Sunday, April 18, 2010

First Contact Review: Ubuntu 10.04 Beta2

I recently downloaded Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Linx Beta2 for testing. I love what I am seeing, so I want to share some of my initial impressions on what seems to be a release that could mark a milestone in Ubuntu's history.

BOOT PROCESS

This second beta shows most of the latest branding updates. I think the Canonical staff pulled off the right moves on this one. Ubuntu looks sleeker, more modern and with an even more professional look.


A simple yet good looking screen welcomes as the boot process starts.

The new branding has been tightly integrated from square one. A screen showing the new Ubuntu logo transitions into a simple implementation of the usual progress bar splash screen, which I have omitted due to the low resolution in my virtual machine. I must admit I liked the Karmic concept better, that shiny bar moving left to right and back, but this idea looks good as well. Overall, no plain text messages are displayed, which gives a nice, friendly feel to the boot process.

INSTALLATION

At last, the ugly text messages that were part of the start of the LiveCD installation are finally gone for good. The LiveCD now loads a graphical interface with a more familiar and friendly look. As expected, we can choose if we want to boot from the LiveCD or run the installation wizard. The good old language preference menu now looks a lot better integrated.


A simple yet good looking screen welcomes as the boot process starts.

The next few steps look very similar to what we have seen in previous versions, showing the usual keyboard language, time zone selection, etc., only using the new window theme and styles.


Ubuntu quickly detected the right time zone settings automatically.

As soon as the usual initial parameters are set (time zone, language, detault user account, etc.), the actual installation starts, showing a very nice set of slides, fully taking advantage of the new branding and design.


The new wizard slides look amazing.

The installation slides display highlights of Ubuntu's main features.


As the progress moves forward, the slides introduce the user to Ubuntu.

Evolution, Firefox, Ubuntu One, OpenOffice and F-Spot, among others, are presented as the installation moves forward.


Empathy, Gwibber and the rest of the social features are also highlighted.

Ubuntu 10.04 will aim at taking the social integration even further than it was in Karmic Koala. As such, Empathy and Gwibber are highlighted during the installation process.

A very interesting feature, which I have found for the first time in 10.04, is that the installation process takes care of those updates we usually had to do once the installation was completed. As you can see from the screenshots above and below, package download progress is displayed and we can see dpkg in action, installing packages. As a result, I recommend having a working ethernet network connection plugged in when installing Ubuntu from now on.


Accessibility is once again a priority in Ubuntu 10.04.

Another element that gets an introduction during this process is the Ubuntu software center. After it made its debut on Ubuntu 9.10, it has been improved further in this yet to be released version. However, even if it was initially aimed at taking all installation and update functionality, this Beta2 still has the Synaptic package manager in its usual location under System > Administration menu.


The Ubuntu Software Center is highlighted in the installation slides.

LET'S USE IT!

Once installation finishes, we are asked to reboot and remove the LiveCD. After a couple cosmetic changes, the Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Linx desktop looks like this:


A nice clean desktop. We can see the social integration in the upper right menus.

Firefox is once again the default Internet browser in Ubuntu 10.04. In this case, version 3.6.3 is on board. Interestingly, Yahoo is still used as the default search engine. This is a bit of a surprise, as Canonical recently revealed it would go back to Google. I guess that change will be effective before going live anyways.


Firefox 3.6.3 is preinstalled.

Setting up empathy is easy and quick. It provides a simple integration for an impressive list of protocols, all accessible through an easy to use interface. From Google Talk to Sametime or MSN messenger, it's all there.

I believe the deep integration of social networking protocols is a great feature, specially for those who normally use several of them, as I do. Native support for my Tweets, MSN, Yahoo chat and Google Talk chats makes it amazingly convenient to stay in touch with my friends and people I follow. From a professional standpoint, it too adds to productivity, as it saves precious time, disk space, and the hassle of having to install and setup several applications.


Empathy supports an impressive number of protocols.

Aside from the already expected OpenOffice suite, which is now on version 3.2, Lucid Linx includes a new video editing tool, PiTiVi. This is a very nice companion to RhythmBox, which takes care of the audio reproduction bit.


RhythmBox, Totem & PiTiVi will cover your video and audio needs.

As mentioned already, the Ubuntu Software Center has been further improved on this version. The initial menu makes it very easy to find applications, clearly splitting them into categories. I like how this application is progressing, but it seems to me it is still not mature enough to take all installation and update responsibilities yet. I hope they keep Synaptic available for now!


The Ubuntu Software Center in all its glory.

AVAILABLE SOON!

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Linx will be released in less than two weeks, and is looking amazing so far. I truly believe this version will make a milestone in Ubuntu's history. There is a very significant improvement in terms of functionality, but it is the branding, style and improvements to the GUI that I think will make the difference. If anything, I only miss a proper default icon theme. The Human theme has been around forever, it looks aged and low quality now. I think Canonical should invest in creating a more professionally looking icon theme, which should make the actual branding and style upgrade complete.

Ubuntu always shined as one of the Linux distros that made itself easily accessible to any kind of users. In my opinion, Ubuntu 10.04 only improves further in the right direction. If it manages to make a significant improvement in terms of hardware support and backwards compatibility, it will be best positioned to become a huge success.

I definitely recommend installing and using Ubuntu 10.04 once it is released, you will be pleasantly surprised!

(NOTE: Due to the limited amount of testing resources, installing a Linux distro right after release date is not recommended for new or inexperienced users, as some bugs may still be pending resolution. If it is your first Linux installation ever, make sure you boot from the LiveCD before you install. Such approach will help you in understanding if Ubuntu supports all your hardware.)

4 comments:

  1. I agree with you about the need for improved default icon theme

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  2. But with the resources available to Canonical you'd think they would be able to produce something far better than this.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Thanks for posting.

    @megoog: Well, I agree to some extent. I personally think Canonical should stop releasing several flavors of Ubuntu and simply concentrate on the main one. If all Canonical resources were focused solely in releasing the best Ubuntu possible, it would be far better.

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