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I have always felt it necessary to admit when I make a mistake, and my first impressions of the Ubuntu 10.10 beta – the one where I stated that I was “not impressed” with the release – is definitely one of those situations. In this review, I had installed the beta version of the 10.10 release of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, and had stated that it didn’t seem innovative or fresh in comparison to the previous 10.04 release.

Today, however, marked the official release date of Ubuntu 10.10 (codenamed Maverick Meerkat), and with that a much more polished product. With this release, I downloaded and burned the distribution ISO and decided to do an install on my laptop.

While I typically use the “alternative” text-based installation, I decided to use the graphical install this time simply because I had heard that it was much more polished and user-friendly. In doing so, I found it to be much more intuitive and easy to use than previous versions of the graphical installer. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the setup process allowed the user to configure their settings (demographics, login information, etc) after the partitioning process and while the base system was installing. This could very well be seen as a time saver and shows the efficiency behind the installation process.

Another thing that I found to be really convenient; especially for users new to Linux, was the fact that the graphical Ubuntu installer offered to make “restricted” (non-open source) software available, and to install necessary day-to-day media codecs. To me, this shows that Ubuntu is heading in the right direction in the sense that it is making it that much easier for newcomers to migrate themselves over.

For those of you who have yet to try Maverick, I can attest to the fact that it has a very clean feel to it.  While this has nothing to do with the actual performance and usability of the operating system, I feel that the visual aspect of the operating system is definitely of significance.  Below is a screenshot of the installation on my laptop.  The only things that are non-standard in this screenshot are my shortcut buttons at the top and my wallpaper; both aspects that were migrated over from my previous installation.

Because I chose to retain my existing /home partition, all of my files and settings were awaiting me upon my first login. After installing a few software packages (Chromium, screen-shot tools, etc), I was up and running.

As in my last review, I was impressed with the new Ubuntu Software Center. This time, however, I was glad to see the implementation of a “Canonical Partners” section in the center. By allowing companies such as Adobe to distribute software through the easy-to-use Software Center, I am confident that people will be more willing to try the operating system.

Another new aspect that I am intrigued to see in the Software Center is the “For Purchase” software. While there’s only one product available in the paid section at the time of writing (“Fluendo DVD Player”, $24.95 USD), there is no doubt in my mind that software vendors (especially ones with existing Linux versions of their products) will gradually begin to make their products available for purchase through the built-in software distribution system.

While I was excited about the implementation of Shotwell Photo Manager when I wrote my previous review of the 10.10 beta, one thing stopped me from being able to give a strong opinion of it; a supply of photos. But now that I’m running 10.10 as my main operating system (not through a virtual machine), I was able to play around with Shotwell. As someone who has used previous photo managers in the past (Picassa under Windows), I have always come out disappointed. However, the simple yet powerful interface to Shotwell makes it a winner in my book.

After importing my photos, I was able to view my photos, which were all based on “events” (and tags, had my collection been tagged).  However, because the events are organized by dates, some of my photos were out of sequence because I had taken pictures without properly setting the date and time on my camera.  While I initially  found this to be a bummer, I was thrilled to discover that Shotwell has the ability to make changes to the timestamps as well. This, combined with the light-weight enhancement, cropping, and red-eye tools, makes Shotwell a great alternative to simply browsing countless folders, because it is a photo manager, not simply  a photo viewer.

Lastly, I fired up the Rythmbox music player to see how well it worked. And as with the rest of my experience today, I was thoroughly impressed with it. While there weren’t any significant changes to this package, I found that it had better implemented with the volume management tool in order to make the controls readily available to the end-user, even when the application was closed. While this isn’t exactly a life-or-death feature, it does illustrate the supreme interaction between applications that can only be witnessed in an open-source environment.

Now, in my last post, I was not able to feel the difference in performance because of the fact that I was testing the operating system in a virtual machine. However, with a full-blown non-virtual installation, Maverick seems to be much snappier than previous versions of the Ubuntu operating system. While I don’t have any method of testing this difference in performance, I can definitely state based on a couple of hours of use that the difference is indeed there. This illustrates a point that a commenter in my previous post had when they said that a virtual installation “does not do it justice.”

All in all, I am pleasantly surprised to find that Maverick is much better than I had originally assessed it as, and that the various innovations in the operating system seem to be moving the project forward. One thing that I am definitely going to be interested in seeing is how Ubuntu’s new application review process works with paid and partner software distributed through the Ubuntu Software Center. And, at the end of the day, while I had originally planned on simply installing Maverick on my laptop for the purposes of writing this article, I have found the update to be worth installing on my desktop. And most importantly, I have learned a valuable lesson; first impressions don’t have to be lasting impressions.

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