Yes, it’s that time again. Another day, another new Ubuntu release! Ubuntu, undeniably one of the most popular Linux distribution today, is up to version 11.10 and with a new number there must be a new code name right? Version 11.10 is also called Oneiric Ocelot, though I’m sure most would just prefer to stick with the version number instead. I’ve installed this latest version on my laptop since its release and have been playing around in it for a good couple of days. So far, it’s not so much different than the past version I’ve used, 11.04 codename Natty Narwhal. After using Ubuntu 11.10, I can still see why Ubuntu will not win over the general public no matter how good their intentions are. Of course, what I am going to type below is just my pure opinion and this is coming from a Linux noob. But you see, this is what Ubuntu’s goal has been: aiming to make Linux as user friendly as possible so that amateurs like me can use it. I wouldn’t say Ubuntu is a complete failure but I believe it still has a long way to go if it wants to be competitive with Windows and the Mac.
InstallationYou can download the newest version of Ubuntu from here.
Installing Ubuntu really is simple nowadays and I’m not really going to go over it step-by-step here. I’m once again dual-booting Ubuntu alongside Windows 7 (so long Windows 8 Developer Preview, you suck) and this time around, I actually let Ubuntu do the grunt work for me. I’m usually a manual type of guy but I felt lazy this time. During the installation screen, Ubuntu detected my Windows 7 installation and offered to install itself automatically using the empty partition space. Everything went smooth as butter. Good job there Ubuntu. If you want to perform the dual-boot manually, you can follow this guide I wrote in the past.
As far as new features goes, there’s not much to be had here over 11.04 besides some navigational features.
Why o why do the developers of Ubuntu still not give us, the people who they designed the operating system for, the option to customize one of the main elements of navigation?! This is just sheer madness because I, along with many other people out there I’m sure, hate the launcher sitting on the left side of our screen! Hint to Ubuntu developers: many of us do not like it! All they had to do was let us customize the placement of the dock, along with a few other options, and the whole experience could have been so much more better. I’m so serious. The launcher is the equivalent of the Windows taskbar. You are allowed to pin your most used applications on there for easy access. The launcher automatically hides itself whenever you full screen an application and will reappear whenever you slide your mouse cursor to the left side of the screen. Just as with forcing users the left screen placement of the launcher, Ubuntu also forces the launcher to auto-hide. Um, yeah, I totally hate that behavior as well! I would much rather lose screen estate by having the launcher permanently dock itself onto the screen than having it auto-hide.With Ubuntu 11.04, I’ve used the CompizConfig settings application to adjust the behavior of the launcher to my liking (placement along with controlling auto-hide behavior) but sadly, it doesn’t seem to work at the moment on 11.10.
Within the launcher, you’ll no doubt spend a lot of time in Dash. This is the central utility/location for you to search and find your files and applications. You can easily access the Dash by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard. You can specify filters and whatnot to get specific results. I personally don’t have a need to search for my files because I’m very organized and know where my files are. However, I still use Dash to find my installed applications.
If you want the original application menu back as in previous Ubuntu, take a look at ClassicMenu Indicator. I have it installed and it works perfectly, although I am trying very hard to use Dash instead.
The Ubuntu Software Center makes it very easy for anyone to find and download their favorite application, free or paid. In Ubuntu 11.10, it has a redesigned look (kind of reminds me of Android) and most importantly, you can sync applications between your other Ubuntu computers. This makes it very easy to keep your computers running Ubuntu up to date and gives you the same user experience (application wise) no matter which computer you use. However, you must realize that not every single software available for Linux will be available in the Software Center. For example, the GUI archiver I use called PeaZip is not listed. Right now, both Mac and Linux operating system have an app store and Windows is coming out with one once Windows 8 is released I believe.
Besides being able to switch between your applications with Alt+Tab, you can now also press Atl+~ on your keyboard to switch between windows within the same application. In Firefox for example, I can easily switch between the Downloads window and my main Firefox window using this method. This totally beats having to press the shortcut combination or having to first drag my mouse over to the left side of the screen to unhide the launcher, click on the Firefox icon and then having to click on the Downloads window.
Sometimes, Things Just Gets Weird
I don’t want to seem like an unappreciative jerk because I’m really not. I really want Ubuntu to reach as wide of an audience as possible but there’s just still things that seems weird to me when using this operating system.
One of the first things I tried to do after installing Ubuntu was to install Google Chrome (not Chromium). So, I downloaded the correct .deb file (equivalent to .exe in Window) since it wasn’t listed in the Software Center from Google and proceeded to install it by double-clicking it. The Ubuntu Software Center opened but gave me this error message instead:
At this point, I didn’t believe what I was looking at because now I have to find an alternative way of installing it. After Googling, I find I could install the .deb file by using this command line:
sudo apt-get install -f
sudo dpkg -i google-chrome-stable_current_i386.deb
So after that installed, I wondered how would I uninstall it? I looked in Software Center but Chrome wasn’t listed. I then found out I need to install Synaptic, which is the older method for Ubuntu users to install and uninstall applications. Well, by default Synaptic is not installed in 11.10 and so I had to manually install it by typing in:
sudo apt-get install synaptic
Only then after could I uninstall Chrome (or any other application). I did learn I could have also typed in another command line to uninstall an apt by using apt-get remove but come on, I thought Ubuntu was suppose to be user friendly?! With my past usage of Ubuntu, I’ve also noticed that I sometimes have to do extra little things in order to get an application to work like I expect it to under Windows. It’s things like these that make using Ubuntu for the normal and casual users, which is what Ubuntu is geared for, difficult.
Using Ubuntu 11.10 feels very much like using Ubuntu 11.04, which I installed on some older computers to give them a new life. Generally, I don’t spent a whole lot of time inside Ubuntu. Whenever a guest or friend comes over and need to use a computer, I direct them to the Ubuntu box. Right now, I still would say that Ubuntu is a very good operating system to use when it comes to performing simple tasks such as downloading and watching movies, listening to music, online browsing, emails, and word processing. However, it seems as if Ubuntu is going on the route of dumbing down its interface in hopes to attract more casual users. The problem is it doesn’t always work that way and I can’t put all the blame on Ubuntu because Linux itself is still the backbone and it’s a very complicated backbone to say the least. It feels as if Ubuntu is trying to cover that aspect up (general impression of Linux is that its geared for geeks and everything is done via command line) by layering a pretty GUI over it. For the most part, yes, Linux is definitely a whole lot easier to use today and I thank everyone in the community who has pitched in to make it work. I have many gripes with Ubuntu but I still recommend it today for casual users who just can’t seem to get their computer malware free. However, it seems as if the more they dumb down the user interface, the harder it becomes to actually use the OS! It sounds weird but I’m sure there are some out there who agree with me on this! It also doesn’t help that Ubuntu developers lock down the interface so that users can’t easily change it without digging around for the Internet.
If you have tried Ubuntu in the past before, then I’m sure you already know what to expect. The biggest changes comes from the interface department. If you haven’t yet tried Ubuntu yet, then there haven’t been a better time than now to see how Ubuntu might work for you.