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Ubuntu Software Center, Evolved

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS: Lucid Lynx Benchmarked And Reviewed
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If you caught my review of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, then you already know I'm no fan of the Ubuntu Software Center.

In 9.10, the Ubuntu Software Center made its debut, replacing the Add/Remove Applications utility. My biggest complaints with Karmic's software center were the loss of functionality, namely the inability to arrange apps by their popularity star rating, and the extraneous number of mouse clicks needed to download more than one application at a time.

The good news is that, while there are still no check boxes to select multiple applications, you no longer need to go to an application's information page to download it. Apps can be sent to the download/install queue via the Install button, visible immediately from the browse/search results screen. While still not as efficient as Add/Remove Applications, this reduces the number of mouse clicks needed to navigate the Ubuntu Software Center considerably.

The bad news is that the star ratings for popularity (a good way to find the best apps) are still missing, though I believe the ranking of apps on the search results screen does take popularity into account, placing the most popular apps first. This can be seen by doing a quick search for something like “audio,” “video,” or “image.” You'll see that the most notable apps are listed first, not alphabetically or by whether or not the applications are already installed. While this is a definitely a good thing, the ability to sort by popularity without entering any search terms used to be a good way to find quality software.

Fortunately, the Ubuntu Software Center has also received a significant addition in this release: it now also manages any Personal Package Archives (PPAs). A PPA is another way to install software that I haven't yet covered. PPAs come in handy when the distribution you're using doesn't (and won't) have the latest version of an application in its repositories. One of the best examples of needing a PPA is Firefox. Though it's installed by default, the version of Mozilla Firefox included in Ubuntu will not update to major version changes. For example, Ubuntu 9.10 came with Firefox version 3.5.3 installed, and over time, it automatically updated to 3.5.8 through the Ubuntu repositories. However, if you want that 20 percent speed gain from Firefox 3.6, you're out of luck. In order to get the latest Firefox, you need to tell the OS to look somewhere other than the Ubuntu repos. This is where PPAs come in. Think of them as additional mini-repos that usually add access to a single application. So, if you want the latest version of Firefox on a Karmic machine, you would need to add the official Firefox stable PPA which looks like this...

ppa:mozillateam/firefox-stable

...into your Software Sources via System/Administration/Software Sources. By adding that address, you will now find the latest version of Firefox listed in the package manager. Before version 9.10 Karmic Koala, users had to go through multiple steps to add additional repositories. Karmic simplified the process into a single copy and paste operation. In Lucid, the management of this funcionality is baked right into the Ubuntu Software Center.

Another advantage of this is .deb management. Some newer .deb files not only install an application, but also the corresponding PPA so that that application can receive updates. A good example of this is Google Chrome. The .deb file for Google Chrome automatically adds the official Google Chrome PPA to your system so that there is no need to uninstall it and reinstall when a new version is released. The PPA allows Chrome to update itself. By keeping track of PPAs in the Ubuntu Software Center, it is much easier to see which .debs install a PPA. This also lets the user remove applications added through a PPA or a .deb directly from the Ubuntu Software Center, keeping more software management tasks within a single utility.

After the huge leap backwards that was Karmic's Ubuntu Software Center, the Lucid Ubuntu Software Center has made a handful of baby steps in what we'd consider the right direction. The ultimate goal of the Ubuntu Software Center is to replace multiple separate application management utilities: Add/Remove Applications, Computer Janitor, Software Sources, Synaptic Package Manager, and Update Manager. In 9.10, Add/Remove Applications was the only utility to get replaced (and poorly, we might add). The Ubuntu Software Center in Lucid doesn't quite expand the scope of the app. It does feel like a change from Add/Remove Applications, and not a regression.

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  • 12 Hide
    ksa-_-jed , May 26, 2010 11:12 AM
    beriguuMy Logitech Wireless Wave keyboard and mouse didn't work with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Desktop x64 on VMWare Workstation 7.01. It works in the beginning with text screen, but once it goes to GUI screen keyboard function is lost. ;_;

    Don't blame the OS blame Logitech because the don't support Linux with good drivers
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2010 6:40 AM
    My Logitech Wireless Wave keyboard and mouse didn't work with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Desktop x64 on VMWare Workstation 7.01. It works in the beginning with text screen, but once it goes to GUI screen keyboard function is lost. ;_;
  • 0 Hide
    WheelsOfConfusion , May 26, 2010 6:40 AM
    There's lots of talk on the Phoronix forums about how Ubuntu + nVidia binaries don't play nicely, while some other distros don't have that problem. This was reflected in an Ubuntu vs. Arch bench-off: surprisingly, Arch only really thrashed Ubuntu in the games and everything else was about even. This might be behind those pitiful scores with the game benchmarks.
    Compiz also has a measurable, negative effect on game benches with nVidia, but not so much with ATI hardware/drivers. I'm not surprised that turning off desktop effects changed the game so much.

