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Ubuntu 13.10: The good, the bad and the ugly

Maria Korolov | Dec. 10, 2013
New Touch operating system for mobile devices is still a work in progress.

Finally, Ubuntu's Unity interface continues to hide the Files menu when windows are maximized. When writing this review, for example, we were able to move the window close and minimize buttons from the top left to the top right, using the Unity Tweak Tool app. But the File menu stays invisible until you mouse over it, violating the principles of usability design with this bit of "mystery meat navigation."

Experienced users won't mind, since this frees up screen real estate to show the name of the current application. But newcomers might have a moment of panic as they try to find the "Save As" or "Search" functions.

The mobile
The big breakthrough here is Ubuntu Touch, which can already be installed on Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 handsets to replace the Android operating system. Developers might be interested in installing it and checking it out, but everyone else should wait until the operating system is officially shipped with devices, which is expected to happen early next year.

One reason to avoid Ubuntu Touch, besides the fact that it supports only limited voice and text functionality, is that there are hardly any apps yet. Some basic apps are included, such as a calendar, a clock, a calculator, a terminal tool, a file manager, a web browser, a notepad and a weather app. The app store has a few more selections, such as Sudoku, Minesweeper, Mastermind and a stock ticker app. Other applications, like Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Dropbox, and Angry Birds aren't available as native apps but can be installed as "web apps" and used like native applications.

Canonical had tried to jump start Ubuntu smartphones with a crowdfunding campaign for the Ubuntu Edge this past summer. The campaign, which raised almost $13 million, still fell short of its $32 million goal and the project was scrapped.

Ubuntu is still aiming to take the No.3 spot for mobile operating systems, currently up for grabs. According to Gartner, as of the end of the second quarter of this year Android and iOS accounted for 93 percent of all smartphone sales, with Microsoft a distant trailing third with 3.3 percent.

 

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