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10 things to love about Ubuntu 11.04

Jack Wallen has done a complete turnaround on his views of Ubuntu 11.04. Here's a look at how the latest release won him over.

Today is a good day, as I dine on a dish of crow -- served gladly by the ladies and gentlemen of Canonical. In Ubuntu 11.04: Small issues, big win, I explained how my opinions changed about Ubuntu 11.04 and the most recent release of the new default Ubuntu desktop, Unity. After installing the beta 1 release, I realized that my fears were pretty much misplaced. And now that I have the final release up and running -- and despite its installation problems -- I'm still convinced that there's plenty to love about the latest Ubuntu release. Let's take a look.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Unity

This is the biggest portion of humility I dine on. When I first tried Unity, I was more than skeptical. In fact, I had written off Unity as a big loss that would set Ubuntu back a bit. But I discovered that Unity is nothing of the sort. In fact, Unity might well be the first desktop I have ever used that seems to disappear in the background, leaving the focus on the more important work at hand. And isn't that what a desktop should do? Unity does this better than any desktop I have ever tried. If you're looking for an efficient work environment, Unity might be the perfect solution for you. I know I will be using it as my default workstation desktop for a while (until I head back to E17 as I always do.)

2: Ubuntu One

This wonderful service is now even better integrated into Ubuntu. Not only did the Ubuntu One "dashboard" get a full retool, it is also now a part of the Banshee core. No more having to install and enable a Ubuntu One extension for your multimedia player. As for the new "dashboard," making (and keeping) the connection between a desktop and a Ubuntu One account is incredibly easy now. Ubuntu One even has an icon on the Unity Launcher. So whenever you need to take an action with Ubuntu One, you don't have to search around for the configuration tool. The Ubuntu One tool has vastly improved from where it was in the 10 releases.

3: Banshee 2.0

The difference between Banshee 1.8 and 2.0 is significant When it was announced that Banshee was to be the default music player in Ubuntu 11.04, I have to confess I was disappointed. I had always found Banshee to be inferior to Rhythmbox. With the 2.0 release, this has completely reversed. Banshee 2.0 has so many new features and bug fixes, it's almost pointless to write about them here. You can read the full report instead. My favorite new feature? The Artist/Album/Track browser actions. It is finally possible to right-click an artist/album/track icon and select an action. This has been long overdue and is very much welcome.

4: LibreOffice

Yes, LibreOffice is finally included as the default office suite in Ubuntu. This is a welcome change from OpenOffice. I believe, thanks to the LibreOffice team, the default office suite will finally enjoy more frequent updates and bug fixes than did OpenOffice. And with Ubuntu 11.04 shipping with LibreOffice, more users will start enjoying a much more positive experience with office suite tools on the Linux platform.

5: Installation

Thanks to Ubiquity, the Ubuntu installation is even easier! Upon inserting the Live CD, you're given the option of either trying out or installing Ubuntu. That hasn't changed. What has changed are the installation options. If you choose installation, you will be presented with the options to Install Side By Side (dual boot), Upgrade, or Replace An Existing Ubuntu Installation. The last option allows you to replace the current Ubuntu installation only, which will retain all other operating systems installed on the machine. From Ubiquity, a new option allows for the management of partitions.

There is a caveat to this: If you are installing on a machine with an NVidia graphics chipset, be prepared to be disappointed. There is a fairly major issue (even involving a class action lawsuit), and the installation of Ubuntu 11.04 on an NVidia graphics card may not even succeed. I was able to get through this by bypassing the Live instance and going straight for the installation. If you want to test the Live CD, you'll need to have a machine that does not use an NVidia chipset.

6: Test drive apps

This is really a great feature. In the Ubuntu Software Center that ships with 11.04, you can now test drive applications from within the software installation tool. Under the window that is normally just a screenshot of the application, any application that supports "test drive" will let you test the app without having to install. You'll have an instant glance at whether an application will work for you. Although not every application will work with test drive, I would venture a guess that all modern applications will.

7: Rate and review

In Ubuntu Software Center, the application rate and review system is in place. This is great, as I believe it will finally allow users to avoid the applications that really aren't worth the time they take to install. It does mean that quite a few of those thousands upon thousands of applications will fall into obscurity -- and that is perfectly fine. It's great to be able to spout off how many applications are available, but what's really important is how many quality applications are available. Now users should be able to search for, say, 4-star and up rated applications.

