Ubuntu LogoIn South Africa we have a saying: “Feel it, it is here.” Mostly a hyped up superslogan left over from Soccer World Cup marketing schpiel. Well, Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat is here, and the online Community has been “Feeling It” since 10:10 yesterday, 10/10/10.

Now that I have had a chance to spend some real quality time with the real Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat (more on that later) I can bring you a review of Canonicals latest offering…

The REAL Maverick

It amused me somewhat to wake up at 6am on Sunday morning to find the Internet awash with reviews of Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat. I have seen this with the Lucid release, and now again, that many sites use the RC to push out a review of Ubuntu, purporting to be the final release.

Last time I checked Canonical does not give reviewers an early sneak into the ISO download VIP lounge, and at least with Lucid – where the positions of the Window buttons for maximize and minimize gave away a RC fake review – you could quickly pick out when a review was the real thing or not.

Now, you might slide that Logitech gamers Keyboard closer after clicking the reply button with your Razer copperhead mouse and thunder down on me from yay high explaining that the RC is the final release.

It isn’t. And I call shame on any website not marking a review of the RC as such, and trying to cash in some clicks by using the RC to review as if it were the final product. For goodness sakes, some of these sites have reviewed the RC and Betas as well.

It’s dishonest.

Now that I have given you fuel for flaming me, on to the review, that is me off my soapbox…

First Impressions

This is Lucid SP1. No, really. While there are many under the skin improvements my first impressions of Maverick Meerkat is that it is less of a revolution, and more of an evolution.

The bootsplash is the same, the them colors are almost the same, and the overall feel reminds strongly of Lucid. The only area where large changes where made is with the installer.

This is a good thing.

While many have approached new Ubuntu release with at least some trepidation, this one feels like it belongs on production desktops right out of the blocks.

There are less adoption scares than previous versions – sure there are some – but I honestly expected more than I found. Ubuntu has a bit or a reputation as a pain in the ass until about a month or so has passed, Maverick seems to be doing better than previous releases at the moment. Yes I realise I am making a bold statement here and that this might all change overnight…

Maverick Meerkat Desktop

The Ubuntu Maverick Desktop (Click To Enlarge)

Installation

I have covered the installation in more depth HERE.

The Installer for Maverick is a great improvement. I like it. I like how it begins partitioning and installing your system in the background while you enter your user details, and I like that you can download and install codecs and updates as part of the installation process.

It has not changed too much from the beta, except for feeling smoother and looking a bit more polished. This could also just be me looking at it through rose tinted glasses…

Twenty Four Part Test

Not much has changed here for Ubuntu release on release. There are tiny improvements here and there, notably in battery life (for me at least) and the installer taking care of MP3 and other codecs like Flash support improves its score a little as well. I have borrowed my table from my Mint 9 KDE Review because it represents the most recent releases that I have reviewed.


Ubuntu Lucid
MandrivaKD Mint 9 KDE
Win7 Ubuntu Maverick
Join Wifi Network 100.00 100.00 80.00 80.00 100.00
Join Wired Network 100.00 100.00 100.00 50.00 100.00
Set Proxy 66.67 57.14 70.00 57.14 66.67
Get Network Info 50.00 100.00 80.00 25.00 50.00
Change Desktop Background 100.00 100.00 100.00 80.00 100.00
Change Theme 100.00 100.00 75.00 100.00 100.00
Set Screen Rez 80.00 80.00 80.00 100.00 80.00
Set up Network Share 100.00 57.14 66.67 80.00 100.00
Access Network Share 100.00 100.00 100.00 66.67 100.00
Get Hardware Info 66.67 40.00 66.67 100.00 66.67
Get System Usage Info 66.67 40.00 66.67 100.00 66.67
Play Audio CD 100.00 100.00 75.00 100.00 100.00
Access USB Drive 100.00 100.00 100.00 50.00 100.00
Play Youtube 50.00 100.00 100.00 33.33 80.00
Play MP3 50.00 50.00 100.00 100.00 80.00
Open PDF 100.00 100.00 100.00 33.33 100.00
Look For Specific Software 66.67 50.00 100.00 28.57 75.00
Check For System Updates 66.67 50.00 100.00 50.00 66.67
Supported Architecture (32bit/64bit) 100.00 75.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
Shut Down 100.00 100.00 66.67 66.67 66.67
Battery Life 50.00 100.00 80.00 90.91 75.00
Atheros Support 100.00 50.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
Codec Support 66.67 55.56 100.00 100.00 75.00
WEP Support 100.00 33.33 33.33 100.00 100.00
TOTALS 1,946.67 1,838.17 2041.01 1,791.62 2043.35
Percentage Score
81.11 76.59 85.04 74.65 85.14

