10.10.10 - The Rise of the Maverick Meerkat

Today marks the release of the latest evolution of the Ubuntu operating system, 10.10 The Maverick Meerkat. Over the summer I have given the Meerkat a few test drives as it developed through the alpha, beta and release candidate stages. Usually I would have jumped in during the beta testing and stuck with it until the final release, but circumstances this year meant I was not in front of a computer much this year, so I only got a few samplings. However I am back on the block and have been running the release candidates of both the desktop and netbook versions for over a week now and can say they are stable and worth considering upgrading to if you are running the 10.04LTS.

Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop Ubuntu 10.10 

Cautious Beginnings 

Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition 10.10 UNE Desktop - other then the background not a whole lot more you can do 

Be warned though, the netbook edition has seen some major revisions compared to the last version. Overall I would say that it is a positive step forward, but there are a few things that are not sitting well with me. The first is that it feels much more sluggish compared to previous versions of the netbook edition. The second is that the new left hand side bar (the non-dock) is not very intuitive to use. There is a steep learning curve as it does not really compare to anything else out there. At times this make it frustrating to use, but stick with it, figure out how to get the applications you like stuck on it and then you will start to see that it is not so bad. 

Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition The 'non-dock' can be the home for various apps but not links to folders/files other then a link to your 'home folder'

However it is a permanent feature with no way to hide it, so you end up losing about 10% of your screens horizontal space to this. In use this means you have to scroll left and right in applications and websites you normally would not have to. Also there is virtually no customisation in the netbook edition, what you see is what you get. In 10.04 there were ways to tweak the code to allow you to have a more personal experience. This is gone. Even changing the default themes yields little changes, which is disappointing for me. I do not think such a 'dark' look is the best look, I might spend several hours in lectures looking at this and I much prefer the lighter radiance theme at a minimum as it is softer on the eyes, but changing to this has no effect on the left 'non-dock' and top panel. So far I am unaware of any tweaks to get around this. 

Its Not All Bad 

Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop The 10.10 Desktop, the flames are from the 'burn' effect in compiz

Okay, I have been focusing on what I do not like, but that is it. Everything else is pretty good with some very nice refinements. The desktop edition looks largely the same at first glance with most of the updates being behind the scenes. What you will notice is the sound menu has some cool new features which I really like. For instance, clicking on it will now show your music player and allow you to control your tracks. This is an effort to clean up the system tray area, again something I approve of. Once we see apps like Skype incorporated into the sound menu, then maybe the network indicator next? There is an excellent mockup here showing the possibilities with networks, update manager and your web browser all merged into this area. 

Ubuntu 10.10 Sound Menu 
The new sound menu 

Bringing it to Life 

The installation process has also been streamlined, now as you input your details and set your preferences the install process is working away in the background. Once you are finished you are met with a new slideshow with all the highlights of Meerkat. As now the norm I do a fresh install and highly recommend this as the best way to go. Also as per usual I partition my HDD using the Ubuntu install tool along the following lines: 

Root partition - with at least 10GB (format)
Swap partition - approx 10% of RAM
Home partition - the rest of my HDD (I do not format)

Now some users will keep going with partitions for backups, media and so on. Personally, I keep all my music on an external HDD and my backups on another separate HDD. While keeping your 'home' as a separate partition ensures that if (when?) something goes wrong there is a very good chance your files are safe and when doing a fresh install, simply going through the process above and making sure you DO NOT format the 'home' means you are virtually back to your original desktop. The above are just my recommendations and what I always do. 

Some Final Thoughts 

Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition UNE 10.10, A glimpse at the future?

While the desktop version of 10.10 seems low in the number of obvious improvements it would seem the ground is being laid for bigger things ahead. The is just the start of the next evolutionary cycle, with the Long Term Release only coming out in April this year, and the next not due until approx April 2012, we have a long way to go with testing out and introducing new features. Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal is due for release next April and it will not be until the next Ubuntu developers summit until we get a real clear indication of what that is going to throw up at us. However, I have a feeling that the new features on the Netbook Edition might be our first glimpse of a possible tablet version of Ubuntu, there have been conflicting reports officially, but it would not take a huge leap to take us to that next stage. A Ubuntu Tablet Edition (UTE) maybe? We were only shown the new Unity interface for the netbook after the release of 10.04, so you never know what those guys and gals in Canonical are thinking up. 

But I could be, and probably am, completely wrong...but we can hope.

So if you are brave enough to live on the cutting (bleeding?) edge of technology then give bring home a Maverick Meerkat today, its different, but you will learn to love it. 


Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop
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