It's been a few days since I installed Ubuntu 10.10 and my initial good impressions have not only been confirmed, but exceeded. In my PREVIEW and REVIEW articles I covered some concepts and features that I considered innovative, surprising or simply welcome. Today I want to present 10 reasons why this release is totally worth it installing.
EASIER AND MORE CONSISTENT THAN EVER
One of the things that stands out as soon as you start installing Maverick is how much attention to detail went into putting everything together. The installation process is compact and more flexible, including features such as "on the fly" package update, all presented in a clear and accessible way.
Everything looks consistent throughout the installation, but also as you start the system for the first time. The new splash screen is simple yet elegant, the GDM theme and the desktop also provide that consistent feel, a solid branding vibe. Help/Warning messages, application dialogs, panel integration (ME menu, Rhythmbox controls, battery discharge messages, etc.) You name it, everything feels tightly integrated. In fact, as some other reviews have pointed out, Ubuntu pulls some tricks off that not even Windows or Mac can claim, and that's a big achievement considering how mature those alternative GUIs are.
Still not mature enough, but I think it is great that a multitouch framework is available in Ubuntu. Beyond the user perspective, looking at it from a developer point of view, it is great that this feature is there and can be tested, which can spawn new ideas for enhanced interfaces, perhaps even games.
Note that you can only use this feature if your device screen supports it.
OPENCL GPU HARDWARE ACCELERATION
Now, this one is a winner. Ever felt that your Compiz effects were sluggish, not smooth enough? I have been experiencing that for ages, specially when other somewhat resource consuming applications were on (Firefox comes to mind). Anything from turning to a different face of the cube to displaying the desktop wall would not feel totally smooth, but it does now.
Compiz and any other applications using 3D rendering are definitely benefiting from this new feature. Essentially, anything that could use a push from the GPU is now getting it, and that's a big plus for me. As a simple example, I installed Google Earth and it worked faster and smoother than ever, effortlessly rendering the earth, buildings, etc.
The overall feel is that my computer suddenly turned way more powerful!
AIN'T IT CUTE?
After reading many of the reviews out there, I feel this may be the very first Ubuntu release that has achieved wide consensus about its looks. From what I have read so far, the general opinion is that it looks great, and I could not agree more.
The new set of wallpapers is the best Ubuntu has got to date. Not only they are all very high quality pictures, but there is a nice balance in tones, colors and themes. Ubuntu 10.04 was very biased towards floral wallpapers, not diverse enough, but that is clearly not the case this time.
The Radiance and Ambiance window and control themes have been polished further and they both look great. The color palette is pleasant to the eye and there is nothing exaggerated or extravagant to them.
AIN'T IT CUTE? (REVISITED)
Let's not forget about the new set of Ubuntu fonts, which look awesome and contribute heavily towards a stronger branding vibe.
All in all, aside from an icon theme of similar quality missing (which is easily fixed), I believe Ubuntu looks as good if not better than other popular OS alternatives out there.
There was one thing that made it very clear for me: When I showed Ubuntu to friends, coworkers or family, I used to heavily customize my desktop in advance. My desktop usually had little or nothing to do with the default, for I changed window, icon, control themes, wallpapers and fonts. This time around, I was showing Ubuntu 10.10 with one single customization, the Faenza icon theme. Everything else was default, and that speaks volumes, in my opinion.
LIFE WITHOUT AN AC CHARGER
I mostly use portable computers, laptops and tablets, and I have suffered from Linux poor power management for ages. In this case, Ubuntu 10.10 comes with much improved power management features out of the box. Of course, it could be argued that a lot of that is coming from the latest GNOME and Kernel features, but again, Ubuntu provides a really nice and complete package.
In my case, I am getting an average 20-30% longer battery life than before!
PEDAL TO THE METAL
Ubuntu has steadily improved their boot times for a while now and Maverick is no exception. Aside from boot and shutdown times, though, there is a true improvement overall. In recent times I have been talking about how quickly and efficiently KDE was catching up. KDE SC 4.5 series is definitely faster and more responsive, even to the point that it felt faster than older versions of GNOME.
This time around, though, I think the tide turned back towards GNOME and Ubuntu being faster. Overall responsiveness is truly amazing, even when opening slow applications such as OpenOffice.
The software center new features are truly impressive. Installation in the background works smoother now and the new "Featured" and "What's new" sections work amazingly well as non intrusive ways of presenting the huge catalog of applications available to users. I have found myself discovering really interesting applications thanks to this little feature!.
On a different note, the software center provides tighter desktop integration. Downloading a ".deb" file now and double clicking on it will start the software center so the installation can be managed in the same way as if you were downloading it from repositories. This is effectively substituting GDebi for good, which I think makes very good sense, but it also provides greater flexibility to Canonical developers to handle installation of such files and raising the potential security threats that may come from carelessly doing so.
Unless you are into continuously adding PPA's and getting overnight compilations of your favorite apps, chances are you are stuck with the versions that were part of whatever Ubuntu release you are on. I tend not to get too picky about that, but Ubuntu 10.10 brings some very interesting updates to its repositories and default installation:
Evolution 2.30.3 allows native Gmail calendar and contacts integration out of the box, no hacks required.
OpenOffice 3.2.1 provides the latest features and enhancements available in this wonderful office productivity suite.
VLC 1.1.4 brings up to date features from this incredible video player.
GNOME 2.32.0 and all the applications part of this fabulous desktop manager (Brasero, Gedit, Gnome Terminal, etc) get current enhancements and a few new features.
There are many other examples, including a short but high quality collection of games, with many great titles available from the repositories... I am guilty of playing Chromium a lot lately! ;-)
I have to admit that the "social desktop" idea was not one I initially liked, but it is true that it may be a blessing for many people out there. I don't spend significant amounts of time posting on Twitter or Facebook, so I don't find the tight integration Ubuntu brings that useful. People who do spend time on social networks, though, probably think this is the best thing since sliced bread.
I truly think this is the best Ubuntu release ever, and that, right there, is a good reason to upgrade/install. If you love Ubuntu, you are in for a treat, and if you have never tried it, there has not been a better time to do so.
FREE AS IN FREEDOM AND FREE AS IN BEER
Not relevant by any means in comparison with other Linux distros or previous Ubuntu releases, but it is good to remind ourselves that this incredibly good piece of software is available at no cost, and that you can literally tweak it and modify it as much as you want, no restrictions. Becoming part of the community is a natural move and a great experience. Once you see the incredible effort so many people are putting into this project and how they welcome you, regardless of your knowledge/experience, it truly is something.
Yes, that's more than ten reasons, but you know...
UBUNTU 10.10 GOES UP TO ELEVEN! (ah, Spinal Tap...)