Monday, May 30, 2011

Natty Narwhal review...

For those who landed on this blog with no knowledge of Linux whatsoever, Natty Narwhal is the latest Ubuntu Linux version 11.04.  Ubuntu comes up with funky animal names for their OS releases. For those interested to know more about Ubuntu's development codenames, please visit Ubuntu website's relevant section.  Here is the list:
Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty Warthog)
Ubuntu 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog)
Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger)
Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper Drake)
Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)
Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)
Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon)
Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron)
Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex)
Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)
Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)
Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx)
Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat)
Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal)
Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot)
Like I said in my earlier blog post on fixing wifi on Natty, I was a bit disappointed when I tried upgrading from Lucid.  Wifi didn't work, system got a bit sluggish and I was just not happy with whatever I had done after leaving the laptop on for the whole night for upgrading.  Then I said to myself "Linux upgrades can't be that bad like that of Windows, I should try a clean install" and I did that.

Natty image (AMD64) download is about 698MB, I plugged the LAN cable while installing and selected the option "Download updates while installing option".  Installation is one helluva easy thing and its especially true if you don't bother about partitioning your drive and allocate your entire harddisk for the whale to swallow.  Installation took around an hour (it'll be much shorter if you don't download the updates during installation)
after which, like any other OS, the system had to be restarted.

The bootup screen looks pretty much like that of 10.04 with Ubuntu text and 5 blinking dots below it on a purple screen, the startup sound has not changed.   The biggest change the user will notice is the new Unity interface which is nothing like what you would have seen on earlier systems.  See the preview of the desktop below...
As a Mac user, I can just think of this as a Mac OS X desktop with my dock on the left side of the screen.  I think Linux has stopped reckoning Windows as its arch-rival and is now competing with Mac OS, atleast in terms of look and feel.  The Unity interface now comes with a sliding "Launcher" on the left side which can be comparable to the "Dock" of OS X.  It comes with Applications, Files & Folders, Workspace Switcher, Firefox, Home Folder, Libre Office, Ubuntu One and Trash icons by default.
The Applications  button opens up the gallery of apps, neatly categorized into Most frequently used, Installed and Apps available for download.  OS X opens up a similar gallery but of only installed applications, so there's a slight improvement here.  For those used to earlier version of Linux it may need little time to get used to this kind of an arrangement since they're more used to menu based application launching.  Also the application gallery gives a search bar at the top which is very handy to look for an application quickly and also one can shortlist the applications based on the type (Internet, graphics, system etc.) by a drop menu at the right hand side of the search bar.  


Also there's good news for those used to older versions of Ubuntu - right click the Application button and you have your old fashioned sorted menu - Accessories, Developer tools, Games....


The "Files & Folders" button again opens a similar gallery with files & folders categorized into Recent, Downloads and Favourite folders (which are typically Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos).  This also has got a search bar and file type  selection option at the right hand side of it.  The moment you choose a particular type of file say video or document, it lists all the relevant files time sorted.  I can again draw parallel with OS X, though it does not open up a gallery like this, the search is somewhat similar to the Finder search.



The workspace switcher gives a preview of activity in each window and helps easy switching.  The workspaces can be switches using alt+ctrl+ too during which a smaller preview of each of the workspace shows up at the center of the screen.  Also notice the white dots on the launcher icons, the dots on the left indicate that those apps are running and the dot on right indicates that it's the active app.

Also on the top left corner of the screen is the Ubuntu button which shows up a gallery with very limited generic applications - Media apps, Internet apps, More apps, Find, Browse the web, View Photos, Check E-mail, Listen to music.  I don't use this much, maybe it's helpful for the newbies to Linux itself.  Anyways no harm in having it there, press the Windows key to get this menu.



Another cool feature I discovered is the long press of Windows key.  It brings up the hidden launcher and gives each of the launcher a number and all you need to do is just key the number to launch the particular application.  



Apart from all these, Natty comes with Firefox 4.0 as default browser which is awesome. 
LibreOffice has replaced Open Office (seems like it just got rechristened), I haven't used it so can't comment on it.  
Banshi music player resembles iTunes though I would have loved to have it with inbuilt radio stations (atleast a few of 'em) like iTunes does, in this case we need to add our own radio stations.  It's connected to Ubuntu One music store from which we can purchase music; also it's connected to Amazon mp3 store, last.fm, archive.org which I haven't tried much.  
Shotwell is the default image viewing utility which has replaced the earlier F-spot photo manager.  Shotwell again resembles iPhoto of Apple.  

Ubuntu One gives 2GB cloud storage and is linked to your account.  You can quickly sync folders from the cloud to the local machine by using the Ubuntu One application that's present on launcher by default.

Ubuntu Software Center is beautifully designed - thousands of Ubuntu apps are beautifully categorized.  The users can find the right application, read reviews about it, get more information, install/remove apps very easily.  There are some great transcoders, dictionaries, image editors, media players, games and other tools in the Software Center worth installing.
Empathy is a cool tool which helps me connect my friends easily no matter they use gtalk, yahoo messenger, MSN, Facebook chat.  It connects all my accounts under one roof.

For the developers: I was successfully able to build Android Gingerbread source code, Linux kernel using GNU arm toolchain for beagle board, install Eclipse and use the good old GNU tools without any issues.

Input methods are very easily installable, I was able to get the pinyin input (for my wife) working within minutes.

The system menu is moved the power-off menu.  Click on the power-off button on the top right corner and you see "System Settings"

Overall it's a great improvement on the UI perspective and for the users of Mac OS, it's very easy to get a hang of it.  Natty Narwhal surely is a good whale to swim along!
Post a Comment