Sunday, May 04, 2008

Upgraded to Hardy Heron

You know you need to upgrade your distro when you have to download .deb files or add lines to your sources.list, just to get installed...

So I finally decided to do the migration from Ubuntu 6.10 to 8.04 (see what I mean? almost a two year gap). My first stop was the Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) release page and the .torrent file listed there. Having downloaded and burnt the .iso to a disc, I was ready to go. I usually keep my /home in a separate partition, which leaves me free to migrate without losing my data or application settings. Installation was pretty fast as usual and it took me just under 20 minutes to get my system running again.

Here's a list of observations I made during fine tuning Hardy Heron to get things just the way I want...

Pro: Totem HAS arrived
In all my previous Ubuntu versions, I usually replaced this thing with Kaffeine. But this time the Totem team has finally delivered. It is intelligent to the point of knowing which codecs are missing and informing me about the 'freeness' of those and if 'I' give permission, downloading and installing them without a glitch (This of course is with the help of the base system. But Totem seems to be pretty well integrated to that). They have also improved Totem's buffering, which is awesome when it's time to view all my video podcasts.

So Gnome finally has a video player in par with KDE. If only Rhythmbox improved to the level of Amarok ....

Pro: Brasero replaces Gnome Toaster
Here's another area where KDE shines. Toaster was crap. Brasero looks a bit better than that. But nothing beats K3B yet. So the final result here is..

K3B > Brasero > Toaster

Pro & Con: Compiz vs. Workspaces
Ok. So I should have noticed this in my other laptop, which is running Gutsy for months now. But I never use that for my day-to-day work anymore. Apparently Compiz and Wrokspace Switcher are not in the same wavelength yet. The end result? you can't drag applications from one desktop to another using the Wrokspace Switcher applet in Gnome Panel. You have to use the Compiz way, which looks very cool, but might take a while getting used to in my case.

Tip: If your application window is 'maximized', you need to 'restore' the thing first to move it around :)

Con: Firefox 3
Firefox 3 is the default browser in Hardy Heron and if you like your Firefox extensions, stay away from it. When I launched Firefox, I was left with only 2 of my favorite extensions supported. Now, I know FF3 is faster and has a killer bookmark management system and all that. But I need my extensions and until they arrive at FF3, I'm staying away from that party.

I used Synaptic to remove FF3 and associated stuff and installed FF2. But this messed up my extension cache for some reason and I had to delete and install all my extensions from scratch.

The verdict? Ubuntu is still the most user friendly among all the distros I've used and it will continue to help spread the GNU/Linux operating system to the masses. The attention they give to the end user experience should be commended. Especially in Hardy Heron, they have taken this miles further with automated proprietary driver and codec hunting. The important thing I notice in this automation mechanism is the level of feedback they provide to the user. Instead of just downloading and installing proprietary stuff, the system gives the user enough information to make an informed 'choice'.

When it comes to GNU/Linux distributions, Ubuntu Hardy Heron is the Crème de la crème at this point in time.