Last weekend I decided to upgrade to Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail” after watching Nixie Pixel’s review of the release. The key part of the review that prompted me to upgrade was Nixie’s comments about how video works right out the box in Ringtail. The poor video handling has been a major bugbear of mine ever since I installed my first Ubuntu OS.
My main use of Ubuntu is to breath new life into machines that are considered “unworthy” by other operating systems. In the past video has been jumpy, out of sync, crash prone and even unplayable on these older boxes. Things seemed to be getting worse rather than better. I found that Ubuntu 12.10 didn’t even recognise my GeForce 6600 graphics card (it’s not that old, or unusual for heaven’s sake). It only took me a hour or so of digging around the forums etc. to get it up and running but I have worked in the IT industry for longer than I care to admit and if Canonical want to seriously challenge the major OS players, this is the type of issue they have to sort out.
It was fingers crossed then when Ringtail first booted up.
I was practically jumping for joy when the desktop was displayed with no dodgy offsets, a decent resolution and the system info told me that it had recognised my graphics card correctly.
My next step was to check out how well Ringtail did when playing video. Would Nixie’s comments only be relevant to newer faster PCs than mine?
All the YouTube videos I tried played without problem. No skipping, crashing and no audio sync problems! I think it may even handle YouTube videos better than Windows 7 running on a newer more powerful machine.
I gave up trying to watch DVDs and movies using Ubuntu long ago because they were just unwatchable. As a result my expectations were pretty low when I opened my first movie, but what the heck, things were already better than I had been expecting. I was pretty much blown away when the movie kicked into life and played as smooth as silk!
Whilst going through these tests I noticed that performance in general seemed to be somewhat better than previous releases.
Did this mean that my other major gripe, that the Software Centre essentially hangs my machine when it open, has been resolved.?
Yes! The Ubuntu Software Centre still takes 30 seconds or more to open (I do have a slow broadband connection), but this is much better than previous releasses. I generally went and made a cup of coffee while it opened. The really big news is that it doesn’t hang my machine while it opens so I can get on with other tasks while I’m waiting.
So is all now rosy with Ubuntu? Not quite yet.
Some common third party software packages like Dropbox disappears when you install the release. Yes, I know you get a warning during the upgrade process that this will happen, but if Canonical wants to lure away the average Windows home user, this is not conducive to that aim. Having said that, at least Dropbox now appears in the Software Centre.
There are web pages and videos that suggests the “top x things to do once you have updated Ubuntu”. These suggestions include the loading of additional drivers, software and changes to configuration settings. Most of suggestion pages are release specific, but some common themes crop up in most of the suggestions and across releases. The suggestions list I used was from Web Upd8.
There are generally good reasons why Canonical doesn’t include the additional drivers and software (e.g. to prevent bloating and to remain true to its open source principals) but perhaps they should consider including a package, as part of the installation, that would allow users to optionally instigate some of the more generic and popular suggestions.
There has been some criticism that Ringtail hasn’t got enough in it to attract new users. Let’s not forget though that both Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) and 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) are intermediate releases and perhaps Canonical has more up its sleeve for 14.04 the next LTR (Long Term Release) due sometime around April 2014.
I for one will be using my Ubuntu machine far more in the future as a result of Ringtail and this post is evidence of that. I am writing it using Ubuntu whereas I would have normally written it on my Windows machine.