Working with Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala: initial impressions

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I’ve been playing with the latest Ubuntu desktop release, 9.10 Karmic Koala, since the first beta and I’ve now been using it full time for business work for three days. Here are my impressions and comments:

  • For some reason, the beta seemed much more stable than the Release Candidate that followed it, but the final version is best of all. A lot of magic and smoothing happened after the RC.
  • The few glitches I’ve seen tend to involve dialog boxes: there is a check box but I just can’t get it to check. This might be an application problem or something else, but I attribute it to early versions of software running on 9.10. (Something to do with the latest Gnome?)
  • The Remix version works beautifully on my little Asus eee 4G Surf netbook. In the installation menus some of the very bottom of the buttons are cut off, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. Wifi works very well on the Atheros chip, something that was not true before 9.10. I now have a usable machine again. (My experience with the beta and mistakes in making a proper bootable USB stick is here.)
  • I haven’t tried to get it to work under VMWare Fusion on my Mac. I will one of these days.
  • The standard 32 bit desktop client works beautifully on my Thinkpad T400 laptop. When I installed the beta, I made a dual boot environment. For this final Ubuntu 9.10 release, I gave it the whole machine.
  • I’ve added my usual list of applications. See my blog series “Life with Linux” for details.
  • I don’t just add applications, I remove some that I don’t use as well. Why? Because I can and I want to, since they are unused. Examples are Tomboy and Evolution. Though I mostly use GMail, I did install Thunderbird from the Ubuntu Software Center.
  • It should be less trouble to install Adobe Reader and Adobe Air. Right now it is a very manual process.
  • I’m really trying to use workspaces more since I use the equivalent on my Mac. Whereas Alt-Tab cycles among the windows in a given workspace, Ctrl-Alt-Tab cycles among all windows in all workspaces. Workspaces make it easier to keep together related applications. They’re those rectangles in the lower right corner of your desktop.
  • I use XMarks to save my Firefox bookmarks remotely and this makes it very easy to set up my browser environment for new machines. I want more than this. For the browser, I want to be able to save the list of addons remotely and quickly reinstall them on a different machine. For my Gnome desktop, I want the configuration of the panels saved as well as the list of applications I’ve installed. Maybe this is a future feature of Ubuntu One?
  • Incidentally, I think we’ve about exhausted the things that should be called “So-and-so One.”

4 Comments

  1. Bob, thanks A LOT for sharing your impressions about the usage of Linux on the desktop ! I’ve read attentively the whole series of posts…

    As a netadmin, being confronted with the same challenge of promoting Linux on desktop to my users, I have some concern. I’ve noted that here, in my geographical zone, users are used to install and use a lot of apps on their PCs, at will, and there are simply no Linux equivalents for some of them.

    Trivial examples are:

    – AutoCAD – or another professional CAD solution that is available for an independent PC; one that doesn’t require the integration in a larger company infrastructure, such as graphical workstations and servers

    – Nokia PC Suite – how does a user sychronize his mobile phone data to his Linux desktop ? I mean contacts and calendars from regular mobile phones, not PDAs or more sophisticated devices ?

    – legacy applications – such as some ERPs clients in large businesses I know, that still need antiquated Oracle Forms and Reports 6i (!!) to be run on each Windows XP workstation…

    I’ve also noted that good support for national languages still varies greatly – and I don’t mean word processors only. For example, correct support for Romanian language (national keyboard, translated menus, fonts with national accented characters) are still an unsolved problem in some of the distros and applications you’ve mentioned in your posts. If one can ignore this at server level, for a desktop computer the language support is crucial.

    IMHO, these kind of problems are impending Linux desktop adoption much, much more than the GUI details and customisations that are usually cited as barriers…

    Please don’t get me wrong – I’m a fervent Free Software supporter myself and I’m constantly trying to improve all these… :-)

    Best regards,
    Răzvan

  2. I finally had to drop back to 9.04 after a nasty bug, at least on the 64-bit Karmic, stopped mouse clicks from working. (I had to make sure that I had re-enabled ctrl-alt-backspace so that I could log out quickly.)
    Needing to keep the boot DVD in place so that I could get at the proprietary driver for my Broadcom wireless (Dell Studio) was a real troublemaker for a while.
    With regard to extensions and othe goodies, I’ve used FEBE on Firefox to great effect. You can save your extensions or the whole profile. (You have to provide your own storage location for now.)
    Dropbox is another essential tool, allowing me to back up and download my working files on any machine.

  3. Razvan, one of the IBM software products, Lotus SmartSuite http://www-142.ibm.com/software/dre/ecatalog/detail.wss?locale=en_GB&synkey=U105945Z10099Y00 , is in the same state as AutoCAD. It runs on Windows (and OS/2) but not on Apple OSX or Linux. I don’t think anyone from IBM has tested it on any version of Windows newer than XP, and there are some known incompatibilities between SmartSuite and 64-bit operating systems.

    So what should IBM do ?

    As a practical matter, there aren’t any IBM sales people on quota to sell it, and the advice is to “Be Free, Work Smart” and download IBM Lotus Symphony at no charge from http://symphony.lotus.com/ .

    Of course, if that doesn’t work for you, IBM will sell you a SmartSuite, quantity 1, for 234.60 GBP ; and it will have a 12-month IBM warranty.

    But is anyone buying ?

  4. I also use Xmarks, and it works fine for re-installing my bookmarks after I do a clean install. But the issue remains with all the other configuration data.

    I registered to Ubuntu One expecting that it will provide an easy way to backup (and reinstall) configuration data, to no avail… I’m sure this would be a killer application for Ubuntu One.

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