Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) review

Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) review

Summary: Ubuntu 12.10 contains more controversial changes than expected. If you can live with or work around those changes, it remains a powerful and useful desktop Linux operating system.

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  • Editors' rating:
    8.0
  • User rating:
    6.1

Pros

  • Popular desktop Linux distribution based on Debian, with a fine pedigree
  • Easy to install
  • Works flawlessly on most hardware
  • Free

Cons

  • Ubuntu's controversial desktop shell, Unity, has still to mature
  • Recent trends towards 'commercialisation' (the addition of online shopping 'suggestions' to the Dash search results) have annoyed some users

Here's a bullet list of the new features and changes for Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal):

  • New GRUB 2 boot loader
  • Graphics makeover for Ubuntu Greeter and the default theme
  • Remote login/remote desktop access added to Greeter log-in prompt
  • Nautilus file manager sticks at version 3.4
  • Linux kernel incremented to version 3.5
  • Unity revs to 6.8.0; Unity 2D is dropped; previews added
  • Software Updater simplified
  • Dash search returns online results from Ubuntu One and Amazon
  • Dash preview
  • New Dash Photo lens; new Gwibber icon
  • New Share Links tab in Ubuntu One Control Panel
  • New centralised management for online accounts
  • New versions for some bundled applications
  • Disk image is now 800MB, so install requires a USB memory or a DVD
  • Menus are reorganised and many previous menu choices consolidated under Dash
  • Python revs to version 3 (with version 2 still supported for now)

GRUB 2 boot loader
Microsoft's adoption of the UEFI secure boot feature makes it more difficult for Ubuntu and other operating systems to dual boot with Windows 8. For Ubuntu 12.10 Canonical has chosen to resolve this problem by using the Microsoft-generated keys with a signed version of GRUB 2.

Previously, choices to boot Ubuntu from earlier kernel versions were shown on the first and only GRUB page, and this tended to become an ever-lengthening list as kernel updates were added. Now these alternate boots are assigned to a secondary page accessed through the 'Advanced options for Ubuntu' GRUB menu choice.

The Ubuntu Greeter Login prompt
The Greeter login prompt now includes an option for Remote Login to an RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) server. The Remote Login allows users who have set up an Ubuntu Remote Login Account to access any remote machine added to that account. Once added and following a remote login, the available machines appear as entries in the login prompt.

The Nautilus file manager

qq-nautilus-logo

The latest version of the GNOME-developed Nautilus file manager, version 3.6, no longer provides the features felt to be essential to Ubuntu. So — as already reported in our Beta 1 preview — Ubuntu 12.10 sticks with Nautilus 3.4.

The 3.5 Linux kernel
The Linux kernel included with Ubuntu 12.10 is updated to a customised version based on the 3.5.3 upstream version which, as previously reported, features several changes that should result in improved graphics performance — including improved support for DisplayLink monitors and the hybrid graphics technologies found in notebooks. It also moves to X.org's X Server 1.13.

Unity 6.8.0
In Quantal Quetzal, Unity is now at version 6.8.0. This revision mainly takes care of a few bugs, but a new preview feature has been added to Dash where a right click on the icon of any asset appearing there opens a preview pane display of information related to that asset. Scroll arrows to the right and left of the preview pane allow scrolling to the next asset and a further right click closes the preview. Buttons appearing at the lower right of the preview offer a choice of further actions appropriate to the asset being previewed.

qq-terminal-preview
The preview pane opened for the Ubuntu Terminal utility. The Launch button offers the option of opening a terminal window directly from the preview.

There are also changes to the lenses, with the new online shopping lens, a new lens for Photos and a new icon for Gwibber. Although it's designated a 'lens', the online shopping suggestions — unlike the other lenses — do not have an icon at the bottom of Dash.

qq-dash-lens-icons

Dash lens icons, including the new Gwibber icon (fourth from left) and the new Photo lens icon (sixth from left).

Launch icons for the Ubuntu One music store and the Amazon website have been added by default to the Launcher bar:

qq-one-amazon

The 'Amazon' lens
As mentioned in our Ubuntu 12.10 Beta 2 preview, Canonical caused quite a stir when it widened the scope of the Dash predictive search to include online results in the Home lens — and results from the online shopping giant Amazon in particular.

qq-disk-search
A search started in the Dash Home lens for disk ('di') includes various items from the Ubuntu One music store and from Amazon in the search results.

Quite apart from the commercial aspect of this move, there's a problem with the broad scope of the search results. The same type of problem appeared in the Software Centre when Canonical added commercial applications (books and magazines, in particular): there's no filtering. For example, an English speaker living in the UK probably doesn't want the Software Centre listings for the German-language version of Linux User magazine, along with many other results for foreign-language publications. Because of the nature of predictive searching, filtering of Dash suggestions isn't likely to appear.

Issues over the transmission of the search terms being unencrypted, over the unintended display of 'adult' results and the omission of some text required by Amazon's API have apparently now all been resolved.

In response to criticism, Canonical has added a new toggle to turn off online search results in Dash via a new 'Search Results' tab under Privacy in System Settings — but this will turn off all online searches, including those for Gwibber.

qq-search-off

The new Search Results tab in the Privacy settings dialogue allows online searching to be turned off.

