Anything I ever wanted is just an apt-get away and is mostly installed in a sensible way.
Ubuntu simplifying desktop features and changing defaults to be easier for users like my mom sounds like a great thing to happen to Linux.
That stuff is mostly orthogonal to developers who, you know, know how to deviate from the standard configuration and tools.
This is a problem not for people who are already developers, because they will just install something else and move on, but for new users who won't have anything to discover.
The article said "In fact I think Linux has a tendency to encourage average computer users to become power users once they spend some time with it."
This may not be the best thing for everyone, but that's what the article was getting at.
I think this is an important general point. I've got no real opinion on the evolution of Ubuntu, but we must stop thinking about beginners and expert users as rigid, separated categories. First, there are many degrees and variations on the tech savviness scale. Second, people can learn. Granted, many people won't, since they don't care about the tools they use. But others will learn, if you give them computers that don't push toward laziness and reduce the steepness of the learning curve.
I think Mac OS, in some aspects, is a good example of empowering. For years, Preview and iPhoto had basic tools for editing pictures that Windows lacked. You can adjust saturation, levels, and so on. You can realize that these tinkerings can be not hugely complicated. And if, as a newbie, you end up stuck in Photoshop someday, you will be less scared and hopeless than if you had never used Preview.
They are removing so many simple things like that pretty much everyone expects to be there that it's becoming ridiculous. The fact that the option to change some config exists does not in anyway prevent someone from clicking on the firefox icon and going to Facebook. (and I really hate the attitude that most assume people just want to go to facebook. The fact is most people do a whole lot more with their machine than most simplists are assuming with no data to back it up.)
I'm all for sane defaults but don't remove every configuration knob.
P.S. I don't understand why the screen saver is important (or why it even exists, for that matter).
I was hoping that this was a deliberate move by Canonical to save energy.
However, I was a little puzzled to not find it there.
In over a dozen years, I've never heard my wife ask me: "how do I change my screen saver?". In over 30 years, I've never heard either of my parents say: "how do I change my screen saver?" I've also never heard this question from aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces nor nephews. It's not for lack of questions. At holiday events I wear the T-Shirt that says: "Yes. I'm a software Engineer. No. I will not fix your computer".
That said, Unity might deter the most enthusiastic newbies, the sort that go on to inhabit support forums and help others.
Everybody who I know who uses or tries ubuntu is either:
- A software developer of some kind.
- An advanced or else adventurous user who wants perspective.
- A family member of one of the above.
Neither of those is "mainstream" in that sense. And making product mainly used by X while keeping Z in mind is a troublesome tactic.
I believe the phrasing you were looking for is "the vast majority".
Apple concentrates on providing a good experience for that vast majority. Everyone else can use OS X's CLI or tools like Automator, AppleScript, Xcode, Dashcode and MacRuby (all for free, albeit not all of it is 'free software').
Yes, the average person that visits YouTube and Facebook doesn't need a featureful desktop. But many people want to use their $2000 computer for more than that.
Not everyone is a kernel hacker, obviously... but Ubuntu should be proud that on Linux every user /can/ become one if they so desire. To emphasize the same read-only one-size-fits-all thinking that Apple has popularized is to disregard entirely the philosophy of the foundation on which Ubuntu exists.
The argument that Ubuntu is a pragmatic, get-things-done distribution is founded in fact; it certainly is. But that doesn't mean it has to make it worse for software development and make it difficult to actually alter your system in meaningful ways. I ran Ubuntu for over a year and every attempt to dig into the system's internals (init scripts, configuration tools, what apt actually /did/, etc.) resulted in frustration because of the great complexity and the lack of any help that the OS itself provided. Comparing distros like Arch Linux that guide their users into the system in order to make the changes they want, Ubuntu is about as read-only as I've ever seen in an open-source Linux-based system.
