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.
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
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
Network or Internet connection
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 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.