I just installed Ubuntu 6.10 – “Edgy Eft” today. First impressions are good – it looks nice, and it’s very fast, particularly the boot-up process. I haven’t had a chance to check out any of the new features yet, like IceWeasel 2.0. There were a few issues with the installation – most critically the wireless card support. I’ve been using a Belkin USB wireless adapter via ndiswrapper with no problems since Breezy. Edgy detected it, for the first time, and loaded the rt73usb driver… which didn’t work properly. I blacklisted the module and opted for my trusty ndiswrapper instead – but Edgy packaged a very outdated version 1.1, which didn’t work either. This was nearly a show-stopper, since I depend on a wireless network as my only internet gateway, but luckily I had my ndiswrapper 1.8 source backed up on my /home partition and was able to get online with that.
The beardiest of Linux snobs sometimes sneer at Ubuntu, because it is not hardcore enough. It is pretty and graphical and far too easy to use, with tutorials on how to spell your name. As a Ubuntu user since Warty, I have always hated this kind of attitude… but for the first time I am starting to see where it comes from. The greatest strength of Linux in general is the ability to see exactly whats going on – and if you dont like it you can change it. Tragically, this refreshing verbosity is what keeps the average computer user at barge-pole distance. In an admirable effort to make Linux more accessible, Ubuntu made a compromise. Thanks to Dapper (with Long Term Support, an easy Live CD install, and programs like Automatix and EasyLinux which magically do all the work for you), for the first time, Linux was a genuine option as a desktop OS – I’m surprised that there wasn’t a bigger take-up among art students and the like, or enterprising refurbished-computer dealers who wanted to save on the cost of an operating system. But there’s a thin line between making the system more user-friendly, and unnecessarily dumbing-down the distro. The first thing I noticed upon booting up my Edgy system was the fact that there is no feedback, no step-by-step progress that we’re so used to seeing. I’m sure its easy to enable this again, but thats beside the point. I really don’t see any advantage to removing the diagnostics, but there are a number of obvious disadvantages, and this does not bode well.
When Dapper came out four months ago, I spent days (literally) on dial-up downloading the standard installation CD. What a sickener it was when it woudln’t work on my system. I was gutted to see that there was no means to fail over to a text-based intallation without downloading another 700mb alternate install. I got stung again this time around, but lucky I’m no longer a narrowbander. I had to download Edgy Eft three times – the first one failed its checksum, and the second time I accidentally got the standard live CD again. In my opinion, the Live CD should be the alternative version. I fear for Fiddly Ferret, or Gawky Gazelle or whatever is coming next.
A minor annoyance – the bog version of vi is back again, but “apt-get install vim-full” puts it back in its cage quickly enough.