A mixed bag
Ubuntu is a predominantly desktop-oriented Linux distribution, based on Debian GNU/Linux but with a stronger focus on usability, regular releases, and ease of installation. Ubuntu is sponsored by Canonical Ltd, owned by South African billionaire entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth.. It is currently ranked #2 at distrowatch. For this review, I used the DVD distribution.
Pentium D 3.4 GHz with 2 gig of RAM, Nvidia 7300GS with 256 meg RAM and 19" wide screen monitor.
Ubuntu comes with live CD installation environment. The user can boot into the actual system, check how the distribution is going to look like and then finally install the operating system.
This XServer configuration was a lot better this time. Earlier the live CD came up with 1280x1024 resolution and looked really bad. This time the XServer came up with 1400x1050: its not optimal 1440x900, but still it is close. At least Ubuntu identified that the computer has a wide-screen monitor attached.
The installation is similar to previous versions, except for the migration assistant: it is removed. The installation summary screen shows information about it though.
In the previous release, Ubuntu introduced the concept of scanning all the hard disks after every change done in the partition table. Just for selecting the root partition, the user had to wait patiently for three scans: one initial scan, second when root mount point was selected and third when the root partition was marked for formatting. And on top of that, each scan took a lot of time. This time, scan time is reduced a lot. Seems that the installer is doing fine-grained sensible checking. But all this makes me wonder; why did they replace the original file-system selection screen from the installer? It was fast and efficient.
The installation starts and seems to go fine. Around 75%, the installer asserts "less than a minute remaining". And at 82%, while scanning mirrors, the installation stands still. I waited for an hour, but the installation would not move beyond 82%. After an hour, I was certain that the installer has entered an infinite loop and started digging the net. And it was not only me, who was facing the problem but a lot of other people too. he user has to disable networking; mirror scanning will time-out and the installation will proceed.
After Drapper (Ubuntu 6.06), I am yet to see a bug free installer in Ubuntu. Why every time I have to google for installing the most user-friendly distribution? Why can't the developers put a simple "skip" button? Why the installer does not time-out automatically? Why can't Ubuntu test these simple installation scenario? If I have to deal with installation nuisance, then why should I use Ubuntu and not FreeBSD or Arch?
Ubuntu has moved back to dark brown theme, and it looks really nice. At some places the older orange-brown color is still present, but that is acceptable. As usual the fonts look really good
Ubuntu comes with standard set of applications. If you have downloaded the DVD image, a lot of applications can be installed via DVD. With Gutsy, deskbar applet is shown in upper panel with the user name. Alt+F3 will invoke deskbar and its lot better than the application launcher.
Open Office 2.3 and Firefox 188.8.131.52 (both latest) are installed by default. Bug reporting tool, python 2.5 and Ubuntu device database are also installed by default.
Ubuntu has chosen not to distribute the multimedia codecs. So out-of-box multimedia support is missing. Still when the user plays a multimedia file, he has an option to search and install the required codec.
Eye-candy was the much awaited feature in Ubuntu. And it is as simple as it gets. Personally I feel that it is too much dumbed down. Nvidia-glx-new package is present on the DVD and contains the driver required for Nvidia 3D support. Installing it is a breeze. User can select the visual effects from System > Preferences > Appearnce > Visual Effects. There are three options: None, Normal, and Extra. Xorg.conf is not updated to incorporate Extra effect, and the user has to do it manually.
Now comes the shocking part: Ubuntu is targeted for windows migrators, that should not mean that one has to bring in ugly windows aspects! In windows, after every driver install, user is asked to reboot, and that is not the case with Linux. Linux supports modules and thus every driver installation does not require a reboot. But with Ubuntu user is forced to reboot, in order to use the new graphics drivers. Restarting X Server should have been more than enough.
Also people who are too much excited about the cube, will be disappointed. Ubuntu has left compiz configuration utility out of standard install. User needs to explicitly install "compizconfig-settings-manager" to get System > Preferences > Advanced desktop effects settings. The required packages only 527.1 KB. I don't know why these were kept out of the media, they could have been easily incorporated both in CD and DVD format
There is a saying "My way or Highway", but this is not amongst the open source principles. I have nvidia graphics card and explicitly compile the drivers and then load them through xorg.conf. But Ubuntu does not allow me to manually load the compiled drivers. And even if you somehow manage to load it, visual effect settings go for a toss (as they are bound with nvidia-glx-new package).
Ubuntu has quickly achieved mass attention, it was also #1 distribution for a long time. It has done some great work like ship-it to promote Linux. But I am really disappointed with the current trend. The current release is a mixed bag, but is completely unacceptable in terms of Ubuntu's glorious past.
Installer bugs are a strict NO, for any software. Right now, Ubuntu needs to only focus on "Bug-free, efficient installer". No software can beat the competition if the installer is buggy. Also Ubuntu should not limit the options given to open source enthusiast.
The next release 8.04(hardy) is supposed to be LTS(long term support) release, just hoping that Ubuntu is able to set things right in it.