Well it seems that minor changes can make a difference after all. Whereas the previous release scored 81.11, the newest release of Ubuntu scores an impressive 85.14, largely due to the improvements made in the installer – taking care of codecs and flash support. The battery life improvement also helps somewhat.

It is good to see Ubuntu improving marginally, I just hope the trend continues.

New Software: Shotwell

Maverick Meerkat comes with Shotwell, which replaces the previous photo management software F-Spot.

While the jury is still out on the popularity of this decision, Shotwell 0.7.2 certainly feels rather user friendly, and easy to use.

Shotwell Image Viewer

The Shotwell Image Viewer (Click To Enlarge)

I used Shotwell to edit (read: CROP) all the images used in this review, and it performed okay. One gripe, there is no obvious “save as” function. If you want your pictures in your “Pictures” folder you will have to export them again.

Another Shotwell Screenie

Another View of Shotwell in action (Click To Enlarge)

Updated Software: Ubuntu Software Center

Love it or hate it (I am beginning to warm towards it) the Ubuntu Software Center seems to be here to stay. For Maverick Meerkat it has received a minor facelift.

The available Paid-For app has changed, Gone is “Hello X Adventure” and hello to Fluendo DVD Player.

Software Center

Fluendo, Now Available In Software Center (Click To Enlarge)

The feel of the software center has also improved somewhat, look at the video clip below.

(On a related note, my youtube videos come out really crappy – any suggestions will be very helpful if it will get me to offer better videos to you guys…)

The presentation of available software is well done, and the installation of software is much improved. While installing one thing you can keep on browsing and looking at other software.

Other Updates

Maverick Meerkat uses the Linux kernel version 2.6.35-22-generic, and Gnome 2.32.0

I attribute a lot of the stable feel of Maverick to the use of an existing build of Gnome. Previous releases always followed short on the heels of a gnome release, and sometimes (I feel) they have paid the price with minor niggles.

Aptitude is gone, as was predicted before, and I personally feel Ubuntu is the poorer for it. But I digress. To each his own…

Gripes

Gripe time.

For one I feel that Ubuntu is missing a trick with it’s implementation and use of Compiz. Take the alt+tab and super+tab switchers. With the default Ubuntu install you can have either, but you can only have the pretty and more useful super+tab switcher if you have the pain in the ass squiggly wiggly windows.

Linux Mint has a much better implementation of Compiz there. And for your eye candy needs, another (ugly) video of the alt+tab and super+tab switchers in action…

Don’t you just prefer the super switcher? I do, but I hate the wiggles of windows mess so much that I go without it. And yes I know I could have it all with Compizconfig Settings Manager…

Another gripe is that the window buttons have been uglied up for this release. I quite liked the Lucid buttons, and when I saw what had happened to them in the Maverick Beta I sincerely hoped that they would not make it into the final release. But, alas, they did.

Desktop Readiness

Now we are getting to the sharp end of this review. The part where some of you agree, and most disagree. It seems I have developed a talent for riling up the masses with my ratings, let’s see how Ubuntu does…

Right, release on release there have been improvements. Lucid scored 4/5, and I believe in hindsight that I might have been generous. As a viable desktop Linux there are few to rival Ubuntu as a complete package. I am beginning to see the sense of those who complain about the short release cycle and the difficulties with upgrading their installs – Ubuntu should go for a rolling release, at least within the LTS cycle. Make the six monthly “regular” releases rolling releases, and then make the LTS a complete refresh and re-install release with optional upgrade.

