Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmic Koala)

Since the launch of Desktop Linux Reviews, I’ve covered a number of different remastered versions of Ubuntu Linux. But I haven’t done a review of Ubuntu itself. I wanted to wait until there was a significant enough release as I’d done a review for ExtremeTech back when I was a full-time employee there.

I’m happy to note that Ubuntu Linux has hit version 9.10 and has some nifty new features that make it worth reviewing here.

Please note that for this review I used Release Candidate 1. I recommend waiting for the final release to come out before you download Ubuntu Linux and install it to your system or before you upgrade any existing Ubuntu Linux computers. The final release should be out soon.

What’s New In This Release
There’s some juicy stuff in this upgrade and here’s some of what you’ll find:

Gnome 2.28
Upstart (Faster Booting)
Empathy IM (Replaces Pidgin)
New Login Manager
Quickly (Easier Application Development)
Ubuntu One (Cloud Based Sharing & Storage)
Linux Kernel 2.6.31
Changes to Power Management
New Intel Video Driver Architecture
Ext4 File System Default
Grub 2 Default

That’s just a sample of the new features in this release. Be sure to check out the full list of new stuff.

Ubuntu 9.10's desktop is clean and clutter-free.

Ubuntu 9.10’s desktop is clean and clutter-free.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of what’s required to run Ubuntu:

Minimum System Requirements:
300 MHz x86 processor
64 MB of system memory (RAM)
At least 4 GB of disk space (for full installation and swap space)
VGA graphics card capable of 640×480 resolution
CD-ROM drive or network card

Recommended Requirements:
700 MHz x86 processor
384 MB of system memory (RAM)
8 GB of disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution
Sound card
A network or Internet connection

Ubuntu Linux 9.10 is a Live CD release so you don’t need to install it to check it out. Just download it and then boot into the CD and you can experience it on your system.

The installation took about 20 minutes or so. Since this is Ubuntu the install was very easy and I had no problems completing it. Even if you’ve never seen the Ubuntu installer before, you shouldn’t have much in the way of problems installing it on your computer.

During the install a slideshow played telling me about some of Ubuntu 9.10’s features and provided some information about the bundled software such as Evolution, etc.

Ubuntu 9.10's install is as easy as ever.

Ubuntu 9.10’s install is as easy as ever.

While installing Ubuntu you can watch a slideshow for more info about its features and software.

While installing Ubuntu you can watch a slideshow for more info about its features and software.

Desktop & Apps
Ubuntu Linux 9.10 uses Gnome as its desktop environment (if you prefer a different desktop you can download another version such as Kubuntu, Mythbuntu, Ubuntu Studio or Edubuntu). The desktop is clutter-free when you boot into it. The usual Ubuntu color scheme is there and, as always, it’s easy to find your way around by clicking the Applications, Places or System menus at the top of the screen.

Applications are broken down into easily navigable categories. The Places menu is where you’ll find your home folder, desktop folder, pictures, etc. The System menu lets you customize and manage all of your Ubuntu system settings.

Here’s a sample of some of the software that comes with Ubuntu Linux 9.10:


F-Spot Photo Manager
OpenOffice.org Drawing

Empathy IM
Evolution Mail
Ubuntu One

Brasero Disc Burner
Rhythmbox Music Player
Movie Player

OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet
OpenOffice.org Presentation
OpenOffice.or Writer

Adding & Removing Software
While the default selection of software is adequate for most computing purposes, there is more to be had via the Ubuntu Software Center. To access the Software Center click the Applications menu then click Ubuntu  Software Center. You can browse via the following categories:

Sound & Video
Universal Access
System Tools

You can also search to find new apps for your Ubuntu system.

The Ubuntu Software Center has an excellent selection of software. Even if you feel that your computing needs are fine with the default software included with Ubuntu 9.10, it’s still worth browsing around the Software Center to check out some additional stuff.

Frankly, after browsing around, I experienced a serious blast of software greed. Although I didn’t need to I felt like adding tons of apps to my Ubuntu 9.10 system. Hey, why not right? It’s all free and it’s there for the taking so help yourself and enjoy!

Use the Ubuntu Software Center to get more software for your system.

The Software Center lets you easily see the applications you have currently installed on your system.

The Software Center makes it easy to add more software to your Ubuntu system.

The Software Center makes it easy to add more software to your Ubuntu system.

