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Ubuntu 10.10 beta review

Judged on its own merits, the Ubuntu 10.10 beta is a solid and consumer-friendly release. Looking at it in the light of the 10.04 Long Term Service (LTS) release from the Spring, it seems a very modest update…

This article originally appeared in issue 92 of Linux User & Developer magazine.

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Ubuntu 10.04 is a hard release to beat, though Maverick does improve upon the release. The Ubuntu Project and company behind it, Canonical, have put in a lot of hard work to offer up a Linux distro that could compete with Mac OS X. It’s not quite there yet for a few reasons, but it’s getting inexorably closer — with the largest gap being applications.

When the Ubuntu 10.10 beta was released on September 2nd, I decided to take a look at it and (briefly) the Kubuntu 10.10 beta as well. To put it through its paces I installed it on an Intel Core Duo machine with 2GB of RAM, a Dell Studio laptop with a Core i7 and 8GB of RAM, and also within VMware Workstation 7.1 for Linux.

The installer has, once again, been revamped and improved. The first screen is a sort of readiness check that informs the user what’s going to happen, suggests that a network connection is a good thing to have, and allows the user to install updates and non-free software at the same time as the install. This is a really nice improvement, though it’s unlikely to impress those who frown on non-free software. The “install updates” feature, though, is very nice.

A couple of minor quibbles with the choices made by the installer, however. Specifically, the partitioning and user information. By default, Ubuntu wants to provide just one massive root (/) partition without separate home partitions. This is a mistake, as anyone who’s updated or recovered a Linux system should know. And the default for the user is to log in automatically — probably more familiar for former Windows and Mac OS X users, but hardly recommended. These can be changed by experienced users, but it’s not setting good habits for those who do not know better.

Carry on to page 2…
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