First Look: Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop Edition, Intrepid Ibex
Wow, it’s never a good idea to do an upgrade to a Release Candidate when you depend on the machine in question for day to day operations… But I just couldn’t resist making the move to Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop Edition, code named Intrepid Ibex. Here are some of my initial reactions.
All the new features that everyone’s talking about are the exact hot button issues I’ve been dealing with and have detailed in a couple of previous entries. Namely, better dual-head and wireless support.
So after too-brief consideration, I sat down in front of my laptop, opened a run dialogue, and typed in “update-manager -d” so that it would show me the upgrade option. And I clicked the button. After agreeing to the “once you start this process it can’t be stopped” warnings, the system started downloading all the new package files. The download took about 45 minutes, which isn’t bad considering how much data it’s pulling.
The installation of the new packages though took a while longer. A clean install of course is much faster, but I wanted two things — to see how long it would take compared to when I upgraded from 7.10 to 8.04, and to hopefully keep all my settings and applications intact.
(No, I haven’t gone through the process of setting up a separate /home partition, though I should. And yes, I do have good backups available.)
The install runs basically like a giant Update Manager update, and it politely asks you which configuration files to keep if yours differ from the ones the package manager is trying to install. Compared to my upgrade from 7.10, this was not only faster, but much cleaner in terms of the stability and completeness of the system and packages afterward.
After a couple of hours, the installer was ready to reboot into the new system, so I did.
Obviously, the first thing one sees on a new boot is the wallpaper, and this one I think is quite excellent. It keeps the spirit of the pre-release versions, while being “aesthetically accessible” to the average user. For me though, I really enjoyed the updates to the Human Gnome theme. Users have been calling on Ubuntu to do a revamp of the UI for a while now, and while this is not the total rework that many have hoped for, it is a very classy and strong update to the theme.
Checking around in my documents, settings, and applications, everything is intact. Bonus too- I had installed the program StopMotion to work on some short film projects. However, there was a dependency issue that I’d not gotten around to solving yet so the app wouldn’t load. After the upgrade, it now loads effortlessly. Cool.
I also tried the new USB stick installer option- a very nice tool indeed. Obviously if you have the chance to boot a machine from a USB stick, it’s light years ahead of running a live CD.
The more obvious improvements that I’ve seen in the week since I did the upgrade are these:
My wireless card, the Broadcom BCM4318 that I decried in a previous post now connects without a hitch, and with better signal strength than I ever had with Windows. And here’s the kicker- while at home, I have an Ethernet cable on the desk for the laptop, not unexpected, but Network Manager now uses that connection and also connected to the wireless. At first I thought it was just graphically showing me that I can access either one, but doing some Internet-based speed tests, I showed just under double my normal line speed. So I’m in essence getting the benefit of two internet connections. (Unfortunately upload speed was about the same…)
The drawbacks: Two things I have come across so far. Since I use my machine for administering several servers during the day job, I use Terminal Server Client a lot throughout any day. After the upgrade, a not-every-time-but-way-more-than-once glitch happens. With the connection options window open, after entering all the information for the machine I’m trying to control, hitting connect leaves the name drop down slot on the screen fully expanded. I then get an RDP window opened with the remote desktop active, but I have a floating text box, and the mouse loses clickability. The only fix other than Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to restart X is to use keyboard shortcuts to log out of the remote machine. This breaks the mouse freeze, and reconnecting to the target works the second.
The dual head support now works without any third party app (but much appreciation to URandR that got me through in the meantime), and has the configurability to adjust relative monitor position. Meaning, if I have my laptop on the table and taller 19″ LCD next to it, I can now use the Screen Resolution dialogue box to adjust the height of the external display relative to the laptop panel, so that when I mouse from one to the other, it stays on a straight course rather than jumping up to the same point in the resolution map of the screen.
Also in my system, the compositing support that was first included for Metacity in 8.04 works much more smoothly and causes no glitches. One trick I did though- in GConf, under Apps> Metacity> General, I checked “Compositing_Manager” but also checked “Reduced_Resources”. This gives me the very nice visual elements like shadows and transparency, but more resource intensive things like switching workspaces and raising and lowering windows are more rapid and cleaner. All in all, I am really happy with this upgrade.
When I installed Gutsy Gibbon on this machine in place of Windows, it was like a breath of fresh life in “my computing experience”. The upgrade from Gutsy to Hardy though was more akin to… putting a fresh coat of paint on a good house. But going from Hardy to Intrepid Ibex, at least for me, has definitely recaptured some of that invigorating energy. Not really due to “wiz bang pow” new features, but because of really solid, thorough user-space updates that make a very strong experience even better.
Anyone else have upgrade reports to share?
WorksWithU Contributing Blogger Toby Deemer runs Ubuntu 8.04 to manage a large law firm network.