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Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex): Very Impressive!

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I've been using Ubuntu on a daily basis since its 7.04 ("Feisty Fawn") release (having migrated there after so many years of Windows that I didn't know the meaning of the term "operating system", which is the first sign of a Windows user) and have generally been quite happy with it. However, my initial enthusiasm decreased at some stage, in particular with the Hardy Heron release. That may either have been because of Hardy Heron itself or because of other reasons unrelated to Ubuntu, it's hard to tell. The most significant problems that I've had consistently are as follows:

  • Dual monitor nightmares. There were even three separate occasions where my laptop became completely unusable and I was forced to use someone else's laptop for the presentation I was doing at the time. The worst thing about dual monitor problems is that they tend to happen in full view of your audience (i.e., you're setting up your laptop, normally about 10 minutes before the presentation begins, while the room is starting to fill up with your audience-to-be, which is pretty terrible if you're struggling to set up your environment and, especially, if you have to give up completely and then find yourself doing a presentation on someone else's laptop, arranged at the very last minute, causing delays and a flustered presenter, etc.) And it wasn't just me. In the space of about one week I saw two others with exactly the issues that I had. I seriously began to suspect that Ubuntu detects whether a projector cable is plugged in and then throws a horrible exception just to toy with your fragile sanity right before a presentation. This problem, all on its own, is enough for me to give up on Ubuntu completely, since I need to do presentations now and then, at least enough for this problem to have a serious impact on my work.

  • Wireless problems. Not in the beginning, but as time went by it became more difficult to rely on the wireless support provided by Hardy Heron. Though, again, that could have been for other reasons. But the tools increasingly gave up on me and I was forced to use cable connections, which were not always available, which was pretty frustrating at some points where I most needed to be on-line.

  • Sluggish FireFox 3.0. The long awaited FireFox 3.0 was extremely sluggish on Hardy Heron. (Google for "Ubuntu slow FireFox 3.0" and see for yourself.) Everything related to FireFox 3.0 was pretty poor on Hardy Heron and I would have dropped FireFox 3.0 completely, had it not been for the fact that I needed to familiarize myself with the draggable applet support in JDK 6 Update 10, which is only supported by FireFox 3.0 (and Internet Explorer, but I don't want draggable applets that much...).

  • Suspend support. I always looked enviously at Mac users in the queue at airports who'd calmly whip out their Mac, press a single key, and immediately have their system available to them. That had never been the case for me. I've found that whole experience quite terrible on Ubuntu. Either the related functionality was hard to find or it worked unreliably and the whole system died instead of suspending.

  • Mac-like effects. Beryl and other special effects never worked for me on Ubuntu. Within an hour or two, an ugly black bar appeared that refused to go away until I disabled Beryl. Similar stuff just didn't work or caused performance problems. I never wanted those effects badly enough to simply accept the performance hit, so I never enabled them again after the moment that I disabled them.

Now... the above is all old news. The new news is that... with Ubuntu 8.10 I do not have even one of the above problems. I don't even have the smallest problem that even resembles any of the above issues. Of course, Ubuntu 8.10 has only been released a week or so ago, and so time will tell what will remain of all the current amazingness, but (for the moment and knock on wood) all things are perfect. What was especially gratifying was that at presentations I delivered over the last two days... the dual monitor set up took LITERALLY two minutes! And not just once (which could have been a fluke). I had to hook up to a second monitor multiple times and each time there wasn't even a hint of a problem.

Good job, Ubuntu. This ibex is indeed intrepid.

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