Even so, Arch isn't a distro for beginners by any stretch of imagination. And there I think Ubuntu has the ability to come out far ahead, if they embrace the fact that they are producing a system designed to be improved by the "end-users". A Linux distribution is not a product like a commercial software package. It's an environment that should foster both productivity and learning. To suggest that users should use a static system or merely accept their updates in 6-month-increments is like suggesting that a carpenter should never consider the manufacture of his tools. Sure, there may be a table to craft today, but improving at the craft of doing so is an important goal--and Ubuntu should help its users improve in their usage of their systems by helping them take small, friendly steps into improving the software they use in real ways.
Stop treating users like children and engage them as equals. Apple can't do that because they have to keep their users dependent. Ubuntu is missing out on its greatest source of potential.
While this is true, it's simply not a feature the average user wants at all. They just want it to be simple, and work.
> To suggest that users should use a static system or merely accept their updates in 6-month-increments is like suggesting that a carpenter should never consider the manufacture of his tools.
Most users aren't carpenters, they have no interest in crafting their own tools, they just want a decent looking coffee table that doesn't require them to hand build it.
> Stop treating users like children and engage them as equals.
They aren't equals, have you met most users? You're arguing from a programmers perspective, not a typical computer users.
Sure, as a dev/power user I might be annoyed with some of the changes they make here and there, but as a linux supporter, I'd be much more annoyed if they weren't actively trying to expand to a broader audience. Regardless of how they're going about it, I'm just glad they're actually doing something in that area.
And yet, this isn't orthogonal to still keeping it extensible, transparent and open for learning. Yes, most users might not want or need this. But there might be some who get drawn into it. Never block anyone from learning.
>Most users aren't carpenters, they have no interest in crafting their own tools, they just want a decent looking coffee table that doesn't require them to hand build it.
You misunderstood the analogy, I think. Everyone is a carpenter in some way. The OS isn't the table, it's the tool.
>They aren't equals, have you met most users?
Yet again, you misunderstood. "Equals" means to stop treating users like they are generally unable (and unwilling) to learn. Worse, Ubuntu/Unity (actively or passively) hinders people who are willing to learn.
I'm not saying you should force people to learn. I'm saying you should give them sane defaults, and the option to learn how to change them if they chose to do so (and ideally, with an easy and obvious way to restore the defaults).
They're related. Keeping those things isn't free or easy when most users don't care.
> Everyone is a carpenter in some way. The OS isn't the table, it's the tool.
This is how a programmer thinks; it is exactly tho opposite of what normal people think. Users don't see the os as a tool and have no interest at all in it. The os is the table to them, it launches their apps and that's all they have interest in. They don't want to understand it or tweak it or think of it as a tool.
> "Equals" means to stop treating users like they are generally unable (and unwilling) to learn
But they are generally unable and/or unwilling to learn. You leave me feeling you simply haven't interacted with many normal people. You're talking like most people think like a programmer; they don't.
> I'm not saying you should force people to learn. I'm saying you should give them sane defaults, and the option to learn how to change them if they chose to do so (and ideally, with an easy and obvious way to restore the defaults).
Ubuntu already does this.
There are anecdotes either way.
I have my long list of Unity bugs -- I don't think Ubuntu should have put all their chips on that awful implementation of a mediocre interface.
I agree with Eric Raymond that the most worrying thing is not the poor quality of the new Ubuntu release, but that new releases are going backwards. That takes away any hope for improvement.
I find Unity to be a huge regression in usability.
I would sum up the article as such: Ubuntu needs to focus on being the best Ubuntu it can be for its users. If Ubuntu tries to be Apple (imposing arbitrary UI choices and tastes on them, with little to no recourse) it will neither be good at that or what they were good at to begin with.
I think Ubuntu may be trying to move too fast. Moving fast is great if you can pull it off, but it's not worth breaking the basic functions of the OS to get a more flashy UI. If Ubuntu does want to copy Apple, there's one major thing they need to learn: Apple releases features when they're done.
I know well and good that Ubuntu was conceived because Shuttleworth felt that Linux was ready for the big time and that Red Hat etc had too much penchant to devote resources into low-level bickering that ultimately had relatively little effect on your average end user instead of focusing on improving user experience, but now that Ubuntu has moved the user experience so far forward, they should reconsider that mission. The places where Linux is most lacking is low-level compatibility for things like fast 3D acceleration and power management.