    What do you think is going on with 7zip, an ext4 issue?
  • 1 Hide
    jsowoc , May 26, 2010 7:04 AM
    With 10.10 planning btrfs and GnomeShell, it's a sure recepie for tragedy :-). Very nice article.
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , May 26, 2010 7:11 AM
    @WheelsOfConfusion:
    RE: desktop effects - I'll be adding an ATI card to the mix a little earlier than I had intended in order to look at the desktop effects issue. Stay tuned.
    RE: Gaming FPS - The interesting thing is that the actual games didn't have that big of an impact from desktop effects. It was the unigine benchmarks that showed seriously significant drops in frame rates with them enabled.
    RE: 7z - I suppose it could be EXT4, but I believe EXT4 is the reason for the speed gains in all other comp/decomp tests, as well as the copy time tests. Comprehensive filesystem and archiving benchmarks under the same release should tell us whether or not it's an EXT4 issue.
  • 9 Hide
    apoq , May 26, 2010 7:28 AM
    Why no benchmark against Windows. You yourself said Ubuntu should be aiming to convert Windows users more than Mac users (and I whole heartedly agree with you). I love Ubuntu and I use most of the time, but every time I boot into Windows (7) I am left with the feeling of a way snappier OS. I think this is where Ubuntu is really lacking.
  • 0 Hide
    killerclick , May 26, 2010 7:43 AM
    Linux still doesn't have the software I need so I can't use it. However I've noticed a sharp decrease in stupid problems in the past three years (prolly thanks to Ubuntu). Currently my favorite distro is Mint but I remain a Windows user mainly because of a lot of software I own and am proficient in.
    As for the latest Ubuntu, why can't they have a bland business-like theme? Are the Phoenix Suns now paying them to use their colors?
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2010 9:28 AM
    For your Skype visibility issues, go to Skype settings and change theme to GTK+. Did the trick for me.
  • 2 Hide
    samspqr , May 26, 2010 9:30 AM
    looks nice, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions, like:
    * will it play 1080p24 H.264 videos smoothly, with GPU acceleration?
    * will it play vimeo/youtube high-res videos smoothly?
    given how good you say it is on the other fronts, I'll give it a try and see for myself (I'm currently on 8.04, so convincing me to spend an afternoon updating my systems is no small feat)
  • -4 Hide
    zybch , May 26, 2010 10:33 AM
    So, will this year be another "Year of Linux on the Desktop" like its been claiming for the past decade year in year out? Or will it remain a niche OS which people needing to do actual work on 'real' programs can continue to dismiss out of hand?
  • 1 Hide
    flightmare , May 26, 2010 10:52 AM
    You can set the minimize, close and maximize buttons to the right again in gconf-editor. Browse to apps/metacity/general and edit button_layout to your likings.
  • 12 Hide
    ksa-_-jed , May 26, 2010 11:12 AM
    beriguuMy Logitech Wireless Wave keyboard and mouse didn't work with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Desktop x64 on VMWare Workstation 7.01. It works in the beginning with text screen, but once it goes to GUI screen keyboard function is lost. ;_;

    Don't blame the OS blame Logitech because the don't support Linux with good drivers
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2010 11:13 AM
    Skype in Lucid Lynx, Gnome: options-> choose style: GTK +
  • 1 Hide
    haplo602 , May 26, 2010 11:30 AM
    Adam, please have a look at Phoronix for their 10.04 tests. It seems there's some issue with X and the Nvidia drivers. Can you set up the same tests with an ATI card and compare Hardy and Lucid again ?
  • 0 Hide
    Regulas , May 26, 2010 11:47 AM
    apoqWhy no benchmark against Windows. You yourself said Ubuntu should be aiming to convert Windows users more than Mac users (and I whole heartedly agree with you). I love Ubuntu and I use most of the time, but every time I boot into Windows (7) I am left with the feeling of a way snappier OS. I think this is where Ubuntu is really lacking.

    Really, just the opposite here, Win 7-64 Ubuntu 10.04-64 on same machine.
  • 1 Hide
    nforce4max , May 26, 2010 12:01 PM
    I am not much of a Linux user but Mint is nice and comes preloaded with the basics which is nice. My K6-2+ rig is just to slow though. :( 
  • 5 Hide
    zoemayne , May 26, 2010 12:02 PM
    Thank you for this review
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2010 12:09 PM
    there is undoubtedly one thing in which ubuntu far ahead in cimparision with windows 7.
    If my PC is turn on for few hours i download some files,surf on internet later on PC is unusable sooooooooooo damn slow no problems with ubuntu
    After few months on windows i install/uninstall program system starts to compete with turtle in speed - boot slow, performance slow and of course i do maintainance - start up programs, services and still for me every half max one year reinstallation is a must.
    Again no problems in this matter with ubuntu
    Windows is just a big bin which takes everything and it doesnt matter how much RAM you have - takes it all
    And i have quit high-end ring - 4 gb ram and core2duo@3,4
    Windows for games and windows - only application - for daily use UBUNTU!
  • 1 Hide
    Stardude82 , May 26, 2010 12:13 PM
    Ubuntu doesn't include out of the box the wireless driver for the Mini 10 because of open source purity/licensing reasons. You have to use a wrapper and load the windows drivers which some people think is pure evil. Conversely, why Broadcom doesn't just provide open source drivers is also stupid.

    Windows 7 runs so well on the new Atom platform, I doubt Netbook remix will make much inroad. Both Canonical and Microsoft have released some slick pieces of software.
  • 3 Hide
    shubham1401 , May 26, 2010 12:17 PM
    Next time, Pls have benchmarks against Windows :) 
  • 0 Hide
    azhardware , May 26, 2010 12:24 PM
    beriguuMy Logitech Wireless Wave keyboard and mouse didn't work with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Desktop x64 on VMWare Workstation 7.01. It works in the beginning with text screen, but once it goes to GUI screen keyboard function is lost. ;_;


    I had the same problem with my Dinovo Edge and Mini. Check out for a fix.

    Personally, I felt Lucid fell a little short again. Beriguu's issue with the keyboard is one thing. Another is my X-fi soundcard only playing out the left speaker, this seems to be a widespread issue. I know this is largly because creative won't release driver specs but it's just another reason why I can't run all my PCs on linux. I've got a great linux server running in the basement, dual boot on my main pc and vista on my home theater pc. I wish I could put linux on the last one though :( 
    And oh yeh, Bluray? Again, not really ubuntu's fault but I want my HD movies and until I can play them I won't be running linux for anything other than software development. Multimedia stuff will stay on windows :( 
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