Ubuntu 8.10

The Intrepid Ibex has arrived, and as is usual with new Ubuntu releases, there’s lots of reading material, if you’re interested. Those links alone should keep anyone happy for an hour or so. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d write a review…we’re only two days after the release, and already Distrowatch links as many as eleven reviews.
Still, I figure that if you hate Ubuntu you won’t have read any of them, and if you don’t…you can’t have enough Ubuntu! So here goes.

Let’s start with something I usually forget: the specifications of the PC I used. It’s not really a high-end system, but definitely not an old, slow one either. There are other Linux distributions for that.

CPU: Intel Dual core 2.33Ghz
RAM: 2GB
Video Card: Nvidia 8600GT

I spend some more time testing 8.10 than I usually do. I installed both the Beta and the RC, which I then upgraded to the final version. The Beta probably was a bad burn, because I got quite some errors during the install. In the end, it installed anyway and worked fine. That’s where I got my previous screenshots from. The RC was a clean install, and I’ve been using it for about ten days. The idea was to stay as close to the default installation as possible…after all, Ubuntu is targeted at non-specialist computer users, who stick to the defaults.
Apart from the screen and a multimedia Microsoft keyboard, the hardware I tested included a HP Deskjet D2460 printer, an old Sweex webcam that can be made to work with the V4L2 driver, and a Thomson SpeedTouch 120g wireless dongle.

Look and feel

As usual, I took a look around the liveCD, mainly to check the artwork. There’s a first disappointment here. As I recall, a new look was already promised for 8.04, then moved to 8.10, and…it’s not here. Sure, the Human theme uses the Murrine engine now, which makes for some subtle but nice changes, which won’t be noticed by anyone except die-hard Ubuntu lovers. I’m not saying I don’t like Ubuntu’s default look, because I do, but it does irk me that Canonical doesn’t deliver what was promised here.

Default Ubuntu Human theme

Default Ubuntu Human theme

Keep in mind that this isn’t a screenshot of the LiveCD, but one of the OS after installation. The panels don’t have the default look.
Now, there is a new theme availaible, called NewHuman in the Alpha releases, where it was the default theme. It’s not in the final release though and it has been renamed DarkRoom), maybe because the new look was too great of a departure from the old one, or maybe because it doesn’t feel really finished yet. As you can see in the screenshot, there are some problems with fonts in certain applications.

The Ubuntu DarkRoom theme

The Ubuntu DarkRoom theme

The window in the top left corner is the Firefox Preferences window, where the text at the top is simply unreadable until you select it. The Compiz Configuration manager in the bottom left corner has the same problem, but at least it’s not installed by default. Firefox is. For users prefering a dark theme, I think the best option is the Dust theme, which doesn’t have these problems. I installed it the hard way (download the compressed file, put the files in /usr/share/themes), but apparently Dust is available in the package “community-themes”. That doesn’t include the Firefox theme though, so you’ll have to install that seperately.

The Ubuntu Dust theme

The Ubuntu Dust theme

Installation and first boot

As I said in my Mandriva 2009 review, installing Linux is easy these days, so I won’t bore you with it…much. The installer has a new look for the partitioner, which is nice, but doesn’t make partitioning easier; and there’s a new option “Log in automatically” when you create your user. That’s about it. It worked fine, although it was a bit slower to install than Mandriva. It took ten to fifteen minutes.

Configuring a newly installed Ubuntu has always been incredibly easy, as long as you stick to the GUI. For the normal computer user, installing restricted drivers and codecs is handled the way it should be handled: with an obvious popup asking you if you want to download and install the neccesary software. I think this is the perfect compromise between delivering an open source operating system, and providing ease of use for computer users who don’t care about open source and just want to play music, or see their windows wobble.

Anyway, after the installation of the nvidia drivers, and the subsequent reboot, the Compiz special effects were enabled, in the “Normal” setting (there’s also an “Extra” for people who want the bells and whistles). Normally, I turn them off, but this time I didn’t notice a performance hit, so I decided to stick with it. It may be just my impression, but I think the effects are a bit more obvious than they have been in previous releases, especially when opening and closing a window. Fortunately, in the default setting the wobbly windows and the desktop cube are left out, so everything remains tasteful.

Configuration isn’t always as easy though. Especially frustrating to me was trying to set up my favourite keyboard shortcuts. In the end, I had to go through three different Preferences windows just to get everything the way I want. First, there’s the normal Gnome keyboard shortcuts preference window…which simply doesn’t list all the functions I want a shortcut for, and it’s impossible to add more. The choices aren’t always obvious either…why can you add shortcuts for “Switch to Desktop 1″ and “Switch to Desktop 2″…but not more? I always have 4 virtual desktops! Sometimes the shortcut didn’t even work, when it conflicted with those of the Compiz window manager. In the end, I had to mess around in the gconf-editor and the Compiz Preference Manager to get things the way I wanted. Hardly intuitive, especially since the Compiz Preference Manager is still a mess: dozens of different plugins, all with dozens of options, many of those conflicting each other, all thrown together.