Canonical should use some of its funds (aka "Mark Shuttleworth's money") to buy the 100 best selling laptop models each year, set rigorous testing standards, spend six months developing a new release and then take however long is necessary to make sure that everything passes on the last three years' best selling laptops. In this process, they should not be shy about contribution to X, kernel, etc., and should distribute patched versions of these if necessary to get compatibility.
That, combined with Ubuntu's user experience work, is what will really make Linux a completely viable desktop computing platform. Far too often things break between releases and/or upgrades.
I think you made my point more succinctly than I did.
I think the UX was just fine in last year's Ubuntu. You could argue about whether Gnome 2.x was as slick as Windows 7 or OS X (I think it was at least better than Windows), but I don't think there's much doubt the system was usable by non-geeks. The first thing to break for me was suspend/resume, with one of 10.10's kernel updates. I reverted to an older kernel and hoped 11.04 would fix the problem. It didn't, and it precluded running the older, working kernel. Performance also got worse, and I can't think of any noteworthy improvements as I didn't consider Unity ready for prime time.
So then 11.10 came out. Reviews said Unity was great now and everything ran smoothly, so I pulled the trigger on the upgrade. Unity did, in fact mostly work, though it was slow and glitchy. Oh well, back to Gnome Classic. Of course, it's Gnome 3 now and I can't even move the clock. That won't do, but I've heard the new Gnome 3 gnome-shell is awesome, and I have a video card that can handle it. It loads, slowly, but UI components sometimes vanish when I try to interact with them. Eventually, X crashes. Oh well, that gives me an opportunity to see what progress KDE 4 has made. I can report that the error messages for Plasma crashing look like they've had some attention from a designer since the last time I saw them. Good work.
I'm running Linux Mint Debian Edition with Xfce now. Still no suspend/resume, but everything else works. The Linux desktop experience is almost back to where it was two years ago. Yay leadership!
This has to be one of the worst UI decisions I've ever encountered...
> that's completely obvious right?
I recently tried to upgrade my older 9.10 install to 10.4 LTS. I got a bunch of errors about x.org upon upgrade (I think maybe because I downloaded and installed Nvidia's Linux driver a while ago), and yep you guessed it - hosed system upon reboot.
These sort of showstopper problems should not be occurring - not in the year 2011. Totally inexcusable as far as I'm concerned.
As an example, if Ubuntu had instead teamed up with Adobe, Mozilla (for Firefox), and Google (for Chrome), and shipped a fix for the Flash problem that's been around for years (referring to Flash's instability on Firefox, Chrome, etc.), I think they would've pleased far more users w/a much more subtle change than the massive UI revamp that is Unity.
Or they make an unholy alliance with one or two manufacturers to ensure (NOT excluding other mfgrs, mind you) top notch compatibility on a high end, mid range and netbook class unit.
That's it. They would do so much better like that.
Releasing early and often is good. Pushing that software on people who didn't choose it is not. I feel like there should have been a "Try Unity" button at the Ubuntu installer so people like me could just wait until it's ready.
Maybe I'll be happy with Unity in two years. But in that time I'll have to suffer stuttering, lag and the whims of armchair UI theorists who think Alt-Tab should jump workspaces by default.
I actually bought a Mac on Friday. I need a development environment that works. I don't like spending time yak-shaving when I could be solving real problems.
What's wrong with that? Just provide a standard install location and let those that want to utilize it do so.
As an avid Mac OS X/Linux/Ubuntu user, I really truly don't get the direction Canonical is heading with Unity.
I almost want Ubuntu to either abandon the traditional Debian subsystem or have a "Power User" configuration where you can tell it to use /etc files over the GUI config.
Debian testing/unstable works just great; I keep meaning to move toward it instead. Though I really do feel that Ubuntu packages come better configured and ready to go. None of this has bit me in the ass yet.
I, for one, applaud what they're doing, as much as it terrifies all the half-power-users (I don't mean that as a slight, I do think it's a little silly to get upset about Ubuntu's default WM and claim to 'understand UNIX').
Zero understanding of *nix required here.
