Divining from the Entrails of Ubuntu's Gutsy Gibbon: Page 2

Posted September 20, 2007

Bruce Byfield

Bruce Byfield

(Page 2 of 4)

Ubuntu also seems to have taken an idea from SymphonyOS, and placed key icons such as the logout, trash, main menu, and Show Desktop at the four corners of the desktop. Unfortunately, at high resolution, these icons are so small that they are easy to overlook, which defeats the effort to make better use of the corners of the screen.

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Several years ago, Ubuntu made a promising start on its desktop. However, further evolution is either slow or overdue -- and I'm not just referring to the mail browser, either.

Software Selection

Gutsy Gibbon contains some of the very latest software. The current pre-release includes a 2.6.22 kernel, Firefox, and the GIMP 2.3.18. Development versions of OpenOffice.org 2.3 and GNOME 2.20 are also installed. Presumably, these will be replaced by the actual releases as they become available. Pre-release versions of KDE4 packages are also available from the repositories, although they may not be in final form by the time Gutsy Gibbon is officially released. More likely, KDE users will have to settle for version 3.5.7.

Ubuntu's own unique contributions to the software selection have always been sleight compared to a distribution like Fedora. However, in Gutsy, Ubuntu is still one of the few distributions to include SCIM for loading custom keyboard layouts. In addition, it includes its own Restricted Drivers Manager, which assists users in handling non-free drivers. Purists might decry the tool, but, realistically, many users are more interested in functionality than software freedom, and are likely to appreciate it. Moreover, Gutsy's release is likely to include the first release of Gobuntu, a completely free version of Ubuntu, along with Kbuntu, Xubuntu, and Edubuntu.

Other software included in Gutsy are the desktop search engine Tracker, and the Deskbar applet, which searches for entries on both your drives and the Internet. At first, given the absence of the file manager from Gutsy's menus, these tools may seem unpleasantly reminiscent of Windows XP and Vista, in which the classic menus were replaced by a search field. However, open a folder, and you will find that Gutsy has replaced GNOME's default folder view with the file manager. In this way, Gutsy Gibbon accommodates both those who never venture beyond their personal folders and those who want to see a directory hierarchy. It's a balance between the basic and the advanced that other elements of Ubuntu could use as well.

Software Installation

Ubuntu inherits Debian's dpkg and apt-get package management system. However, like many modern distributions, Gutsy follows the growing habit of allowing package managers to proliferate for no apparent reason.

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In addition to Synaptic, the most common graphical package manager in Debian-based distros and an update applet, Gutsy also includes the Add/Remove Applications tool at the bottom of the main menu. Grouping packages into general categories, the tool also includes a description of a highlighted package, and its rating in the Popularity Contest. However, why users should be interested in a package's popularity when they are looking to meet a specific need is puzzling -- the tool was originally designed to help Debian developers know what to include on a basic installation CD. Nor are the results particularly useful, since packages installed by default naturally have a higher rating. At any rate, the only way to judge how useful a package might be is to use it yourself.

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