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Location: GUIs > Linux / Unix > Ubuntu 10.04

Ubuntu 10.04
with Gnome 2.30
screen shots.

Canonical's Ubuntu 10.04 is yet another iteration of their Linux distribution, marketed as being friendly and easy to use. 10.04 is also a "Long Term Support" version for those who want bug fixes for the next couple of years without potentially introducing instability from new features.

The Ubuntu desktop is indeed very well polished and thought out, and as Linux slowly becomes more accepted as a somewhat mainstream product this is more and more critical. However I did notice a few areas that could use a bit of improvement.

Ubuntu 10.04 Boot Screen
Ubuntu Linux booting up. On a clean install, the user will only ever see the splash screen before the desktop. Dual booting with Windows may involve interaction with the GRUB boot loader. (If you have to ever do more than just select from its menu, it becomes very unfriendly)

Like most Linux distributions, Ubuntu can be booted from a live CD where you can install to a hard drive or try it out without installing.

Ubuntu 10.04 Default Desktop
After being installed to a hard drive, this is the default desktop. The desktop from the Live CD is about the same, although operating programs using the Live CD can be sluggish due to the slow speeds of CD-ROM drives. From the hard drive, the desktop and applications seem fairly responsive.

The initial desktop consists of two "Panels" on the screen. One at top and one at bottom.

The top panel includes three menus that provide user access to the entirety of the system.

  • Applications: A list of all user applications installed on the system, grouped in to sub menus by the application's general use.
  • Places: A list of common file locations on the system.
  • System: A list of applets that control preferences and system administration.
The top panel includes a section for icons to commonly used programs. A user can add additional icons here. By default this includes Firefox and Help. Although, when I tried it the help system always failed to start!

At the right of the top panel, it also includes:

  • Network Manager: Indicates the current networking status.
  • Volume
  • "Indicator applet": Displays various indicators from chat, mail,  and "social broadcasts" using services such as Flicker, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Clock: Shows both the date and the time.
  • "Indicator applet Session": Menu items for the local Linux account properties, chat accounts, social site accounts, and "Ubuntu One" online storage account.
  • Power: Related options such as locking the screen, shutting down and restarting.
Bottom panel:
  • Show Desktop button: Hides and shows open windows to reveal the desktop.
  • Open Windows: A selectable list of all application windows that are open.
  • Workspace Switcher: Switches between several virtual desktops in which windows may be open. (only open windows are switched, not desktop icons)
  • Trash: A typical temporary storage location for files before they are permanently deleted.
Ubuntu 10.04 Drivers
Ubuntu seems to recognize all of the hardware in this basic test system, but initially it only provides a 2-d driver for the video card.

After connecting to the internet, Ubuntu wanted to download and install "restricted drivers".

With Linux, most drivers are built in to the operating system and can not be added or updated directly by the end user. An exception has been made for Nvidia, who wish to keep control over driver distribution and source code to their video card driver. There are various technical advantages and disadvantages to this. The program makes a point of warning the user that bugs in these drivers can not be fixed by Ubuntu developers.

From a users standpoint, built in drivers means you usually will not be able to make use of newly released hardware until the needed software is added to your Linux distribution, at which point you usually must upgrade the entire operating system to the latest version. (In contrast I just installed a driver for an SATA controller on Windows 95!) On the brighter side you won't have to hunt down and manually install dozens of separate drivers.

Once the video drivers were installed, Ubuntu switched to using 3D rendering for the desktop. A screen shot really can't capture the effects, but windows animate when minimized or maximized and slide off the screen when a different desktop is selected. Menus also fade in and out. Most of the default animations are quick and subtle, but the menu fading makes the menus feel a little laggy. Window effects can be easily turned off from a control panel.

Ubuntu 10.04 File Manager
Over all, not too much has visibly changed in the file management since my review of 7.04.

Ubuntu 10.04 starts off with an empty desktop, but you can add files and folder directly on the desktop.

Removable drives and network shares in use appear both on the desktop and in the "Places" menu in the top panel. All drives, including local drives can be viewed from the "Computer" item in the menu.

File windows can be displayed as Icons, List (details), or Compact (smaller list of icons) Icons can also be made larger or smaller using the zoom buttons. An "Extra" pane can be displayed in a window for source/destination browsing. The side pane listing places is optional. Toolbar, location bar, and status bar are also optional. The file browser can also display multiple folders in the same window using tabs.

The file browser breaks the current location down in to a series of clickable buttons. Normally this works great, but sometimes I needed to type in a location manually. I kept having to search for the option to let me do that, which is located under the "Go" menu. In a previous version there used to be a button next to the location for that.

Annoyingly, the print screen button fails to operate when a menu is displayed. To get a screen shot of menus I had to run the screen shot application directly.

Accessing floppy drives works, although it fails to check to see if the disk has been changed. If you remove or put in a different disk you must select "unmount" or it will keep thinking the original disk is there. Yea, yea, traditional floppy drives don't have any reliable way to notify the OS if a disk is changed or removed. Cry me a river. At least it beats how things were in the 1990s when a Linux user would have to type a truckload of archaic commands after inserting or removing a disk. They didn't care about floppy drives then, they certainly don't care about them now that almost nobody uses them any more.

Ubuntu 10.04 Network Browsing
Browsing networks gives me an error, but it works anyway.

Ubuntu 10.04 Pannels
Pannels can be added and customized. Creating a new panel seems problimatic as somtimes it creates a pannel that starts off invisible.

It seems way too easy to delete the important panels. It looks like it is supposed to prevent you from deleting the very last panel on the screen so you have some way to create a new panel (create new panel is not a desktop option), but if the last panel is invisible then what? Try that from a live CD where it dosn't matter: create a new panel that comes out invisible and then delete the two on the screen.