11 May 2010

First Impressions Of Ubuntu 10.04

With the arrival of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS this is the most important Ubuntu release in years. LTS releases only come once every 2 years so a release like this can either make or break Ubuntu's reputation amongst users. I have decided to do a fresh install of Ubuntu in order to eliminate all problems that result from doing an upgrade, and to properly assess the Ubuntu experience.

For existing Ubuntu users the first thing you will notice when booting off the Ubuntu CD is that the live environment is started straight away. The existing CD menu is now hidden which means you will have to press a key before the CD loads into the live environment. There should be a text message that is displayed informing users that they can show additional options for the CD before it loads.

Once the live environment is loaded I found that the installer wouldn't startup (saw an error message). However when I manually started up the installer it worked fine. No major changes were made to the installer compared to previous versions of Ubuntu. Installation of the OS was quick and easy. With the first startup of Ubuntu 10.04 an error message appeared (on a black screen) which isn't a good look. Although it was not a critical error it shouldn't have been displayed at all. Canonical have had ample time to fix the issue since Ubuntu 8.04.

Last time I had done a fresh install of Ubuntu I had to battle with getting the display setup properly, which meant manually creating a configuration file, and playing Russian roulette with obtaining a working display. No user should ever have to endure this, luckily with 10.04 the display was properly setup which meant no more display headaches. Also for the first time with Ubuntu the highest resolution was selected which is a big plus, and there was no need to edit/create a configuration file. An additional bonus was the fact that desktop effects worked properly for the first time after I had installed the Nvidia driver.

Setting up wireless networking and the printer was a breeze, which meant I could start printing some documents straight away. As for sound there are still some serious performance issues which should have been addressed after the release of Ubuntu 9.10. The last Ubuntu LTS release (8.04) didn't have these issues at all despite using the Pulse Audio system for sound. Canonical will need to address the sound basics urgently if it wishes to get musicians/sound professionals on board.

Performance has been greatly improved with very quick startup and shutdown times. On the downside with my PC I experienced slow logins which appeared to be frozen for a moment even though they weren't. A new look 'n feel has been used which makes it easier to see what windows/applications are selected, easier to read text, and more visually appealing. However the window buttons have been moved to left hand side which is a very bad design decision considering existing users, which are used to seeing the buttons on the right.

For some reason the keyboard shortcuts are no longer displayed which is another very bad design decision. Once again Canonical are not considering their existing users. Remember it is much cheaper to retain existing users rather than attract new ones. As for applications Gimp has been replaced with Open Office Draw and a basic video editor has been added (called Pitivi). What is missing now is a basic backup application.

The Ubuntu Software Centre has been enhanced with the ability to see software provided by Ubuntu, or from Canonical's partners. Some software categories now have sub categories and installation of software is more accessible. Social networking features have been integrated into Ubuntu which is a first for an OS. Although social networking is not of particular interest to me other users will greatly benefit from have social networking done in a single place.

Overall Canonical have done a reasonably good job with the current Ubuntu release but clearly have a bit of work to do with sound and login performance, startup presentation, and the look 'n feel. It is quite clear that this a benchmark Ubuntu release which will really attract new users, however existing users are being left a bit neglected by Canonical.

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