Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx)

The open source world has been eagerly anticipating the final release of Ubuntu Linux 10.04, and now it’s finally here. Canonical has been working extremely hard and it shows in the quality of this release.

To put it bluntly, Lucid Lynx rocks!

What’s New In This Release
There’s quite a lot of new stuff and changes in this release. Here’s a list of some of what you’ll find:

F-Spot replaces the GIMP

PiTiVi video editor added

GNOME 2.30

New themes: Ambiance and Radiance

New wallpaper

Linux kernel 2.6.32

New nVidia hardware driver

Gwibber social media application

Faster boot time, with a different look and feel on the bootsplash screen

Ubuntu One adds contacts and bookmark sharing

Ubuntu One music store integrated into Rhythmbox

Ubuntu Software Center 2.0

This release marks the first time that the GIMP has not been installed by default. F-Spot Photo Manager replaces it. Some people will love this and some will hate it. The thinking at Canonical is that the GIMP was too complicated an application for most ordinary desktop users. If you’re a fan of GIMP, no need to worry though. It’s still available in the Ubuntu Software Center.

Another new addition is the PiTiVi video editor. I don’t do much in the way of video editing, but I’m very glad to see this included. It’s one of the basic kinds of application functionality that users expect to find in a desktop operating system. Will it suffice for hard-core, high-end video editing? Probably not, but it should work just fine for your average desktop user.

I’ll cover the new themes and wallpaper in the desktop section. I’ll also cover the bootsplash and time changes in that section of the review. And I’ll talk about the Ubuntu Software Center in the software section.

Social Media
Access to various social media networks is now built into the Ubuntu desktop interface via Gwibber. You can access this by clicking on the envelope in the panel at the top of your screen. Or simply click Applications then Internet then Gwibber Social Client.

Gwibber lets you have all of a number of different social networks all in one application. You can connect to Facebook, Digg, Twitter, Flicker, StatusNet, FriendFeed, Qaiku and Identi.ca from the Me Menu. You can also chat with friends on Google Talk, MSN, IRC and other networks.

It doesn’t take long at all to set up your social networking accounts and updates appear in one, unified interface. This is tremendously convenient and helps eliminate the need to run these services in different browser windows. You can also easily post updates from Gwibber.

I loved having it available on my desktop. It let me read Twitter and Facebook updates at a glance and made it quick for me to post my own updates.

The Me Menu (based on Gwibber) lets you connect to Facebook, Twitter and other social media services.

Ubuntu One: Music and More
The Ubuntu One service has been enhanced to make it easier to share files and folders. And you can now share bookmarks and contacts too. Each user gets 2GB of free storage from Ubuntu One so it’s a good deal if you want to use the cloud to store files and information.

The Ubuntu One Music Store has been integrated into Rhythmbox music player. You can buy DRM-free music tracks and store or share them on the Ubuntu One service.

To access the music store, click Applications then Sound and Video then Rhythmbox Music Player. When you first launch Rhythmbox, you’ll see a message letting you know that you need to install some MP3 plugins to listen to purchased songs. Just click the Install Plugins button and your plugins will be installed for you. You can then browse the Ubuntu One music store and begin purchasing music.

The prices in the Ubuntu One Music Store seem comparable to the ones in iTunes. Individual songs go for $.99 to $1.29 and albums seem to be about $9.99 to $16.99. I only checked a few albums though so it’s possible that pricing on them could vary more. Still, it all seems very similar to what you’d pay in iTunes or other online music store.

The Ubuntu One Music Store could still use the ability for users to post their own reviews and ratings of music though. But it is definitely off to a good start and I’m sure we’ll be seeing improvements in it as time goes by.

You can now share bookmarks and contacts via the Ubuntu One service.

The Ubuntu One Music Store is integrated into the Rhythmbox music player.

Hardware Requirements & Installation
Here is the official list of system requirements for Ubuntu 10.04, from the Ubuntu Manual:

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
Ubuntu Linux 10.04 is a Live CD distro. You don’t have to install it to use it. Just pop the CD into your computer and boot off of it. Choose the Try Ubuntu Without Installing option and you can use Ubuntu without installing it.

If you’re a Windows user with no Linux experience, don’t worry. Installing Ubuntu is about as easy as it gets. The screenshots below take you through the install, step by step.

While Ubuntu is installing, the install menu displays information about applications such as Firefox, OpenOffice.org and some of Ubuntu’s features. This is a nice touch for newbies to Ubuntu Linux who might not be familiar with Ubuntu’s new features or some of the bundled applications. Old salts probably won’t care too much about this though.

You can choose your language before you install Ubuntu Linux.

Choose your time zone.

Pick your keyboard layout.

Partition your hard disk.

Choose your login ID and password.

Begin your install or hit the back button to make changes.

While the install is completed, you can read about Ubuntu’s features and software.

Reboot your computer after the install is complete.

