Playing with the Karmic Koala (UNR, Alpha 5)

Well I waited and waited but I finally decided to take the plunge and download the the current development version of Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR, 9.10, Alpha 5). So now after about a day of playing and tweaking with it what do I think so far?

Well first off I downloaded the torrent from the Ubuntu testing site. Once the download was over I used the 'USB Startup Disk Creator' to turn a 4GB USB key into a Live CD. After backing-up all the data on my Advent 4211 I inserted the USB key and rebooted. When the Advent welcome screen comes up you just hold F11 briefly then you are given the choice of where to boot from, in this case my USB key, then you are led to the options screen.

The Old:Ubuntu 9.04 UNR Jaunty Jackalope

Here you can test your USB key to make sure it is complete and not corrupted in any way. Then choose to install straight away or give a try in a Live CD environment, which means you get to use Ubuntu but it is running from the USB key, nothing is installed so your current system is safe. I choose the Live CD to see if it would even run. Hit a snag straight away as the computer just refused to boot. I tested everything and retried several times then it worked. No idea why, I did nothing but either way we got to the Live CD environment.

This new version of UNR has refreshed the look of UNR since 9.04. Gone is the places/folders sidebar on the right and now it is just a button on the left. The whole thing looks more polished, feel smoother and everything responds quicker. I continued with the install. This again is slightly better looking and more fluid. You are quickly through the process. As usual I manually partition my hard-drive and include a '/' (approx 10GB), 'swap' (approx 2GB) and '/home' (the remaining space) partitions. This means my home drive can survive from one fresh install to another (though I still ALWAYS back-up). Also you are given the option to encrypt your home folder during the installation process now. After all that I continued with the install.

Screenshot from Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Alpha 5, UNR

Ubuntu now has these information screens that tell you all about it's snazzy features as you wait for the installation process to complete. Being Ubuntu the install does not take long and you are soon rebooting into your brand new operating system.

Straight away you notice the changes, though each time it boots at the moment I always see lines of code, but we are still only in Alpha territory so hopefully this will be gone soon enough. The login screen has changed too, once past that I was staring at the Karmic Koala in all its glory. Though at the moment it is still a bit sick as there were about 350-400mb worth of updates to get. So I began that straight away to get the system as stable as possible.

After that was all done I moved onto installing all my favourite programmes and repos to get Karmic Koala feeling more familiar. A very good place to start with this is Eva's useful guide to Ubuntu 9.04, note that some of the repos referenced here are for Jaunty, but a quick google will find you the precise repos who need.

Screenshot from Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Alpha 5, UNR

Also for appearance I am a big fan of the Human O2 icon theme, the repos for this can be found by CLICKING HERE. I noted that the Ubuntu Human Theme was not installed as standard so had to select it in synaptic.

There have been bugs and programmes crashing since the install. Ubuntu now offers a very easy way to report these, a little box pops up, compiles the report, you have the option of sending a full or a short (for slower internet connections) then you press send! Firefox even opens up and brings you to Launchpad to complete the report process. You may find, like me, that these bugs have already been reported and fixes already on the way. I have found that which each set of updates that trickle down the system gets more stable. I have not had anything crash now for several hours. The best thing to note though is that I have only seen crashes in Alphas of Ubuntu, the final release versions are usually solid.

So all in all I am very pleased with this new install. The removal of the right hand bar means that your folders are now two clicks away instead of one, but that is something I can learn to live with. The look I think is better, it is much easier to see everything, everything feels smoother, more responsive and everything is working relatively well. The Alpha 6 I believe is due for release today, then followed by the Beta, then a Release Candidate and then the Final Release on October 29th.

Screenshot from Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Alpha 5, UNR

Which reminds me, look out for Ubuntu Release Parties in and around October 29th in your area. There will be other Ubuntu users giving out copies of the latest release and will be happy to help you out with any snags you may have. I went to my first in Dublin for the Jaunty Jackalope release, it was a great experience even though I turned out to be the only non-IT employed person there... effectively a civilian. Though much of what they talked about was above my head, I was the only person with a fully set-up UNR, so it became a popular attraction and a source of many questions. I will certainly be back for the October event. Details will be published here.

Right now I will go back to tweaking and messing with UNR Karmic Koala to see if I can break anything and let the very clever people at Launchpad know. By the looks of it though, they are on the right track. The Karmic Koala will certainly live up to its name.

Ubuntu, Linux for human beings.

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