This is going to be the first time I look at a fresh install of Ubuntu in a long while. I first installed Ubuntu quite a while ago and then I just kept distro upgrading from there on. Then I installed Crunch Bang Linux on my laptop. So now I will be testing the installation. This may end up being a pretty short review because not much has changed from the previous Ubuntu, or so I hear. The biggest new change is the notification system. I’ll be sure to check that out.
The new GDM login screen looks so sweet! And the new colour scheme is very nice! It’s a little more orange than brown. Very nice looking.
Also, they’ve made a very subtle change that really tweaks me the right way. The virtual desktop (the two squares on the bottom right) have been given rounded corners. Don’t know why, but my eyes love that! So I decide to install.
First I select my language. Then came the time zone selection. It figured out on its own that I was in the EST time zone. (GMT-5)
I like that it tells you how many steps you have left to the end. Then came keyboard layout. Then came partitioning and I told it to use the entire disk. After that was the username and password screen. Then installation began. Very easy and no real imtimidating parts for any new users, Ubuntu’s primary target. After the install, it’s reboot time. So here’s the desktop.
In typical Ubuntu style, the desktop is devoid of icons. And man is that orangish desktop really growing on me! I think it’s the slickest looking Ubuntu yet.
The update manager, as I had read on the interwebs before, is very subtle. It doesn’t pop up and interrupt you, it just stays minimized on the bottom bar. This is good in that it’s not like in the old days of AOL Instant Messanger where you’d be typing up a report and then suddenly you’re typing into an IM window. It’s bad in that I almost didn’t notice it was there. Oh, I spoke too soon! As I was typing the previous sentence, the updates window did pop up. Perhaps it’s because it was first boot. Or maybe because it was idle, I wasn’t doing anything at the time.
I like a LOT of things about this dialog. It’s been a while since I used Ubuntu (at least one release cycle). First of all, I like the “Welcome to Ubuntu”. Makes me feel pretty welcome. Those simple things make a big deal. Second, I like that it tells you exactly what to do if you don’t want to do the updates now. Third, I like that it says (in bold) “Important Security Updates”. So I know these are important and they need to be done. I also like the ability to see the description of the update, but the fact that it’s hidden at first. I’m definitely reconsidering introducing my wife to Ubuntu instead of Mandriva.
Ok, I was racking my brain trying to figure out what to do to trigger the new Ubuntu notifications. I ended up basically IMing myself. Here it is, in its Mac Growl-like glory:
I also noticed the new applet where you can setup your IM status from the same place as where you shut off the computer.
The goal is to eventually use that not only for IM, but for all programs that would want to know about presence on the network. In other words, there would be hooks into Skype, Ekiga (Voip/SIP phone), and anything else that needs to know if you’re there (maybe the screensaver?). This way instead of putting an “away” status on each program individually, you can do it globally. Finally, they added a shutdown timer.
Fedora used to have this in Fedora Core 6 or around there. But then they got rid of it. Why did Fedora get rid of it? Why is Ubuntu adding it in now? Will all distros have this now? Hard to tell.
Ok, so, as I warned at the beginning this is a short review. I didn’t look at the programs that came with Ubuntu, because this time around the Linux Format Magazine team created a special edition that came with KDE and Xfce built in (as well as some other extra programs). But, except for the OpenOffice.org situation last release (where they had 2.x and everyone else had 3.0) they usually have the latest software that is stable and don’t often put bleeding edge software (except for their last LTS that had a beta version of Firefox 3). Ok, back to the conclusion. Shuttleworth said, months ago, he wanted pretty to be a feature and he wanted to catch up with Mac in terms of operating system beauty. This distro is a good step in that direction. The rounded corners in the desktop switcher are nice. The new theme is much nicer with the orange tones. The new notification sysem looks slick as ice. Of course, many people have complained that it isn’t as good in practice. With Gwibber, for instance, with the old notifications you could click “reply”, but the Ubuntu standard does not allow for buttons. As many people have pointed out in past reviews, this is one of the problems inherent in doing a 200 mile view look at a distro and just testing it for a few hours. I understand and recognize that limitation. However, I’m just trying to get a feel (and give my readers a feel) for what’s out there. They can then continue the testing on their own. There are many others, such as Dan of Linux Outlaws, that tend to test their distros for a while before they write about it. There’s room in this ecosystem for both types of reviews.
In the end, Ubuntu wowed me, but not enough to overthrow Mint as the top recommendation for someone new to Linux. They are, however, quickly closing the gap. Ubuntu remains a top recommendation, together with Linux Mint, and Mandriva 2009 (I have not yet taken a look at 2009.1).