Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Review

very good
key review info
  • Application: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by:
application features
  • The Head-Up Display (HUD)
  • (4 more, see all...)

You can love it or hate it, but when Canonical releases a new Ubuntu operating system, people take notice and when that distribution is an LTS (Long Term Support) version, the standards of quality are twice as high. Is Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, dubbed Precise Pangolin, up to the challenge?

I will begin by praising other Linux editors from around the world that have managed to review an operating system in just a day or two. I’m sure that the quality of their observations are just top notch and are by no means influenced by “who’s first” policy of the Internet community.

Any operating system, just like a car, must be tested for a longer period of time in order to investigate every nook and cranny. A correct opinion, worthy of sharing, must carry with it the advantages of a complete experience.

We've tested Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on various hardware configurations, ranging from simple notebooks to high-end systems, and there weren’t any major surprises. In any case, here they are:

· MSI P35 Neo2 Motherboard
· Intel Core 2 Quad 8300 Processor
· Nvdia GeForce GTX 460 Video Card 1Gb RAM
· 4 GB DDRAM 2RAM
· IDE HDD 500 GB Seagate
· Asus CD-RW/DVD-RW Drive
· 19" Samsung 940N LCD

· ASUS P8H67-M LX motherboard
· Intel Core i5-2400 CPU @ 3.10GHz
· Nvidia Geforce 8800 GT 512 VRAM
· 4 GB DDR2 RAM
· SATA HDD 80 GB Seagate
· Samsung WriteMaster CD/DVD RW Drive
· 23" DELL LCD


· ASRock H61M                                         
· Intel Core i3-2100 @ 3100GHz
· Intel Onboard
· 8 GB MHz DDR3 SDRAM
· 300Gb 7200RPM HDD
· DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
· 21" Samsung LCD

· Acer eMachines E732
· Intel Core i3-380M @ 2.53 GHz
· Intel HD
· 3GB DDR3 SDRAM
· 500 GB HDD
· DVD+/-RW Optical Drive

Installation

The installation is basically the same as with Ubuntu 11.10 and Ubuntu 11.04. Users will be asked to determine if they want to use an entire partition or if they want to personalize the installation.

The problem of volume labels remains, so if you’re like me and you have a large number of partitions and hard drives, with similar size, you better be sure in advance what you are deleting. Maybe the next version will support volume labels.

Other settings can be done in real time, during the installation, such as the time zone, user name, and password. From here on end, it should be a smooth ride.

The other way of installing the new Ubuntu distribution is by means of upgrade. If you’re using an older version of Ubuntu, like Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and Ubuntu 11.10, the update should go without a hitch, but anything in between these versions needs special attention, as detailed in this article from Canonical. Anything below Ubuntu 10.04 LTS cannot be upgraded to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

Features

People expect major changes in an important version of Ubuntu, such as Precise Pangolin, but the fact is that Canonical has focused their efforts on stability rather than new features. Nonetheless, there are some interesting things implemented.

First and foremost is the HUD, a new and cool technology that is aimed at the power user. I’m not sure whether it should have been introduced on this version of Ubuntu or it should have stayed longer in development, but it is here so we better make the best of it.

The HUD (Head-up Display) is the dream of any user that likes to type stuff instead of clicking with the mouse. Unlike other stuff that Canonical has implemented over the years and that has raised controversy, *cough-Unity-cough*, the HUD is barely noticeable unless you are aware.

Beside the knowledge of the user about the technology, the HUD needs two other things to work properly. That is of course Unity, the elephant in the Canonical’s living room, and the willingness of the software developers to implement support for HUD in their apps.

The HUD is best explained for GIMP, the famous image editor, and it’s no wonder that Canonical has chosen this software to exemplify it. Let’s say you want to scale an image, usually this means going to the image menu and then selecting Scale.

With the HUD, you open the search function of Unity, either with the mouse or with the Super key, and type scale. The option can then be accessed using the keyboard and GIMP takes over. This means, of course, that the developers of GIMP have taken the time to integrate it into their software.

If Canonical really wants this feature to work, for the majority of the Linux community, a lot more developers must implement it.

Canonical boasts with other “impressive” features such as the Video Lens. This particular functionality of Unity, the Lens, was already available since Ubuntu 11.10 and there are a lot of people doing their own Lens, so a Video Lens doesn’t really seem like much.

The Unity Lens gives users the power to use the Dash search to access local or external databases, such as YouTube, Wikipedia, Google, and so on, without opening another app.

What I like, though, is the new LightDM login manager, or better yet the "new and improved LightDM." I got tired of trying to customize the login screen with various other applications, so the new options are welcomed.

Another thing that caught my eye is the new privacy settings option in the Control Panel. In an internet world dominated by the obsession with privacy, these are a nice touch.

The Bad

For a distribution that is supposed to be Long Term support, I encountered quite a lot of small problems, mainly stuff that didn't happen with Ubuntu 11.10.

Nautilus crashes randomly, a weather indicator found in the official repositories crashes once a day, and I even had to uninstall a useless library that crashed every time I started the computer (the library in question was colored).

To make it even more interesting, most of the problems I had with Ubuntu 12.04 was on the system where I've made the clean install. On the other ones, there were virtually no problems, even on the OS I upgraded from Ubuntu 11.10.

We also tested Ubuntu 12.04 on an HP Pro Book 4530s and video overlay flickered during movies, no matter what player was used. The problem is most likely related to the Intel HD 3000 video card.

The Good

I would like to say Ubuntu 12.04 is better than Ubuntu 11.10, but it's not exactly true. When it comes to stability, this newest LTS version has some catching up to do.

The main bonus and the most important feature of them all, that is not trumping all the other problems is the speed. Everything works faster, including nautilus, programs, and boot time. I'm fairly confident Canonical will manage to repair all the remaining problems in the coming months.

Conclusion

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) is not the operating system it should have been. It's good, but it should have been better. I understand it's supposed to be Long Term Support, but Canonical shouldn't have used it as an excuse to limit the number of new features.

All in all, it's certainly an improvement, but if you're not sure about upgrading, you should stick to Ubuntu 11.10 for a little while.


user interface 4
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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