Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Ubuntu's Unity Interface and Search Privacy Issues Are Overblown?

Unity Dash Search Results
Okay.  I get it.  I'm all for the EFF looking out for the average consumer to ensure he/she is not being exploited by greedy corporations.  So, I read recently that there was some controversy and strong words being issued between the EFF and Canonical.  Look, can't we just all get along already?

Someone used Canonical's logos in an article and on their website to criticize how search results were being conducted using Amazon instead of Canonical servers.  Canonical asked them not to use their logos and the EFF called their lawyers on Canonical to defend that person's right to speak.

What does this mean if you are an average consumer looking for a good desktop alternative to Windows or MAC?  It doesn't mean a whole lot.  Why?  Because you can remove the functionality that sends your search results to Amazon if you don't want Amazon products to show up in your search results.  The point is you, as the consumer, DO have a choice.  You can either leave in the search results by default if you are using Ubuntu 12.10 or higher OR flip OFF the switch that allows your search results to be sent to Amazon.

According to How-To-Geek, it's actually a 4 step process:

1.  Search for Privacy in the dash and launch the Privacy application.

2.  Set the Include online search results slider to Off and you won’t see Amazon ads in Ubuntu’s dash.

3.  Uninstall the unity-lens-shopping package to remove only the Amazon advertising.

Type the following command into the Terminal window and press Enter:
sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping
 Enter your password, type Y to confirm, and Ubuntu will remove the package.

4.  Remove the Amazon Launcher by right-clicking it and selecting Unlock from Launcher.

The Unity Dash
Next on the agenda.  Ubuntu user concerns with the Unity Dash are way overblown.  Why?  Because once again, if you do not like the Unity Dash Windows Manager you can swap it out for the more familiar Gnome look that you got used to.  Or, if you like to embrace change in a more gradual way, you can add the "Classic Menu Indicator" to the Unity Dash Windows Manager so that you have both on the same Window.  For those of you who are unaware, the "Classic Menu Indicator" provides a tree menu structure to navigate among your different software categories.  It looks like the "Start" button on Windows.

If you would like to deploy this on your Ubuntu desktop, here are the steps according to Liberian Geek:

1.  Press Ctrl – Alt – T on your keyboard to open the terminal and run the commands below to add its PPA archive:

     sudo apt-add-repository ppa:diesch/testing

     sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator

2.  Launch the application from Unity Dash by typing "Classic Menu Indicator" and hitting the magnifying glass.

3.  Click the 3 horizontal lines icon from the top panel to access the new menu.

Here's a Youtube tutorial showing you how to install "Classic Menu Indicator".  It's 6:36 to 11:20 timeframe of the video.  (Note:  Since the filming of this video, the Ubuntu icon has been replaced by the 3 horizonal lines icon shown in the pic above.)

As for my experience with Ubuntu, I started using Ubuntu when it was Lucid Lynx and got used to the Gnome interface.  When Unity showed up in 11.04, I thought it looked very professional and pretty.  It was so easy to use that even my Mother in her 70's, who played more with her iPad, could navigate through it without any problems.  However, from a Power user perspective, Unity may be a tad bit too limiting due to a Power user wanting to see where all the applications are organized and stored in one view.  That is why, "Classic Menu Indicator" is so handy because it fulfills that need to see where all your applications are in one view.

Despite user paranoia on trying something new, there are quite a number of advantages to using the Unity interface, one of which is the HUD (short for "Heads Up Display").  By pressing on the TAB key, you can search for a menu item that you are too lazy to find within an application's menu tree structure by typing the "menu item" in the Unity dash, significantly improving your desktop task productivity time.  I could go on but I really wanted this post to focus solely on the controversial issues facing the Unity interface and why I don't think it's a big deal.  In a subsequent post, I will cover the advantages of using the Unity interface in more detail, including using the HUD.

That is the beauty of Linux.  You do have choices.  If your organization is using Ubuntu and you do not like the options offered with the latest releases, particularly with the Unity interface, realize that you do not have to go off Ubuntu to have your needs met.  Just improvise!

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