November 1, 2005
This article was first published in : the November issue of Linux For You.
Warty Warthog, Hoary Hedgehog, and now Breezy Badger! The Ubuntu Foundation’s eccentric naming system may not be the most intelligible, but the distribution has garnered worldwide recognition and respect in the short time that it’s been around. The latest version, Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger, was released on October 12, in keeping with the six monthly release policy.
I downloaded the ISO image via the bittorrent protocol on the 13th of October, and got down to using it. I have used Ubuntu on one machine or another since the first release, and it has never failed to impress me. This does not, however, mean that this review will be biased. Breezy has to live to the legacy of past Ubuntu releases, and that is never an easy thing to do.
Ubuntu 5.10 has a long list of new stuff, some of which is :
- GNOME 2.12.1
- OpenOffice.org 2.0 beta 2
- X.org 6.8.2 with wider hardware support
- An enhanced tool for easily installing new applications
- A new tool which makes it easy to install support for multiple languages (Language Selector)
- Editable GNOME menus
- Applications are now linked into the Launchpad infrastructure (
- Support for writing audio CDs (Serpentine)
- Graphical startup process with progress bar (USplash)
- New documentation (Ubuntu 5.10 Quick Tour and Ubuntu 5.10 FAQ Guide)
- Language packs with updates from the Rosetta translation platform, part of Launchpad.net, which makes contributing translations easy for everybody in any language.
This is just on the Desktop. Breezy also has many new features that make it suitable for servers and especially for Thin Client integration.
The single CD download took about 6 hours on my broadband connection. If you don’t have a fast internet connection, you can submit a request to get a CD shipped to you free of cost. It’ll take about a month, but you’ll get a professionally mastered CD in a nice case. I’ve requested CD’s before, and have always received them. I installed it on my desktop, which has the following specifications:
- AMD AthlonXP 2400
- 1 GB DDR-RAM
- GeForce 6800 GT
- Various SATA and IDE hard drives, for a total of 500 GB of disk space
- NEC ND-3500 DVD-Writer
- IBM p275 21″ CRT Monitor
I also installed Breezy on my laptop, an IBM T43.
The installation procedure is very similar to previous Ubuntu versions. I did notice that the password is now shown on screen with asterisk’s. Earlier versions of Ubuntu did not show any feedback when you typed in the password. This is a small, but welcome change.
After the copying of files concluded, Breezy rebooted. There’s a new splash screen, ala Suse and Fedora Core, which hides the usual scrolling text. Again, a small but welcome addition, especially for new users, who often get intimidated by the lines and lines of boot up text. Another addition to the installation procedure is a progress bar that lets you know how much of the install is left. Older versions had hundreds of lines of text scrolling by, and you could never tell how much time was left.
Installation took about 18 minutes on my machine, which is pretty fast. I was interested to see whether Breezy set up my video card and monitor correctly, considering that both are rather high-end. Breezy managed to set up my preferred resolution of 1600×1200, but the refresh rate defaulted to 60 Hz. I had to manually edit the xorg.conf file to get the refresh rate up to 85 Hz. The 3D accelerated drivers for the video card were also not installed by default. 2D mode worked fine, though. This has been the case with every version of Ubuntu till date, so I wasn’t very surprised.
After the installation finished, I logged in. The first thing I noticed was the fast response. I ran Hoary, the previous release, on the exact same hardware for a long time, and Breezy feels much faster. Right from logging in to running applications, everything just felt “faster”. OpenOffice Writer on a fresh restart opened in 10 seconds! Firefox took 5 seconds. In fact, I felt like I had got a whole new computer. This is of course a subjective test, but I noticed a distinct difference.
The standard Ubuntu desktop for Breezy is GNOME 2.12. If you are a KDE fan, you can install Kubuntu, which is Ubuntu with KDE. This is also a free download from www.ubuntu.com. You can also install it after you install Breezy.
The desktop is still the same, albeit with a new wallpaper. The Ubuntu Human theme, which basically means “brown everywhere” is the default. I personally change the theme as fast as possible, but it is definitely different from the predominantly green and blue themes of other OS’s.
My Windows partitions were displayed on the desktop, but double clicking on them elicited only a curt “Permission Denied” message. I had to manually edit the /etc/fstab file to get them working. This was a black mark against Breezy, since new users would have no idea what to do in such a situation. The developers should look into this.
The Ubuntu Update manager showed me 5 updated packages. Keep in mind that this is one day after the release of Breezy. This gives you an idea of the pace of development and maintenance. Installing updates is a simple one-click process.
