Yet Another Feisty Review

[ Tuesday, 19 June 2007, adz ]


I’d like to share with you my views on latest Ubuntu 7.04 version commonly known under the name of Feisty Fawn. Once I tested unstable version for several weeks but this time I’ve run a stable release.

Author: Adam Zieliński

The Spring of 2007 can be safely named Linux Spring in my humble opinion. We have been witnessing several important releases in a last few weeks. There was Debian Etch, PLD 2.0 and Mandriva 2007 Spring. Soon afterwards fifth version of Red Hat flagship product called Red Hat Enterprise Linux had its debut on commercial markets and Fedora developers released a stable version of their own system denote with number 7. Ubuntu release came as no shock to community. Its publication was the most awaited of all releases what can be attested by numerous reviews. And this is just another one :)

Installation

Little has changed since the previous release in terms of installation. LiveCD installer is still being used for hard disk installation (alternate Ubuntu version provides text installer). Such solution has advantages. It’ll be quite enough to download installation CD instead of whole set of CDs. Fedora 7 will make use of similar solution. A very judicious selection of applications which were put on the CD can be added to Ubuntu’s advantage. For comparison — such important applications like OpenOffice.org or gconf didn’t find a route to the Fedora CD.

Feisty installer has been enriched with new option — exporting config files from Windows partitions. Unfortunately in my case NTFS partition wasn’t discovered. So I have to believe the function works properly. Another bad news is still wrong detection of Linux partitions which goes on and on release after release. The installer has also another disadvantage of not having possibility to select additional packages. As it is able to download additional language packages, it should have been able to access other applications singled out by users!

To cheer you up I will add that probably Gutsy Gibbon will have a completely new installer.

What’s inside?

If we successfully pass the installation process, we’ll be invited to the known Ubuntu Desktop. But before I say something about it, let me say few words on something which is not visible but extremely important. Feisty Fawn’s heart comprise of kernel 2.6.20. It contains a few novelties like paravirtualization and KVM among others. Those technologies are mainly part of server type of operating systems. With regard to the market for some time past Canonical do not hide the fact it wants to cut out a good part of the pie, which up to now was exclusively reserved for Red Hat and Novell. Of course, apart from virtualization, new kernel was upgraded with a lot of new minor and major functionalities. Regrettably, as far as my hardware was concerned a lot of petty but irritating errors had emerged. They are bound to energy management which is an Achilles heel of all distributions. On the other hand part of the guilt belong to hardware manufacturers which willfully do now want to accept the Linux existence.

Let my Desktop shine!

Feisty Fawn is the first Ubuntu distribution with Compiz desktop as part of default settings. If only the computer is equipped with graphics card supporting AIGLX, setting the fancy desktop could be done by ticking off one option only. For what I know ATI users may have problems with starting this type of desktop. I do not have such card so I can be wrong. Unfortunately the cause of the status quo of the things is ATI’s policy in relation to drivers for open source community.

Scale is probably the most practical compiz plug-in
Pic.1 Scale is probably
the most practical compiz plug-in

Compiz basic drawback is lack of GUI program for plug-ins management and configuration options responsible for desktop special effects. Basic option window opened from menu System -> GNOME Preferences enables only turning on/off 3D Desktop, working areas arrangements on cube facets (famous cube) and “gel” windows. A small program for plug-in control can be installed but de/activation of selected plug-ins are not possible. All configuration options can be accessed with gconf only but that solution can cause beginners many problems. Unequaled example in that matter is Beryl Setting Manager.

I dare to say those of you who use Beryl think from time to time how Compiz can be compared to Beryl in terms of working speed and stability. To be honest I don’t see much difference between these two managers when the plug-ins are activated. I must add that the users have of course a choice to take advantage of the Beryl Desktop but they have to turn a special repository on for that.

We eagerly await the first results from the works being done by joined Compiz-Beryl team. It may happen the new Desktop will appear in Gusty Gibbon yet.

Restricted extras — patents, licenses

One of the most important goals which was set by developers of this Ubuntu distribution was to facilitate access to applications, and drivers published with non-free licenses. The result is a meta-package called ubuntu-restricted-extras which makes installations of Java, Flash, Windows fonts, and multimedia codecs just a piece of cake.

Installation of Java, Flash, codecs, and Windows font amounts to installation of one package which process all dependencies.
Pic.2 Installation of Java, Flash,
codecs, and Windows font amounts to
installation of one package which
process all dependencies.

If it is not enough, in case of lack of a given codec, the program will ask for permission to search thru distro repositories and then for installation of the codec, just like Windows Media Player. With one exception, I was never able to identify and find a proper codec in Windows, whereas the same mechanism in Ubuntu worked flawlessly. When it comes to closed kernel modules, Ubuntu offers proprietary drivers manager which facilitates non-free kernel modules attachments/detachments.

Recap

Feisty Fawn isn’t a revolutionary release. We should rather talk about evolution but with well defined direction. Ubuntu developers have surely a certain vision they adhere to and some positive results are shown to us in Feisty Fawn. Most of the errors I wrote about stem in general from the lack of desirable support from hardware manufacturers. None the less all found errors are worth to be registered. I know from my own experience that every report is met with vivid reactions from Ubuntu programmers’ community.

Thanks to Ubuntu, famous slogan “Linux for Desktops” takes real shape and ceases to be a vision of a few computer freaks.

Proof-read: t_ziel, michuk
Translation: P2O2

About the Author

Adam Zielinski

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