit the number of ways of doing things. But don't do it to a project that's already in the wild.

While I switched off Ubuntu years before Unity existed for trivial reasons ( didn't like my DVD drive), these kinds of changes keep me from switching back, despite the widespread adoption.

Re: stayed with ubuntu and unity (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-08 12:00 (#1FT)

They're not going to have many support costs at all if they make it a distro that users don't like. I've been a SUSE guy since 2001 and I have no regrets at all not jumping onto the Ubuntu bandwagon. The only thing I really envy is apt-get (still, to this day).

Re: stayed with ubuntu and unity (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-09 21:54 (#1GP)

really? Zypper is great. I have zypper envy in the RHEL/Fedora world. It wil probabably be until fedora 22 before yum is caught up with the dependency solving capabilities of zypper.

Sticking with Mint (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-08 06:37 (#1FN)

I moved to Mint way back when Unity first appeared. Just don't like it.

Still, I regularly check out other distros, and gave the new Ubuntu a spin today.

Guess what? I'm back into Mint again.

For me part of what I like about Linux is the feeling that I'm in control, and can tweak stuff to suit my specific needs. I really don't get that feeling with Ubuntu.

Instead it just feels like Linux dressed up to look like OS X. Given that I really don't like Apple's way of doing things that doesn't work for me.