Beginners shouldn't have this kind of problem; but put another way, beginners shouldn't mess with this stuff unless they're willing to have this kind of problem (I'm sure most of us have been there, willingly).
# I'm not sure Ubuntu is particularly bad in this regard. It seems to be universal among all the operating systems (and everything else, for that matter). But I guess Linux is more likely to drop you to a shell, which might be scary for beginners.
you can't please all the people all the time. at some point you have to make a decision that some use cases can't be supported, for the sake of progress. in those cases, i think dropping support for the people who need support the least is the only logical way to go.
personally, i use ubuntu (and unity too!) every day as my primary development machine (python programming and database admin), and when i come home i have it on my primary play machine too. it does what it needs to do if you are willing to adjust your workflow a little bit. and if you aren't willing to adjust your workflow at all, ever, then maybe preconfigured DEs are not for you.
The problem is that unity is, well, it's garbage. If I wanted a mac, I'd buy a mac. I liked the old gnome defaults; they were pretty good. Right now? I'm on ubuntu 11.10, and I'm considering another distro.
Unity is simply unusable; It's annoying for all the reasons that the mac interface is annoying, only the whole thing is done, well, worse. Just finding a program is a huge pain in the ass. So I'm running gnome-legacy, which is okay, but still pretty annoying compared to older ubuntu versions.
So yeah; I'm pretty irritated. Not irritated enough to buy a mac, mind you, but likely irritated enough to spend some time looking at other distros, if I'm going to have to spend effort on my X setup, I'm going with a distro that is supported for more than three years.
Please, phrase, go away. You're not profound anymore.
Ubuntu has specifically stated that they're aiming for the layperson, not the power user. If you cut your teeth on ubuntu and want more power in your linux box... try out another distro.
The main advantage of Ubuntu is that it is the best supported Linux distro out there when it comes to software.
For allot of desktop centric software , supporting Linux basically means supporting Ubuntu and possibly fedora.
Nobody wants to mess with source tarballs just to install the latest video player.
I'm a developer but I still want the option to be a "dumb user" allot of the time when I'm doing tasks like using the web / playing music etc.
Also, bugs tend to be identified and fixed, again due to the size of the community. If you run into a problem, often times there is already a forum post somewhere with a solution.
If developers are to use an obscure "power user" distribution, it throws out all the benefits of community.
Perhaps what's needed is a "Devbuntu" that relies on most of the same components as Ubuntu, but targets power users.
If Ubuntu wants to target less technical users it needs to make itself a compelling platform for them which means resolving almost all of the niggling issues and an influx of end user apps, in other words a miracle..
What would be more useful is a more sophisticated UI that can be scaled back by default but have lots of custom options to enable depending on taste. Gnome2 provided this quite well, but I fear that it will be no longer maintained in some silly attempt to poorly imitate other platforms.
If you want uber-simple Linux then what is wrong with android?
Debian, Ubuntu's daddy, is the creator of the apt system. You'd be insane to say it's not a distribution for power users. Then there's other major distros with large user bases. Don't blame Ubuntu if you've never looked beyond its borders.
Perhaps what's needed is a "Devbuntu" that relies on most of the same components as Ubuntu, but targets power users.
Just use Debian.
Whenever I install I always start with stable , because who wouldn't want "stable" right?
The I realise all the software is hopelessly out of date so I slowly end up creeping forward to testing or unstable, that's when problems begin.
At least Ubuntu fixed this somewhat with 6 month releases and LTS.
Soooo, I find it weird that the author complains about Ubuntu saying it's not the right direction. We all know there are dozen of distributions and dozen of window managers. By all means, if you don't like the new updates, just take a WM more lightweight (For instance, fluxbox, awesome, stumpwm, xmonad, etc.) As for the distro, I'm using ArchLinux for a couple of years and I'm loving it.
It's not that I don't like beautiful intuitive UI; it's just that it's not for me (At least on my computers). However, I've got an iPhone and I love the fact that everything just work. But please, don't force me to use GUI everywhere on my desktop; let that for people who enjoys the everything just work.
But then, maybe I'm wrong. I assumed that Ubuntu always was axed for beginners.. Was I wrong with that assumption?
