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Ubuntu Netbook Edition

Ubuntu 10.10: Maverick Meerkat Benchmarked And Reviewed
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Now that we've gone over all of the wonderful things that Unity is supposed to be, let's see how it works in UNE 10.10.

Installation

Installation of UNE 10.10 was a breeze, just like its Desktop Editon counterpart. Setup options were completed during installation, along with restricted packages and updates. Proprietary Broadcom drivers for the Mini10v's Wi-Fi card were already active upon the very first boot. From this point on, things took an abrupt turn for the worse.

Is There A Desktop, Or Not?

We noticed that, although there is no traditional desktop in UNE, a Desktop folder still exists in the Home directory. After opening a text file from a USB thumb drive in gedit, we attempted to perform a Save As. The Desktop folder was the default location--fair enough. So, we'll just have to get to the Desktop folder from the file manager. Unfortunately, the Files & Folders entry in the launcher lacks a Desktop folder! Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and even Downloads are present, but no Desktop (or Templates, Public, Examples). We changed the sorting in the Files & Folder screen from All Files to Other, and it displayed this:

Nautilus, the GNOME file manager, can be accessed via a folder icon shortcut in the upper-right side of the Files & Folders screen. Another way to open Nautilus is by inserting a new volume like a USB thumb drive and selecting its icon in the launcher. And there is always the terminal. However you do it, pin Nautilus to the launcher when you get it open. Files & Folders is not a suitable file manager, and a poor file browser. You will need Nautilus.

Keeping Up The Suspense

When we switched back to gedit from the Files & Folders screen, the Mini 10v went into suspend mode--only the first of many times this would happen. The Mini 10v again went into suspend while switching desktops. Although beautiful, the new launcher partially disappeared on us several times as well. While it eventually came back, it required using the slow and anemic new home screen to navigate.

The home screen isn't without problems either. Selecting the Web entry again put the Mini 10v into suspend. After we logged back in, closing Firefox caused the entire GUI to go black and rebuild, as if X was reset. This behavior happened on several other occasions.

Though we're not sure what was causing the GUI to reset, disabling suspend and the screensaver seemed to have fixed the awkward issues. It seems that the system does not go into suspend at the set time interval, but if that interval passes, it will go into suspend the next time you click anything (in effect, when you want to come out of suspend).

The Fail Train Keeps On Rolling

The fact that Unity places the window buttons and file menu of the forefront application in the upper panel like OS X isn't necessarily a bad thing. When the window buttons fail to appear, it is.

This alternative windowing paradigm is also a problem for the world's fastest growing Web browser. There are two ways that Chrome (or Chromium) handles this: using the built-in window buttons, or using the system theme buttons. Both options produce duplicate window buttons.

We also noticed that newly-installed applications cannot be pinned to the launcher until the system is restarted.

And then there was this:

Mutter is the compositing manager for Unity, which is based on Clutter, the toolkit introduced in Moblin. To be honest, we're not entirely sure how this happened, or the circumstances surrounding the appearance of this error. So many problems surfaced in UNE that it became difficult to document each one before another cropped up. But it happened, and we grabbed the screenshot.

Workspaces

The one aspect of Unity that I thought was bound to be imperfect, was the workspace switcher. In reality, that was the one aspect that actually worked... really well. The action on the Workspaces tool is surprisingly snappy, and we experienced no noticeable lag activating it. The zoom in and zoom out animations are very smooth, and moving applications between workspaces is fluid. Returning to an application or switching to another workspace is also very quick, but had a tendency to restart the GUI on occasion.

Display all 66 comments.
  • -3 Hide
    stm1185 , October 28, 2010 6:07 AM
    "With the appearance of Windows 7 on slate devices in perpetual limbo"

    http://www.dailytech.com/HP+Slate+Powered+by+Windows+7+Launches+at+799+is+Business+up+Front/article19953.htm

    http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF06a/321957-321957-64295-3841267-3955550-4332585.html

    How is that Limbo? You can buy one right now.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , October 28, 2010 6:34 AM
    I didn't know they were taking pre-orders yet, though HP Slate doesn't ship until the middle of November. Unfortunately, the HP Slate looks like a really half-hearted attempt. Business product? That pretty much means not to get your hopes up. It should have been out much closer to the iPad, but got pushed back repeatedly. Ever since they bought Palm it seems like their Windows efforts in this form factor will take a backseat until they try to make WebOS work - can't blame them really, WebOS is pretty slick and they paid a lot for it. But I still do want to get my hands on the Slate, but look forward to seeing what they do with WebOS more now.
  • -7 Hide
    arkadi , October 28, 2010 7:43 AM
    If we "put all the issues aside", i love allot of things.....Don't get me wrong, i love to play with Linux at home, but at the moment I prefer to use it at work, in the server room ware it belongs (at the moment). Using it at home it just to much of an effort, to many issues, hardware compatibility etc...Hopefully one day...
    Any way Ubuntu came a long way to make it happen....But still few days ago i tried it and few others on a net book, with via chip set and CPU with no luck...
  • 4 Hide
    TomSah , October 28, 2010 7:48 AM
    "Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition is also a mess. As a netbook operating system intended for actual people to use in a production environment, I have to say that UNE 10.10 should be avoided. From our experience on the Dell Mini 10v, UNE Meerkat is in no way ready for general consumption. Its many bugs and poor performance are just not acceptable or at all realistic for the average end-user. Loading almost anything on UNE 10.10 was clearly sluggish"

    Wow. Im running 32-bit Maverick UNE on my Asus eee 1000HA and i have to say that i fell in love as soon as it installed! As soon as i disabled the unity interface to get the desktop interface I was away laughing! I havnt had any of the problems you mention, app startup has been great, no crashes/bugs - And this is my first serious attempt at using a Linux distro. I had a lot of fun tweaking everything to my liking and i now feel like I have the perfect OS for me. Its really strange you had bad experiences like that, must be the dell mini haha.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , October 28, 2010 8:03 AM
    TomSah:
    Quote:
    As soon as i disabled the unity interface to get the desktop interface I was away laughing!