8: New eye candy settings

That's right, 11.04 ships with Compiz and some fancy new eye candy settings that are unique to Ubuntu and Unity. Compiz offers settings such as Backlight always on, launcher animations, and urgent animations. There are also special window transparency options that will please most users. This is certainly a plus for anyone thinking Ubuntu Unity would be lacking in the eye candy category. You can still install Compiz Configuration Settings Manager (ccsm) to get all of the Compiz goodness you want. You'll find ccsm within the Ubuntu Software Center (search for ccsm).

Note that when you're using Unity, you can't enable the Compiz Cube (at least not without disabling the Unity plug-in). So if the Compiz Cube is a feature you must have, you'll need to log out of Unity and log into Classic Gnome.

9: Network manager applet

I realize this might not seem like a big deal, but a lot of kinks have been worked out of this piece of software. Even bigger than that, nm_applet now works as an appindicator, which means it will function in Unity. Prior to this change, it seemed as if nm_applet wasn't going to fit into the scheme of Unity's new panel. Since nm_applet was completely reworked, Ubuntu can enjoy the Network Manager indicator just like every good Linux distribution should.

10: The whole, together as one

I really didn't know how to title this entry without using buzzwords that make my skin crawl (such as "synergy" and "paradigm"). What I mean is this: I have seen desktops try very hard to work in a sort of unison, but fail. I've seen desktops come close to reaching some sort of harmonious whole. But with Ubuntu 11.04, I believe we have the first desktop that really feels completely and wholly integrated. As you work on the Unity desktop, it's easy to forget you are working on a desktop because it all just seems to flow so nicely together. Every individual piece of Ubuntu 11.04 seems to fit together perfectly. With the default installation, nothing seems out of place. That is a huge plus in my book, and it might well be the first Linux distribution to achieve this challenging feat.

Your take

Have you installed Ubuntu 11.04? How do your impressions stack up against these?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

31 comments
madmys
madmys

ubuntu 11.04 is my first linux experience. Loving the simplicity and attractive interface... the only turn off is juggling between work related (windows based) and personal (ubuntu). some issues too in using office 2010 files in libres. not really friendly. but personally, loving ubuntu.

mips12
mips12

wifi support still an issue

izharaazmi
izharaazmi

Humphh.... I always use single boot Ubuntu on my lappy... but It had been my utmost desire to be able to run it on the dektop and on dual boot with windows (its an compulsion of the business/education). And to run ubuntu I need to pull out the graphics card, that I don't like ever. So I don't. I waited that long for 11.04 hoping that atleast this time I'd be able to run Ubuntu on my desktop PC. But I got depressed again... Hoping again for next 6 months.... lets wait and watch... for the Ubuntu 11.10 :'(

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

As a kubuntu user, maybe I'll have to download and try the straight ubuntu. Kubuntu still has openOffice, and I had upgraded my previous version to libreOffice.