My interpretation of the article: it would be more prudent to compete with Apple's weaknesses (developer friendliness) than to compete with their strengths (UI, zero configuration).
Plus, as div said, developers live mostly in the terminal, so there isn't much that Canonical can do to cater to us. I'd rather have everything hidden from the end user but easily available to the power user via the command line.
I've spent way to many hours helping fellow developers, friends and relatives to debug their Apple. Apple does not make things that just work irrespective of prior computer usage. People get totally lost with Apple just as they do with other environments and that is indeed irrespective of prior computer knowledge, which means so-called developers also get lost (MySQL-python anyone? Or maybe you'd rather have another slice of RMagick?)
Fact of the matter is, if you don't like Unity don't bloody use it. I've never found a single thing I couldn't do in Ubuntu that would force me over to another distro. I mean sure, we could all build our own Gentoo installs from the ground up but who the hell has that sort of time on their hands?
To indicate that Ubuntu is inherently a newbie only system because of eye candy smacks of both arrogance and a complete lack of understanding. It's like calling a mansion a shack because you don't like the colour of the window frames.
If you are unix power user - you should not care much about default desktop. You should customize it right away from the moment you installed _any_ distro to fit your needs.
Ubuntu do a great job of turning more people into nix environment. And it is good for you and for nix developers.
As does OS X's, in addition to Perl, Ruby, PHP...
Also, re: screensavers -- upstream GNOME removed that ability, and Ubuntu inherited the behavior. From what I understand, we're putting it back.
[canonical employee, speaking on my own behalf]
The size of Xcode annoys me too, since I never use it. So I've been using this GCC install on my Mac: https://github.com/kennethreitz/osx-gcc-installer
Couple hundred megabytes. It's still a lot larger than Orca/C was on my Apple IIgs (1 or 2 3.5" floppies?), but then again, compilers come with a lot of libraries these days.
The big problem with Ubutunu is still that it is, no matter how much nicer they make it look, a collection of inconsistently designed user interfaces for mediocre clones of better applications on other platforms. It has no soul. It just stumbles forward feebly copying whatever else happens to be popular on other platforms. It's always going to be playing catch-up to ever moving goal posts. Unless you have some religious zeal to use OSS software there is no good reason to even consider Ubuntu over Windows or OSX.
Problem with making sweeping statements like this is that you now make it difficult to continue any sort of rational discussion.
(and so, I downvoted you for that last line even though you had some good points to make)
Now? I'm happily running on a Mac.
Your point makes sense if you accept a 4GB download just for a compiler.
There are many Linux distro's that come with a C-compiler which are less than 4GB in total size.
Power users should not be using it, it's not built for them.
The problem is that it isn't "an OS the rest of the world can use" for issues not related to the UI.
Simply saying "It's like Mac/Windows but uglier with less software and more issues" isn't a compelling sales pitch to anybody.
A hefty download, perhaps, but free and once it's installed you have a good, modern, IDE with extensive documentation and perhaps the richest and most mature UI toolkit there is to play with. Getting something into the app store for sale may require crossing more speed bumps than necessary but if you want to learn systems or UI hacking it's far easier on a Mac now than it was on an Apple II.
Ubuntu may have taken this simplification strategy too far but catering primarily to the power user and developer is what earned Linux its minuscule market share in the first place.
* X doesn't automatically set up my nvidia graphics card. Sure, I can manually install the driver and set up Xorg.conf, but I just don't want to do that. Luckily there's also an integrated Intel graphics card.¨
* VGA port does not work (no presentations using the projector for me) because of previous point.
* The wireless keeps freezing. At least 10 times a day I have to (using the physical switch on the side of the laptop) turn off the wireless card and turn it on again. Wow. This also is something I'm sure can be fixed by jumbling around with drivers, but again - I just don't want to do that.
* Gnome is horrible. I might be spoiled (lets face it: I AM spoiled) by Apple and their 'everything just works' - which it pretty much does as far as UI goes. Currently I'm running Xfce, which I found to be pleasantly simple. I found Gnome to be buggy and annyoing. Just like in the old days.
