After the upgrade to Xubuntu 11.04 of my six years old desktop computer I decided to have a look how the new Unity desktop looks and works on a computer that isn't a netbook. Since the full “3D” Unity desktop seems not to work with my old configuration (Ubuntu live disk started with the “old” gnome desktop) I decided to install and test Unity-2D.
Unity-2D is a desktop environment, developed with QT, designed to offer the same Unity interface experience on lower specification computers. Installing Unity-2D desktop from Ubuntu 11.04 is almost a trivial operation, since it's available in Ubuntu software centre, just matter of looking for the “unity-2d” package.
After installing you just have to log out, select “Unity-2D” as desktop environment and then log back in. Here is how the Unity-2d desktop looks like by default:
Unity-2D is almost equals to it's “3D” version, they share all the non graphical code, so it lets you have an identical experience of use. On my Sempron 2400 Unity-2D worked well but still presented some problem. First Unity package seems to be designed to be installed over a “plain” Ubuntu Gnome desktop. So Unity-2D installation takes for granted some program that is not available if you install it from a Xubuntu desktop.
of course you can fix it by installing missing applications. Another annoying problem Unity-2D has shown on my installation is that maximized windows lacks of the usual closing and resize controls.
I don't know what causes this problem, may be this too is related to installation from Xubuntu, I tried Installing standard Ubuntu windows themes (Ambiance and Radiance) but this did not solve the problem. Last but not least the application search function performs very poorly on the Sempron 2400 (I wonder if not having to look for applications that aren't installed could make the thing more responsive).
I's not a secret I'm not a great Unity fan, may be it's because I went trough too much user interface changes since command line times. Unity-2D is good but still has all Unity problems with in addition some bug, like the maximized windows one, that need to be solved. Still I see Unity-2D as a positive thing because it shows that Canonical is still looking at low-specification hardware. May be it's because of the mobile market or … may be it's because they still think to us who own an old computer.
I went back to my Unity-2d desktop and I noticed that the missing windows controls has been solved, probably by some update since when I did write the post.