Tombuntu has been pretty quiet lately, but a new Ubuntu release definitely requires a post! Ubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala” has been released. I haven’t had a chance to upgrade my main desktop system yet, but I have been running 9.10 on my netbook since the late alpha releases as well as in a virtual machine. Here are my thought on the new release.

There were many problems with Intel’s graphics drivers in Ubuntu 9.04. My only system using Intel graphics is my Eee PC netbook, which worked fine with 9.04, and is working better than ever with 9.10. Kernel mode setting is enabled by default, which means that the display’s native resolution is set early in the boot process and does not change even when switching to a terminal. Compiz works great, and windows with 3D rendering will no longer have the 3D area render on top of other windows or in the wrong location. Performance is good enough to play Quake Live (with Compiz disabled).

Since Ubuntu started using PulseAudio by default, it has never worked properly for me. On my netbook, the new version of Skype and PulseAudio are working much better than in 9.04. Most of the problems have been on my main system which I have not upgraded yet, but I’m hopeful. The new sound preferences looks great, and finally exposes the application-specific volume controls that PulseAudio supports.

The boot experience has been improved significantly. I rarely reboot my desktop, but my netbook boots fast enough now that I don’t bother with standby mode and am booting and shutting down often. Booting starts with uspash, just as in previous releases, but now with just a simple white Ubuntu logo and no progress bar. If a disk check is needed, its progress is displayed in usplash. X now starts much earlier to display the brand-new xsplash. xsplash features a fancy spinning progress animation. Next, the newly re-written GDM login screen is displayed with a dark theme matching xsplash. After logging in xsplash is displayed again until the desktop is loaded. The plan is that usplash will not be needed when X/xsplash is able to start early and fast enough. My only complaint with the boot experience is that the xsplash animation stutters a lot.

The new Human theme and Humanity icons are still brown, but look fantastic. The Dust theme, as well as a few nice wallpapers are installed by default.

I’ve finally adopted Ubuntu’s netbook remix interface on my netbook. In previous releases, I’ve always used the full desktop. The auto-maximization and compact window switcher work great for me. The netbook launcher is handy and looks great, but is sorely missing a text box for launching apps. Also, in large categories scrolling is too fast, while in categories with few entries scrolling is very slow. I also wish that the netbook remix left out some applications to save disk space because the smaller SSD in my Eee PC is only 4 GB (and who needs a CD burning application on a netbook?).

OMG Ubuntu has a visual tour of some of the new features. If you’ve installed 9.10, here’s a great post with a ton of things you can do next.

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