Another Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Review

I know there are quite a few reviews of the very-soon-to-be-released version of Ubuntu called Karmic Koala or 9.10, but I wanted to share my impressions too. Another can’t do any harm can it?

I’ve had the Karmic development release running since Alpha 2. I started with it because it supported some newer hardware on the Asus 1008HA netbook and that machine is not as critical as my desktop is for work so I could afford for it to go wrong occasionally. Although it has been only very occasionally.

The first thing is to say how much it has changed, for the better, from Alpha 2 to where we are now – less than 2 weeks before release. There were the very obvious cosmetic changes, new applications and changes underneath such as to the boot up process. It’s fascinating to watch and quite a nice surprise when you do your daily, or sometime less frequent, updates to see things change and develop so rapidly. Having a 150MB update day was not uncommon. I reported a few bugs along the way and hopefully have helped to improve the end result that will be available for anyone to download for free on the 29th October.

My Karmic DesktopMy Karmic Desktop

Sometimes I feel that I take Ubuntu and other FOSS for granted, but then wake up and slap myself around the face. It’s bloody amazing. Anyone, anywhere, can download this or many other complete PC operating systems. These are modern, reliable, secure and FUN to use; and come with application software too. On the 22nd October another PC operating system becomes available that is NONE of those things and you have to pay for it! I’d like to thank and applaud everyone who has touched Ubuntu or any other Free and Open Source software in however a humble way it may be. We are all bloody amazing frankly.

Back to Karmic then. Having been using it on-and-off for a couple of months now my overall impression is Very Polished indeed. It looks the dogs bollocks compared to previous releases, the subtle changes to the Human Theme and colour scheme are really good. The new icon set looks very modern and the system boots a bit quicker and shuts down in a flash! It is quicker on my netbook to shut it down and reboot than to use hibernate. Which is actually a good thing as the suspend/hibernate doesn’t work too well on this netbook currently.[UPDATE] I was just discussing Karmic with some of the peeps on the #ubuntu-uk IRC channel and I tested suspend and hibernate again. This time they both worked. It still seems to take a bit longer for hibernate to resume than a clean boot but there’s not much in it.[END UPDATE]

Ubuntu Software CentreUbuntu Software Centre

For the new stuff, there’s the Ubuntu Software Centre which is now spelled correctly for a UK English locale, there’s Empathy which I think I will get to like, Firefox is now the 3.5 release and is on 3.1 which means we have the Open GL Transitions back.

On Jaunty I have been using Gwibber 1 for some time and it’s a nice simple application that, for the most part works well and does its job. On Karmic, Gwibber has been updated to version 2 and I have to say that in my opinion version 2 of Gwibber is a complete regression. The UI is far to intrusive, and it all takes up much to much screen real estate.

The last five screenshots (below) are of Gwibber. The first one, is the “welcome screen” that I seem to be presented with every time it starts, whether I want it or not. I do not. In the second image I am trying to show the size of the font and the amount of wasted space per message. Even though there is an option to change the font size, that doesn’t work at the time of writing this. The third image is what happens when you want to reply to, or RT, a message; except the edit box is not immediately visible. You have to guess that it is under the drop down that has just appeared and then slide the area up; each and every time. The next shows the account navigation pane which I find to be rather pointless and it just gets in the way. And finally, Gwibber crashed whilst I was taking screenshots when I was trying to open a configuration dialogue box. I’ve filed a bug.

Other than Gwibber 2, which I feel is a real backward step, the rest of Karmic is really great. It looks brilliant and modern. It works smoothly and quickly. Some of the new features like the Ubuntu Software Centre, Empathy and Indicator Applet are really well thought through and add positively to the whole experience. It’s been reliable, my 3G dongle just worksTM, as did the speakers, microphone and webcam.

Here’s a selection of snapshots taken on my netbook to give you more of a flavour of what it looks like. The only change I’ve made from the the default is the desktop image, although this one is from the set that is supplied with Karmic Koala.

Karmic Koala is Brilliant. It is a major update to Ubuntu. The new look and feel is really great. I doubt it will be changing much more before release but as always I should probably add a YMMV here.

If you are using Jaunty or earlier on your desktop, I’d recommend that you give this release a try. If you are thinking about coughing up hard-earned money for that other operating system that is coming out this month, don’t. You’ll be wasting your cash and be getting a less secure, less functional, more resource hungry and just plain worse OS to boot! And do remember I’m still using the Beta version of Ubuntu. The GA release will be out on the 29th Oct.

If you can’t wait you can download the beta from here. This beta won’t expire either

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