The default set of applications includes Firefox, Evolution, OpenOffice 2, Gaim, a BitTorrent client, Gnomemeeting, the GIMP, and a number of other applications. Most people will find that this set of applications takes care of all their needs, and since Ubuntu is based on Debian, installing new applications is a piece of cake.
Ubuntu includes two GUI package management tools, Synaptic and Gnome App Install. Synaptic is the more comprehensive of the two, and also the more complicated. It is easy enough to use, but first time users may prefer Gnome App Install. It provides a list of available applications arranged in a menu. This is vaguely reminiscent of Add Remove programs in Windows XP, and is easier to user. All applications are not included, but most of the major ones are, and if you need something more, there’s always Synaptic. The command line fans will be pleased to know that apt-get works just as well.
Sharing a folder on the network is easy. You can share through NFS ( for *nix networks) or SMB ( for Windows networks). The first time you try to share a folder, Breezy installs the required packages and sets up the sharing. It’s very easy to do, and anyone who has shared a folder in Windows will have absolutely no problems.
Earlier versions of Ubuntu opened each new folder in a new window. This is actually a feature of Gnome, but it quickly got irritating. In Breezy, the default behavior is to open each folder in the same window, and a new feature is the list on the top of the window of all the root directories of the directory that is open. This makes navigating through the file system really easy. There’s a new navigation bar that can display information, history, a tree view and various other things. All in all, System navigation in Ubuntu is definitely improved.
Multimedia support in Breezy is rather poor after the installation. This is partly due to legal and licensing issues, and partly due to technical issues. I had to install various codecs, and a few media players before I was able to listen to my MP3’s and watch videos. Installation is very easy, no doubt, but I wish the support was a little better by default. Watching DVD’s and the like is only possible after installing the codecs.
Once the codecs were installed, everything worked perfectly. I had to install the Nvidia drivers for my video card to get DVD’s to play smoothly fullscreen, but besides that, everything was smooth.
This is a good place to mention www.ubuntuguide.org, the BEST resource for a Ubuntu newbie, or even an experienced hand. This site follows a question and answer based method to solve common problems. It hadn’t been updated for the latest version at the time of this writing, but by the time you read this, it should be done.
This site should be your first stop after installing Ubuntu. It walks you through all sorts of tricky situations, and does it in a way which even a absolute novice can understand and implement.
All the hardware on my desktop was detected perfectly, and worked well. With the exception of the Nvidia 3D drivers, everything else worked well. Sound, network, DVD drive, everything worked out of the box. I was able to easily burn CD’s and DVD’s after installing K3B.
I tried to hibernate my machine, but it hung, and I had to reboot. This has been the case for previous releases of Ubuntu on my machine. The problem is easy enough to fix, requiring some editing of the grub.conf file, but I wish this worked straight away. This is not something that a new user can easily figure out.
Breezy on a Laptop
My laptop is one of the more Linux friendly laptops out there. I was running Hoary Hedgehog, the previous version of Ubuntu for a long time, and I had it set up to perfection. Sleep mode worked, Hibernate worked, everything worked.
Breezy was easier to set up, since I didn’t have to manually edit files to get sleep and hibernate to work. All my hardware was detected perfectly, including the Wi-Fi card. Basically, everything just worked. The only thing that I lost was the IBM Rescue Partition. This is a special area on the HDD of IBM laptops that help you recover your machine to factory settings in case your machine crashes. If you have an IBM laptop, and are worried about losing this, remember to make the Rescue CD’s before you install Ubuntu, or indeed, any Linux distribution.
Newer HP laptops are supposed to work perfectly with Ubuntu, but I couldn’t test that. Anecdotal evidence from the internet strongly suggests that Ubuntu is one of the most laptop-friendly distributions out there.
Breezy Badger continues the tradition of strong Ubuntu releases. I didn’t notice any major bugs in my days of testing it. I did find one small flaw which caused me a lot of trouble. I am a command line junkie, and I was used to starting the Terminal by right-clicking on the desktop. Imagine my horror when I saw that Terminal has been removed from the right-click menu! It’s now under Applications > Accessories.
The fact that I have to mention something as minuscule as this as a flaw tells you something about Ubuntu 5.10. Sure, it has it’s problems with multimedia, Windows partition permissions, and hibernate mode, but it’s also a pleasure to use, has a vibrant and active user community, and is extremely user-friendly.
The Ubuntu Foundation has served up another winner. The few problems that I had were easily fixed, and my desktop feels snappier than it has in a long time. I am a happy camper with Breezy Badger now.
By the way, I’d like to tell you something before I finish. The next version of Ubuntu, due for a April 2006 release, is called “Dapper Drake”!