I think, comparing Ubuntu with other Linuxen, that there are better desktop Linuxes out there – Linux Mint KDE for one, even though Ubuntu scores better on the 24part test. Given it’s better test score, and its incremental improvement over Lucid I give Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat 4/5, and make a mental note that Lucid should have gotten 3.5/5

Will hindsight prove me right or wrong? Let’s talk about this again in six months time…

4/5 deskto readiness score

User Friendliness

Again there are small improvements in Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat. Here the inclusion of codecs, flash and updates in the revamped installer weighs heavily. The installer is now again the best in the industry, if a little simplistic if you are a power user, and lends itself to a satisfying experience right off the bat.

Once you have installed all you want the little changes make themselves apparent here and there.

With every release of Ubuntu I feel like it is being dumbed down bit by bit. Sure you can power-user it to the nines if you want, but I realise that Canonical is pandering to the non technical crowd out there. Hey, they have the numbers, and if this philosophy ensures the continued success of Linux on the desktop (sue me, I think it is successful so far) I am happy with it.

I could always opt for another more power-user friendly distro if I want…

Again I give Maverick the same rating as Lucid, and again I feel that I have been a little generous towards Lucid with my scores.

4/5 it is…

User Friendliness Rating of 4/5

Q-Rating

My initial reaction to Maverick was slight disbelief. In my opinion this is the first truly incremental release from Canonical. Previous releases have strived for new features and groundbreaking concepts – often to their detriment.

The strength of Maverick lies in its building on Lucid in many areas. Sure the installed software are all new versions, but notice that unlike Hardy (I think it was) that included a beta of Firefox there is no Firefox 4 Beta here, for instance.

I like Maverick, if only for the understated release that it is. A new wallpaper adorns the desktop, minor visual tweaks here and there, and a solid foundation.

This time Ubuntu gets a 4/5 on my Q rating. Gripes aside, this release is the best release of Ubuntu yet. Canonical has had a habit of releasing one great release, and then following it up with a trainwreck. Lucid was good, and Maverick was thought to be another experimental but broken release a-la Gutsy.

For once Canonical has hit two successes in a row…

Q Rating 4/5

Disqualifiers

This is new to my reviews, only the second review to feature the disqualifier rating. The lower the score the better.

There is not much to disqualify Ubuntu in my book – I am sure many others will disagree with me, as is their right.

The obvious ones like lack of support for popular Windows based software like Office Outlook (installable via Crossover) and especially Access weigh heavily on the minds of those looking to implement a rollout in a business environment. Many specialist applications are built for Windows only, with some – like Photoshop – being released for MacOS as well.

Crossover adds a lot of support for many of these software to any Linux Distro, but in the end Windows will support Windows applications better than Linux does – it’s just how it is.

If you do NOT use or do not need Windows/Mac only software, like most of my clients and friends, a good Linux Desktop will go a long way to meeting your everyday computing needs. Out of all my clients I can think of fewer than five who would not be able to run a Linux desktop in their office at all, and fewer than ten that would need Windows for niche services like bookkeeping or draughting, running Linux on the other machines.

Taken all this into account, and weighing the strengths of Ubuntu over some of the other Linux offerings I have tested, I give it a disqualifier rating of 2/5

Remember 5/5 means it an OS is completely unsuited for use, and 0/5 means there is nothing stopping anyone from using the OS.

2/5 Disqualifier Rating for Maverick

Summary

Yes, I like it. No, I don’t think it is perfect. Is there room for improvement? Always. Do some of the design choices irk me? Yes, especially the lack of a proper manager for Compiz by default.

Is Ubuntu Maverick the best Linux Desktop OS? No, Mint still edges it, but just. I am looking forward to Mint 10, that will be a great release to test.

Should you try Maverick? Yes – even if you have never used Linux before it is a good place to start.

Will it make it to my recommended products? Yep, but it is almost 1am now, so I will do that admin later, after I have slept a bit. (On that note, please excuse any grammar/spelling mistakes I made – I am tired :-))

Related posts:

  1. Impressions – Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat Beta – With Screenshots
  2. Impressions: Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat Alpha 1 – With Screenshots