Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat: One Hit, One Miss
Ubuntu 10.10, aka “Maverick Meerkat” was released recently, and according to the Ubuntu home page, the perfect 10 is here. For those not familiar with Ubuntu’s release cycle, this one is a short-term support release which will be patched and modified up until it eventually morphs into the next long term release about 18 months from now.
I decided to test two of these new offerings a couple of days ago. I installed the i386 Desktop version on my Dell Lattitude 6500, which has the Nvidia Quadro graphics chipset and the Intel WiFi Link 5100 wireless chipset, and I put the Netbook version on the Acer Aspire One, which is an N450 based netbook with the Intel N10 graphics chipset and an Atheros AR8132 wireless adaptor.
The Desktop Edition installed quickly and without any hitches. Everything came up working with no problems: wireless, display, sound, everything. I installed the Nvidia proprietary graphics driver to check it, and it works well too. Everything was as I have come to expect from Canonical -- it just worked.
The Acer netbook is another story. First the good news. The install from the USB flash drive went quickly and seemed to go flawlessly. The new layout for the Netbook Edition is simple, yet effective. The background image is of course van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone.
Some more good news: after installing Google’s Chrome browser I went over to Hulu.com* to see how flash and the Intel graphics driver worked. After watching a bit of The Simpsons, it seemed to me that streaming flash content was a bit smoother than it had been under 10.04 UNE. However, this is just a subjective impression.
Now the bad news.
The wireless driver drops its connection more often than spuds in a hot potato juggling contest. When the Acer was sitting on my desk about 3 feet away from the wireless router it managed to stay connected, but when I moved approximately 20 feet away it began to demonstrate packet losses in excess of 50%, even though the wireless icon still showed a signal strength of 84%.
The wireless is basically unusable.
In the past when I’ve experienced this type of behavior with the Atheros driver in previous versions of (K)Ubuntu, installing the linux-backports-modules always fixed the problem, but such is not the case with Meerkat. Unfortunately, until a fix for this comes out, this netbook is basically usable primarily as a paperweight with Ubuntu 10.10. I find it disappointing, because I really like the look and feel of this new Netbook Edition, and I wanted it to work. It is also a bit irritating, because this very same problem existed as recently as UNE 10.04. I sometimes marvel at our ability to continue to make the same mistakes in this Linux distro business.
In spite of having a netbook that was useless when located more than 20 feet from the wireless router, I poked around a bit more and found one other rough edge that needs to be taken care of by our friends at Canonical. The Files and Folders icon (third from the bottom in the above picture) invokes a file browser, which I presume is still the default Nautilus application.
Clicking the F & F icon causes an applet to display your file system using icon representations. So far, so good. Double click a folder icon and it opens. Still copacetic . Find a file that you would like to delete. Yep, got one. Wait... How you you delete a file? Right clicking on the file icon has no effect, except for causing it to become inverse highlighted as long as the right mouse button is down. No submenu of file operations ever appears. Oopsie. No way to change the browser view mode from “Icon” to “List”. ‘Nother oopsie.
Finally, this release is sloooow compared to 10.04. I’ve been reading other reviews of UNE 10.10, and they all pretty much agree that this one is not completely baked yet. Unless you have some compelling reason to change, you should stay with UNE 10.04 until this one cooks a bit more.
These flaws, IMO, should probably have been caught in beta or RC before finding themselves in the actual release. It will be interesting to see how long it will take to get fixes. Oh, and as far as the “Perfect 10” claim goes -- I suppose you could say that I have a “Perfect 10” paperweight shaped remarkably like a netbook.
*Hulu.com content is only viewable from within the United States of America