Since the bug that was stopping me from installing Natty (Ubuntu testing release) on my laptop was finally fixed a couple of days ago, I decided it was time to upgrade my main install.
During each Ubuntu release cycle I generally install the testing version on my laptop's second hard drive - keeping all my data safe on my main drive. Installing the testing versions on a different disk/partition is always recommended as testing versions have a habit of breaking, sometimes very badly. I usually wait until it runs nice and stable, and all the software I need supports it, before upgrading my main install to the new version. My desktop machines usually stay with the stable releases until the testing one is released properly.
Why do I consider it stable?
I have been fighting my desktop (old custom box) for a while now. It has an old graphics card (among other stuff) which weren't playing nice with the current versions of Ubuntu (10.04 LTS & 10.10) - I blame NVIDIA for making dodgy drivers. Finally I decided to give Natty a try on my desktop, since it had Unity 2D which I thought would be nice and basic for it. It turns out proper Unity works beautifully. I've had virtually no problems on my desktop since installing Natty. It doesn't really crash, and runs very fast and smooth. So I'm happy with that.
The bug I mentioned above started happening around the same time I found it worked really nicely on my desktop, which was a pity because from using it on my desktop I really liked it. But finally the bug was fixed, and I was able to install Natty. It's been running for a few hours now, with no problems as yet.
What I like about Natty/Unity
Unity feels clean, and simple. It feels like it has been designed as a whole, with the different parts to complement the other bits. The Launcher, for example, is very simple but it works quite well. The search functionality within the lenses makes manually scrolling through the lists something you only do occasionally.
As a long-time Ubuntu user, I have seen where it has come from in a couple of years and it is amazing what has happened. The old themes were so amateurish back then, but now they feel professional.
The interface feels like it was designed to stay out of your way. Maximizing a window gives it the entire screen to play with, and then some, since the title bar and the menu bar are now merged as one in the top panel (see below for my complaints about this). It gives you so much room to work with, uncluttered.
What I don't like about Natty/Unity (AKA the I hate the global menu bar)
I hate the global menu bar with a passion. I had to use a 24" iMac at work for a couple of weeks, and the global menu bar drove me insane. I would have a window open in the bottom right of my screen, and then have to travel all the way across the screen (24" of it) to the top left to use a menu option. Total waste of time and energy. Now that feature has come to Ubuntu too. ARGH!
I can understand the motivation behind the global menu bar, and on a small screen with a maximized window it makes a lot of sense, but not when you are working on a big screen with a small window! My laptop has a 14", so it's ok, but I have a 24" screen on my desktop at home, which runs Natty now, and it is starting to bug me. My work computer however has two 23" monitors on it, I haven't tried Natty on it yet but I am not looking forward to working on windows on my right screen and having to travel to the top of the left to use the menu.
IT WILL DRIVE ME CRAZY!
Ranting aside, I like Natty and I think it runs quite well. Having to use it full time on my laptop and home desktop will help me get used to it and do more testing. No doubt I will also find other fun things with it that drive me crazy. So wish me luck :)