Ubuntu 10.10

It seems like just yesterday that Ubuntu Linux 10.04 was released, but here we are and Ubuntu 10.10 has just been released. Wow! How time flies!

There has been some controversy over this release, with some folks saying that Canonical’s six-month release cycle is too often and that there aren’t enough things in this release to warrant an upgrade.

The Ubuntu 10.10 Live CD desktop.

The Ubuntu 10.10 Live CD desktop.

I politely disagree with that assessment, and I’ll show you why in this review. Ubuntu 10.10 is a worthwhile though not overwhelmingly impressive release; it’s worth considering as an upgrade if you are already running an earlier version of Ubuntu. It’s also certainly worth looking at if you are new to Ubuntu and are thinking about using it as your desktop operating system.

What’s New In This Release

Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

The GNOME base platform has been updated to the current 2.32 versions. This particularly includes the new dconf and gsettings API.

Evolution was updated to the 2.30 version, which operates much faster compared to the version in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

The Sound Indicator has been enhanced to include music player controls.

The boot process is cleaner and faster.

New themes, new icons, and new wallpaper bring a dramatically updated look and feel to Ubuntu.

Shotwell has replaced F-Spot as the default photo manager.

Gwibber has been updated to support the recent change in Twitter’s authentication system, as well as changing the back end storage to improve performance.

The Sound Indicator has been enhanced to include music player controls.

The Ubuntu Software Center has an updated look and feel, including the new “Featured” and “What’s New” views for showcasing applications, an improved package description view, and a “For Purchase” software category has been added. You can also now easily access your package installation history too.

Ubuntu One: Polished desktop integration with new sign up and sign in process. Tighter integration with Ubuntu SSO. Nautilus enhancements for managing folder sync preferences. Faster file sync speed. Share links to music within the Ubuntu One Music Store.

The Ubuntu font has been officially released.

I’m happy to see the update to GNOME 2.32. It goes beyond the scope of this review to delve into changes to GNOME in 2.32, but here’s a link that will give you an overview of the goodies.

I’m glad that Gwibber has been changed to match Twitter’s new authentication system. If you use Gwibber you shouldn’t have a problem tweeting in this release.

The speed increase to Evolution is certainly a welcome development in this release of Ubuntu. These days I generally prefer webmail to local email, but I know a lot of people who still use Evolution. So it’s good to see a significant performance increase available for Evolution users.

Shotwell is arguably better than F-Spot as a photo manager. I can’t say that I’m wowed by either of them, but I don’t do a lot with photos so that’s probably why. I suspect we’ll hear some moaning and groaning from F-Spot fans about this decision though. Not to worry, you can get F-Spot in the Ubuntu Software Center so it’s still available.

I’ll cover the Software Center changes in the software section of the review, and I’ll also cover the boot process, installer tweaks and desktop stuff in those sections.

I’m happy to see that Ubuntu One has gotten some polish. I wasn’t overwhelmed by it when I first looked at it, but Canonical seems determined to get it right. Faster file sync speed is absolutely welcome and should make Ubuntu One users very happy indeed.


It’s also nice to see Ubuntu One better integrated with the desktop. If you right-click on a folder in your Home directory, you’ll see Ubuntu One on the menu selection. You can opt to have the folder synchronized via Ubuntu One. I think this is going to make Ubuntu One much more appealing to some users; it makes it very easy to pick and choose the folders you want to keep synchronized.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Ubuntu 10.10:

700 MHz x86 processor
256 MB RAM
3 GB disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024 x 768 resolution
Sound card
Network or Internet connection

Installation
The install routine has been tweaked in this release, and it’s very slick! You’ll notice it right from the beginning. This is really about as easy as it gets in terms of installing Linux.

After you choose your language, you’ll see a new menu that suggests that you have enough disk space, an internet connection and a power source. This menu also gives you the option of downloading updates during the install and also installing third party software. I loved being able to download updates during the install, it has the potential to speed things up considerably. Partitioning the disk is also quite easy in this release, and should help even total Linux newbies glide right through an install.

You can view a slideshow while the install completes. Moving through the slides can be done manually, so you can take your time and view each slide for as long as the install continues. I hope other distros steal this idea from Canonical; it’s a great way of doing it. The slideshows in other distros that just run automatically, with no way to navigate back or forward to a particular slide, might cheat a user out of learning about a neat feature in a distro.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.


Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting & login screens look like.

The first screen you see lets you decide if you want to do an install or boot into the Live CD desktop. This is a very, very slick way of handling it rather than the typical bootsplash menu. I’d like to see other distros do something similar.

The boot process is supposed to be faster but, frankly, I did not notice much of a difference. I’m somewhat jaded on this though, since I look at so many different distros. Unless a distro’s boot process is really slow, I don’t tend to even notice how long it takes to boot. Your mileage may vary considerably though, depending on your hardware.


The Desktop

The desktop has new wallpaper, a new font and new icons.

The Ubuntu font is attractive and adds to the appeal of this release. It’s not the kind of new feature that is going to get anybody to switch to Ubuntu from another distro, but it’s nice to have it. Canonical deserves a pat on the back for developing it in the first place.

Ambiance is still the default theme; you might remember it from Ubuntu 10.04. There have been a number of tweaks to this theme, with the end result making it even more attractive than it was in 10.04.

The wallpaper change is sort of okay; it looks similar enough to the last wallpaper that I can’t see a huge difference. It’s still very Mac-like.

If the Mac-ish wallpaper bothers you, right-click the desktop and you can switch it easily enough. There are a number of attractive alternatives available by default (about 19), and more can be had online. Most of these are new and should please most users, some of them are absolutely gorgeous!

