Three things I like about Ubuntu Intrepid, and one I don't
In many ways Ubuntu Intrepid is a little bit of a let down. Probably like many Ubuntu fans I remember the heady days of early Ubuntu releases when each one was so noticeably better than the previous. Each new release was like opening a pile of new birthday presents with no idea of what to expect.
And then, about a year and a half ago, Ubuntu suddenly became a little more staid, even a little boring. The familiar brown background became annoyingly … brown and all the icons looked a little old-fashioned and uninteresting.
And then came Intrepid. Despite much talk of a new interface, promises of big breakthroughs and exciting new features, we got a new desktop wallpaper. It’s a nice wallpaper, but it’s brown and everything still feels the same. There is very little evidence of the “wow” factor that made early Ubuntu releases so exciting.
Unless of course you dig a little deeper under the surface gloss to see what else lurks.
There are three that really stand out for me.
Not enough good things can be said about the vastly-improved mobile connection capabilities of Intrepid. A couple of years back when I first got my hands on an HSDPA card from one of our local providers it took a good couple of days to get the thing working. And even then it was prone to dying and erratic behaviour.
With Intrepid the first time I put in the 3G PCMCIA card the network manager picked it up and had it working in literally seconds. I had done no previous configuration on it and it just worked. Suddenly, it is a pleasure to use the 3G card rather than something dread.
Okay, this is not new but it is a killer feature. The migration assistant, which was meant to make it easy for Windows users to migrate their information across to Ubuntu, was first introduced in Ubuntu 7.04
So unsurprisingly it has come a long way and it has improved.
Perhaps the reason I am so impressed by the migration assistant is that I haven’t looked at it for some time now. I don’t usually migrate installations from Windows to Linux. I just click the “use the entire disk” option and start from scratch.
But the most recent Ubuntu install I did was for a PC that my children use (my son of seven wanted Linux back “because it had cooler games” than Windows XP). So happily I obliged and installed Ubuntu.
I elected to migrate his files across and the installer did it seamlessly, down to the desktop wallpaper he had on Windows. It may not be a new feature, but the migration assistant is fantastic.
Networking in general
Moving around with a laptop with Ubuntu used to be a pain as you moved from one wireless network to another. Not anymore. The network manager in Intrepid skips from one connection to another almost without missing a beat.
Bringing the laptop back from a deep sleep is now a pleasure. It used to mean having to wait for a couple of minutes for network manager to wake up and then another couple as it bumbled its way through establishing a connection.
Not anymore. Now the network connection is re-established almost as soon as my notebook emerges from sleep.
… and the runners-up
There are a couple of other things I like about Intrepid: It is a little faster than the last Ubuntu release, even on a seriously stretched notebook with more than a couple of upgrade cycles under its belt. And I actually like the new user switcher in the top right hand corner. I don’t have much call for the guest session feature but I can see how it could be really useful.
And the loser is …
Audio. Audio. Audio. This is not an Ubuntu-specific problem only but really, I am so tired of battling the re-fix the audio on Linux each and every time one or other application gets upgraded. Linux audio is still a mess and even after all these years we still have to fiddle with all manner of audio settings to get sound working on both the desktop and in a browser. It’s insane.