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:

Games
Blackjack
Chess
Nibbles
Gnometris
Mahjongg

Graphics
F-Spot Photo Manager
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Drawing
XSane

Internet
Empathy IM
Evolution Mail
Firefox
Transmission
Ubuntu One

Multimedia
Brasero Disc Burner
Rhythmbox Music Player
Movie Player

Office
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:

Accessories
Education
Graphics
Internet
Science
Sound & Video
Universal Access
Programming
Games
Office
System Tools
Other

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



Comments

  1. Ron Wilde says

    Regarding the speed of Ubuntu servers, I recently found that an update was coming in at double digit speed. I opened Synaptic>Settings>Repositories, then opened download from>other>Select Best Server. It then tested all 200+ servers and gave me the fastest one, which I then selected. I just finished a Firefox update that came in at my max speed of 366 KB/s. You're probably all aware of this, but sometimes a reminder useful. I'm still happily using 8.10 and will continue with it until they force my hand by discontinuing support in April. Some months back I did a search for ext4 and found that there were reports of problems with it. That may have been fixed by now. I have to look into it again. And thanks for the review!

  2. says

    My apologies for the site/forum burps. I've had some hosting problems these last two days. They moved me to another server but there still seem to be some bugs happening. Thanks for everybody's patience while these problems get fixed.

  3. Brian Masinick says

    All of your forums are acting up today Jim, getting fatal memory allocation errors. The blog here is also getting intermittent database errors as it was the other day. Hope all of that can be resolved soon, since there is a lot of interest this week!

  4. says

    A few other things worth mentioning…

    This version finally makes the switch to GRUB 2 (http://www.gnu.org/software/grub/grub-2.en.html), which is a vastly improved version of GRUB.

    The move to the EXT4 filesystem by default means that this version will support the "TRIM" function needed to keep SSDs healthy. Not all SSDs support it yet, but they eventually will.

    The sound drivers (ALSA, Pulseaudio) and the 2.6.31 kernel now provide some much-improved audio support. Those using the newer, higher-end cards like the ASUS Xonar series have had to jump through some hoops to use those cards with Linux up to now. Ubuntu 9.10 fires 'em right up.

  5. Brian Masinick says

    I upgraded again today from the 9.10 release candidate to the final and it still worked out well. The one issue I had previously with the NTP Time Server is now gone, so that solves the one issue I had experienced since before the 9.04 release (all during its testing cycle and through these past six months).

    With the exception of the LTS (Long Term Support) releases, which tend to have superior testing and support, this is one of the finest releases, certainly in functionality, and the quality, from my perspective, is improved over the previous release. Well worth trying out!

  6. Eddie Wilson says

    I believe that this is the best release of Ubuntu so far. I've been using Ubuntu since 5.10. The Network Manager has been fixed now so there is no reason to replace it with wicd. As far as server speed goes I find the main server speed to be fair while the US servers are somewhat slow. I'm not sure why. Grub 2 may give some new users a few problems but it's not really hard to learn. All in all a fine distro and good review.

  7. Brian Masinick says

    The request a review link seems to be broken. sidux 2009-03 Preview is now available, so in about two weeks, sidux 2009-03 should be coming out. I'd like to see a review again and see how you think it stacks up against 2009-02 and other distros.

    It should have KDE 4.3.2 and XFCE 4.6.1 available, the option to use either ext3 or ext4 file systems, and the ability to use the new GRUB 2 boot menu, plus it has the latest Linux 2.6.31 kernel for additional new device support.

    The release is being called "momos" in the English form (it has some "special characters" in the European name form). If you review it, maybe you can tell us something about the names of the four quarterly releases this year! :-)

  8. Brian Masinick says

    I downloaded and tried out the release candidate about a week ago and it is looking pretty good. I had also tried a number of base levels during the Alpha testing phase. The release has come along steadily.

    For me, being one who prefers environments other than GNOME, I usually try out Xubuntu and Kubuntu. For my most recent test, I simply took Kubuntu and ran an update from the command line with the -d option, which allows you to upgrade to the next release. The repos were slow, but it worked quite well and it was usable right away.

