Monday, October 11, 2010

Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat Final Review

As planned, Ubuntu 10.10 (codenamed "Maverick Meerkat") was released yesterday, October 10th, 2010. Canonical usually releases closer to month end, but in this case it was a good opportunity to make it coincide with such a significant date. Ubuntu 10.10 was released on 10/10/10.

Before I go on with this review, I strongly encourage you to read my Ubuntu 10.10 Beta PREVIEW ARTICLE, which does cover many concepts that won't be repeated here. It should also help to better understand this release and its new features.

INSTALLATION

Canonical has done an incredible job improving this critical part of their distro, which is leaps and bounds easier to follow, but also better looking and overall faster.

I personally believe that Linux installation is already quite complicated as is for people who know little about computers (downloading an ISO image, correctly burning it into a CD, MD5 sum checks, start from the LiveCD... Lots of new stuff for newbies), so any initiative that simplifies the actual installation will definitely be appreciated. In addition, the installation is quite key, kind of like a business card, an introduction of a product. If those few first steps are cluttered, unclear or downright difficult, very few people will actually make an effort to get through them.

Luckily, Ubuntu 10.10 installation is an example, in my opinion, of how a Linux distro installation should go. It is clear, concise, provides information where it matters and simplifies the technical jargon when it is not required.


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The installation welcomes the user with a simple selection screen. Here we can choose the installation language and whether we want to install or try the product. Canonical has maintained this approach for many releases now, and while it is comfortable and less time consuming, I think it is safer to enforce booting from the LiveCD first. Such approach gives a good opportunity to spot any errors or lack of hardware support before installing, which can save lots of frustration down the line. For the purpose of this article, I will continue straight onto the installation process, but I very much encourage everybody to try Ubuntu FIRST!


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As displayed on the screenshot above, minimum requirements and instructions are provided in an easy and clear manner. In addition, the user can choose whether to download updates during the installation (perfect when connected via ethernet cable and straight to the Internet, perhaps not such a good idea otherwise). Moreover, we are given an option to install certain proprietary codecs, such as the MP3 one. I find this flexibility is also key to make life easier to end users. Canonical maintains their commitment to Open Source software, but at the same time the user can follow a different path without the need to go over countless forums to find how to do it.


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I intentionally omitted several screenshots of steps that don't really bring anything new. The one above I included because I think is a great example of presenting something potentially complicated like hard disk partitioning, in an extremely clear and to the point manner. This step should not intimidate anybody anymore. The next screen takes the same concept even further.


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Once we have set up all the initial requirements for the installation, it will start and provide end users with additional information thanks to a nice and convenient slideshow. One of its new features allows end users to navigate through those slides at will. The two arrows located at the left and right ends of the screen help skip or go back to a specific slide when needed. Additionally, users are shown examples of software that is included in the default installation, along with examples of software that is not, but is also supported. A nice example is Firefox, which is included, but then Google Chrome and the Flash plugin are offered as software easily obtainable through the Ubuntu Software Center. On a different note, that same screenshot below shows the progress bar at the bottom, which provides updates for package updates download an installation.


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As a whole, the new installation procedure in Ubuntu 10.10 is an example of hitting the nail on the head. A great idea which has been polished to the point where it is fully mature now, solid, informative and easy to follow.

Congratulations to the guys at Canonical for a very impressive piece of work!

LOOK&FEEL, USER EXPERIENCE

As expected, not much has changed here since the Beta. An important element, though, has seen a proper face lifting. I am talking about the default wallpaper, which in my opinion, looks decent for the first time since Canonical came with the new colors.


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Another nice addition are the new Ubuntu fonts, which look very nice. Along with the refinements to the official Ambiance and Radiance themes and the new high quality set of wallpapers, they make Ubuntu look better than ever. As I already mentioned on the preview, a proper icon theme is dearly missed, but the good news is that Canonical are already working on it. (While they're at it, though, I recommend using the Faenza icon theme. It integrates perfectly and enhances the Ubuntu 10.10 visual experience significantly.)


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From the user experience perspective, I believe Ubuntu 10.10 is a polished version of its predecessor, Ubuntu 10.04. The same elements that felt rushed in six months ago feel now settled and matured, like they make better sense. Even the social desktop, which I am not fan of, feels more natural now.

It is not easy to point out specific examples, but I think everything in Maverick Meerkat feels more solid and well rounded. In other words, I don't think new users will ever feel the need to go to the command line because the GUI feels incomplete or not powerful enough. I think that is a sign of maturity that Ubuntu developers should be very proud of.

