Ubuntu: 4 days with Edgy Eft
Those who have been keeping up with the latest tech news would inevitably have heard that Canonical has just released version 6.10 of Ubuntu, codenamed Edgy Eft. Being a Ubuntu lover, I’ve recently installed Edgy and decided it was time to share my experience with it.
But first things first: if you’re a current Dapper Drake user, (the previous version of Ubuntu), DO NOT UPGRADE!!! Edgy is NOT a stable release, (which is why it’s called Edgy!), therefore, Canonical advises everyone to back up their data and do clean install. Too many people have failed to heed this advice, much to their own peril. Don’t be one of them.
Take it from Mark Shutteworth, founder of Ubuntu:
Edgy is all about cutting edge, perhaps bleeding edge, brand new code and infrastructure. It will be the right time to bring in some seriously interesting but definitely edgy new technologies which lay the groundwork for the next wave of Ubuntu development…
…We will for the first time possibly have to say to new users “Edgy gets
security updates etc for 18 months but seriously consider Dapper if you
need the most polished platform”.
For those who just can’t listen to advice and still want to upgrade, read this article. Those who want to try out Edgy and don’t like troubleshooting, (or have tweaked their system to the max), do what I did: burn the ISO, back up your data and do a clean install. Everyone else, just wait for the next stable release, codenamed… *ahem* …Feisty Fawn. You can stop laughing now.
Keep in mind that this release does not have the visual enhancements that a lot of people were expecting; rather the improvements are ‘under the hood’. That means more speed, faster bootup, the latest programs and the groundwork for the new technology we should be seeing in Feisty Fawn. Additionally, a lot of the programs installed by default in Edgy are in beta, so Canonical stresses that anything that can break, will.
Having said that, however, I’ve found Edgy to not only be faster than Dapper, but more stable, too. That’s correct, all that breakage I was expecting just didn’t happen. I’ve also noticed that Edgy Eft has corrected some problems I previously had in Dapper. But that’s for later. First, for the specs of the computer I’ve installed Edgy on. Low end users will be happy to know I’ve installed it on my old, obsolete computer and its running beautifully.
Processor: Pentium III 750Mhz
Video Card: ATI 9000 64MBs
Sound Card: Soundblaster PCI
So, on to the meat of the article: the pro’s and con’s that I’ve experienced with Edgy.
Speed: Though I had tweaked my previous Dapper installation to the max, my default installation of Edgy – without tweaks – was faster than Dapper. Shocking. I think most users consider it a given that an updated release usually requires a hardware update to run smoothly. Not so with Edgy.
I’ve also noticed that the latest versions of OpenOffice and Firefox 2.0 also have experienced speed increases. In OpenOffice in particular, I’ve noticed a decrease in loading speed by about a third. The latest version of the Gnome, 2.16, is much more snappy, and a known bug in the Nautilus file manager that caused slowdowns after a few days of uptime, has been fixed.
Bootup: Perhaps the biggest complaint regarding Dapper was the astronomical slow bootup speed. The majority of users average around 30-40 seconds on bootup. Completely unacceptable.
So the first thing Canonical did was replace Linux’s outdated bootup manager, Init, with Upstart. The difference is amazing. My bootup speed on Dapper was around 40-45 seconds. On Edgy, it’s now down to 20 seconds. Of course, I rarely shut down my computer anyway, so this wasn’t a big deal, but for laptop users this is essential.
Stability: Yeah, yeah, I know Canonical says Edgy is an unstable release. However, that hasn’t been my experience at all. The strange thing about Edgy is that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is more stable about it; it’s more of a feeling than anything. Go ahead and roll your eyes, but I’m serious. The system just feels more sturdy.
Memory management: For me, this was one of the most noticeable improvements. Linux has alway been touted as being one of the best OS for memory management, which makes it a long-time favorite among college students who just can’t afford newer hardware. I’m happy to say that Linux has just improved in this area, and Edgy takes advantage of it.
In my previous Dapper installation, running Firefox with three or four tabs open, along with two OpenOffice documents for 24 hours straight would cause my memory usage to near the 280-300MBs. Open up Opera and Gimp and noticeable slowdowns would ensue. This was no surprise as both Firefox and OpenOffice are known to be resource hogs.
So imagine my surprise when I installed Edgy and left both OpenOffice and Firefox open for a whole day. The next morning my comp was still running smoothly. To test it out, I then opened Opera and another OpenOffice document and found that slowdown was slight but still usable; opening up Gimp and the system slowed down a little more, but again, it was still usable. And this is definitely not a high-end computer I’m running Edgy on.
My initial thought was that Firefox and OpenOffice have both dramatically reduced their memory usage, but a quick look at the system monitor showed I was using around 300MBs of memory, so I can only give the credit to Edgy.
Problems fixed: I never really had a serious problem with Dapper, but there is one critical problem and not so vital problem that Edgy fixed for me.
Now I never use my floppy, which is probably why I never realized that Dapper wasn’t detecting it. However, afting installing Edgy I noticed my floppy drive was suddenly being listed in the device section. Even though I have no use for the floppy drive, it does mean one thing: hardware support for Linux has just gotten even better. Especially considering this is a generic floppy drive only shipped with Gateway computers that are no longer being made. And I’m talking about a six year old computer, so thats got to count for something.
The only critical problem that I’ve had with Dapper was my electricsheep screensaver – and, yes, I consider that critical! Electricsheep is the best looking screensaver in existence today, and after installing it in Dapper, all other screensavers have now become obsolete. However, I did have the problem with the zoom mode. No matter what I did, I could never get electricsheep in full screen; it would always revert back to a 800×600 box. A quick look at the UbuntuForums show this is a common problem, so I wasn’t alone. Edgy, however, fixed this problem automatically and now I’m enjoying electricsheep in it’s full screen glory.
Default wallpaper: You may think I’m being picky, but what has the Ubuntu team done to the wallpaper?! Aaack! The horror!! For those complaining about Ubuntu’s ‘browness’, you tell me what looks better:
That’s right, I thought so. What’s with all the tan? It’s hurting my eyes. I don’t understand how this wallpaper got past the development stage, but it’s back to the drawing table for the next release.
Beryl/Compiz: Granted, I understand that not everyone has the latest graphics cards to handle Beryl or Compiz. Still, it would have been nice to see some visual cutting edge effects within the default installation, instead of having to wait another six months. (Those who don’t know what I’m talking about, look here). The good thing is, Beryl and Compiz are available through the official Ubuntu repositories, so it’s an easy download through Synpatic Package Manager.
Taskbar icon settings: I generally keep a set of shortcuts on the upper task bar of Gnome. These include Opera, Firefox, the terminal, desktop wallpaper changer and my new favorite, Tomboy Notes, (a less resource hungry note taker similiar to Microsoft OneNote).
But what I noticed with Edgy is that moving these shortcuts around the taskbar would cause Gnome to lose their settings, which then required me to retype the title and the command line all over again. I’m guessing this is a Gnome specific error, but its something that needs to be looked into.
And that’s about all the complaints I have for Edgy Eft, everything else is pretty much perfect. Edgy is not the revolutionary update people were expecting, but it’s a solid release that improves on just about everying… except for the wallpaper. So for those still straddling the fence on this one, go ahead and install Edgy, (install not upgrade!). I’ve only been using Edgy for four days, and Dapper has already been forgotten.