Recently, I have taken the time to take a look at the beta release of Ubuntu 9.10. I have installed it as a virtual machine on VirtualBox, using the 64 bit image to make it just a bit faster on my laptop.
On the initial installation, I was surprised to see a new feature: slides! The informational slides talk about the various software available and how to get help — a very good feature for new users.
I could see a bit of the new artwork shining through in the installation. Both the window title bar and the progress bar looked different from previous versions. I will write more about the artwork later.
After the installation had finished, I was hit by a quick black screen with a white Ubuntu logo on it… very nice touch. Upon the reboot, I saw the startup screen sporting some new artwork:
So obviously the Ubuntu folks have settled on using a darker shade of brown, moving from the more orange-brown that dominated the last three years of releases. The login screen featured a similar “spotlight” style background with the Gnome login manager. The desktop looks much the same from previous versions, with about only 0ne difference. For one, the mail icon you see on the top bar of the screenshot below includes messages from Empathy, the new default IM in Ubuntu 9.10, and messages in Evolution, Ubuntu’s mail client.
Now I would like to take a moment and discuss the artwork, which although new I cannot say that I like it as much as the previous versions. For one, the default icon theme gives the Ubuntu logo a low-res appearance. Also, the brown theme looks like it is a lower quality than the previous version, with a title bar that appears to have been slimmed down height-wise. All these things aside, this release includes what I believe is the best collection of backgrounds available for a Linux distribution. Many of the images are simply stunning. Now if Ubuntu 9.10 had an awesome theme to compliment those, it would be the best looking distribution around.
Moving on to a more controversial feature, Ubuntu 9.10 includes by default the desktop synchronization software known as Ubuntu One. This software allows you to access files on another Ubuntu computer. The little Ubuntu icon in the top bar is the apple for the application, and the browser you see opened is what I saw when I clicked the applet, and then clicked “Connect” on the drop-down menu:
So, apparently you will need a Launchpad ID to access the service.
One more major feature I would like to mention is the new “Software Center.” Apparently this is a remake of the old “Add/Remove Applications” feature in previous releases. I imagine that having the different categories displayed right away is intended to help people find what they are looking forward. I personally think it could be made more clean, but this is its first release afterall:
On a rather interesting note, I found it interesting that the English standard is different throughout the system. In some places, Center (in Am. English) is spelled “Centre” (UK English). Also, words such as “colors” and “colours” are mixed throughout, even though American English may be your selected language.
On a technical note, Ubuntu comes with GNOME 2.28, ext4 by default, and the new Grub 2.
Overall, I have to say that Ubuntu 9.10 looks like it will be a great release. A few technologies in this release are new, so it may give the system a rough edge. When the next LTS release comes around (10.04), it will probably refine those features to create the best release yet. I will definitely be giving this system a test run when it is released in 24 days!