Ubuntu Linux, probably the world’s most popular Linux distribution, has now been upgraded to the 12.10 version just days before Windows 8 is officially going to be unveiled. Microsoft has, of course, put in a lot into the new operating system and it’s even offering a low upgrade price for existing Windows 7 users. A whole bunch of new features are expected, including the tiled interface that was till late, called Metro. Desktop users might find the UI distracting and even painful to use. So obviously when Ubuntu 12.10 – lovingly called Quantal Quetzal – was to be launched, Linux welcomed users with a “Avoid the pain of Windows 8” slogan. Let’s now look at what this old OS has transformed into after several years of development and if it is indeed ready to take on Windows 8.
The Linux equivalent to Windows' Control Panel
The typical Linux installation has always been considered to be complicated and something always seems to go wrong when it comes to altering partitions and so on. Fortunately, Ubuntu Linux tries to simplify things a lot. In fact, if you want, you can even install Ubuntu on an existing Windows file partition without having to delete a single file or partition using a tool called WUBI. It creates a folder in your drive and gives you an option to boot between it and your existing Windows installation. Installation takes no more than 15 to 20 minutes.
Design and user interface
The user interface on Ubuntu Linux is now powered by Unity. It makes accessing software and files much easier than what you would get using a standard Gnome interface. A simple press of the Windows key on the keyboard and you can type the application name. Of course, this opinion differs from one person to another and many users prefer the older user interface. If you don’t like Unity, you can always switch one of the many free window manager software.
The key differences between the old and new version include bug fixes and patches for existing packages found in Ubuntu 12.04. A new kernel, version 3.5.0-17, is also in use with the new operating system. You get all the standard applications though, unlike Windows. You get Firefox as your default browser along with a complete office suite, LibreOffice. There’s also Thunderbird for e-mail and some other utilities for instant messaging and even a BitTorrent client. Media players are included but some of the codecs aren’t bundled along, so you’ll have to download those separately at some point in time. Everything is surprisingly set up well for use from the moment you install it.
A quick way to access apps, documents and the rest
For those Windows users who are new to Ubuntu, there’s a vertical left pane that houses the most basic and most used applications, which can be customised to your liking. The list of running applications also show up there. The top bar changes depending on the active application and looks like any other operating system.
Application installation and updating of packages is done using the Ubuntu Software Center. As a layman trying to install software, this is a good place to find interesting software to try out on Ubuntu. At the same time, you’ll find softwares such as Google Chrome missing from it. Unlike the old days, you won’t have to type a few commands to install softwares. Double clicking a downloaded Debian/Ubuntu package will load the Software Center and help you install it. Updating happens all the time and you’ll find packages getting updated as days go by.
The Software Center in Ubuntu, place for all software!
One of the unique features you get with Ubuntu of late is a service called Ubuntu One, which is basically a cloud-based data storage. It’s well-integrated into the operating system, so you can quickly dump data into the cloud using a file manager. Free users can get up to 5GB of space. Music streaming can be enabled along with 20GB of space for $3.99 a month as well. There are even apps for iOS, Android and the Windows operating system.
Drivers for those who’ve stayed away from the OS is no longer a problem. Everything goes on smoothly, although for some high-end graphics cards, the option to download third-party drivers is available. When it comes to performance, it’s all good as long as you have a minimum of 2GB of RAM on your system.
Not a lot different to look at, when you compare it to 12.04
There’s no sluggish windows or low performance, although you’ll find the look of the OS to be a little different. Fonts and pages render a little differently because of the font look.
Ubuntu - a good introduction to the world of Linux, if you haven't seen it
For those who haven’t used Linux, we suggest trying this out. The operating system is free and is available for download from Ubuntu.com. For those who’ve already been on Ubuntu, you’ll notice close to no changes. It looks and feels almost identical to 12.04. You’ll be able to update to the latest version. A good distribution to try out if you haven’t yet tried Linux; we recommend using the WUBI method to install.
Updated 18 May, 2013, 5:40 pm IST
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