o.lasitha
o.lasitha

At last, I just found an Ubuntu version, which is easy to install, easy to configure, and best of all, easy to teach someone else to get familiarized with this new OS. I didn't have to download LibreOffice, Firefox 4 and go through the tedious process of uninstalling existing versions and installing the newest versions. Downloading and installing new applications was never easier. Can you see me smiling!!!! The Unity desktop puts some coolness to Linux, but it became very annoying for me, because with this desktop, I couldn't remember whether I minimized Firefox, or did I close Firefox, because nothing was showing the status of Firefox after I minimized it. So I switched back to the good old Ubuntu Classic desktop, and then only I could access the good old menus again. I don't know how the developers forgot to integrate the menu which every Ubuntu Linux distribution had so far, in to Unity desktop. I would like to see K3B becoming the default CD/DVD/Blu-ray burner for Ubuntu in the future releases, while adding the new functionality of, being able to burn Bootable CD/DVD/Blu-ray discs, with custom boot image file. Why is Ubuntu still lacking support for Proxy Servers? Still, even though user puts in details in Network Proxy, as well as, in Software Sources, still the system is not getting it updated, and so many manual editing has to be done by the user. I believe it's time, the developers do something to make those settings automatically get updated in the relevant places, on behalf of the user, if and only if, Ubuntu team is expecting to spread this system to people who are migrating from Windows. I still can't see any version which gives the option to, right click on any folder and choose "search for files and folders" in that particular folder. Still we have to navigate to Places, the choose the Search option, then choose the location, then only do the search. Even so, when I tried the same search in my 1TB USB hard drive, in both Windows XP and in Ubuntu 11.04, XP was a clear winner in showing the results within 2-3 seconds where Ubuntu took more than 10 seconds in my Core-i3 3.07Ghz machine with 4GB DDR3 RAM. I'm from Sri Lanka. So obviously I would select Colombo as my regional settings while installing Ubuntu 11.04, and software sources would automatically be updated to "lk" server. As soon as the installation was over, I tried to update the software sources, and by the 47%, so many links were shown as failed to reach, and it included links to security as well. Up until now, I am getting the same result. I still don't know why it is left as it is, even though I am connecting from a direct internet connection at home! Overall, I like working with Ubuntu 11.04. But if any Ubuntu developer is reading my opinion, please look into the issues I have mentioned above, and I hope you guys will be able to give solutions to them in the near future. Thanks.

taxista
taxista

I upgraded to Natty. Still has the audio buffering problems Maverick had. Other than that, I haven't really noticed any major changes except this old machine is a tad more zippy.

Kevin Robinson
Kevin Robinson

I've installed 11.04. Blast it! My computer is apparently just old enough, not enough RAM or who knows what...that upon 1st start after reboot, got the message my system couldn't handle unity, and it reset itself back to the familiar Gnome desktop. In 1 sense, is ok 4 me, coz I'm familiar with it,, but so wanted to try unity. I'm a beginner when it comes to Linux anyway, so not sure what my options are.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

It is becoming more and more clear to me that Mr. Shuttleworth is following the Gates/Balmer business plan, which may be a good business strategy, but is catastrophic for end users. 1. I am not interested in investing my time to learn a new interface. I have been using Ubuntu since 7.04. One of the great advantages of Ubuntu has always been that I do not have to sit down and relearn the interface after every upgrade. I am not interested in eye candy. I am interested in getting work done. I do not have a touch screen, so why do I need touch screen capabilities? 2. LibreOffice is an amazing improvement on OpenOffice. 3. Never had a problem with installing Ubuntu. Why change something that works? 4. The idea of trying an app before installing makes since- with this work with things like Salome or OpenFOAM or Blender? 5. Finding an appropriate app for my needs has very, very little to do with the opinion of the general public, and very seldom with the opinion of software reviewers. App-specific forums are where the real meat is. I will probably find an alternative distro if I ever find it necessary to give up Ubuntu 10.04, one of the best operating systems ever. But I am NOT going to follow Ubuntu down the Microsoft trail that leads to a bloated system not good for much of anything but downloading music or watching videos...

bill
bill

Sorry, double post. Drat this technology thingie.

bill
bill

I will have to take another look when I get some time. I just installed Ubuntu 11.xx on a machine because I needed something to host a LAMP app on until my server got straightened out. It looks interesting, but I haven't tried out many of the features you mentioned. Still running the Gnome desktop, didn't really try much of anything. EXCEPT. I ran into a a big-time problem trying to install F-Prot, a dynamite free anti-virus for Linux (about $30/year for however many Win computers you have in your home). I never was able to install it successfully. Does Ubuntu have virus protection built in? Maybe I should ==>read

adimauro
adimauro

I don't know if Ubuntu has changed in the last few releases, but I always had a heck of a time getting hardware to work with it, thanks to their policy of being so restrictive with non-open source drivers. My experience with Ubuntu was one where I tried unsuccessfully on 3 different computers to get wireless internet, among other things, working on any of them. I even bought a wireless card that was on a list of devices that work with Linux. But you had to go through so many hoops to get it to work with Ubuntu. Installed Linux Mint...worked right out of the box. On all 3 computers. Which is interesting it itself since it is built on top of Ubuntu. But, I've been 'Minty' ever since.