Usage

As I mentioned before, I also wanted to test some hardware: a printer, a webcam and a wireless dongle. The webcam and the wireless dongle I can do without, but the printer is essential. Fortunately, after the install, it was set up correctly, without needing any input from me. Perfect.
To my surprise, the same thing happened with the webcam. I have managed to make this thing work before, but not without much command line magic. This time it just worked. I checked in Ekiga, because Pidgin still doesn’t support webcams…which I personally think is absolutely retarded, but that’s just me. Still, what’s a webcam for except stripping in front of it seeing your friends while you chat with them?
The wireless dongle did not work at first, because there are no drivers available for Linux. Not a problem however: I downloaded the Windows drivers and downloaded ndiswrapper (and a very nice front-end called ndisgtk). I don’t have a wireless router myself, but after the set up, I could see all my neighbours do. They have learned something since last year though, since they were all secured. Still, it’s nice to know that if I ever want to go the wireless route, I’ll have no problems.

Another important point: I always have had trouble with my CD/DVD burner in Arch, with an unusual amount of failed burns, and burning software that simply refused to work. Trying to solve things, I installed a new burner…which refused to work entirely. In Ubuntu 8.10 however, I had none of these problems. No errors, no failed burns.

Speedwise, there were some concerns. Phoronix has reported that the Ubuntu releases have become gradually slower, with Ubuntu 8.10 logically being the slowest. Phoronix is a serious website, so their opinion carries some weight. Even so, Ubuntu 8.10 doesn’t feel slow to me. Sure, it takes longer to boot than my Arch install, but not much, and opening applications takes a bit longer too. On the other hand, as I mentioned before, using Compiz doesn’t seem to slow down the system at all. All in all, things feel rather snappy, but that’s just my opinion, and not based on any kind of tests or measurements.

There are three ways to install software: via the menu, using Synaptic or the command line. I tried to use the first as much as possible, but I noticed not all software is listed there. Emelfm2, for example, I had to install with Synaptic. It’s true that it isn’t very commonly used, but even then it’s funny that it’s not even listed.

EmelFM2, not available?

EmelFM2, not available?

Here it is!

Here it is!

Another thing I found odd: the search program Tracker is installed by default, the services are started by default, but there isn’t any default indexing. In other words, unless it has created an index, Tracker doesn’t find anything…which seems kind of pointless.

Conclusion

There’s a reason Ubuntu is the most known Linux distribution today: on average it’s easiest, and it just works. I have to add “on average” here, since the installation isn’t always painless. I also tried to install it on another PC with an Intel video card, which failed. It’s a known issue, and there are workarounds, but it’s annoying nonetheless. There are other annoyances, like the infamous bug that closes the CD tray as soon as it’s opened (push the button again, and it’ll stay open).

But on average, things in Ubuntu 8.10 work so well, it has replaced Arch on my desktop, at least at the moment. I haven’t had the time to spend much time tinkering in front of my computer, and for now I want things to just work.

Is Ubuntu 8.10 a huge change from 8.04? No. Is it the best Linux distribution out there? That’s highly debatable. But is it the OS that you can just install on your PC, set a few things up, and then go and do something else without worrying about it? Nine times out of ten, it is.

San

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21 Responses to Ubuntu 8.10

  1. NickF says:

    I am with you when it comes to pidgin. It’s a bloated piece of software, and the developers are totally out of touch with the users. At least they could provide some audio support, if not video. Or some support for Skype chatting. Nothing. I seriously hope it will be soon removed from GNOME, and Empathy to take it’s place.

  2. pelouro says:

    I dislike Ubuntu since the very beginning due to an only but enormous reason: Gnome and its crappy apps, mainly the most important of all, the file manager (Nautilus) I can´t understand why Ubuntu has achieved so much success whith such a piece of junk.

    Long live to Kubuntu, despite the very weak effort Canonical puts in its development.

  3. Zammi says:

    I was googling last 3 days to get my motion eye integrated webcam on sony vaio to work on 8.10. Any one out there who managed to get it work?

  4. mandog says:

    Very nice read I think they have made strides since the last version but not enough
    1 question trouble burning with Arch? never had a problem in 2 years you must be doing something wrong. If you want a Debian Distro that just works try Parsix more advanced than Ubuntu things like multimedia keyboards scanners external drives all work from the box.

  5. celettu says:

    NickF:

    The problem with Pidgin is that it doesn’t have any real competition…so they’re pretty much free to do what they want.

    pelouro:

    To each his own. I prefer a GTK environment.

    mandog:

    The problems in Arch must be because of my burner. I can’t see any other explanation….not unless “pacman -S brasero” is doing something wrong.

