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Ubuntu 11.10 review

Verdict

Slicker and smoother than its predecessor, 11.10 is a refinement rather than a revolution

Review Date: 20 Oct 2011

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: Free

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
5 stars out of 6

Canonical releases a new Ubuntu distribution every six months, each one coming with an alliterative zoological codename and a version number that reflects the year and month of release. The last update – Ubuntu 11.04, released in April and dubbed the Natty Narwhal – ditched the familiar Gnome desktop in favour of Canonical’s own Unity interface, previously seen only on netbooks. It was a controversial decision, but one that undeniably gave the friendly Linux distribution a character of its own.

This new edition, dubbed the Oneiric Ocelot (it means “dreamy”), is much less adventurous. It brings no new features to speak of, just a clutch of interface refinements, more like a service pack than a new version.

That’s no bad thing: we’ve always liked Unity, but its first incarnation felt rather basic. Now there’s an elegant new graphical logon screen, nicer graphical effects throughout the OS and prettified icons.

Ubuntu 11.10 adds a new look, new features and a new name to what's now called the Dash

The search tool has been promoted to the Launcher, with direct links to applications, recent documents and media files. It’s also been given a name – it’s called the “Dash” – and its shortcuts to apps and documents are called “Lenses”. This doesn’t seem to make much sense, but at least it gives Unity a clear vocabulary, which it previously lacked.

Performance is distinctly improved too. On a powerful desktop PC, Ubuntu 11.04 was fast enough to find applications and documents as you typed, but on netbooks – a natural constituency for Ubuntu – searches were frustratingly sluggish. Now, in 11.10, icons pop up instantly, even on lowly Atom hardware.

You can customise the appearance and behaviour of the Launcher via the CompizConfig tool, but bafflingly this still isn’t included or advertised in the standard distribution – it must be downloaded and installed manually. Casual users will therefore probably never see the full flexibility of Unity.

The new cogwheel at the top-right of the screen gives quick access to various settings and devices.

On the positive side, some preferences are easier to access than before: the shutdown icon at the top-right of 11.04 has turned into a cogwheel, offering direct access to commonly used system settings and devices, as well as power options. There’s still no obvious way to remove the unified messaging icon from the menu bar, though.

And if you’ve upgraded from a previous version of Ubuntu, the dropdown messaging menu still directs you to Evolution, even though the default mail client in 11.10 has been changed to Mozilla Thunderbird.

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User comments

Déjà vu

Everything, the Prefs, even the dialog boxes are starting to look almost as if they have been traced off of an OSX screen.

Not that I mind as long as it makes sense.

The burnt orange color scheme is a bit of a turn off however. The UI should not be the most obvious thing on the screen.

By rubaiyat on 20 Oct 2011

Any chance of some articles covering Ubuntu and the programs it has?

By JamesD29 on 20 Oct 2011

@rubaiyat

Looks like the Amiga to me

By rhythm on 20 Oct 2011

Canonical did me a favour introducing the Unity UI in 11.04. Made me look at Mint more seriously. now my chosen Linux OS.

By mr_chips on 20 Oct 2011

Ubuntu rocks

I installed ubuntu 11.4 six months ago after messing up my laptop and erasing windows vista and being quoted £120 to reinstall it. Ubuntu never gets a virus ,never freezes virus protection is built in.Ubuntu can match any windows OS ,without any of the problems or having to buy rip off security software .It does what you want a os to do .I will never go back to windows .

By mrrdarrell on 21 Oct 2011

Almost great

Ubuntu is really good, but there are still some niggling driver issues if you have a non-standard computer.

For example, I have a Dell M14x laptop with hybrid graphics and a wireless n card. Upon upgrading to 11.10 the wireless stopped working. It's fixed now (after some online research and command line action) but still an inconvenience. Hybrid graphics (Optimus) has never been supported - but I guess Nvidia are the ones to blame for that.

On the other hand, I love Ubuntu and generally it performs brilliantly for me - much faster than Windows etc. And, if you get to know it, the command line can be quite liberating (but I'm a programmer - for most people I don't think this will be true!).

Moral of the story, make sure you check compatibility before installing if you have a laptop or unusual pc.

By longn on 21 Oct 2011

Does the job nicely thanks

I have been a mac (imac) user for years and am very happy I switched over from the beleaguered Windows OS as all that Windows did for me, was make me very adept at pc maintenance - what with having to format every few months and sort out issues with spyware and viruses etc, whereas using a mac is just what it says it is - Using, not Maintaining.

In saying that though, after finally becoming increasingly frustrated with having to continually sort out issues with my wife's pc which was running Vista, I decided to give Ubuntu a go. The installation was to be honest a walk in the park and using it so far seems to be very straight forward - it appears to have a lot of similarities to OSX, which is no bad thing, and the fact that the pc is now dual bootable means that the option still remains to use Vista if required, but up to now, that has not been necessary.

In short, if any pc users are considering giving Ubuntu a go, but are a little nervous about doing so, I say to them take the plunge, because if you use a computer for surfing, word processing, playing media etc, then I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, Windows has it's uses, but alternative operating systems are nothing to be afraid of, and when they work as well as Ubuntu appears to, and the fact that it is free, yes folks, this is completely true, it costs absolutely nothing at all, then it has got to be worth a go.

By dazmondeo on 27 Oct 2011

Ubuntu Great

Evening Folks, As a computer engineer now for 28 years I moved to Linux last year with Ubuntu. What I love is the speed, the security and the variety of choice you have. I now run Lubuntu which is a light weight Ubuntu Distro. What a lot of people make the mistake is to thinking I will try it and compare against Windows, it is not Windows. The learing curve can be long but if you take your time you can learn so much. The latest Ubuntu 11.10 is really nice but I must say the Linux Mint is fantastic. The more people who give Mac and Linux a try gives them the confidence to explore and not just follow one OS. With greater choice comes greater compertition which can only help for a better Market and hopefully get manufacturers to start a more flexible approach for driver distribution rather than just keeping loyalty to the Market Leader.

By BoltScotty on 19 Mar 2012

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