Ubuntu 10.10: Ten Days In
Today, October 20, marks 10 days since the release of Ubuntu 10.10. Now that we’ve had a week and a half to evaluate it on production machines, here are some thoughts on how close it comes to scoring the “perfect 10” to which Ubuntu founder and financier Mark Shuttleworth aspired when he announced the new release back in April. Now, here’s our perspective.
October 10 wasn’t the first time I’d tried the new Ubuntu release, of course. I’d had it running in a virtual machine for many months before that date, and played with it on spare machines as time allowed. But it’s impossible to get a complete feel for all the merits and flaws of an operating system until you deploy it in the wild and have to depend on it, for better or for worse.
Fortunately, however, Ubuntu 10.10 has yet to give me a major reason to regret installing it on the Dell netbook that I use day in and day out. On the contrary, I’ve been generally quite happy with the new release so far.
For starters, I’m liking the new features in the Ubuntu Software Center, which has now fully replaced other graphical tools to become the one-stop shop for finding, installing, managing and deleting applications. Standalone Debian packages are now opened in the Software Center by default, replacing the gdebi tool.
The recent addition of Fluendo’s DVD Player as the first for-purchase application in the Software Center also opens up exciting new possibilities for installing commercial software via the Software Center:
I wish the Software Sources tool, a.k.a. software-properties-gtk, were still available from the System menu instead of being accessible only in the Software Center, but there are worse things in life than this.
I’ve also grown quite fond of Shotwell, which replaced Mono-dependent F-Spot in this Ubuntu release as the default photo manager. In fact, after using Shotwell for the last few months, I’ve decided I like it so much that I’ve committed to it my precious collection of photographs of eighteenth-century documents, on which my academic survival depends:
Shotwell stands out because it’s fast and efficient. I also like how it organizes photos by “event,” as well as the fact that it can be configured to store all photos and data in a single directory, making my collection of images portable and easy to back up.
In addition, Shotwell helps advance Ubuntu’s aspiration to be “social from the start” by making it easy to upload photos to Flickr, Picasa and Facebook. It would be nice to see more sites supported than those three, but I suspect they cover the needs of a majority of users for the time being.
Last but not least, a list of the positive new features in Ubuntu 10.10 wouldn’t be complete without a kudos to the installer, which is now simpler and faster than ever. Ubuntu developers had the good idea of starting the heavy-lifting of the installation process in the background while the user is still filling in information that isn’t needed until the end. Thanks in part to this common-sense improvement, installation took less than twenty minutes on my netbook.
My complaints about Ubuntu 10.10 mostly involve minor issues. For one, I was annoyed to discover that control-alt-D, the hotkey combination that in previous releases would expose the desktop, has now been replaced by superkey-D, just like in Windows. This change might make it a tiny bit easier for Windows expatriates to make the switch to Gnome, but it’s a little obnoxious to see Ubuntu conforming to the conventions of the proprietary world instead of sticking to the configuration to which Linux users have been accustomed for years.
A similarly minor issue, but one that nonetheless bothers me almost every day, is the loss of the keyboard shortcut for taking a screenshot of only the active window. I’ve yet to figure out whether this is a general bug, a problem specific to my hardware or an intentional change, but it would be nice if it were fixed. Bonus points for addressing the egregiously longstanding bug where the Gnome screenshot tool fails to capture window borders when compiz is running, but don’t get me started on that one.
Other than these relatively negligible annoyances, I can’t say there’s anything I’d change about Ubuntu 10.10. I won’t go so far as to call it “perfect,” because experience has shown that to be a word which usually leads to regret later on. But I would describe it as pretty great, and definitely worth trying out. After all, with the installation process so quick and easy, what excuse is there not to?