A first look at Ubuntu Breezy

By   |  September 23, 2005

Oh, it\’s so exciting! The latest Ubuntu, Breezy Badger, hot off the web and on my desktop. Judging by previous Ubuntu Linux releases, the preview edition is a pretty good indication of what to expect from the final product, which usually just gets a slight tune-up just before release date.

Apart from a new boot-up splash screen, there isn\’t much of a facade change between Hoary and Breezy Badger. Fonts are definitely rendered better, no doubt due to the latest Gnome (version 2.12). It booted up natively into 1280 by 1024 resolution on my desktop and 1024×768 on my laptop, detecting max resolution correctly, which many of the distributions don\’t do. And on an LCD you can really see the difference. Previous versions of Ubuntu needed significant amounts of tweaking to get fonts right. Now it just works.

Despite the font change, it\’s a bit disapointing – I was hoping for some kind of visual clue that I\’m on a brand new version of Ubuntu. Even a new background would have done the trick.

Under the hood it\’s a bit of a different story. Breezy ships with the 2.6.12-8 kernel, which offers quite a bit more hardware support. It also seemed rock-solid on my desktop, which can\’t be said for some of the kernels in the Hoary apt repositories.

There have been some default application changes. The first one I noticed was the PDF viewer, previously XPDF, which has been replaced by the much better Evince. I would have liked to have seen Gwenview replace Eye of Gnome as the default image viewer, and Mplayer or VLC for video and XMMS for audio instead of Totem. With Totem still hanging around, not much of your media is going to play out of the box. However it does let Ubuntu stay on the right side of copyright laws, and helps keep Ubuntu free.

Fortunately, there\’s a really great new application installer imaginatively entitled Add/Remove Programs (the name needs some work guys). What it lacks in name, it makes up for in ease of use. I thought Synaptic was simple, but this really takes it to the next level. Want VLC? Click Sound & Video, More programs, and check the box next to VLC. Click Apply. Done.

The Add/Remove Programs doesn\’t give you everything in the repository — just the best of the best. This is great news for techie and novice alike — the amount of software options in the repositories is staggering and often confusing.

Also noteworthy in configuration is the Disks tool. Every newbie soon hits the problem of mounting new disks. This tool makes it as simple as a few clicks – choose your disk, choose where to mount it, click \”Enable\”. This simple tool is guaranteed to seriously reduce traffic on help lists.

The only downside I noticed was that the tool is happy to mount a partition wherever you tell it to, making it pretty easy to wipe out your home directory or worse, and make your system unusable in a matter of seconds. Use with care!

Fortunately it doesn\’t seem to write to the fstab. I\’m using the live version so I\’m not entirely sure on this point, but a reboot should fix any mounting mistakes made with this tool.

Internet tools include Mozilla Firefox 1.0.6 — a version of which we\’ve only heard good things — and Evolution 2.4.0. I was surprised to see Thunderbird didn\’t make the grade, but I can understand the choice of Evolution. The calendaring and integration with other applications is still streets ahead of Mozilla.

The office suite used is OpenOffice.org 2.0 Beta. It\’s a shame that the final version won\’t be out in time for Breezy. OpenOffice.org takes just as long to open up as it did in previous versions of Ubuntu, and it doesn\’t look like the Ubuntu folks bothered to prelink it.

Every application now has an extra menu item under help – \”Translate this application\”. It is hoped that these subtle reminders will get people more involved in the community process.

Overall, I\’m impressed but not amazed by Breezy. When it comes out, I\’ll definitely be installing it, but somehow I feel a little let down. Perhaps it\’s Ubuntu\’s own fault for making the first version just so darn good — a huge jump at this point seems impossible.

Test systems
Laptop
Sony Vaio VGN-B77GP
Processor: Intel Pentium M 1.7Ghz (2MB cache)
Memory: 750MB

Desktop
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-7N400 Pro 2 (Nvidia chipset)
Processor: AMD Athlon XP 3200+
Memory: 1GB

Comments

2 Responses to “A first look at Ubuntu Breezy”

  1. Wade
    January 10th, 2006 @ 12:00 am

    Totem with a gstreamer backend will play different formats depending on what gstreamer plugins you have installed.

    Enable the multiverse and restricted repositories, install all the gstreamer plugins, and you should be able to play most anything you throw at it.

    Nice article!

  2. Harry S. Kartono
    February 7th, 2006 @ 12:00 am

    wow, great review, i just want to ask, is breezy works well with SATA harddisk on GA7-N400 Pro2 Mainboard? because in my board it doesn\’t work and won\’t be installed. Just reaching install 31% and stopped. Can you describe how you install your breezy into GA7-N400 Pro2 board with SATA harddisk?
    Thanks before.

    It should work fine on that board – I think it\’s an ITE chipset for the Sata. Make sure that you don\’t have Raid for the Sata on in the Bios, and if you\’re still having problems, try reburning your install disks – ed

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