Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Online Upgrade Review: Don't Expect the "Avengers" Part 1

Category: Linux

Historically, I haven't had much luck with online distribution upgrades.  I've attempted upgrades for openSUSE, Mandriva, Ubuntu and a handful of other distributions which resulted in leftover packages, nonfunctional software, and on occasion, a nonfunctional operating system. 



Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot was a stable release though I regret selecting the Unity release over Lubuntu.  Having had an excellent experience with the last Long-term Support release of Ubuntu, I have high hopes for 12.04 and decided to jump in and once again attempt an online upgrade and not a clean install as I normally would.  

Quick Summary

The outcome of the online upgrade was smooth and the resulting system was stable and fast.  12.04, however, doesn't provide Ubuntu fans what "Avengers" did to Marvel and superhero fans in general.  For old fans of Avengers and the team's current roster, the film gave something new while honoring the classic stories of old.  Ubuntu 12.04 improves on the "new," specifically the much-debated "Unity Desktop" while attempting to provide the Ubuntu Linux experience that has been lauded for the last five years.  The result is a somewhat stolid experiment.    



Take note, however, that I've been running Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot Unity since its release so newcomers to both Ubuntu and Unity will find Ubuntu 12.04 a totally new experience.  I've attempted in this review to accommodate longstanding Linux users and new users alike.

Rundown

1. Running the Distribution Upgrade isn't a complicated affair.  Using Ocelot's well-appointed Upgrade Manager, the system initiated without a hitch with a brief warning regarding closing all running applications.  I left Shutter, my favorite screenshot application, and Gedit running to chronicle the steps.

2. It's a long and non-automated process.  I had the luxury of an official Windows 8 Consumer Preview DVD when I tested Windows 8 recently and fast broadband when I had last attempted an upgrade on openSUSE.  openSUSE's upgrade process was long but I didn't think installing Ubuntu 12.04 would take hours.  Although there were very few dialog boxes (there were only two during the first three steps), the upgrade is not an unattended process.  Users should stick around for a prompt regarding services and for the Gnome configurations list.  Even after three episodes of Mad Men, Ubuntu 12.04 was still a good hour away. Perhaps a faster setup than my first-gen Intel i3 portable would result in a shorter installation process, but the Windows 8 installation felt shorter. 




3. Rebooting and Windows 7/8 in Grub2 - No issues.  I'm aware that Grub2 and auto-detecting Windows has largely been ironed out, but every time I do an upgrade rather than a clean install I take a deep breathe hoping I won't have to edit Grub (or worst case, fix Windows MBR).

4. Launcher and Auto-Hide - Newcomers to Unity will still be annoyed by the quirks of Unity's Launcher and Dash combo, but after switching off the Auto-hide feature of the launcher, the Launcher became less annoying (unlike Mac OSX's Dock which has always been annoying even if you hide it or not).  Take note that if users do disable the launcher's hide feature, the desktop readjusts and allows users to reclaim precious desktop space.  Unfortunately, Launcher still doesn't scroll downwards or upwards fast enough for my taste.




5. New set of mundane but generally acceptable wallpapers.  If you like random scenes or abstract photos, they're pretty good but too few.  For those who want a more exciting set of wallpapers thogh, go download a G.I. Joe: Retaliation or Amazing Spider-Man wallpaper from their movie sites.

6. Hud and Dash - Ubuntu.com advertised the Hud (Heads-Up Display) as one of the more prominent features of Ubuntu 12.04 along with Video Lens.  The search bar found on the Dash has always been a hit and miss.  While on the Home tab, it can find previously accessed applications.  However, users would still have to switch to the Applications tab to find a common plug-in like Adobe Flash or less obscure utilities. 

The much ballyhooed Hud was inconsequential - the feature doesn't apply to all the applications and hardly makes any difference for both casual and serious users.  Unlike Windows 8's Charms and Apps panel, the Hud and Dash are simpler and easier to use but can be ignored completely . . . if it weren't so integrated to the desktop.  Integrated search windows have been around in KDE and Windows Freeware for awhile now so Hud isn't going to blow you away as much as Hulk bashing on aliens.  In fact, every time the Hud came hope, I yearned for the simple days of Alt+F2.
 
7. Video Lens - I have never had a crash on Ubuntu or an error message since I started using the Linux distribution.  Unlike KDE, which is notorious for frequent bug windows, Unity and Gnome 2 have never disturbed me with a warning regarding a non-functioning feature, service, or utility.  Ubuntu 12.04 surprised me with an error message when I attempted to test Video Lens.  The Video Lens feature can be accessed by opening Dash with the Super button and clicking the Video tab.  Videos can be searched locally or online by clicking the appropriate section on the Hud.  I attempted to search for the K-Pop group Girls Generation and received this little warning:



Thankfully, Ubuntu didn't crash and Dash and Hud could still be accessed afterwards (or I would have switched to FreeBSD or ArchLinux in a minute).  The warning was just that - a warning.  Still, it was a surprise it occurred on Ubuntu, an LTS release, and while running a new feature.  It was somewhat discouraging though it's fully possible it wasn't Ubuntu 12.04's fault (see #8) or because the Video Lens attempted to pull up search results from sites that are blocked (My IP address is based in China).     

Ubuntu, however, doesn't have any excuse for the search results though.  My search for Girls Generation pulled up 22 results - 80% of which were totally irrelevant (Michelle Obama?).


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