Ubuntu 9.04 frankenreview
It's official: Ubuntu has taken over the Linux world. On Digg's Linux/Unix section at the time of writing, four of the top five upcoming stories are about Jaunty (with the other one being a TuxRadar story on programming the Arduino - w00t!). In fact, 11 of the top 15 are about Ubuntu, which is astonishing in a week where Oracle gobbled up OpenOffice.org and MySQL and the first full release of the hotly hyped Ulteo came out.
We've already given you The Road to Jaunty: a look back at Ubuntu's history and an interview with Mark Shuttleworth, and to round out our three-part celebration of Ubuntu's 10th release, Jaunty Jackalope, we wanted to round up some of the web's views on the release then add a few of our own. Read on!
Thanks to the cliquey nature of its friends networks, Digg is hardly a real measure of true popularity. Instead, we need only look at the IT press to see just how interested people are in Ubuntu. Lifehacker, eWeek, The Inquirer, The Register, PC World and more have already published some extensive reviews of the new release, and the verdict has largely been positive:
- "Put simply, Linux simply doesn't get any better than this right now for ordinary users, and Ubuntu is the only serious choice if you're tired of Windows or OS X" says Lifehacker.
- "Version 9.04 remains a very good choice for desktop deployments, but in certain circumstances, Jaunty's software enhancements come with some drawbacks." says eWeek.
- "Ubuntu 9.04 isn't a revolutionary release for desktop users, but it does provide a nice new message system and brings Ubuntu up-to-date with changes in GNOME and the Linux kernel. And at this point in Ubuntu's development, the slow-but-steady advances are exactly what users need - the underlying stability of Ubuntu remains up to par and perhaps even exceeds previous releases" says The Register
- "The usable qualities of Ubuntu easily surpass anything seen in Vista. Its only real limitations come in the form of software. Most applications written for Windows were not also ported to Ubuntu (or, more generally, Linux). As a result, many of people’s favorite programs will not run natively in Linux" says Geek.com.
- "This is a solid and fast release, so if you haven't played with Linux yet, you might pull down the torrent and try the live CD. If you don't like it, throw it away, but you probably will like it" says The Inquirer.
- "This review has been fairly hard for me to write. I want to slowly build my readers up to the conclusion, but I just can’t hold it back: If you use Ubuntu, you NEED this version on your computer, sooner rather than later" says IT News Today.
If there is one recurring theme from these reviews, it's that not much has changed in 9.04. Sure, it has OOo, Gnome 2.26, ext4 support, an all-new CD burner plus the most advanced kernel to date, all while drastically increasing boot speed and lowering memory consumption, but what has Ubuntu ever done for us?
In search of the New Feature adrenaline rush
We've been using Jaunty for some time now and so far are very impressed: it's solid as a rock, substantially faster and even has some new features. When Windows Vista users try out Windows 7 they crow about how wonderfully fast it is compared to Vista, and that's great - we're glad that Microsoft is finally listening to its customers. But Windows users had to wait three years for Windows 7, and still will only get software that many believe should simply be called a Vista service pack.
There's no doubt about it: Ubuntu 9.04 is short on killer features, but so what? With just six months to turn a release around, there's a real limit to how much you can achieve. Heck, the first feature freeze for Ubuntu took place just two months after 8.10 was released, while the final feature freeze was over two months ago. This is the slow and steady, release early and often approach that has served Ubuntu well so far - individual releases often look a bit dry (with the exception of releases that focus on the shiny), but compared to Apple's 18-month development cycle or Microsoft's 3-year cycle suddenly Ubuntu isn't looking so bad.
The inclusion of OpenOffice.org 3.0 in Jaunty is something we should be shouting from the rooftops, but aren't. And the reason for that is because we're spoilt for choice - other distros had OOo three or four months(!) ago, so when Ubuntu includes it world + dog collectively says "meh." Canonical has provided us with the best KDE 4 release so far, and no one seems to be interested because you could compile it from source yourself if you really wanted to. Gnome 2.26 is an awesome release - Brasero is very impressive, yes, but there's incredible new PulseAudio support, DLNA as standard, cross-fading desktop backgrounds and many more small improvements that add up to nothing short of "wow."
