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Nov 022009
 

So I quickly install the CD in a virtual machine, login, get delayed by doing something with a passphrase, install the “guest additions”, and reboot. But why doesn’t Ubuntu include the drivers for various different virtual machine environments ? It would certainly make it easier to quickly setup a machine to test the feasibility of switching or upgrading.

One tiny little niggle with the first boot – the passphrase request to “unlock” the encrypted drive (I wanted to say “unencrypt” there but of course it doesn’t actually do that) is a little less than obvious. It should perhaps be a little more “in your face” – a popup. And of course the new Ubuntu boot straight into X might look a little prettier than the previous mechanism, but it isn’t quite “geeky” enough for me (my OSX machines are set to boot in verbose mode to scare those who think the command line is scary). This new startup is supposedly significantly quicker than previous releases; I’m afraid I didn’t notice. Perhaps it is of concern more to others than to me, but I rarely restart my machines – my somewhat less than totally reliable main machine has been up for 7 days, so a faster boot time is not of great significance to me.

I couldn’t seem to find anything to tweak the desktop effects settings. Perhaps not that important, but sort of peculiar. I dare say there’s an addon to do that.

I next dove into “Software Centre” to find a couple of applications that I use, but couldn’t. Admittedly they are somewhat towards the geeky side of things, but they are not that unpopular (zsh and enlightenment). Dropping to a terminal window and they were quickly found using apt-cache. Perhaps the Software Centre intentionally hides things to make the default list of new application choices a little less scary ? Maybe, but it needs an easily found button to say “show more”. Of course the Synaptic package manager can still be found, so this isn’t a real problem although having two ways of installing/removing software could be.

After I installed my favourite window manager (Enlightenment for now), I went on to try setting it up in my usual way with a .xsession file. No luck! It seems that Ubuntu’s version of gdm has accidentally (?) removed this functionality. This is quite a serious problem for those who like to run seriously customised environments. Perhaps not Ubuntu’s major audience, but it seems rather unfortunate to remove this functionality as it will seriously annoy those like me who prefer their own environment.

Going back to the default environment, I take a quick look at Firefox to realise that there is no Flash plugin. A dive into the Software Centre fixes that, although it would have been nice to be taken through a “wizard” when starting Firefox for the first time to suggest installing a number of proprietary extensions (and explain why they are not installed by default). Not that it does not install with a good selection already, but a browser without flash is perhaps not what people are expecting (although there are advantages in not having flash or turning it on only for those pages you want it turned on for).

Browsing through the settings, and I find the theme browser which does not really offer much choice by default – you have to install some additional themes. The choice of backgrounds is fine, although I’m not too sure why the frog was included (I chose the falling coffee). The most obvious improvement here, would be to include a hint on how to include your own photos as a background – quite possibly the first thing that many want to do! At least the Font tab defaults to using a method of rendering suitable for LCD panels (I’m not sure if this is new with the Koala).

In the keyboard preferences, the Layout options are somewhat confusing. Admittedly the number of options here is bound to make it more confusing, and those who choose “Layout Options” are likely to be self-educated to some degree. However it may be worth looking again at how the options are described. Oddly enough the Mouse preferences shows an option to “Show mouse pointer position when Control is pressed” but does not allow you to enable it!

Going through the applications, most (without extensive testing) seem fine. However Empathy (the replacement for the Pidgin instant messaging client) does seem a little on the flaky side with a few “misfeatures” – for instance the “Room” dialog box is a little immature and it is not obvious what you should do with it. Are you supposed to know some sort of “server name” ? Seems a little odd.

This may get added to when I find the time and patience to do more, but I am sure there are plenty of other far more complete looks at Ubuntu 9.10 out there!

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