    While I prefer the more stock Debian based systems, the only difficulties I ever run into with the Ubuntu variations are intermittent issues with Network Manager, so I generally replace it with wicd, and I also have problems with the time server, NTP. I frequently end up removing and reinstalling it, which usually gets things back on track.

  9. Bill Julian says

    Thanks for the look, Jim! I passed on 9.04 because 8.10 has worked so well that I did not care to fool with it. 9.10 sounds as though it might be worth a place on my drive.

    Making "restricted extras" easier to install will be much appreciated by new users. What is needed now for people is a similar "one button" install for those DVD codecs. Click here, have your credit card ready, pay the fee and install. That complies with American intellectual property/copy-right law and it would be easy. I doubt most people are going to complain about a reasonable fee.

    Like Roshan Pius I enjoy looking at and using other distributions, but Ubuntu remains as the "go to" system when I simply need to get some work done.

    And let me add that tlmck is right; wubi works like a charm.

  10. Roshan Pius says

    I've been using Ubuntu 9.10 from its alpha stages and the final Release candidate has made good progress from the Alpha software.

    Traditionally Ubuntu has been a very "mellowed down" distro compared to the others out there(mind you, there are 100's of them). So you are not going to find anything very jazzy from Ubuntu. Instead, what you get is a rock-solid, reliable OS.

    I always keep a copy of Ubuntu as my main OS. I try out every new distro that is released, but I still haven't found something that can reliably replace my Ubuntu.

    Everything about Ubuntu speaks of "simplicity and ease of use", right from the software installation, software availability, look and feel. This helps Ubuntu to cater to a larger audience, and it does that very well.

    I dont think Ubuntu is going to take the Market by storm with Ubuntu 9.10, especially now with Winows 7 release. But if at all Linux has the potential to challenge Microsoft, then it has to be Ubuntu. No other distro/OS caters to everyone's needs.

    Because at the end of the day, the user needs an OS that "just works". He doesn't care if it is Open source or not, even if he has to shell out money for it. So Ubuntu should start benchmarking itself to Windows rather than the other distros.

    I'm sure Ubuntu will slowly, but gradually take a bigger share in the OS market. And 9.10 delivers another solid release with good number of awesome enhancements.

    Most of the new features are "under the hood", but it enhances on the overall end-user experience from Jaunty.

    Keep up the good work Canonical!!!

  11. jamillikan says

    For those who run legacy DOS programs, be aware that dosemu crashes with a segfault from time to time on 9.10. This can be disastrous for those who require stability for their DOS-based business programs.

  12. says

    Forgot to mention that for Windows users, I highly recommend the Wubi install method. Just pop in the Ubuntu LiveCD while running Windows and choose the Wubi installer. This will install Ubuntu as just another Windows application. You then reboot the machine and select Ubuntu from the boot menu. This is a good way to test it out to see if it will run on your actual hardware. If you decide you do not like it, you can reboot into Windows and just uninstall. Works equally well in XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

  13. says

    It's about damned time you reviewed a "real" distro! :)

    But seriously, the one thing I would add regarding alternate desktops is that there is no need to download another entire distro. Many, if not all, of the alternate desktops can be downloaded via the Synaptic package manager. Just type in the name, LXDE, XFCE, KDE, etc., and just select the metapackage. Synaptic will take care of the rest. You can then select the alternate desktop at the login screen. This way, you have the original Ubuntu intact, and can try out other desktops to your hearts content. This may also be doable in the new Software Center, but I have not tried it.

    Another alternative is the Ubuntu Mini ISO. This is a ~12mb ISO file that installs a minimal, base command line system. You can then use the "apt-get install" command to totally customize the packages. I am currently using this in Virtual Box to build a base Ubuntu system with only LXDE as my desktop of choice. I did notice in another instance, that installing desktops this way gets you the standard product as opposed to the Ubuntu customized version. All seem to run just as well. The end result is that you get a much smaller distro with only the packages you want.

    My next step will be figuring out how to remaster this into an ISO to make my own custom distro! I was thinking of naming it tlmbuntu, although that may be some sort of curse word in the Bantu language. I will have to check it out. :)

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