The point is this: when something is faster than what you had and more stable than what you had, clearly it's a lot better. But when you factor in that it also includes hundreds of new features in every conceivable part of the desktop, it becomes clear that Ubuntu 9.04 is a truly worthy update to what was already a technically impeccable Linux distribution. If someone tells you it's light on features, that's because they've not made it far beyond Canonical's release announcement - Ubuntu's developers have shown they can stand toe-to-toe with Fedora in the cutting-edge stakes, without compromising their consistently refined user experience.
But is it enough...?
Ubuntu isn't competing against Fedora or OpenSUSE, although it will naturally share some users in the great ebb and flow of Linux distro migrants. Instead, it's important to realise that Ubuntu probably has just one more release before Windows 7 comes out, and that's where the real fight lies. While Karmic Koala has already lost the brand name wars, being up there with Nintendo Wii in the Just Plain Stupid Names awards, will it provide sufficient functionality to tempt Windows users over once and for all?
Let's hope so, but it's important to understand that this fight isn't one that Canonical faces by itself. The Gnome developers are beavering away on GTK3 plans. Qt 4.6 already looks to be mind-bogglingly cool. Firefox 3.5 brings with it TraceMonkey and incredible performance improvements. Yes, even Mono has its part to play in making the whole Linux desktop better. Whether these features make it into Karmic Koala or Karmic+1 (Loony Lemming? Leprous Lycanthrope?) they will move the whole Linux desktop further towards mainstream adoption - and that's something everyone, Ubuntu users or otherwise, can celebrate.
And Windows 7? Bring it on.
Have your say
Ultimately our view and the views of the rest of the IT press are no more important than what other end-users think - some people have been running daily builds of Jaunty since it was announced, some have been pushing it to its limits on the tiniest of netbooks, and others deploy Ubuntu Server on mission-critical servers.
For this to be a true frankenreview, we wanted to give you a flavour of what other users think, so we asked our Twitter followers for their Twitter-sized review of Jaunty - here's what they had to say...
- notabilia: The disabling by default of Ctrl-Alt-Backspace is characteristic of the trend away from user control
- techfun: I'll be upgrading a client's machine to it tonight so they can pick it up tomorrow and doing my own over the weekend.
- martynparker: Been using it since alpha 4 and it rocks! No showstopping issues at all along the way. Running as ext4 as of fresh install today.
- philwyett: Ubuntu 9.04 is a transitional release that with some good user testing and settling will setup for a great LTS next year.
- janjamsek: Liked Ubunu since it's conception, although I only use it through VirtualBox. Maybe I will install it a home PC someday...
- ArrangedEntropy: So far it's awesome. Minor issues with Xserver. It is very fast in comparison to Intrepid, and I'm not referring to boot time.
- JeffHoogland: Holding off on the update until I get a kernel patch for the Asus G1Sn and better Intel gfx support for my Netbook.
- LinuxGurl13: I'm going to wait a few weeks before I upgrade. I don't want to wait hours to wait for everything to download and update.
- kevin_linuxfan: Been running Jaunty since beta on my Dell Mini 9, and I have to say, I love it. One issue: Compiz/AWN shutdown in wrong order.
- lorddrachenblut: Jaunty seems to boot faster on my acer extensa 4420 and the upgrade from intrepid went smooth.
- PaddyDempster: Been running it for a couple of weeks now and really liking it. Booting is fast.
- RichyDelaney: Love the new jaunty, upgraded from 8.10 and a clean upgrade, wonders will never cease :) some slight nvidia bugs with new drivers.
- davidtab: I'm a Debian user, running 9.04 for a while on netbook. Like 9.04 so much, thinking of switching from Debian.
- euperia: Very impressed with Jaunty. Halved boot time and feels more responsive.
- tweetsponge: 9.04 is great other than sound issues. With their constant sound architecture changes it is like X was in the early days. A pain.