Today, the Ubuntu crowd got it’s new operating system, Karmic Koalas. Also known as Ubuntu 9.10, the operating system is now available for download. If you believed the tech world-or, at least, the Linux faithful-downloading the OS could be problematic because, you know, everyone would want to download it. Well, I had no problems downloading the 700mb ISO file. It downloaded in just a few minutes after which I installed it in a Virtual Box VM.
Installation, I have to say, is much, much easier than it used to be. Booting the VM with the ISO resulted in a rather ugly text mode selection box for language, then a cute little menu to select how I wanted to install/use the ‘live CD’. I chose to install. It then presented a very cute little glowing graphic and began the installation process. It asked me which drive I wanted to use and then asked a few basic things like time zone, my name, a password to use and then it went on its way. The installation took, maybe, twenty minutes or so. I am rather impressed by how easy and quick it was.
Once booted, I was presented with a pleasant enough desktop. And here is where it falls flat. Again. I went to install the Virtual Box extras so I could have the better graphical experience and also test how easy it would be to install SOMETHING, anything. Well, unfortunately, the extras required a trip to Terminal. And that is the problem. As long as you have to use Terminal to INSTALL something or even to change a system setting, it fails. Yes, I know there are funky things in Windows as there are in Mac OS X but they are relatively few and far between. Just about everything I need to change in Windows is reachable from within the user interface and does not require a CMD window.
I did get the extra’s installer (for lack of a better term) to do something, but I don’t know what. I see no visible change and accessing the display panel didn’t yield any changes.
I also tried to access a file on one of my Windows computers. While the big U KNEW about my network, it was not able to access anything on it, rather it enjoyed letting me know that it could not find a server. While I am sure some Linux savvy soul out there could tell me in, what, two seconds, what the problem is, the point is that I shouldn’t HAVE to ask nor should I even have this issue. It should find all of my attached PC’s and storage and allow me to use them.
Performance seemed iffy as well, but I am not sure how much of that is due to the operating system running in a VM.
The usual suite of applications was already installed: Firefox, Open Office, Tetravex and gnomtris and others. There weren’t as many pre-installed apps in this release and that’s fine. Getting additional software is fairly easy IF YOU KNOW WHERE TO GO. Once again, Linux falls short. While there is a ‘package manager’, you have to hunt for it and then, when you use it, you must enter your password (bowing to a very UAC like feature from Vista.) Next, you have to traverse a myriad of choices to find something you want. There seems to be multiple ‘universes’ with which to get software. And, once you find something, you may be required to download and install additional software to make what you want work. It is a bit confusing and cumbersome. Worse, some of the applications require a different window manager or, at least, that window manager has to be installed so its libraries can be used. And, please, correct me if I am wrong about that. While the flexibility of having multiple interface managers is cool, it does nothing for Joe User.
I find it interesting, too, that there are quite a few little things that seem to have been taken from either Windows or Mac OS X. The UAC like prompts, the warm and fuzzy text on many of the dialog boxes and even the choice of backgrounds are similar to what you get in the other operating systems. There’s nothing wrong with it, why not take the good bits?
My goal was to take a very quick look at this release through the eyes of an ‘average’ user. In my opinion, Ubuntu 9.10, while nicer than previous releases, still has a very long way to go before it can challenge Mac or Windows on the desktop. Even with the warm an fuzzies that the developers seem to have at least tried to put into the GUI, it still falls way short. For an enthusiast, however, Ubuntu is pretty darn cool. If you don’t mind the limitations I’ve mentioned or if you like getting down and dirty with the operating system, this is the way to go. The operating system is far more customizable and extensible than Windows and the price is certainly right. All in all, Ubuntu is a worthwhile download and, if you aren’t tied to Windows or Mac or whatever, it would make a nice desktop OS, as long as you don’t mind getting intimate with your hardware.
You can download the ISO files here.
In the post, I mistakenly said that the software packager was hidden. Indeed, the one I looked at, the Synaptics Package manager, is buried. However, I totally missed the Ubuntu Software Center. Available from the Applications menu, you can select it and have a plethora of pre-compiled applications at your fingertips. You are presented with an easy to navigate list of categories like games, accessories, science, development and others. When you select a category, you are then presented with a list of available applications. Installation is fairly painless. Just double click an application and it will be downloaded and installed. Any necessary dependencies are also installed. This repository is much nicer than what I found earlier, and it does make installing available software much easier. However, I still stand by my conclusion. This does little to make Ubuntu any closer to Windows or Mac OS X.