Booting & Login
The boot time for this release has been sped up significantly. It took just a few seconds for my Ubuntu system to take me to the login screen and then just a few more for the desktop to load up.

Ubuntu boots way faster than Mac OS X, that’s for sure. While it’s nice that Canonical is learning how to do a desktop properly from Apple, it might be nice if Apple learns how to speed up Mac OS X’s boot time from Canonical. Turnabout is certainly fair play when it comes to boot time and desktop design.

Bootsplash Screen
The bootsplash screen lets you boot into the Live CD version so you can try Ubuntu without installing it. Or you can opt to start the install right away. You can also check your disc for defects, test memory or boot from the hard disk.

Other options such as language, keymap, accessibility, etc. are available via the F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, and F6 keys.

The bootsplash screen has the new Ubuntu logo and coloring, and it looks great. It’s simple yet beautiful to look at and is a harbinger of good things to come for those booting into Ubuntu for the first time.

When you first boot into Ubuntu, you can choose to run it as a Live CD or to install it to your hard disk.

Login Screen
The login screen has the new, Mac-like purplish background on it.

The login screen lets you choose your session, keyboard and language.

The Desktop
The new desktop theme is called Ambiance and it’s quite attractive. Gone is the icky orange and brown of previous releases and who among us will miss it? Not I.

The Ubuntu Linux desktop has finally come of age as far as design goes. It is – dare I say it – very Mac-like in some respects. The default wallpaper is purplish and the maximize/minimize/close buttons are now on the left.

Moving these buttons was a bold move on Canonical’s part but one that doesn’t bother me in the least. I own Macs and I use Mac OS X frequently so having the buttons on the left is second nature to me and I’m very happy to see Ubuntu go in this direction. I know that some people will hate this but, trust me, you’ll get used to it very quickly and if you have to use Windows at some point, you’ll wonder why the buttons are on right instead of on the left. Having them on the left just feels so natural once you get used to it.

Canonical seems to have used Mac OS X as a template of sorts for Ubuntu Linux and my hat is off to them for doing so. Apple, love them or hate them, has done a great job with Mac OS X’s interface and I’m thrilled to see Linux taking a page from Apple’s book and perhaps moving away from some conventions used by Microsoft in Windows.

Themes
As I noted above, Ambiance is the default theme. If you dislike it you can use a lighter theme called Radiance. I tried Radiance but went right back to Ambiance, I prefer the darker theme much more. If Radiance doesn’t float your boat you can choose Clearlooks, Dust, Dust Sand, New Wave, High Contrast Inverse or High Contrast Large Print Inverse. If none of these themes pleases you then click the Get More Themes link on the themes menu and download additional themes to choose from.

Wallpaper
There are 18 different wallpaper options to choose from and you can opt to click the Get More Backgrounds link on the Background menu if you want more. I think the default, purplish Ubuntu theme looks very good and I decided to stick with that until I finally get bored with it. At some point I’ll probably take some of my World of Warcraft screenshots and use those as my wallpaper in Ubuntu 10.04.

The Appearance Preferences menu also lets you change your font settings and adjust visual effects. My desktop defaulted to having visual effects off, which wasn’t surprising since I was running Ubuntu in a VM at the time. I tried to turn on the Extra option but, alas, it didn’t work as Ubuntu didn’t seem able to find the proper driver.

The Ubuntu 10.04 desktop using the Ambiance theme.

Bundled Software

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

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
gbrainy
Mahjongg
Mines
Quadrapassel
Sudoku

Graphics
F-Spot Photo Manager
Simple Scan
OpenOffice.org Drawing

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

Multimedia
Brasero Disc Burner
Movie Player
Pitivi Video Editor
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Recorder

Office
Dictionary
Evolution Mail and Calendar
OpenOffice.org

Software Management
The Ubuntu Software Center is where you can add or remove applications. I’m a big fan of the Software Center. I liked it a lot in the last release of Ubuntu and I like it even more in this release.

Featured Applications & Departments
When you first launch the Ubuntu Software Center, you’ll see a list of application categories and a large, orange Featured Applications button. You can opt to browse software via category initially but it’s better to click the Featured Applications. The Featured Applications list has a lot of great software that isn’t installed by default including:

Audacity
Blender
Cheese
GIMP
GNOME Do
HomeBank
Inkscape
Liferea Feed Reader
Pingus
Stellarium
Moovida Media Center

There’s plenty of other software available in the Software Center, probably more than any typical desktop user will ever really need.

Provided By Ubuntu & Canonical Partners
If you look in the left side of the Software Center, you’ll see Get Software. Click that and you’ll see two entries below it: Provided By Ubuntu and Canonical Partners.

The Provided By Ubuntu menu is a long list of stuff that most desktop users could probably care less about. The only things listed in the Canonical Partners menu were two Adobe products, Adobe Flash Plugin 10 and Adobe Reader 9. I don’t doubt though that we’ll probably see some commercial applications at some point.

