Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ubuntu 12.10 final beta REVIEW

This is a review on a beta package as of October 4th, 2012. This information will be deprecated quickly as updates are released in a fast manor as the 12.10 deadline approaches.

11.10 blew Ubuntu users away when compared to 11.04, with the immature version of Unity in a long-term support release that drove many of its users away. Hoping that 12.10 would bring further maturity to what Unity has already evolved into I installed it, and have had mixed emotions since then. Here are some of my discoveries, complaints, and criticisms on the new Ubuntu operating system.

Upgrade Process
The update process couldn't have been easier. A matter of running update-manager -d from the terminal and a few hours of installing updates later, the reboot prompt appeared and 12.10 was booted. Note that if you are using the openssh-server package there will be a boot-time error message regarding an incorrect compilation flag, as well as a mandatory filesystem check since upgrading an operating system is such a dramatic overhaul.

The boot process will take longer than usual if you upgraded from 12.04. This is why it is commonly recommended that the Operating system be installed over the existing one, rather than throwing patches on top of an existing framework.

On first boot
  Unity hasn't changed much. Aside from the controversial shopping lens, unnecessary glossy buttons on the launcher, and file previews it is just like a faster version of what came before. Which isn't much to complain about. In fact, it's nice having a snappy interface. Of course, snappiness only applies to those with a higher-end internet connection (> 256 KiB/s) since file indexing and Amazon searches are the norm within Unity now. Of course, this can be opted-out of with sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping.

Little Differences
There were seemingly small but interesting design choices in this release. The full name of the user is no longer displayed on the top right of the screen, and a new printer applet is the default. Also, "Software Updater" is the new Update Manager, and it updates upon boot. So there will be no more tiered updating.

Also, in Unity's Expo-like workspace switcher, clicking on a window will move you to that workspace rather than highlighting it within the interface.

A weird design choice was to include two applications that are pinned to the launcher that open in the firefox web browser. It seemed pretty out-of-character for Ubuntu.

Possible bugs
The only bug I have noticed is the inability to minimize a window using the Unity launcher, which is a pretty big deal. Aside from this inconvenience the Beta release is seemingly stable. However, little issues seem to crop up in Beta releases, so I could never recommend this for a production machine.

Although not a serious functionality issue, sometimes Unity previews mix their text together, creating an unreadable mess. Also, as shown in the picture, the previews for Albums are supposed to play individual tracks. This does not work, but I am not sure if it is implied to. The sideways triangle IS the Universal sign for "Start", though.

Other Goodies
Ubuntu 12.10 comes with a signed bootloader, meaning that it can run with UEFI secure-boot that Windows 8 OEM computers will be coming with. This caused quite a big stir in the open source world, and Ubuntu was about to employ questionable tactics to get around it, but with a signed version of Grub  everything remains the same.

All of the outdated packages are updated and a most up-to-date repository is out there. Gimp 2.8 is among the collection. No more third party repos!

Here is a little demo video showing some of the features discussed in this article:

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