Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin)

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin)

Summary: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is an extremely solid, usable, fast and secure desktop Linux OS. It continues to hone the Unity user interface introduced in earlier releases, and also migrates to a new version of the kernel.

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  • Editors' rating:
    8.0
  • User rating:
    9.2

Pros

  • Easy to trial or install
  • Fast and extremely stable
  • Updates install quickly and rarely require a reboot
  • Simple to add or remove applications via the Software Centre
  • Does not suffer from the concerted security attacks that are focussed on Windows
  • Free

Cons

  • Ubuntu's recent direction in user interface design, Unity, is still strongly disliked by some
  • Office applications are adequately supported, but — like all Linux distributions — Ubuntu cannot offer creative software that's comparable to the proprietary apps available for Windows and Mac OS X

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, codenamed Precise Pangolin and released today, is a Long Term Support (LTS) version, scheduled to be supported for five years. The emphasis for an LTS release is normally on consolidation and stability, but there are several new features — notably the HUD (Head-Up Display). As with most Ubuntu releases, Precise Pangolin takes the opportunity to rev the Linux kernel version; the Unity interface also advances to version 5.10 and there are a number of cosmetic tweaks plus a new sound theme.

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth's plan is to migrate Ubuntu from the 2D X Window System to Wayland, a 3D OpenGL-based display management system, with X applications supported via a compatibility mode. There was a rumour that a technical preview of Wayland might be released with Ubuntu version 12.04. While this does not seem to be the case, there is an Ubuntu Wiki for Wayland that explains future plans and lists a PPA for early testers.

Ubuntu 12.04 images can be downloaded from the Ubuntu web site. Contrary to some early rumours, the ISO images will still fit on a single CD.

The Linux 3.2 kernel
Precise Pangolin graduates from version 3.0 of the Linux kernel used in Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot) to version 3.2. This sees a larger-than-usual number of improvements because it incorporates queued-up changes that failed to make it into the delayed previous release.

There are improvements in the Ext4 file system that should boost performance with large files, and changes for CIFS or Samba sharing that should significantly improve throughput for such shares. There are also numerous new and improved drivers for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware, which should please notebook users, plus improvements in memory management that should improve response to user input during high load times. According to Linus Torvalds, these changes in kernel 3.2 should be quite apparent to end users.

RC6, the Intel power-saving technology, is enabled by default for Sandy Bridge systems in the Ubuntu 12.04 kernel, and should help to deliver improved notebook battery life. Disabled in beta 1, AUFS (Another UnionFS, a stackable unification file system) has been re-enabled due to concerns over its possible replacement OverlayFS. Ubuntu's developers still plan to replace AUFS when a suitable solution emerges.

Unity 5.10
It may seem hard to believe, but Ubuntu's controversial Unity shell is already at version 5.10. The login screen has a new look with new buttons and animation (even though a shell other than Unity can be chosen at login, Ubuntu's developers call this the Unity Greeter):

The new-look Unity Greeter shell menu: here, the GNOME desktop has been added as a post-OS install choice

Unity 2D has been updated, and differences in appearance between it and Unity 3D are now quite subtle: for example, Launcher bar items only appear to stack in Unity 3D.

As anticipated, this release of Unity includes the Head-Up Display or HUD, a predictive command feature that's toggled on and off by tapping the left-hand Alt key. Commands can be selected by moving the highlight with the arrow keys and executed by pressing the Return key, or directly executed by mouse-clicking a choice. Sometimes the suggestions made by HUD can seem a little wild.

The new Head-Up Display (HUD) offers a list of suggestions based on user input

The stability and ease-of use of Unity's multi-monitor mode has been improved, and has been demonstrated running a system with six monitors. The System Settings / Displays panel now has a selection to display the Launcher bar either on all displays in a multi-monitor setup, or only on the primary display; there's also an on/off toggle for sticky edges.

