In a perfect storm of timing and marketing, Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) was released on 10/10/10 at 10:10:10 GMT. 101010 is, by the way, binary for 42. And of course, 42 is the answer to the meaning of life, according to the mega-supercomputer in Douglas Adam's classic science-fiction novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Slick coincidence aside, we're somewhat dubious that Canonical's Linux distribution (distro) will bring fulfillment to our mundane existence--especially not one released in October.
We always look forward to Ubuntu's April releases. Over the past few years, we've seen one great .04 version after another. Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron) was one of the most hassle-free Linux distributions to launch, and as an LTS, it was supported for three years (it still is). With Hardy, Canonical built a great foundation for its emerging consumer-friendly Linux distro. In April of '09 Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) burst onto the scene with an overall snappy feel and unprecedented boot times. This past April, Canonical unleashed the current LTS, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx). This release was a major hit. It's rock-solid, and the totally-revamped theme is still a league apart from any other Linux distro.
While the April releases have been impressive and stable, October releases have typically been marred by various experience-killing issues: default applications too bleeding-edge, insufficiently tested components, hardware incompatibilities, and just outright bugginess. Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) suffered graphical tearing with proprietary graphics drivers installed, along with crippling sound problems. Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) was possibly the worst Ubuntu build ever. Karmic didn't run properly on most of our test systems due to fatal crashes. And it took nearly a month just to get things stable enough to test. 9.10 also introduced several controversial replacements for default applications that polarized the community.
Ubuntu 10.10 was originally slated to use GNOME 3, with the new GNOME Shell desktop interface. However, the initial release of GNOME 3 was pushed back another six months, and recently Canonical announced it will eschew GNOME Shell altogether in favor of a desktop version of Unity (the new interface for Ubuntu Netbook Edition). With such a big switch off the table for now, Canonical may have received an unexpected opportunity to refine the experience introduced in 10.04 LTS. We've had a week to judge Ubuntu 10.10 and we've come to a verdict. Is this yet another borked October release, or did Canonical get the picture and play it more conservative this time around? Keep reading to find out!