jkameleon
jkameleon

It turned out Netbeans 7.0 interferes with Unity desktop in a way that renders the whole thing pretty much useless. I don't know, whether to get rid of the whole thing, or wait until it gets fixed :(

mathan_gm
mathan_gm

I have Unity + Plasma Desktop + Elementary + Macbuntu gtk. Unity Launcher is cool

csherman739
csherman739

Had 10.10 installed. 11.04 installed by upgrade with no problems. Couldn't find the terminal. Didn't like grub2 that is so hard to change the default system. finally found a program that helped. All fine now. Still playing with the new toys.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

...you've only steered me wrong a couple of times :) I'll try it on my netbook. But I'm keeping my 10.10 install CD close!

jkameleon
jkameleon

Unity's top panel philosophy should be changed. Application menus as we know them are dissapearing. Windows Explorer has it hidden by default, Chrome/Chromium, IE9, Firefox for Windows have no menu at all. Menus in Microsoft Office morphed into ribbons. Yet, in Unity, application menu is one of the fundamental, unhideable desktop elements, top panel, that is.

TheodorosP
TheodorosP

I like Natty! The upgrade from Maverick was faultles (although quite long) and Unity seems to be great. I changed the settings of the launcher so it is always present (I found out it suits me better this way). The dash takes some time to get used to, but other than that, everything works fine. I would say that existing users should take some days and try Unity and they may be surprised how convenient it could be for them. I think new users will love it!

Jaqui
Jaqui

another 10 reasons to not touch that misbegotten collection of kludges. I have zero interest in the eye candy junk. and anything that has a "launcher" like macos is out of the question, it's an absolutely useless ui. add the theft of menus from app windows to some stupid location elsewhere, and you have a completely unusable desktop environment. ubuntu one, their version of the itunes store sorry, no more needs to be said does it? Digital RESTRICTIONS Management puts ubuntu one in VIOLATION of the anti-drm clauses of the GNU-GPL. could go through and rip apart each item, btu I'm sure you get the drift, ubuntu sucks and always will until they stop dumbing linux down to the point of unusability they have achieved.

jedwinkoontz
jedwinkoontz

Had a great deal of difficulty installing and using Ubuntu 11.04 updating from 10.10. Finally gave up and tried Kubuntu 11.04. Outsanding - easy for me to install and everything worked from the start forward. Network setup and Internet use was a breeze. Really nice product!

Kevin Robinson
Kevin Robinson

Why is that? After all the issues w/WIFI and previous releases, could this 1 little thing still be a problem? Grrrrr.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Go with Mint, it supports nVidia right out of the box.

taxista
taxista

Ok. After posting I tried out one of my favorite online stations using Banshee, and all appears well. Looks like I'll be saying goodbye to Rhythmbox. Buffering still sucks using mplayer off the command line though. Oh, and I don't like the new Gvim. The old version created HTML. The new version still has the create HTML under the syntax tag, but it only builds a header. It doesn't properly double break blank lines. Boo.

a.portman
a.portman

My Linux machines are built on older hardware. I tried Mint, and love it. Tried Peppermint and love it better still. It is running on a Dell D610 and does everything it needs to. I did install OpenOffice in conjunction with Peppermint's default of GoogleDocs as an office suite. If GoogleDocs wasn't from Google, I would swear it was some bright kid's high school project. It really isn't for prime time.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Just checking, before i dive ... does netbeans work if you stick with Gnome under natty?

phil.ferrar
phil.ferrar

I've seen some cr*p comments in the past {which don't normally get me going to the point of responding to their level} but this 'takes this biscuit' - NOTHING said here bears any resemblance to the truth - just ignore it and enjoy what is being offered for what it is.

izharaazmi
izharaazmi

Hey mate! I have never tried Mint. Can you please guide me whether I am going to miss something if I switch from Ubuntu? And preferably a download link to that as well, if possible.

izharaazmi
izharaazmi

Thanks mate, I am just gonna download that and give it a try. Will tell you if it works out. :-)

Slayer_
Slayer_

http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php On the page, I suggest the DVD version as it comes with more applications installed and ready to go. 32 bit or 64 bit is up to you. Will you miss anything? No Ubuntu Unity, but thats about it. And it looks more like Windows then it does like a Mac.