Of course there are a lot of positives, like apt being great (my main reason for the switch), and all the available GNU/Linux tools. As others have pointed out, if you use the terminal a lot it's great - but that goes for pretty much any distro.
As far as Ubuntu goes I totally agree with OP. It just doesn't cut it. It's supposed to bring Linux to the people, isn't it? Well, it's not doing a good job of that. I installed Ubuntu to have a system that just works. It doesn't.
If Apple were to bring in a customizable packaging system like apt it'd be a dangerously perfect match. Don't see that happening though.
As far as I am concerned it fits the bill, I rarely encounter anything broken (except during the Leopard / Snow Leopard transition that was quite a nightmare).
That said having to compile everything sometimes is annoying...
I don't think I've even had that file in my filesystem since I was in college...
I do agree though, and I do hope Canonical takes this advice and succeeds at it. They're possibly one of the only groups both big enough and organized enough to pull it off and do it well.
When Ubuntu first came along, I was a Linux user, and I tried Ubuntu on a few different occasions, but I never liked it mostly for the same reasons why people seem to be complaining. It just felt like eye candies tacked onto Debian. There are many other good distributions that are geared toward power users. Why are so many complaining?
I've yet to run into any situation where using Ubuntu has constrained me in any way vs. using another Linux distribution (and I've used a bunch of different ones over the years).
For the most part my "tweaks" consists of a git repo of my dot-files, and I rarely run more than a couple of full screen browser windows and a bunch of full screened terminal windows.
I'd say if anything it's better than apt-get since the packages are updated so often!
I'm going to try out KDE for a while, it's heavy or it used to be, Gnome 2 was just right. I've tried XFCE and it feels like an older Gnome (which isn't a bad thing), down the road it might be the better option until they get a wild hair and go nutts too.
This leads to a problem that one just can't have easily co-existing multiple approaches to work and configuration (i.e. "Ubuntu newbie" vs "seasoned GNU/Linux guru" ways). You have either one or another, and switching between is a pain.
I see that kind of stuff said from time to time. But I don't quite understand. How is it growing?
And people talk about it (App Store) as if it's terribly evil of Apple but it's okay when it gets done on say a Xbox.
As to the XCode-is-required claim, that's been false for a very long time - their GCC is open source, and has been for years. It has only recently become easy though, I'll grant that.
Apple clearly sees iOS and its locked-down environment as the future and Mac OS X as the past. Given that, we can conclude that the overall openness of Apple's offerings will decrease as they focus their efforts on iOS.
Xcode is for-pay now, while it was free earlier.
Apple keeps breaking SIMBL.
Debuggers now need to be signed by Apple or self-signed; either way, it's a pain.
QuickTime X is no longer extensible via plugins.
It's back to being free if you have installed Lion.
>> Apple keeps breaking SIMBL.
SIMBL is a non-standard 3rd party framework. It would be more correct to say that SIMBL isn't keeping up with OS X development.
Citation needed? Or are you pulling that from OSX getting a dose of iOS UI? The existence of the app store is merely a sign that they make money from the iOS one, and wish to make more money.
SIMBL is a hack used to load hacks (a fantastically useful one, don't get me wrong there). Its very nature is fragile, and Apple has zero responsibility to make sure it continues to work.
For OS X 10.7.2, you can grab the source at http://opensource.apple.com/source/xnu/xnu-1699.24.8/.
The "README" at http://opensource.apple.com/source/xnu/xnu-1699.24.8/README has instructions on building and installing the kernel. Admittedly, while I have never actually done this, I've seen lots of instructions floating around for doing this "correctly".
Furthermore, I personally use versions of Android on my tablets and Ubuntu on my desktops. I see no reason that Ubuntu should "make a dent in the tablet market" when Android is already doing fine for us.
1- They think users are plan stupid so they have to decide what's good for users.
2- They're just copying from Apple, don't think about why apple did like that. This will end up with a mess. When i use my friend's mac, i think "this thing can't be better" and then when i use ubuntu with unity all i can think is "What the fk they were thinking ?"
Apple makes a nice bit of kit, but please, can we stop with pretending they've got it perfect?
