We are in the middle of another release cycle. Folks in the community are updating their systems, and demoing distributions that hold promise. Should Ubuntu 10.04, Lucid Lynx, be on your demo list? I can’t answer that for you. The best I can do to help you decide, is present to you a list of features that should make you smile and also ones I think will not be good for your blood pressure.
Before we get into the meaty stuff, a quick note about applications pre-installed on Ubuntu 10.04: Aside from a pair of applications, the rest are what you’ll find on previous releases. The pair I’m referring to is Simple Scan and Pitivi. Simple Scan is a document scanner and Pitivi is a video editor. Both are excellent tools. If you are reading about Ubuntu for the first time, here’s a list of the most important applications installed by default:
- OpenOffice.org – a free alternative to Microsoft Office
- Firefox Web browser – what you use when you are sick and tired of Internet Explorer
- Evolution Mail and Calendar
- Empathy IM client – this one application is a replacement for all those instant messaging clients out there. You can also use it to setup your Facebook and other social networking chats
- Gwibber – a microblogging client that supports Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, Qaiku, and other popular social networks.
- Totem Movie Player
- Rhythmbox Music Player
- A few games like Solitaire, Sudoku, Mines, etc
Stuff that should put a smile on your face
One thing you’ll notice when installing a Linux or BSD distribution is that the time zone always defaults to Eastern Standard Time, no matter where you are in the United States (of America). Not so with this release of Ubuntu. The time zone was correctly detected by the installer. A minor point, but one worth noting.
When you log into a newly installed Ubuntu 10.04 desktop, the system update notifier gives you a list of all the applications that needs to be updated. This way, you are assured that after the updates are applied (which should be first task you accomplish before you start surfing), that your desktop will be running with all the known security patches applied. Since the system is not configured to apply updates without your consent, you owe it to yourself to apply all updates as soon as the system notifies you.
Out of the box, the system is configured to check for updates daily, and to notify you if there are any updates available. For the security conscious (I hope you are one of us), this is the most sensible setting. The point is you do not want the system to download and install any updates without your consent.
Did you know that all Linux and BSD distributions run a popularity contest? If you did not know, it’s not your fault. They rarely publicize it. It’s not one of those contest where you get to win a washing machine or a trip to Hawaii, but by participating in it, the community wins. You participation helps the developers to bring you the best applications available. To participate in this contest, go to System > Administration > Software Sources, and click on the “Statistics” tab. Check “Submit statistical information,” and close the window. Don’t worry. This is not one of those Microsoft Windows “call home” schemes. Only anonymous data will be collected.
There is nothing really spectacular about the default desktop background of Ubuntu 10.04. It is just very bland. In terms of visual appeal, Ubuntu’s default desktop background seems to take a step backwards with each major release. But that is a minor issue. You can always change the desktop background at any time. You could even opt to spice it up with Cairo-Dock (with or without OpenGL). I do like the integration of a user’s instant messaging and social networking online status into the top panel.
On Ubuntu 10.04, the Shutdown/Restart System menu options have been moved to the extreme right of the top panel. But that ‘s not why I like it. It’s the fact that the color of the power-button icon will change to red if a restart is required. This is a visual cue that has a positive impact on usability. Aside from the nice visual cue, “Restart…” will also change to “Restart Required….”
The Ubuntu Software Center took a giant leap forward in this release, and I think the Synaptic graphical package manager is about to go the way of the dodo. The Software Center is that much improved. It’s still not perfect though but good enough that I did not even bother to use Synaptic in the course of writing this review. What I’ll like to see in the next release is a more granular categorization of the applications. It would be nice, for example, to have a “Security” category.