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Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala



Howdy..! At last, I was lucky enough to receive my copy of the latest Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, from Canonical. I was silent over past few days because severe lightning ruined my laptop's power adapter. :( My laptop runs without a battery, and it's only power source is the AC adapter. However, I managed to make it work somehow, and at this time, things are bit OK.

Mmm... Ubuntu..! It looks like that Canonical has bit changed their usual way of shipping policies. In earlier releases, they shipped big amounts of installation media. Later, they limited. But now, if you has received the earlier version (9.04) via shipit service, they won't ship the latest version. They would deny the request, and ask you to update the existing version instead. :(




At glance, the new Ubuntu is OK and friendlier than previous version. Here, I discuss few things I have specially noticed. Some of them are really good, but few things are not.

GRUB2 (Beta)
The bootloader used in earlier versions of Ubuntu is GRUB. But now it has been replaced by GRUB2 which is still in beta. GRUB2 provides more sophisticated graphical interface than GRUB Legacy. When booting, stage 1.5 is no longer used. Also, GRUB configuration is stored in a file named grub.cfg, rather than menu.lst. Configuration file syntax has become changed, and more advanced  than legacy.

But, a one serious draw back with GRUB2 that I have noticed is, it no longer supports bootloader password. In my point of view, this is a huge disadvantage since any idiot can adjust kernel parameters in order to gain root access very easily. So what I did is, soon after installing Ubuntu, switched back to GRUB Legacy. If you wish to do that, use the following command:

$ sudo apt-get install grub
$ sudo grub

Then overwrite the bootloader as specified in this article. Follow the same procedure for your hard drive.

GRUB Legacy works with Ubuntu 9.10 very well, no issues at all. :-)

In distros like Debian, the user is asked to chose the bootloader (whether GRUB, LILO or GRUB2) during installation. But Ubuntu does not. It asks only for the location where bootloader should install. But according to my views, when distributing beta software as a default package for some appliance, the older (stable) version should be kept aside as an option to let the user decide what to install. Because beta software might sometimes dissatisfy the user.

Encrypted Home Folder
This is actually an option provided by ubiquity, the Ubuntu installer. When you set up your user account during installation, you can either choose to require password to login, or require password to login and decrypt home folder, or automatically login. But, the second option seems like a troublemaker since it makes problems with login if you change your password later.

Just see for yourself. ;-)

New Appearance
New dark splash and login screens feel better than earlier ones, Boot time also seems reduced than 9.04. Console font has also become more readable and because of that, console screen has made more roomy.

Default human theme has also modified to become more darker than the earlier... ;-) However, personally I would prefer the earlier one than that.

Like in 9.04, in this release also Ctrl+Alt+Backspace key sequence is disabled. This is not so good since if your desktop freezes, you might need to restart your computer. If this key sequence has been enabled, you can just restart the current X session (without having to reboot) in a such situation. If you want to re-enable it, just go to System --> Preferences --> Keyboard, and then follow the screenshot below.


Click to zoom

However, in Linux, freezing is not an often thing. :-)

New Wallpapers Collection
New wallpapers collection is really a thing to mention because rather than greenish one or two wallpapers that earlier releases had, the new aesthetically pleasing wallpaper set attracts the user... like Windows Vista did. :P

Audio Volume Increasable up to 150%
The worst problem I ever had with Ubuntu audio is, it does not produce enough sound. I was looking for a solution browsing through various forums and blogs, but had no luck. Finally I decided to use SMPlayer since it provides capability to increase audio volume up to more than 100%.

But now, in new Ubuntu 9.10, it provides a very convenient graphical way to increase audio volume up to 150%. For me this is really a great thing since I'm a huge fan of music. However, if you increase volume level than 100%, changes are not persistent. At next reboot, it will again drop to 100%. :(


Click to zoom

Also, Karmic Koala provides a more comprehensible interface for audio configuration. But older configuration interface is also still available through the command line. Just run alsamixer on command line and see.

iBus Input Method Framework
Since I use two languages, it is often needed to switch between those input methods. So, an input method provider is a must. Earlier it was SCIM, and now it has been replaced by iBus which provides a more user friendly configuration interface, and smoother operation. I really like the new iBus. :-)



UbuntuOne
UbuntuOne is an online file hosting service based on cloud computing technology. It is offered by Canonical and they provide 2 GB of space for free of charge, and it cloud can be upgraded to 50 GB for $10 per month. The service is still in public beta.

More information is available here.

Firefox 3.5 as Web Browser
Although Firefox 3.5 was released before Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty, they distributed the older version. But, in Ubuntu 9.10 the web browser is Firefox 3.5.3.

Empathy as the Default IM Client
A significant change is that they have replaced the default IM client by Empathy. Earlier it was Pidgin. Unlike Pidgin, Empathy supports audio and visual communication.

Screensavers
The number of screensavers has been reduced, and my favourite screensaver Skyrocket is also missing. :-(

In the screensavers dialog box, screen saver preview area had some issues with compiz fusion, but now that seems fixed.





Overall, I feel that Ubuntu has become more and more like Windows than ever it was. And it no longer looks like a g33k's operating system. In my laptop, Karmic Koala works really faster than Jaunty Jackalope. And also compiz fusion works with no issues. However, most users like it. :-)

So, why waiting? Get it..!

(Till I get my laptop fixed, ciao......!!!)

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Ambalangoda, Southern Province, Sri Lanka
Shaakunthala works as a Systems Support Engineer at a World's leading IT solutions company. A wannabe hacker, FOSS enthusiast, cat lover and an insane motorcyclist. And he comes from Sri Lanka!! :)

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