Taking everything into account, The Ubuntu 10.10 visual and usage experience is the best ever in my opinion.

FIXING SOFTWARE!

The selection of software installed by default in Ubuntu 10.10 is not that brilliant. In fact, I think this has been a recurring theme in recent releases and it only seems to get worse release after release. Fortunately, should it be necessary (I doubt new users would need to), the superb Ubuntu Software Center will make it easy to remove and install whatever we want.

In my case, I am a bit too lazy to go step by step unistalling packages to install others afterwards, so I created a simple script to handle this little issue. The script is very simple and should be easy to follow reading the comments included.

#!/bin/bash
# 24/09/10 - Script to remove unwanted software from Ubuntu...
# ...and install software that is not available in the default install

# Update sources first...
sudo apt-get update 

# Uncomment line right below in case you want to run a full dist-upgrade first
# sudo apt-get -y dist-upgrade

# Remove Tomboy, Shotwell, Empathy, Evolution, Gwibber, Pitivi, Rhythmbox
sudo apt-get -y remove tomboy shotwell empathy evolution gwibber pitivi rhythmbox

# Install gimp, Chromium, VLC, Audacious, Pidgin, Geany
sudo apt-get -y install gimp chromium-browser vlc audacious pidgin geany

If you want to run this script, simply copy and paste the code into a text file and save it as UbuntuAddRemove.sh. Open a virtual terminal and cd to wherever you saved the file. Run it typing bash UbuntuAddRemove.sh

IMPORTANT NOTE: This script will remove and install the packages specified. Make sure you change it so it fits your needs/preferences.

THE FINAL VERDICT

Ubuntu 10.10 is a great release, probably the best I have used to date. The many changes and new features that were rushed into Ubuntu 10.04 (and perhaps didn't make all that sense in the realm of an LTS release) feel solid and polished now. The new additions that are part of Maverick are all great ideas and the whole product looks better than ever.

Some have said that Ubuntu 10.10 is a "skip-over" release, but I feel quite the opposite. I believe Ubuntu 10.10 is what Ubuntu 10.04 should have been, so why settle with less? Unless you are a business and need the stability, I think you will surely enjoy the new stuff and be able to cope with a new install (which incidentally runs faster than ever). Note that there are some interesting and powerful new features, such as GPU HARDWARE ACCELERATION and MULTITOUCH SUPPORT, among many others.

If you like Ubuntu, Maverick Meerkat should put a smile on your face.

Thanks for reading.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Chema,very informative a little while ago someone send why bother my answer would be if you have a nice car you would polish it and get under the bonnet fine tune the engine tweak it get the max performance out of it that's what the ubuntu people keep doing again and again.its evolution ubuntu is motoring it rocks. ubuntu 10.10 maverick meerkat.

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  2. Thanks!

    Actually, since I installed Ubuntu 10.10 I have been able to realize that it really pays off. The hardware acceleration is very noticeable and compiz effects look better and smoother than ever before... And it's all under the same exact hardware!

    Aside from that, users that are not into pursuing the latest software all the time will surely appreciate having access to the latest versions of many different applications. Evolution is a great example, because the latest version incorporates Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts compatibility out of the box. In other words, you will be able to create agendas and calendars that come from your gmail account without the use of any hack. On top of that, the default IMAP settings now work smoothly, getting your email faster and without a single problem.

    The same logic applies everywhere, pretty much.

    Once again, if you are using the LTS version for a reason, good stuff, stick with it. If on the other hand, you enjoy having the best possible at your fingertips, go for it.

    WARNING: Notice that installing Ubuntu 10.10 now implies that certain bugs will surely still be there. If you want a smooth installation, I'd recommend waiting 4-6 weeks. However, if you want to help the community spot those bugs, install now and get to it!

    Thanks

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  3. Hey Chema I like your blog with very decent reviews of the important Linux Distros.
    I would like to share your opinion about the new Linux Mint Debian release, if you could make a review on your blog it would be the perfect place.
    Im a fan of Arch and Mint, thats the reason, but Im always reading gladly about the other stuff and your blog is perfect for that.

    Sigue así!!

    Un saludo

    David

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  4. Chema: following the blog for some months now, impressed by breadth of coverage and depth of posts. Appreciate your time and effort. RC

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  5. Thanks for that awesome feedback, greatly appreciated!

    @David: I will try to get a hold of Linux Mint Debian and review it asap.

    @Robin: I appreciate you following and liking what you read, thanks.

    ReplyDelete