Speaking of Ubuntu being Mac-like, the title bar buttons are still on the left. I know that this rankles people but there it is. I don’t see Canonical changing it any time soon. You can, of course, simply change the theme and that will shift the buttons, but that’s not helpful if you enjoy using the Ambiance theme. It would be nice if Canonical took a hint from Linux Mint and allowed folks to move the buttons to whichever side they want.

The desktop itself is thankfully uncluttered; you will not find a giant load of icons all over it. Navigating the application menus is as easy as it was in 10.04.

The sound control in the panel now features music player controls, so you can more easily control Rhthymbox, for example.

The installed Ubuntu 10.10 desktop.

Admin Tools
One thing I like about Ubuntu is how clearly Preferences are separate from Administration. Click the System menu link in the top panel and choose Administration. You can access the following tools:

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games

AisleRiot Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg
Mines
Quadrapassel

Graphics

OpenOffice.org Drawing
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet

Empathy IM
Evolution
Firefox
Gwibber
Remote Desktop Viewer
Terminal Server Client
Transmission BitTorrent Client

Multimedia

Brasero
Movie Player
Pitivi Video Editor
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Recorder

Office

OpenOffice.org
Evolution
Dictionary

Software Management

As I noted at the beginning of the review, there are some notable changes to the Ubuntu Software Center including new Featured and What’s New lists on the front page of the Software Center. The Featured and What’s New menus will scroll through a list of software automatically (like a carousel). Or you can click the little dots under the current software selected and move to another page.

Note also that there is a link called For Purchase under the Get Software menu, where you can buy additional applications. There seemed to be only two applications listed there, Fluendo DVD Player and Rick’s Wallpapers. The Fluendo DVD Player sells for $24.95, not a cheap piece of software considering you can get free alternatives (see multimedia codecs link in the Multimedia & Problems section).

The screenshots below give you an overview of the Ubuntu Software Center.



Adding & Removing Software

Adding or removing software is very easy in the Software Center. Just find the application you want and click the Install or Remove buttons. You can also add additional software sources if you really want to, but I doubt most people will need to do that. There’s an enormous amount of software already available in the Ubuntu Software Center. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find what you wanted in there already.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash

Flash is not installed by default, but you can get it in the Software Center or install it via the Plugin Finder. My usual Lady Gaga test video did not play the first time I tried it.


Multimedia Applications

Ubuntu 10.10 comes with a good selection of multimedia applications. Brasero, Movie Player, Rhythmbox and the Pitivi Video editor are all included.

After using Peppermint Ice and Peppermint OS One, I found myself missing links to web based multimedia like Hulu, etc. It would be nice if Ubuntu were more cloud-friendly when it comes to multimedia. The days of relying solely on local apps are pretty much over so Canonical might want to take a hint from the Peppermint distros in future releases.

If you find that the default selection of multimedia applications doesn’t cut it, hit the Software Center. There’s a ton of stuff in there and you should find everything you need. If you need additional codecs, see the instructions on the Ubuntu help site on how to install them.

Problems & Headaches

One of the obvious things missing in the software selection is GIMP or a replacement for GIMP. Shotwell is fine for a photo manager, but some sort of basic (and separate) image editing program should be included. As I noted in an earlier review, it’s a shame that something like Seashore (a light-weight image editor available for the Mac) isn’t also available for Linux. Why nobody has taken GIMP and done a “GIMP Light” version, I don’t know. Just focus on basic image editing (outside of just photo management) and you’d have a real winner. As it stands now, something is still missing in the Graphics applications menu. I hope that vacancy is filled soon.

Strangely enough, the Ubuntu site actually says that the GIMP is included with this release but it’s not. Yes, it’s available in the Software Center but it is not installed by default. The folks at Canonical might want to tweak the wording on their site that talks about included features and software. See the screenshot below.


The new Features and What’s New menus in the Software Center leave more than a little to be desired. Am I the only one who doesn’t like automatically scrolling lists of software? Frankly, I would prefer a non-scrolling list of featured & new software. I’m sure that some people will think that the way this was done is cool, but I’m not one of them. This strikes me as a possible example of coolness taking priority over a user’s preferences. There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off the scrolling, unfortunately.

Beyond those two relatively minor quibbles, I had a good experience with Ubuntu 10.10. The distro seemed very stable and I didn’t see any application crashes or other headaches. It was also very fast and quite enjoyable to use.

Where To Get Help

Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Ubuntu Documentation site, support page, and forums.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It

As I stated at the beginning of the review, I think Ubuntu 10.10 is a worthwhile update. It’s certainly worth upgrading if you are an existing Ubuntu user, and it’s worth considering if you haven’t tried Ubuntu yet. Remember that this is a Live CD distro, so if you aren’t familiar with Ubuntu then you can simply boot into the Live CD and try it without installing it.

If you aren’t satisfied with what Ubuntu 10.10 has to offer then you might want to sit tight and simply wait for Linux Mint 10. Linux Mint comes bundled with multimedia codecs and other goodies, so it’s worth waiting for if you want or need more in your desktop distro. This release, while it has its virtues, probably won’t convince users of other popular distros to switch to Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 10.10 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

Click to the next page to view the image gallery of Ubuntu 10.10 (33 screenshots).

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit Eye On Linux for additional Linux articles.

Summary Table:

Product: Ubuntu Linux 10.10
Web Site: http://www.ubuntu.com
Price: Free
Pros: New Ubuntu font; updated software center; better desktop integration for Ubuntu One.
Cons: New “What’s New & Featured” software feature is annoying; Shotwell still isn’t a viable replacement for GIMP for image editing (beyond photos).
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: This release is a solid though not overwhelmingly impressive update to Ubuntu Linux. It’s worth an upgrade and it’s worth considering if are new to Ubuntu, but it probably won’t dazzle users of Linux Mint and other alternative distros.
Rating: 4/5