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Friday, 6 April 2012

If you're going to make a big change, get used to the pitchforks

I've moved house a few months ago and while we continue to decorate, I haven't found place for my two desktops that make my home lab. So I've had to build a temporary lab for development on my laptop. I installed Ubuntu 11 yesterday and was greeted with the new face of Unity. I've heard a lot about Unity but never tried it until now.

First thoughts - ah, well this is sort of nice. It looks pretty, it's got big icons... Wait - where are my applications, and where's my terminal?!  After 15 minutes I was on the phone to my friend, "Hey, I've tried this Unity thing and I'm tired now. How do I make it stop?" He told me I'd have to install another windows manager and some other bits and bobs which sounded like work. Well not a great deal of work but enough to put me off for a least 24 hours.

I woke up this morning and thought I'd try a bit of email admin with my new desktop. It may be weird but it's new and shiny so I can't help myself. After I figured out how to access more programs and few keyboard shortcuts to make life easier (the Windows button has come to life!), I realised it's really not that bad. In fact, I'm even beginning to like it. I've always thought the Ubuntu's strategy of 'Linux for human beings' was the right one. And with this step, I can see that they're making a GUI that focuses on a better user experience around common tasks while giving power users the ability to get at programs quickly. A difficult task but I commend them for making the efforts to remodel the way we use the desktop.

I don't know if it will work, but it reminded me of one thing. If you've got a strategy that you believe in, stick to it. Every so often, you'll have to change something that people have really gotten used to. They're going to come out with pitchforks and light a pyre for your flesh and bones (or at least make a few harsh words around the water cooler). When Facebook introduced 'The Wall' showing news of all your friends, the creators had to be escorted of campus by Security. But it's one of the features that made Facebook so popular.

In order to make leap forward to a better solution, sometimes you've got to take that pitchfork in the ass.