As you all know I have been using Linux for a long, long time. I have installed countless distributions: Some of them have seen long-term use, while some of them have been nothing more than a flash in the pan. Ubuntu is one of those that has come and gone for me. I have used it on many occasions, been generally impressed with its offerings, but ultimately gone back to another distribution for one reason or another.

I have seen, over the last few Ubuntu releases, a serious decline in performance. Starting somewhere around 7.04, each successive release grew progressively more and more sluggish. From boot times to application start up times, Ubuntu seemed to be coming to a slow painful crawl. With 9.04 Ubuntu has made a complete turnaround.

My litmus test for a distribution is an aging, quirky laptop that suffers from the old Via Chrome video chipset. On a rare occasion, a distribution will install, but generally speaking when it finally does, it’s sluggish and seems like any minute it will crap out on me. So when I burned an ISO of the x86 version of Jaunty Jakalope, I assumed it would go the same way all Ubuntu installations have gone on this laptop: I would attempt to boot the live CD only to have it stop on a small, .5″ X 1″ white line squiqqly square in the middle of a black screen and go no further. But Jaunty continued on as if this outcast laptop was a high-end machine ready to crunch serious numbers. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Could this release actually install and run?

It did. And it did it well. And all of the claims Mark Shuttleworth has made about 9.04 are real. It’s faster than any distribution I’ve seen. It’s more stable than any other Ubuntu release to date. Everything is exactly where you would think it SHOULD be. And it all works perfectly, seamlessly, beautifully.

This aging laptop, with its VIA C7-M processor, seems infinitely faster than it did with the last distribution I had installed (Mandriva Spring 2008). It also seems much more stable. GNOME 2.26.1 will seriously impress even the biggest KDE fans.

I could go on and on listing the various bits and pieces of this release. I could go all tech on you and tell you which libraries are installed and which kernel Ubuntu uses. But for Jaunty Jakalope, all of that takes a back seat to the fact that we are looking at quite possibly the first Linux distribution that could, if given the fair shake it deserves, dismount Windows as the king.

Whatever Mark Shuttleworth did to get the 9.04 development team to bring Ubuntu back to the front of the line was a stroke of genius.

Ubuntu, you have officially “wowed” me.

Now, it’s time you wow the general public. Right? You have what could easily stand as the most significant and improved release of any Linux distribution available. It’s time to make the fat lady over at Microsoft sing. Before the official release of Windows 7 is out and overshadows you with glitz, glamour, and shiny shrink-wrapped packaging, you must do something with yourself. Put on a beautiful prom dress and show the crowd that you really deserve to be prom queen. If you don’t, this brilliant release will not see the widespread installation it should.