Monday, June 11, 2007

Positive review of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn 7.04

The latest reincarnation of popular distribution is out for a while and I decided to share my own experience here. Recently there were two machines available for testing. My Mums desktop which we have at home and is used mainly for surfing the web and is Linux powered already for some time and keeps its users happy. As the amount of data is minimal (photos, few documents, settings) complete re-installation is done and user usually wont notice new version of Ubuntu as long as the Firefox icon is at its place. The other machine is company provided new toy (ehm production laptop of course), small, light and beautiful Dell D420.

Installation on both machines went without any problems, wouldn't we have non-standard disk layout setup I believe everybody can install that on empty box. Just few clicks and there you go. Boot process is fast and nice and animated logo is presented. In about 30seconds I was logged into the desktop.

Networking part is done right, there is NetworkManager which works perfectly for both setups. I've managed to connect to several WPA protected networks without any hitch, wired connection is perfect as well. Only problem with NetworkManager I ran into so far is asking for gnome-keyring password to access stored WPA keys. There are few posts on the internet on how to change it, but simple check box to allow NetworkManager to access some parts of Gnome Keyring (password storage) without further user involvement is something that is missing at the moment.

Graphic drivers, for some reasons there is Nvidia graphics card installed on the dekstop machine. After install I was presented with restricted manager pop-up telling me that Nvidia didn't have open sourced its drivers yet (so far only Intel did which I'm so thankful for) and binary drivers might be necessary to install before I'm allowed to take full potential of the system. But the nice thing ends here. I clicked to use proprietary driver and ubuntu installed that and restart was required. After restart I still had open source implementation of the driver in use instead of Nvidia one. This means no 3D Desktop effects and likely show stopper for and unexperienced user. Well few searches on the Internet and manual change of used driver in configuration file and it is working now. I assume this is because the first incarnation of such a manager and things will likely get better with future versions. On laptop I had to install i915resultion to get 1280x800 working by default, another thing if detected automatically would boost the "Wow it really works" effect. In 7.04 there are now Desktop Effects available. By default it provides wobbly windows (really Wow... for few hours), nice Alt-Tab switcher between applications and and quite usable 3D cube with mapped workspaces to each side. Unfortunately after using it, metacity window manager is not used anymore and many of the keyboard shortcuts do not work, so I reverted back to 2D desktop.

Now few things I miss. Ubuntu doesn't come with some nice sets of predefined applications or any other content. There is Examples folder but that is. How about to preload some bookmarks, add more of quality wallpapers, more icons for users so we can have graphical login manager by default. Install some templates for OpenOffice by default (even simple ones like CD covers would make difference). Give users a bunch of internet radios right into the Rhythmbox (which in this version works very well by the way). And I miss Java, it has been open sourced recently so why we do not have it installed by default? Firefox didn't come with any Java plug-in on my machine, the very same for Flash. First thing users usually checks is connection to popular sites like YouTube. How about get democracy on our desktops by default?

Final verdict: Clean, fast and one of the best Linux distributions out there getting better with every release. I think Gutsy Gibon (the next incarnation of Ubuntu) can be a perfect choice for many end users. A I also should not forget about great forums that helps users with almost any problem there. Well done guys.

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