Adding and Removing Applications
When you find an application you want click on it and you can choose the More Info button or the Install button. If you choose More Info you’ll get a detailed description of the application and a screenshot so you can see what it looks like before installing it.

If you install something and you want to get rid of it, go back to the application in the Software Center and click the Remove button. Each time you add or remove an application you’ll need to type your password when prompted.

You can download additional software from the Software Center.

You can download plug-ins like flash for your browser.

Clicking the More Info button loads a detailed description and screenshot of an application.

Sound and Multimedia
When I first booted into my Ubuntu desktop, the sound worked perfectly. I didn’t need to configure anything. It’s always nice to hear the Ubuntu theme when my desktop loads.

YouTube & Flash
Flash wasn’t installed by default, unfortunately. I installed it by going into the Software Center and clicking the Install button. It took just a few seconds and I was good to go with YouTube videos.

I’m somewhat surprised that I had to install flash on Ubuntu Linux 10.04. It seems like something that should be bundled into Firefox by default. Perhaps I’m just too used to Linux Mint and it has spoiled me? Maybe Canonical could cut some kind of deal with Adobe (assuming that’s necessary) and start integrating flash into Firefox by default.

Anyway, remember that flash is available to you in the Software Center if you find that you need it while browsing the web.

After installing flash, YouTube videos will play in Firefox.

Problems & Headaches
I didn’t come across any real show stoppers while using Ubuntu Linux 10.04. However, I do a have a few, mostly minor things to nitpick about it.

I found it strange that the word Departments is used in the Software Center as a label for application categories. Departments? As in department store? Accounting department? I don’t know, the word “department” just strikes me as odd. Labeling it Application Categories makes a lot more sense to me.

One thing I missed from Mac OS X was the ability to have my desktop wallpaper background automatically cycle through a folder of wallpaper. In Mac OS X, for example, I use the screenshots folder in my World of Warcraft folder. I have my wallpaper set to cycle to the next wallpaper every five minutes. So I get to see my adventures in WOW as my desktop background and I never get bored because my desktop always cycles to a new WOW screenshot every so often.

I was also unhappy to note that the Screensaver menu is separate from the Appearances menu where you change your desktop background. These two things are combined in Mac OS X on one menu (you choose one or the other from the same menu) so it’s easy to make changes. Canonical might want to give some thought to combining these two menus, it just makes a lot of sense to have them both in one place.

As I noted earlier, the GIMP has been removed in this release. Yes, you can easily install it from the Software Center, but I still miss it as part of the default install. GIMP, we hardly knew ye…

One prominent social networking service that was missing in action in Gwibber was LinkedIn. This definitely needs to be fixed in a future patch. Facebook, etc. are all fine but LinkedIn actually has real business value and should most certainly be available in the list of services available via Gwibber.

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.

Beginners should definitely take a few moments to check out the Ubuntu Manual. It will be a big help in getting you started with Ubuntu Linux. You might also want to check out the Ubuntu support page for various free and paid support options including professional support services, free community support and Ubuntu’s technical answers system.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I applaud Canonical for the changes they made in this release of Ubuntu Linux. It’s a terrific update to an already excellent desktop Linux distro.

There are those who will resist some of these changes but I think they will learn to love them eventually. Canonical has pushed the desktop Linux experience forward significantly in Ubuntu Linux 10.04. Other distro developers should pay careful attention to this release and should learn from what Canonical has accomplished.

One last thing, I’d really love to see Valve hook up with Canonical and bundle Steam into Ubuntu Linux. Given all its other strengths, the only thing Ubuntu 10.04 really lacks right now is access to some truly killer games. Steam would be the cherry on top for Ubuntu Linux. I covered this possibility in a column and I still have my fingers crossed about it.

I heartily recommend Ubuntu Linux 10.04 to beginners or experienced Linux users.

There’s quite a lot to love in this release and very little to dislike. Give it a download and enjoy.

What’s your take on Ubuntu Linux 10.04? Tell me in the comments below. For more discussions, visit the DLR forum. For opinion columns visit JimLynch.com.

Summary Table:

Product: Ubuntu Linux 10.04
Web Site: http://www.ubuntu.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Social media desktop integration, new themes and wallpaper, Mac-like minimize/restore buttons. Ubuntu One enhancements including the Ubuntu One Music Store integrated into Rhythmbox Music Player. Ubuntu now comes with the PiTiVi video editor.
Cons: Can’t automatically cycle through desktop background wallpaper. Screensaver menu is still separate from the Appearance Preferences menu. The Ubuntu One Music Store doesn’t give users the ability to rate and review music.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Ubuntu Linux 10.04 is simply marvelous! Canonical has taken an already good desktop distro to a whole new level of polish and sophistication. Bravo!
Rating: 4.5/5