Friday, October 19, 2012

Ubuntu 12.10 Review

So I have finally been able to download Ubuntu 12.10 in full last night after the download servers being flooded. I didn't worry about that, because I knew that at least the next day would be ok. To be exact, the download finished around 4 AM EST. I didn't bother to load up Ubuntu then, so I decided to do it later in the evening.

First off, you have to know that Ubuntu will no longer fit on a CD. You'll have to use a spare 1 GB flash drive lying around, or use a DVD. I opted to use the startup disc creator in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and use an existing USB drive that carried 12.04 LTS on it.

To boot the newly created drive, you have to reboot your machine, and access your machine's boot menu. Select the drive that you stuck 12.10 on, and boot off of it. Once done booting, you can select to try (run full distro off of the USB; Live Environment), or go ahead and install to a medium and reboot into it. For testing purposes, I choose to try Ubuntu. After a short pause, you are taken to the new Unity 3D only desktop, as Unity 2D was removed a while back.
From the desktop, I studied it for a few moments. When you first go into Ubuntu, the launcher is grayish transparent, then changes color to whatever your background is. By default the Ambiance theme is loaded when the desktop loads. There is some desktop desktop icons, but these are specific to the try Ubuntu mode.

The launcher icons are as followed:

  • (Ubuntu Button)
  • Install Ubuntu (does not show if you installed Ubuntu)
  • Home Folder
  • Firefox Web Browser
  • LibreOffice Writer
  • LibreOffice Calc (spreadsheets)
  • LibreOffice Presentation (similar to PowerPoint)
  • Ubuntu Software Center
  • Ubuntu One
  • Amazon
  • Ubuntu One Music
  • Settings
  • Workspace Switcher
  • Trash
The extra icons are there because I had two drives mounted. You might see another drive mounted because I was doing some file transfers using Ubuntu 12.10.

Web Apps Integration
Ubuntu web apps integration comes installed with this Ubuntu release by default, and you can install integration on 12.04 LTS if you wish. To test this feature, I went ahead and loaded up my site, and I got an alert asking if I want Techman's World to integrate with Ubuntu. I went ahead and click yes. I don't know why, but the button was a little bit off of the notification rectangle. I wonder if this was just a glitch of some sort, or there really is some type of bug behind this.

If you didn't know, I guess that you do now know that Techman's World has Unity WebApps integration. Right now it is a simple Unity bookmark, but it does utilize that new Techman's World avatar logo that I created a few months back, for this purpose when I first added the feature. The Disqus comments also have that as the default guest avatar, but that has been switched off while Disqus is making some changes. My launcher icon, whose background is determined by Ubuntu, not me, can be found to the right. The original image has a transparent background.

The new Unity desktop now can run on devices that couldn't support Unity because of actual performance or drivers issues due to a new software driver called LLVMpipe. It uses software based rendering, instead of hardware based rendering usually provided by the graphics card.

Now I purposefully ran Ubuntu on an old machine to test how well Canonical and the rest of the Ubuntu contributors pulled this off. While the interface was still laggy (expected as it can't naturally run Unity 3D; Compiz or something else crashes, and the graphics card is not all that good), it still ran faster then I thought it would. All of the fancy effects seemed to work just fine.

Opening the dash was, however, quite difficult. I really wish Canonical would improve the dash's open and closing sequence, because it still pauses on even the fastest machines. The dash on the slow machine took at least a second to open up, and typing into it was laggy. So apparently even though my old machine was upgraded to 2GB ram (which does help with software such as Google Chrome, which consumes a lot of ram), applications such as Unity still perform slowly and or laggy. If you were typing something, you have to wait for the cursor to actually catch up to your keyboard input. The spinning half circle animation was just as laggy. From this info, you can also deduce that HUD had similar issues.

The work space switcher did, however, perform with minimal to no lag. I can move windows between work spaces, and I can now close them since that feature has been added to Unity (I can't recall the name of it off of the top of my head).


