Yes, it is an odd name. It is also the coolest release of Ubuntu yet. I have opened a terminal a total of 0 times and I have a running system with most of my setup tasks satisfied.
- In a controversial move, Mr. Shuttleworth (founder of Ubuntu) has decided to actually make it easy to play multimedia. On a fresh installation, Firefox defaults to a webpage stored on your computer with links to official documentation, community docs, and the web forum. If you click on either documentation, you are taken to a page with information about multimedia support. You will be told the official Ubuntu repositories has a meta package for all of the “gstreamer” codecs, flash, and java packages. Check its box, click “Apply” and enjoy. Optionally, Windows codecs are also available. Why the don’t put them in the meta package, I have no idea.
- Alternately, you could not read these instructions, jump the gun, and just double-click a multimedia file. In the past, Totem would happily report that it has no idea how to play the file. Now it catches itself, and asks for permission to install the missing codec packages.
- NTFS volumes can now be mounted with write permissions in just a few clicks. The tool is called “ntfs-3g configuration”. I hope that this will be scheduled for inclusion by default, however it currently is not.
- A new indexing application named Tracker is installed by default. It is so lightweight, I didn’t even realize that it was running. It is less exhaustive than Beagle, but the performance is worth it for some applications. This is also integrated in with the Deskbar applet.
- Network manager is now the configuration applet by default, and with one package has Microsoft VPN support.
- Significant work has been done on 3D acceleration. Although short of being enabled out of the box with the ATI binary driver, installation was moderately easy. There is a “fglrx” package in the repositories. You can find it by searching for “ATI Radeon”. You can install this, but it doesn’t complete the process required for direct rendering. You still will have to manually invoke “depmod -a”, and “aticonfig …”, then restart your machine. IMO, this should be handled by the package installation.
What else is scheduled for inclusion?
Many other specifications look promising for Feisty. Of particular note is the “bullet-proof-x” specification, that will allow the Xserver to gracefully fall back to more and more generic configurations. The goal is to prevent the Xserver from ever crashing – even on exotic hardware. The current print configuration system is going to be completely replaced by a port of printerdrake – originally for Mandrake. This promises better automatic discovery, and plug-and-print. Currently gnome-cups-manager is a mess in Ubuntu. Thanks to patches in the gnome-vfs packages, printers are no longer even displayed in Nautilus.
So its all good right?
There is still much work to be done. I want my printers back damn it! I am not sure what rubbed the maintainer the wrong way about displaying non-file objects in the Nautilus file browser, but he just cut off the best way to add a printer. I have gone so far as to receive a patch upon request from Frederick from the OpenSuSE project to apply against the gnome-vfs source packages to change this back.
Also, I was expecting fglrx to be installed and running by default. It is logical to assume that most people want 3D acceleration, and this will be one of the first things they will fight with. Just take care of this. I know its a crappy binary from an unresponsive company, but if the community can get it in the repository as a .deb, they can have it installed by default. With bullet-proof-x, the chances of this screwing up a system installation should be non-existent.
Its looks as though Ubuntu will be moving to the Slab menu for Feisty. This integrates in nicely with the new “Control Center” that has been added in the latest version of Gnome. Oddly though, Tracker, the default indexing client does not take advantage of Slab in the same manner as Beagle. Hopefully this will change in th near future.