Testing out Linux's finest on a laptop
|Ubuntu has always been the most popular|
Ubuntu 12.10 is positioning itself as a real, bona fide mainstream OS – challenging the likes of Windows 8 and OS X. How does it measure up? Here's the review.
|The Ubuntu main screen is clear and confident - something that Linux|
distribution marketing has lacked
The customer-facing front page of Ubuntu suggests that change is in the air. Boldly displaying a Lenovo laptop happily running Ubuntu 12.10 – browsing the internet in Mozilla Firefox, no less – Ubuntu seems to be pushing the idea that it's ready for the big time. Beneath the proud banner lie adverts for businesses to adopt OpenStack, and a tiny note that 20 million – yes, 20 million – people use Ubuntu in the place of commercial alternatives. Ubuntu has never been so bold to suggest it could – and should – displace more mainstream operating systems. Does it have any right to that?
|Ubuntu's UI is tastefully unified thanks to Unity, but the adverts are|
intrusive, unwanted and annoying
Look and feelUbuntu has never been a ragtag affair. For ages it's been the sensible starting point for anyone jumping off the tech platform in to the beautiful Open-Source sea of Linux. In Ubuntu 12.10, this is only further refined.
User interface components have a sense of unity thanks to a software development platform known as, well, Unity. It means that desktop and notebook users of Ubuntu get the same kind of experience, which is a step in the direction taken by other commercial operating systems of recent.
I've been using Ubuntu 12.10 on my laptop for a few days now, and it feels nicely purpose-built for the mobile environment. Things are snappy – it hasn't broken yet, and the usual boxes are ticked (which is more than can be said for Windows Vista). Menus seem to make more sense than they did in earlier versions of Ubuntu, and the overall flow of presentation of information is more logical.
So what about the feel? If I were to criticise, which as a critic I guess I must, I would say that the platform feels a little ... immature at present. For example, there's a lovely search functionality tucked away in to the Dash Home Lens, which rifles through your indexed files and hunts down your term on a neatly categorised modal window. But, for some reason, Ubuntu's design team have seen fit to include mandatory search results from Amazon and the Ubuntu music store along with it – and that's unpleasantly invasive.
Sure, I pay for my commercial OSes, and sure, I expect ads on things that are free, but having paid stuff crop up among my personal data is just a little too close for comfort. It's ... crude. It seems like a bad decision on the way to a good one – but we're just not there, yet.
Applications, installing and security
Of course, there's a good range of apps. There's WINE, too, if you want to have a play with Windows programs. There are alterations of WINE for specific tasks, too – I've used PlayOnLinux to have a bash through Half Life 2 without too many problems. And, of course, there's the promise that Valve are going to be focusing a lot of their efforts on Linux, which means
ConclusionsIs this a totally new world for Linux? Yes. Is it going to take the world by storm? No. Here's why.
With Ubuntu 12.10, Linux has grown up and learned to do its own marketing. It's snappy, it's tasteful, and it's aggressively attacking ground in which competitors' customers lie. That's good. But it won't succeed, not yet.
Because in order for people to believe anything free can be good – anything at all – it has to be really good. As in, a better package than something you'd pay for. And Ubuntu 12.10 is good – but it's not that. Not yet.
Do you want to try Ubuntu 12.10 yourself? Then, why not order a disk with it from the site buylinuxcds.co.uk?
Joanna Stevenson studied mechanical engineering in London, and currently works for an energy research and consulting firm. She enjoys writing tech and business articles in her free time. She aspires to be an intrepid tech and gaming enthusiast with the exploratory spirit and witty prose of her favourite author of Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island for the tech world.