Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) Review

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Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) is the latest operating system launched by Canonical and it’s also the most advanced version they’ve ever produced. It may have its quirks, but the end result is not unexpected.

Reviewing an operating system is no different than any other software, even if it’s infinitely more complicated. It’s all about the new features and the changes. In the case of a new distribution, we must observe what’s missing and what went wrong as well.

Before the launch of Ubuntu 12.10, Canonical took a lot of flak for its decision to implement an online search into Unity Dash. It may not have been the best decision, but only time will tell if it had any effect on the adoption rate.

Installation

The installer has remained pretty much the same as the one in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, and we already have a comprehensive tutorial on how to install the new system or how to upgrade from the old one.

The only major difference is that users can now encrypt the entire partition, which is a nice feature to have.

Usage

The first thing a user sees is the new and improved LightDM interface. The new login manager has been updated and it has a cleaner look. It’s still far away from what they’ve been promised initially, but they are getting there one step at a time, especially because now it supports a remote login option.

The second thing a user observes, besides the installation process, is the desktop. Ubuntu 12.10 features a new default background that looks awful. Granted, the previous background used was not extraordinary, but at least it wasn’t a smudged version of the one before it.

Another major difference is the new Unity interface. Canonical is constantly working on Unity so it’s no surprise to see that Unity also received an overhaul.

Now, when starting Ubuntu 12.10 for the first time, you will notice some new Unity shortcuts. They’re called apps and in essence they are just shortcuts to various online services, such as Amazon and Ubuntu Music.

When Electronic Arts went on record saying they are going to promote some games in Ubuntu Software Center, everyone was overjoyed. Unfortunately, all they did was to place some shortcuts for free to play browser games. This Unity feature is pretty much the same thing.

The apps can be easily removed if users choose to, and now even the desktop switcher button can be moved around. The only one remaining fixed is the Dash.

There is also a small corollary to this entire app affair. When visiting a website that supports Ubuntu 12.10 apps, users will be asked if they want to install an app that will “enhance” the experience.

From all the apps we installed, only one proved to be of some use, for Launchpad; all the other ones are unnecessarily just cluttering the workspace.

The Dash itself received an important overhaul and it’s all tied up with Canonical’s decision to implement the controversial Amazon search into the home lens.

Basically, when a user utilizes the home lens to search for something, whether it’s an application or just a file, he will also search the Amazon online shop. This means that users will have to be careful not to name their files using sensitive information, like a credit card number.

When the features were implemented in the development version of Ubuntu 12.10, some problems were reported. Benign searches could have returned adult material, but Canonical solved this problem and put a few filters in place.

The last features we want to mention about Unity and Dash is the ability to right click the items. This action displays a short description, and if it’s in the Shopping or the Ubuntu Music lens, the price will be shown, along with more detailed information about that particular item.

The same right click on an application will provide users with the possibility to install or even to remove it, although this feature is not yet fully satisfying.

Other Improvements

Canonical has also emphasized the role of social interaction and added a new feature called Online Accounts, which can be found in System Settings.

In Online Accounts, users can choose to login into various online services, such as Facebook and Twitter, and display the messages in Gwibber and in the messaging menu.

At this moment, only five applications support this kind of integration: Gwibber, Google Docs search plugin, Shotwell, Empathy, and the Photos search plugin.

Ubuntu 12.10 is full of other minors changes, some more important than others. For example, Canonical has introduced Linux kernel 3.5.0 and finally made the switch to GRUB 2.0.

A newer Linux kernel means more supported devices and GRUB 2 has a much cleaner look, not to mention the fact it also supports dual boot with Windows 8.

All this online integration means that the online privacy options had to be improved, beyond what individual application offers. A new entry, with the name Privacy Options, has been integrated into system settings and brings quite a lot of new features.

The Bad

The biggest problem we found, so far at least, is that the online search function for Unity comes switched on, by default. It would have been nice to ask the users during the installation process if they agree with this feature.

Another annoying issue is the new Unity interface, more precisely the large number of default buttons. Sure enough, they can be removed from the interface easily, but it can get really crowded now, especially with the new Amazon, Ubuntu One, and Ubuntu Music buttons.

Canonical has also introduced a new animation for window minimization, but it’s extremely slow. We had to adjust with the hell of dconf. It looks broken and they should fix it.

Just like Ubuntu 12.04, the new version is also plagued by various crashes. Most of the time this is just an application that can be restarted, but sometimes it is the compiz or worse. Canonical has to do something about software stability,

The Good

There aren’t all that many differences from Ubuntu 12.041.1 LTS, and if it weren’t for the Unity improvements and the new background, most users could not tell the difference.

There are some reports that it has a poorer performance on weaker hardware, but on the hardware configuration we tested it, there weren’t any major differences.

The last two things we’ll mention is the fact that the messaging menu has been cleaned and now it shows only the relevant information, and that they finally separated the shut down and restart buttons.

Conclusion

Given the track record of Canonical, it’s not surprising at all that Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) is yet another success. If you are a regular 12.04 user, you should consider updating to this new version, but keep in mind that the new OS only comes with two years of support.

As far as we’re concerned, Ubuntu 12.10 is worth the upgrade, especially if you experience crashes with the previous version.

Enjoy Ubuntu 12.10 and start preparing for the next one, the clock is already ticking.
user interface 4
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 

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