This screenshot is for the Displays panel on a system with only one display, but the new Launcher and sticky edges options can still be seen

Reveal signalling for the Launcher has been added. Now when the Launcher is concealed and the mouse cursor is pushed against the left edge of the display, a shadowed border appears, signalling that the Launcher is about to be revealed. The reveal behaviour for the Launcher (and some other settings) can be changed in the Appearance panel to reveal only if the top left corner is nudged.

The appearance of Launcher tooltips and quicklists has been improved and the Dash, Workspace and Bin icons now borrow the average colour of the desktop wallpaper (also referred to as 'chameleonic behaviour'). Mouse-over states in Dash are now signalled with a more visible highlight, for example in the lens bar.

The quicklist for the Home folder

For those who find the Launcher icons too large, there is now an icon size slider in the Appearance settings panel (the two extremes of icon size are shown in the composite image of the Launcher above): unfortunately this feature is not available in Ubuntu 2D

A new lens, the Video lens, has been added to Dash that brings together access to both online video — such as the BBC iPlayer and YouTube — and access to offline clips stored in the Video folder.

The new Video lens in Dash

The File lens, previously limited to Zeitgeist searches, is now global in scope and can find files not previously accessed.

LIMs (Locally Integrated Menus), an optional Unity feature that adds a title bar and drop-down text menus to unmaximised application windows, were not ready for this release and are expected to appear later this year — possibly as an update, or in Ubuntu 12.10. At present some applications, LibreOffice for example, retain their menus within their own window, while in others — including Brasero — the menu moves to the Ubuntu menu bar at the top of the display. 

(Continued...) 

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Topics: Operating Systems, Linux, Open Source, Reviews, Software

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46 comments
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  • default is 32bit not 64bit
    richud.com
  • Well spotted - 32bit is flagged as recommended on the download page. This review was written before release when all the indications were that Canonical would be favouring the 64bit version.
    terry@...
  • I love it, and can't get enough Ubuntu :). What makes me even happier is my friend has now switched back to Ubuntu due to the quality of this 12.04 release. Ubuntu all the way!!!

    Please release a Ubuntu tablet and mobile phone.
    scott.deagan
  • I know it's all cool and new looking. I really want to try it out but I need to know if zynnaddsubfx will work out of the box on it? I'm sitting on 10.04 because so far every version that I've tried after that (10.10, 11.04, and 11.10) have all disallowed any sound from coming from zynadd straight out of the box. I would upgrade my version and zynadd would stop working. So is there anyone out there that has 12.04 that would want to see if zynadd would work (without any jack) much appreciated in advance.
    Light Source
  • Are you sure it is "extremely" stable? My experience with Ubuntu releases says Ubuntu is quite buggy. May be 12.04 is LTS so you are saying this. But for a distro to be extremely stable it should be as stable as Debian stable or Red Hat/CentOs. Is it that stable?
    icett
  • I have it working on 12.04 and without Jack too.
    anonymous
  • Really Stable.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • Thats just a safe way of dealing with novices who don't understand chip architecture.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    I'm enjoying it. I spent the day upgrading multiple servers at work, and the evening upgrading my personal machine and laptops. Were it not for Unity I believe there would be no need for other distros to exist. Fortunately it only took about 6 extra seconds from the console to install and revert to Gnome. It's solid and fixed a few of the issues I had with 11 as a whole. Even the wife is finally shirking her Windows binds, and learning to use the CLI periodically. Canonical has out done themselves this time. Excellent work.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    They nailed it with this one; I didn't have much hopes but they really did it. Somehow it doesn't seem to have made as big of a splash as the previous iterations, but it seems that's just because they were working on stability and usability. Absolutely love it.
    jakobborne
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 10.0

    stevenpemberton
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 9.0

    The Best O.S
    anonymous
  • 9.0

    anonymous
  • 10.0

    the perfect OS
    isgjevori
  • 9.0

    One amzing OS
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    vpakg