  6. mads says:

    One striking thing about the ubuntu installer: In some respects it’s bizarely ass-backwards.

    The ‘hardware test’ utility asks if your internet connection is up. No, it’s not, you reply. It then proceeds to attempt contacting the ubuntu servers to send the reply. Surprisingly, an error message appears.

    Oh, and Ubuntu finally heard of usb sticks. Yup, now you have a nice little wizard-like-thingy that can copy your iso file contents to your usb stick. Where is this app? Why it’s on the livecd, of course. Just burn the iso, run the livecd and you’re set to… create a live usb. Gee, thanks for saving me all that hassle, Ubuntu!

    Alice in Ubuntuland…

  7. celettu says:

    mads:

    concerning your second criticism, it seems a bit unfair. Where exactly do you want this app to exist so you don’t have to run the livecd first? It’s like complaining that, in order to burn a LiveCD, you first have to have an OS already installed.

  8. wally says:

    Interesting… I was considering looking at Arch for 2 reasons: failed CD burns in Ubuntu and a perception of slow-loading in Ubuntu (8.04).
    The message I get from your review is: don’t bother. So I won’t… but I saw the Phoronix speed tests too and I thought it was very disturbing – definitely something the Linux community ought to be concerned about.

  9. linuxcanuck says:

    Like the lead article, my perception is that, notwithstanding the Phoronix testing, 8.10 seems snappier and loads faster than 8.04 by a longshot. My installation loads in 30 seconds and shuts down in 7. It should be noted that the Phoronix testing had Ubuntu 8.10 behind on some things, but not everything. Some tasks it measured may not reflect how you use your computer. If it feels faster then it is as far as you are concerned and that should be your acid test.

  10. businessman says:

    ngoldfarb, this blog is supposed to be about software, not idiotic fear mongering political nonsense.
    pelouro, many people have the same opinion about KDE based distros so just pick one and make yourself contended and stop the silly trolling.

  11. John Morris says:

    [Deleted. Good points, but off topic. Sorry, but this is not a blog about the elections.]
    Back to the thread, I recently loaded Ubuntu 8.04 on an old 800mhZ AMD box.
    Then, on another drive on the same box I loaded Mandriva one 2008
    I’ve played with both systems for a couple of weeks now and have to say I prefer the KDE desktop of Mandriva. Compiz-Fusion graphical effects work well too.

  12. mads says:

    celettu:

    Where I want the live usb option? Wel, in the first place – why should users have to replicate the effort of transmogrifying an iso to a usb image? Arch supplies .img files (http://www.archlinux.org/download/) – what’s so hard about that? And if you want to encourage users of other OSes, Fedora has a nice app (binaries only available for windows) or for linux there’s the download-and-go unetbootin. It just seems like such a nobrainer to me – CDs are slow and wasteful and errorprone – what’s the point?

  13. [...] Ubuntu 8.10 The Intrepid Ibex has arrived, and as is usual with new Ubuntu releases, there’s lots of reading material, if [...] [...]

  14. Nobody Important says:

    Users should be reading the comments of the Phoronix to see the real story behind the speed tests. Some of the comments are legitimate discussions and criticisms of the test. It carries very little weight.

  15. Mikko says:

    Most of the mainstream distros “just work”. Ubuntu’s main probkem, in my opinion, is the fact that it comes on only on CD. It’s OK, if you’ve got a broadband connection, but if you haven’t, you should take some distro that has more packages on the installation media.

  16. rem88 says:

    Ubuntu does not just come on CD. There is a DVD version too.

    http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/dvd/current/

  17. Chad says:

    Great article. I’m a fan of Fedora and Red Hat but always love trying new distributions. I had tried 8.04 on my Thinkpad T41 and it ran a little sluggish. Now, 8.10 on the other hand, runs very well. I’m quite impressed. I love the way it remember wireless connections. Looks like they (developers) put a little more time into testing before releasing of this version. I think it’ll stay on my extra drive.

  18. tomtyi says:

    Hi! what do you mean “but doesn’t make partitioning easier”? how much easy should it be? :) 4 way: 3 automatic, 1 manual. the latest one also VERY easy. i use Linux especially Ubuntu since Christmas 2007, and at the second install i make the manual partitioning and it was easy. :) before i never made any kind of process like this, never partitioning on Windows. so? :)

  19. Luddite says:

    My downloaded Ubuntu 8.10 refused to install my D2460, and when I finally got it in manually [3days later], it still won’t print anything! It’s not simple, it’s not intuative, and it’s not automatic. It’s holding up some work. It looks like I’ll have to buy a new, different printer just to get something out. NOT HAPPY, JAN!!!!

  20. [...] • Channel Register 8.10: FRLinux (French) • Penguinway • DeviceGuru • Linux.com • WordPress • Lifehacker • Scientechie • LinMagazine (Hebrew) • LinuxEXPRESS (Czech) • Jesse Kline [...]

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