The yin and yang of Ubuntu 9.10

So I upgrade my dell XPS laptop to Ubuntu 9.10 pretty soon after the launch of 9.10, and to be honest its been pretty good to me. However I have had a couple of problems. The first major problem which still needs to be solved is shutting the lid doesn't send the machine to suspend. I had this problem way back in the 7 series and Glyn fixed it for me by creating some custom script. I got a feeling that script might be causing problems now, so hopefully it won't be too much of a hassle to fix. I just have to remember to set it to suspend beforehand till then. I have no idea if hibernate works but I don't really use it anyway.

I have reinstalled Ubuntu 9.10 twice already, once because the display got really messed up (no idea why and all my messing with xandr made no difference) and the first time because there was some major problem with finding partitions in fstab, from my previous 9.04 install. Each time, a reinstall has been pretty easy, pop the disc in give it 20mins and we're back to scratch again. Nothing lost except the applications. All preferences and personal files stay untouched which is ideal.

There's not a lot of new stuff in 9.10 from what I can tell, instead I'm getting a real feel that things are getting very stable, ready for 10.4 which is rumoured to be a LTS (long term support) version. I've been using Firefox with between 20-30 tabs over the last few days and its been pretty flawless. During that time I've been using Youtube like a fiend for reasons which I may blog about later. In the past going page to page with so much flash would cause all type of chaos and slowdowns. But its not only Firefox which seems fine, everything seems super tuned. Memory usage is way down on previous versions, even with 30tabs open, evolution, gwibber, skype, pidgin, banshee, rhythmbox, tomboynotes, specto, keepass, etc all open at once, my memory usage just hit 1.1 gig of physical memory.

Compiz feels solid as a rock now, don't get me wrong its been good and worked well but now it feels impossible to crash. Pidgin, Gwibber, Evolution and Gnome-Do all seem very stable too. Not only that but Gwibber 2.0 is cleaned up and and I have now dropped using Twirl and Tweetdeck because of Gwibber 2 (I might do a blog post about just that alone). Specto and Conduit have added new social features which makes it extra useful with tracking things like RSS feeds. Generally everythings good and the day in day out applications are solid.

Heck even the battery monitor reports the time better that ever before, not only does it know my battery is screwed and only shows theres a maximum of 25% capacity counts down correctly from that point in minutes. Theres a few new things I've noticed which I've not really had time to play with yet. Pulseaudio has been tighten up and now includes support for Apple airtunes and DLNA/UPnP devices. I had a quick try to see if XBMC would pick it up but it didn't although I can see its working on other machines and the UPnP discovery tool. The general style of Ubuntu and user experience has also gone up in the latest version. Software centre bugs me a bit but its much more usable that add/remove apps. I still have my own custom themes (sandy box and jade garden) but I've left the default boot and login screen alone as there very attractive. Oh yeah and boy does Ubuntu boot up fast.

The last sting in the tail is the external display. For some reason external displays have changed since 9.04. There seems to be some kind of autosensing which picks up anything plugged in and tries to sync with it. Hence 2mins before starting the BarCamp welcome talk, everything went very wrong with my laptop. I have since installed the Grandr which is a gui for RandR, I hope to have this issue under control.

So all in all, a good upgrade but be careful, its not all blue skies

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.