Thursday 29 October 2009

Ubuntu 9.10: First Impressions - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly?

Ubuntu 9.10 (codenamed Karmic Koala) is now available to download, and I've installed it on a fresh hard drive in my HP6120 laptop. So, what's it like?

The Good

The new boot screens that use Xsplash instead of Usplash make the boot process quick (helped by the now default ext4 filesystem) and looks great, with a lot less messy text, it's very smooth. It also now uses Grub2 on fresh installations. The new Humanity theme on Gnome 2.28, is the most obvious improvement on previous releases. This time round I didn't immediately switch to Clearlooks or any of the other themes as the default theme actually looks much better. It has a lot less ugly brownness! The Disk Utility is neat new little feature, which shows hard drive info including SMART status which is rather handy. It's also good to have the (almost) latest version (3.5.3) of Firefox as default browser, hopefully it will be upgraded to 3.5.4 soon. Update: the latest Firefox has now been added to the Ubuntu repos.

The Bad

I think the new Ubuntu Software Centre which replaces Add and Remove Software is an interesting idea, especially for beginners but I felt it seemed more difficult to quickly find programs, or maybe it's because I much prefer Synaptic which is thankfully still in the Administration menu. The new GDM for 9.10 is now very limited, you cannot change it's theme without resorting to hacks, and although it has made boot-up seem faster, it seems to take longer to get from login to desktop than it used to.

Empathy is now the default messenger client, which I think needs more work. My main annoyance was I was unable to get the Facebook plugin to work properly, and there were lots of connection errors. I still prefer pidgin which i am glad you can still install from the repositories.

Another piece of software that is 'almost but not quite there' is Ubuntu one which is similar to other file sync services such as Dropbox, and is now installed by default. Unfortunately it is still unable to connect with the server at the moment, only coming up with an error message. Incidentally I do really like the new libnotify notifications, they look even better now, and are slightly lower on the screen than before. Another disappointment is I'm stuck with the latest feature-lacking version of Exaile. Update : Just received an Ubuntu-One client update and it is now connecting fine. (07:52 GMT) Update 2:

The Ugly?

Well there isn't much ugly in this version of Ubuntu, as it features a much more appealing look. The default theme is more orange than brown, and nautilus looks cleaner this time too. I'm not too keen on the new login theme either, it is dark yucky brown and you cannot easily change it's theme, plus it is more insecure to have your username shhow up at the login screen as it is one less thing for someone to guess.You should be able to change that behaviour by using gconf-editor and go through /apps/gdm/simple-greeter/ and select disable_user_list but I have not got it to work yet.


Well this release sees some interesting changes, and overall it feels like an improvement over 9.0.4. It boots quick and looks great, Ubuntu just keeps getting better and better. The next release, 10.04, will be a Long Term Service release. It will be interesting to see, as i will probably upgrade my servers then, which still run the last LTS - 8.0.4. You can upgrade from LTS to LTS but you can't upgrade from 8.0.4 straight to 9.10, you have to upgrade to 8.10 and 9.0.4 then 9.10.

*The Release notes to Karmic show that you can now more easily re-enable the CTRL ALT Backspace for restarting X action, also other bugs and solutions. I would also suggest using ext4 only for the root filesystem for the time being due to large-filesize bugs.

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