A month ago I wrote a review on Ubuntu’s 7.04 version and in it I promised a second look once the final version was to released. Feisty Fawn was released last week and as it seems so far, it is one of the most (if not the most) successful Linux distro release ever. This means that we can’t help it but compare it with XP and Mac OS X, after having tested it in 3 laptops and 2 desktops in my lab.In this article I won’t go on and on about how Ubuntu gets installed or how well it performs, as things haven’t fundamentally changed since my previous review. But I will expand in the afterglow of the release and the good and bad that came out of it.
First and foremost, this release feels like a cornerstone in the Linux battle for desktop market share. It is the first time where I felt that a Linux distribution had the right kind of attention to detail and potential to truly stand up against OSX and Windows. No grandchildren needed to fix your setup, no major googling before doing the big step. Just popup the LiveCD in the drive, install the much-reputed OS and off you go.
This release brought new focus to non-free drivers/codecs by making it easier to install them. Things are not perfect yet though, as there is no version of ffmpeg that’s built with AAC in the repos, and Ubuntu’s official version of Gstreamer’s “ugly” codec collection has LAME support removed and so SoundJuicer still can’t encode to mp3. It’s details like these these that must be worked out before offering an even better first-time experience to newcomers.
There is consistency in Ubuntu, and there is a feeling of well-thoughtness around every element. Application installation is now easier than before, system upgrade is a piece of cake and stability was brought to new levels. This is the best Linux desktop I have ever used in my 9-year usage of a number of Linux distros.
Of course, things can always be better. The Ubuntu developers seems to have fixed a bug that would prevent some laptops from reconnecting to ethernet after a wake-up, but in my opinion, there are at least 2 more (reported and confirmed) bugs that are still open and they should have been deemed “show stoppers”. For example:
* On some hardware (especially on some models of the popular IBM laptops), when waking up from sleep, the USB subsystem is totally dead and only a reboot fixes it.
* S3 3D support is broken, while the 2D driver is full of bugs & limitations (and occasionally gets major visual artifacts after a wake-up).
Most of the annoying-type-of-bugs I encountered on the 5 systems I tried Feisty Fawn on (including DELL, IBM and LinuxCertified.com hardware), have something to do with ACPI. This is the Achilles heel of Ubuntu and Linux in general, the way I see it. It is the last frontier for… world domination and this is where the main focus must be put for the next version. Nvidia/Ati/Intel/S3/SiS graphics cards’ bugs after a wake-up must be fixed. All of them.
As I said in the beginning of this article, Ubuntu brought desktop Linux into new heights and millions of users will get a taste of Linux thanks to Canonical and their community. But it’s bugs like the two mentioned above that make me wonder if Canonical has all it takes to play ball in that new market stage against XP or OSX. You see, under no circumstances I would expect Microsoft or Apple to ship an OS with these kinds of bugs in them. It is time for Canonical to realize that when major bugs still exist, they must first fix them and then release. While what is a “major bug” is a subjective issue, the point of measurement must always be Microsoft and Apple. As an editor of OSNews.com where we report on all kinds of OSes, that’s my measurement. Not just SuSE. Not just FreeBSD. Not just Fedora. But mostly XP/Vista and OSX as the market leaders that they are.
Another aspect of Ubuntu’s fame explosion is the fact that their bug system gets about 4,000 new bugs per week these days. I am not sure that they can deal with all those bugs in a timely manner. Maybe they should put their bugzilla’s “karma” feature into good use and only allow new bug reports from users with enough karma. That’s just an idea, not necessarily the best though. I am just pointing to a potential problem.
Nevertheless, if you are one of the lucky Ubuntu users to have a compatible PC with full ACPI support, more power to you. Hold on tight to it and help bring the Linux revolution to the masses. It just started. For real this time. The only way is up from now on.
Read reviews of Feisty Fawn elsewhere online.