Networking, Sound and Multimedia
When I booted into my Ubuntu Linux 9.10 desktop, I heard the Ubuntu theme play. So sound worked fine right from the start. No need to fiddle with any settings to get it working. Ditto with networking.

However, when I went to play a YouTube video I found that Flash wasn’t installed. I pulled up the Ubuntu Software Center, typed in the word “flash” into the search box and up came a list of goodies to install on my system. The first thing on the list was Ubuntu Restricted Extras. Wow, with a name like that I just HAD to install it and I did!

The Ubuntu Restricted Extras pulls in support for the following:

MP3 playback and decoding
Support for other audio formats (GStreamer plugins)
Microsoft fonts
Java runtime environment
Flash plugin
LAME (to create compressed audio files)
DVD playback

Note that, according to the notes included with it, Ubuntu Restricted Extras does not include libDVDcss2 and thus will not allow you to play encrypted DVDs. Not that it really matters since it doesn’t take a freaking genius to do a Google search to find the information and install it.

Downloading the Ubuntu Restricted Extras seemed to take quite a while. I’m not sure what the problem was, maybe the server was just slow? But they say that good things come to those who wait. So I waited…and waited…and waited…

Finally the download finished and I closed Firefox then restarted it. I pulled up Youtube and the video & sound worked perfectly.

Playing YouTube videos requires the install of Flash.

Playing YouTube videos requires the install of Flash.

What I Liked Most
Without a doubt one of my favorite features is the Ubuntu Software Center. I like the layout, navigation and selection of software in the Software Center. It’s a great addition to Ubuntu and a good reason to upgrade.

Another thing I liked was the login manager which strikes me as more attractive and functional than the one I remember using before.

Ubuntu One is also very cool. Hey, who doesn’t want 2GB of free online backup storage that can be shared with other Ubuntu One users right? All I had to do to get started using it was to click the Applications menu then go to Ubuntu One. After that I signed up and then I was good to go. Well almost good to go, see the problems section for more details.

Problems & Headaches
After I signed up for Ubuntu One, I got a blank page and an “Internal Server Error” message. I reloaded the page and got a message that my computer now had access and that I could add it to my Ubuntu One account and then sync.

I tried to upload an HTML file to Ubuntu One from my Ubuntu system via Firefox and got a Page Not Found (404) error message. I tried it again and got an “Internal Server Error” message.

I also signed into Ubuntu One via Firefox on one of my Macs using Mac OS X and tried to upload a TIFF file. I got the same internal server error message.

So it seems that Ubuntu One has some bugs that need to be worked out. I love the idea though and I hope they get these problems fixed soon and that the system proves to be stable for users. It’s sort of like MobileMe for Linux users (minus the Apple tax).

Ubuntu One aside, I didn’t have any other problems with Ubuntu Linux 9.10.

I had some problems signing up for Ubuntu One and uploading files.

I had some problems signing up for Ubuntu One and uploading files.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Ubuntu Forums, Mailing Lists, IRC Channels, or the Ubuntu Documentation site.¬† Or you can buy additional support for your Ubuntu system.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Ubuntu Linux 9.10 is well worth upgrading to if you’re running an earlier version of Ubuntu. I look forward to seeing the various remastered versions of Ubuntu switch to it. There’s some great new desktop features in this release as well as some new stuff that isn’t readily apparent on the surface.

I enthusiastically recommend Ubuntu Linux 9.10 for beginners as well as more experienced Linux users. It remains one of the best desktop Linux distributions around and it’s the basis for so many fun remasters.

It’s definitely worth a download.

Use the Update Manager to keep your system up to date.

Use the Update Manager to keep your system up to date.

Summary Table:

Product: Ubuntu Linux 9.10
Web Site: http://www.ubuntu.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Ubuntu Software Center, new version of Gnome, new login screen, updated Linux kernel, Ubuntu One online storage and sharing.
Cons: Ubuntu One is buggy and needs some bug fixes. Downloading from the Ubuntu Software Center seemed rather slow at times.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Ubuntu Linux 9.10 features a new Software Center, updated versions of Gnome and the Linux kernel, ext4 file system and some other goodies. Existing Ubuntu users should seriously consider an upgrade and those interested in switching to Linux should give it a download and use the Live CD to try it on their systems.
Rating: 4/5