Neither is true in 10.7.
Heavy reliance on keystrokes with low discoverability?
For the most part, keystrokes follow similar patterns from application to application. There are inconsistencies (some applications use ctrl-tab to switch tabs, some use ctrl-pgup/pgdn) but for the most part it's self-consistent. (There are some nice power user tweaks, such as a subset of Emacs keystrokes available for navigation in text boxes, but they're not critical.)
When I think of a Linux I should install just to get things done, I think of Ubuntu. The more it positions itself that way, the more it will get users. The GPL and free software culture should take care of the rest. It is the responsibility of developers to build an ecosystem for themselves, because they know how to do it.
Don't you guys see this is why Linux's marketshare has been so small for now? If you don't like Ubuntu, by the way, there are always other Linux distros. You're welcome to install Slackware. On my server, I run CentOS. Why can't there be ONE linux distro that regular people can use without reading a manual?
The relative failure of Linux as a traditional desktop platform has very little to do with the UI. Sure Gnome 2 looks clunky and outdated now but it's basically a Win2000/XP Clone as far as UI is concerned (startmenu + taskbar + quicklaunch). So it will have been familiar enough to most users who come from a windows background (who are going to be the ones most wanting to try it). The UI is the not big issue here...
The problems with the Linux desktop for "normal users" (whoever they are) are and always have been:
Lack of ports of popular commercial software for many tasks and in many (not all) cases a lack of a "good enough" open source alternative.
Lack of reliable support for many consumer hardware configurations that are bundled with cheap desktops (nvidia/ATI support still isn't 100% for example), also on some netbooks you install ubuntu and the Fn + F(Key) combinations don't work unless you know to install a specific package. Also support for niche hardware for some tasks is hit/miss.
Weird intermittent issues that some people experience with power saving , wireless , flash etc..
No amount of changing the dock/menubar will fix any of these issues.
Let's face it , default unity is ugly.. it makes windows 7 look gorgeous by comparison but this has pretty much always been the way with Gnome/KDE. For many users (like me) the customisation aspect has been more than enough to make up for this however, unity pretty much kills that.
The only reasons I can think to advise anybody to run a linux desktop are:
You really care about OSS ideals and will not use any non-free software (in which case you want debian not ubuntu).
You are super paranoid and want something secure to install in a VM for using online banking etc.
You want a second OS so that you can diagnose more easily whether something is a hardware/software problem.
You develop software that will run on a Linux server so want a desktop environment that is as close to production as possible (this is me and probably most serious workplace Linux users)
Your a geek and like playing with different OSes
If somebody genuinely only wants to run facebook/youtube etc then pretty much any OS out there will suit their needs, in which case they will want to move over to something closer to iOS / Android rather than some half baked unity.
Even Microsoft have acknologed that you can't really easily build a UI that will work for the casual tablet / netbook user and the "content creator"/business user hence the seperation of metro and the standard Windows UI. I have almost 0 faith in canonical succeeding here.
Building a super simple UI on top of Linux should be left to the likes of Google/HTC,
with commercial OSes being increasingly locked down a space is opening for a serious "power user" system with high customisability, this is where Ubuntu could win big.
Of course people will say to me "oh your not the target market , use another distro"
Well there are a few problems with this argument:
The reason I use Ubuntu is because it is the closest thing the Linux desktop has to a defacto standard setup. Anybody who cares about distributing Linux applications will make sure they work with ubuntu and usually provide a tested .deb or an apt repo. If I switch distro there is a fair chance I lose this and end up back with source tarballs and weird install scripts. I spent a large part of the last 10 years trying different distros and this has consistently been the worst part of the experience.
Just because I am a power user does not mean I don't want my applications to "just work" and be installable through a standard simple interface, Ubuntu does this very very well (for the most part).
I think the whole idea of having different distros for novices and advanced users pretty idiotic really, a good distro should install with sensible defaults that "just work" and allow anybody who wants to customise to a greater or lesser degree. Many developers and other advanced users seem to have no problem customising the "beginner friendly" mac OS for their needs.
I could go on , but I think I'll leave it there :)