Ubuntu Lucid Lynx Review

So, its about time for my 6-monthly Ubuntu Review. I am writing this while waiting for the official release of Ubuntu. I hope I get this finished before it is released…it could be anywhere between now and midnight in the samoa islands (I think thats the last place that gets the time). My Ubuntu reviews always seem to be very popular for some reason, so I decided to make sure it’s done as soon as possible this time. I’ll get it written before lunch time. Anyway, I’ll stop blabbing…

Obviously this is a Long Term Support (LTS) release, so there won’t be a huge number of changes in functionality, as the idea of LTS is to have a rock-solid stable release that can be used. I will also only be focusing on Ubuntu (not Kubuntu, Xubuntu or Lubuntu). I may do a review of them later, but as I don’t use them primarily, I don’t know them as well.

I have been using Lucid since alpha 1, and have seen it grow from a Koala into the fully fledged Lynx. (Yeah, ok, that sentence meant nothing…)

Here is a picture of my current Lucid Desktop. I’m using the default theme, one of the many many new wallpapers, and one of the panels. There is obviously a lot of new visual stuff for this version of ubuntu, and it is about time, as they have been saying they will do this for ages.

There has been a lot of talk about the buttons, which are now on the left rather than the right. To be honest, I don’t have strong opinions either way. I don’t dislike the left buttons, nor do I love them. They are just buttons. To everyone who is asking the question “What advatage do they have by having it on the left rather than the right?” I say “What advantage do they have by being on the right rather than the left?”. If you say “People are used to that.” then I’ll slap you. Linux has never done stuff because people are used to it. It has never been part of linux or the FLOSS community. If you don’t like it, fair enough, but I don’t think there is a problem.

They seem to have put a whole bunch of new wallpapers in, and I mean loads. I remember there used to be only 2/3 wallpapers in older versions, and this is a very welcome change. They are all very nice ones, and suitable for all resolutions.

There is also a new startup theme and login screen, which do look very mac-like (no matter what anyone says), but they seem alright. Ubuntu seems to have moved away from the orange (don’t try and pretend it was brown…it wasn’t) to aubergine/purple/eggplant. Whatever you want to call it, the general colour has changed, and I’m sure noone will complain about that (apart from the default wallpaper which is quite annoying in my opinion, and no the wallpaper on my desktop isn’t the default one).

Ubuntu have integrated what looks like padevchooser into the sound properties. I don’t know if it is definitely padevchooser, but it gives you the same granularity. The changes basically allow you to configure the volume of each individual application. This means you don’t have to use in-app volume controls (which are sometimes quite annoying) and can even mute specific applications (so Firefox doesn’t play anything at all for example). This is a great thing to add in.

You will see on my screenshot that there are a lot of interesting looking controls in the panel. They have added in extra panel controls so that they integrate better with the panel. There is one for network, one for sound, one for displays and one for mail/social networking. They have built in gwibber into the social networking feature, along with an ability to build your own app into it (pino goes into it as well). There is also a music one that pops up when you view Rythmbox, and there is a new user switcher and a power button. I’m not going to go into all of the features of these new panel controls (you can look through them yourselves, I don’t want to spoil everything for you), but it makes some things a lot easier to do (such as going offline in chat etc). They have done a lot of work on these and they really integrate well into the desktop.

This has been a big feature that people have talked about. The Ubuntu One Music Store is currently a plugin only for rhythmbox, but there is ability to build it into other music players. It was built with 7Digital as the music provider. I haven’t bought any music on it myself yet, but I have had a look at it, and it does look nice. The main problem I see with it is that things are only available in mp3. Now, obviously this is a 7Digital problem, and they are probably the best provider to go with as they are starting to provide things in FLAC as well as mp3, so the future does look quite bright (but not orange) for the UUMS.

The pricing is generally good for it, and the MP3s are mostly at a bitrate of 320kb/s (which is the highest you can buy on the internet). So, although only being available in mp3, they are still decent quality. If you are going to buy some music off the internet (so you’ll have to get it in mp3) then buy it off the UUMS and give some money to this fantastic distribution.

This is probably the biggest change in Ubuntu (in terms of actual work), and I don’t quite know why they have done it. They have flip-flopped over this issue for months, changing from usplash to xsplash to plymouth. All in the name of startup speed. The splash screen is pretty, I’ll give you that one, but it isn’t any faster than Karmic. Not at all on my 2 machines. I’d love to know why they changed to Plymouth. If it was about start-up speed, it doesn’t seem to have worked.

There are a few more features that have sneaked there way into Ubuntu such as iphone/ipod touch support, pitivi and a few other, but I have hilighted what are, in my opinion, the biggest. I think that this release of Ubuntu is very very good, and has been done nicely. However, I do think Canonical need to learn from the last 6 months that they need to talk to the community more. I don’t have a problem with the features (apart from possibly getting rid of gimp), but some other people have, and Canonical have taken these concerns with, what seems like a pinch of salt.

Either way, I love this new version of ubuntu, and have been enjoying it for a while, and I hope you will do to. Let me know what you like/dislike about this new version of Ubuntu, and leave it a wee while before downloading…

Also, we are having a release party at Strathclyde University’s Union on Thursday 6th May (in 1 week). I will post more info about that later, but just a heads up incase you live near Glasgow and want to go to a release party outside of the centre of the universe (London).