[ubuntu-us-mo] Impressions of Gutsy?

Matthew Copple mcopple at kcopensource.org
Tue Nov 6 02:44:31 GMT 2007

Now that we are a few weeks out from the Gutsy release, I'm curious to
hear the impressions Missouri users have about the newest Ubuntu.

I have been a busy boy the last few weeks. In addition to Gutsy, I also
decided to try several other distributions on my trusty laptop to see if
I still felt that Ubuntu deserved its place on my hard drive.

The only two distros I felt gave any competition to Ubuntu were Fedora 7
("moonshine") and OpenSuse 10.3, which came out just a week or so before
Gutsy debuted.

Fedora: The artwork can't be beaten. Fedora was snappy and rock-stable.
I was extremely impressed. However, it still has all the old annoyances
-- getting non-free software still requires grubbing around websites to
find repos, pup/yum still has reliability problems when working with
multiple repos, and SELinux is overkill for a desktop.

OpenSUSE: Almost perfect. They worked overtime on the user interface,
and it shows. Instead of a list of categories, you instead get a large
"menu board" which shows most-used and key desktop programs, along with
a tab that allows you to see the rest of your programs when you want. By
far, it is the best menuing system I have ever used. SUSE gives you the
option of installing java, flash, and acrobat during the distro install,
which saves a lot of grief. However, figuring out how to enable XGL and
Compiz is still non-trivial -- one has to go to the SuSE wiki and search
for instructions. Once you get there, though, they have a fantastic
"one-click" install which automatically downloads and installs nvidia,
and enables XGL all in one fell swoop. The major problem with SuSE is
performance -- the distro ran like molasses on my laptop (which is a
Core duo with 1G of memory and 256MB Nvidia GO! -- no slouch!), with and
wthout xgl enabled. YAST2 is a technological marvel, but it is difficult
to figure out how to use. The desktop is beautiful, even without XGL
enabled; they've clearly done a lot of font work as well.

Ubuntu: Pros -- still the snappiest performance of any distribution I've
used so far. The desktop responds extremely quickly and is stable. The
restricted drivers manager makes advanced X setup a breeze, and the
plugin work on Firefox really makes a difference. The sheer volume of
software readily available is a reason in itself to go with Ubuntu. Cons
-- Ubuntu's desktop has outlived its usefulness. The same old brown
"human" theme was innovative in Breezy and Dapper, but is now old news.
It doesn't help that I really despise the color brown. When I tried to
attach an external monitor to the laptop, it completely screwed my X
settings for the LCD screen, setting it to 1024x768, 16bit color depth
(1014x768 on a 1440x900 widescreen -- eww!), and could not configure the
second monitor correctly either (although it is an ancient, but
well-supported NEC MultiSync 1530v LCD monitor). There is a LOT more
work to be done in the dual-monitor area. Compiz is still a work in
progress -- it was rock solid on both Fedora and SuSE, but produces
weird artifacts and occasional strange window behavior in Ubuntu. 

My verdict: Ubuntu wins this year, but not by nearly the margin one
would expect of such a popular desktop. The fact that they can't get out
of the artwork rut (or choose not to, whatever the case may be), and the
still-weak performance of Compiz (especially when compared to Suse and
RedHat) stops me from wholeheartedly recommending it. However, I will be
the first to admit that in ease of use and configuration, no
distribution can match, let alone exceed, Ubuntu Gutsy. In the Battle of
the Linux General Purpose Desktop, Ubuntu is the clear favorite. 

Your thoughts?

Matthew Copple
mcopple at kcopensource.org

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