    Well there you go, you got rid of Unity. I don't doubt it works fine now, LOL. I'm using the 10v with 10.10 32-bit Desktop Edition right now and it's absolutely fantastic, one of the best OSes on this thing by far. The track pad is a nightmare, and there's no fixing that, but in 10.10 it's much better than earlier versions. Tap to click is the best in Windows 7, but drag and drop in Ubuntu is much less maddening than Win7.
  • 1 Hide
    pinkfloydminnesota , October 28, 2010 8:32 AM
    How come you don't compare the benchmarks to Windows?
  • 9 Hide
    randomizer , October 28, 2010 8:35 AM
    Just moving the cursor up and down the launcher shows how slow Unity is. The delay between when the cursor moves over an application to when the application's name pops up gives the impression of playing a game at very low framerates.

    The Ubuntu font looks ok but it's really only usable in menus and window titles (which I think is all it is used for, fortunately). There's no way such a stylised font could be readable for long periods in a document.

    Adam, you should see if any updates fixed the consistently inconsistent HDD to HDD file copy performance.

    Quote:
    How come you don't compare the benchmarks to Windows?


    Because Windows is not a Linux distro, and this review is for a Linux distro?
  • 4 Hide
    adamovera , October 28, 2010 8:59 AM
    randomizer:
    Quote:
    Adam, you should see if any updates fixed the consistently inconsistent HDD to HDD file copy performance.

    As of 10/22/10, when I re-tested the HDD to USB times, they had not.

    pinkfloydminnesotaHow come you don't compare the benchmarks to Windows?

    Workin' on it, stayed tuned. But randomizer is right, this is a review of the new Ubuntu release. As a review of the new version of a software product, this type of article isn't the appropriate forum for that comparison.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 28, 2010 10:33 AM
    64 bit vs. 32 bit? 32 seems much better all round, stability, compatibility etc.. Is there that much speed difference to be worth using 64 bit?
    gvnmcknz
  • 0 Hide
    dEAne , October 28, 2010 10:37 AM
    I guess there are lots of things to do to make it good.
  • 0 Hide
    Nesto1000 , October 28, 2010 12:18 PM
    I installed 10.10 on my laptop... but the dang mouse pad didn't want to work the right way...
    On 10.04 I had no problems what so ever...
  • 0 Hide
    loftie , October 28, 2010 12:25 PM
    I installed maverick yesterday on an old laptop . I found it slow and unresponsive in all honesty, but looking online, it looks like I'm not the only one. A number of users are having problems, even those with i7 desktops. Hopefully it'll get sorted out soon. You can switch the window commands to the righthand side by the way.
  • -6 Hide
    Wheat_Thins , October 28, 2010 12:32 PM
    Why does Tom's always use 'old' hardware when it comes to linux reviews but when it comes to anything else they always have the latest and greatest CPU / GPU combo? A Radeon 4870? Really?
  • 3 Hide
    Yuka , October 28, 2010 1:10 PM
    I just installed Lucid on an old Celeron M 1.4Ghz and 1GB RAM wich had XP before... Darn it, for productivity is kickin' alive and well. I had to install MSO2007 over WINE and it was flawless on the first try.

    I'm glad the route Canonical is taking Ubuntu is the right one for all of us. Improved experience all the way. It's a very responsive OS from every angle, even with all the bling bling you want.

    On my main rig I'm still stuck with Win7 because of my gaming needs, but that's all that's actually giving me the no-go for Ubuntu in a full time basis.

    Also, try installing XBMC for your HTPCs. One hell of a Media Center software.

    Cheers!
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , October 28, 2010 1:27 PM
    loftieI installed maverick yesterday on an old laptop . I found it slow and unresponsive in all honesty, but looking online, it looks like I'm not the only one. A number of users are having problems, even those with i7 desktops. Hopefully it'll get sorted out soon. You can switch the window commands to the righthand side by the way.

    How old is the laptop, specs? Did Lucid work well on that system, does Windows? Is this the Desktop Edition you're using?
  • 0 Hide
    LLJones , October 28, 2010 1:33 PM
    I'll have to give this some deep thought before I try it.
  • 2 Hide
    adamovera , October 28, 2010 1:40 PM
    Yuka:
    Yeah, gaming is an issue, but then again it is on Mac as well. I game so infrequently these days that I just install Windows on one of the test HDDs when I play one (2-3 times per year). Have you considered a dual boot, maybe with a separate hard disk? If Windows is for gaming only, using Linux for everything else will help keep Windows pristine and running smooth for games. Although right now I think Netflix is an even bigger problem that needs to be addressed. It's what keeps my HTPC unhappily with XP, and from my experience it's a deal-breaker for many more everyday users than games.
  • 1 Hide
    coldmast , October 28, 2010 1:42 PM
    I wish AMD would support my older computers' Radeon 9550; I miss having those better compiz effects and the ability to play youtube without chops. Maybe I'll downgrade...
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , October 28, 2010 1:46 PM
    Wheat_ThinsWhy does Tom's always use 'old' hardware when it comes to linux reviews but when it comes to anything else they always have the latest and greatest CPU / GPU combo? A Radeon 4870? Really?

    Well, ET:QW is the latest native commercial FPS, so...
    There's actually two 4870's, but I can currently only use one for another project, so it's not in right now.
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