As stated in a previous post, Amazon is in Ubuntu 12.10. By default the Amazon icon is in the launcher, and it has an affiliate tag for Canonical to make money off of your purchases, to support the Ubuntu project. There is in fact settings to set whether you want your searches to be sent to online services (Amazon) or not.

About Ubuntu / Default Applications / Graphics Drivers
I took a screenshot of the About window while doing the review, so you can see that below.
In addition to that, I also took a snapshot of the default applications in this release from Ubuntu. A screenshot is below, as well as some text.

  • Web: Firefox
  • Mail: Thunderbird Mail
  • Calendar: gedit
  • Music: Rhythmbox
  • Video: Movie Player (Totem)
  • Photos: Image viewer (eye of GNOME)
The graphics display in the about Window still does not tell you what driver you are using. Since I know that it is currently using llvmpipe, then it should be able to display that. I'm not sure if this feature is broken, or the developers have not worked too well with this. This tab really serves no purpose if it only tells you what experience you are having with Unity. This is just my opinion.
LibreOffice re: Global Menu Bar Integration
If you did not know, most applications's menus' are taken away from the application window and instead placed in a global menu bar system, similar to what a Mac does. In Ubuntu 12.04, the LibreOffice office suite did not have global menu bar integration, but you could add it via a plugin. That plugin, however, did cause additional problems using it. Canonical has added integration with the global menu bar in this release. Also, the LibreOffice start up screen is also green due to a change a while back. You can also see the launcher icon in the image, although nothing changed regarding that.

The Nautilus file browser is still at an older version due to the stripping of useful features from the program. The about dialog is shown above.

The nautilus program seems to perform a little bit faster from the one in 12.04, which is always preferred. The loading animation has also changed when there is a little yellow box at the bottom while it is loading files or searching. The back and forward buttons along the top are also different from what I remember. Overall, I think that the file browser is fine, and it is still retaining old features for now while Canonical decides exactly what they want to do. There is several articles on this, so I encourage you to search for them via the search box.

Now for some issues
While reviewing 12.10, I ran into a couple of issues. First off, 10 minutes into using the OS it completely locked up on me, and I had to force reboot using a handy Linux keyboard shortcut. I'll do an article on that later on (the keyboard shortcut). The lock up happened to me again in another session, but it took much longer. I was actually typing in some text into IRSSI (a terminal/command line based IRC client) when the the system suddenly locked up. The last line of text I was typing while I pressed enter did go though, but nothing else. The screen didn't respond the text being entered into the chat. Not sure if the freezes are because of a graphics issue, but once again I had to reboot via the keyboard short cut. After that reboot, I was basically done for right now. I got especially mad at this because I was busy composing this post while using Ubuntu. Most of the stuff I was doing was gone because I was also using LibreOffice to test it out (because it is a newer version, though nothing's really changed).

The second issue I was having was actually some elements shifting in the nautilus file manager. When hovering over certain sections of the program, as well as right clicking somewhere, some elements shift by 1-3 pixels. Not that much of a difference, but it is in fact noticeable. The forward button is also cut off when using the folder display tabs along the top to go back to a folder. If you need screenshots, I'll be happy to add some, but at the session, I did not think to take a snapshot of that.

The Wrap Up
Ubuntu 12.10 really did impress me. I already looked at features such as Unity previews, and it is in fact very nifty and useful. However, despite a good effort by llvmpipe, I WOULD NOT recommend running Unity on a older or less capable device such as a netbook. The interface can really lag, especially the dash as mentioned earlier. Some aspects performed ok, such as the works space switcher and the maximize/minimize window animation.

However, if you are running this on a more capable machine, you should be fine.

Hope you all enjoyed this review/in depth look of Ubuntu 12.10. I wish I could record video, but my computer is old and recording video would push the CPU beyond it's limits and will just slow the whole computer down. It'll be a while before I get a new machine, so that's all I say.