Canonical has also added a 'Learn more' link at the bottom right of the Dash window that leads to a legal disclaimer. Once the link has been opened and closed the link indicator changes to a smaller information icon.

qq-dash-legal
The new Dash search link to a legal disclaimer, a portion of the Dash search legal disclaimer, and the link's post-click alter ego.

As an alternative to the Privacy settings switch, the shopping lens can be uninstalled using a command line from a terminal as follows:

sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping

And reinstalled with:

sudo apt-get install unity-lens-shopping

The System menu and Software Updater

qq-system-menus
System menus from Ubuntu 12.04 (left) and 12.10 (right).

Comparing the System menus from Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) and 12.10 side by side reveals quite a few changes. The order of available choices, and even the choices available, have changed considerably: Displays, Startup Applications, Software Updater, Attached Devices/Printers and Lock Screen have all gone, and the top two spots have been taken by About This Computer and Ubuntu Help. All of the removed choices are now accessed via Dash or System Settings.

The Software Updater has been simplified, and when launched from Dash now immediately checks for updates. The status display is simpler and smaller and shows just a moving status bar. With checks complete, details of the available updates are displayed and users must confirm installation by clicking the Install Now button.

qq-update-status
This status display appears immediately the Software Updater is launched. Clicking Stop gives access to the Settings button without waiting for completion of the update process.
qq-software-sources
The tabbed update settings (Software Sources) dialogue loses the Statistics tab, but now includes an Additional Drivers tab. Additional Drivers no longer appears in the System Settings panel.

Messaging menu

qq-messaging

The Messaging menus from Ubuntu 12.04 (left) and 12.10 (right).

Although earlier ideas for a status indicator on the Messaging envelope icon that appeared briefly in Beta 2 have now been dropped, a comparison of the 12.04 Messaging menu with the new 12.10 menu show quite a difference. The menu in 12.10 is greatly simplified.

New versions for the bundled applications
A new Linux distribution always offers an opportunity to update to more recent versions of the bundled applications. In Ubuntu 12.10, for example, LibreOffice is incremented to version 3.6.1.2 and although it's not installed by default, GIMP goes to version 2.8. The Firefox browser and the Thunderbird mail client are at version 16.0.1.

Conclusions
The development of Ubuntu 12.10 hasn't exactly been a smooth ride, with early problems over the choice of boot loader solutions to accommodate dual boot with Windows 8, and the strong reaction to widening the scope of Dash search to include online results.

Perhaps surprisingly for an October release, 12.10 has a number of high-profile new features. However, these are features that clearly demonstrate Canonical's commitment to making the user interface intent-based, by focusing everything through the Dash predictive search, and to integrating online services with the OS via cloud services, messaging services and the online search scope.

 

Ubuntu 13.04: Raring Ringtail

raring-ringtail

The next version of Ubuntu, 13.04, will be codenamed Raring Ringtail, named after the North American racoon. In his blog post announcing the nomenclature, Mark Shuttleworth said that:

"...it’s time to look at the core of Ubuntu and review it through a mobile lens: let’s measure our core platform by mobile metrics, things like battery life, number of running processes, memory footprint, and polish the rough edges that we find when we do that. The tighter we can get the core, the better we will do on laptops and the cloud, too."

As ever, ZDNet will be on hand to follow the Linux distribution from beta to shipping.

Specifications

There are currently no specifications for this product.

Prices

There are currently no prices available for this product.

Topics: Ubuntu, Linux, Operating Systems, Reviews

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39 comments
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  • the right way

    as long as they don't start selling ad space inside the os itself I don't see the harm in trying to bring a great Linux district closer to mainstream by integrating familiar services like amazon. IMO, the worst that happen is more users will warm up to Linux.
    lukaslikeswindows
  • You can delete what you don't like...and...

    The ad lenses can be deleted straight from the /usr/share/applications and one can forget about Amazon or whatever. If you don't want U1, that too can be delted. I am not saying uninstalled, but deleted, and then clean the system.

    I think its about time the Linux users stop using Windows. If you really want Windows, get the 7, not the 8, as it is just a cosmetic changeover. Or buy OS-less computers. I have no idea, why anyone wants Windows now, maybe if you want play games or design in Autocad types. When Vista came, all Windows guys jumped, but it was kicked out. The same would be with Win 8.

    Unity is not going to be a big deal with those, who use laptops and desktops. You like it, you keep it, and if you don't, there are a lot of DEs and docks around. For purists, Nautilus could be the launcher and Synapse the searcher.

    If you take out the Internet connection, wired or wireless, when you start installing Quantal, you'd get a quicker distro, and if you want, you can add whatever "missing" files.

    I've been using Beat 2 updated, and Unity is gone a long time ago...and some of the bloat too.
    Ariya243
    • Why I stick with Windows

      I stay with Windows because two applications I use - Quicken and WordPerfect - have not been ported to Linux.

      Remember that the OS is what you use to launch applications - it is not an end in itself.
      n2add@...
      • Check out

        5.0

        http://www.codeweavers.com/products/#cxlinux

        No, its not free (but it is much cheaper than a Windows license and there's a free trial available in the Ubuntu software center.) And no, not every version of your applications is fully supported. So it depends on which versions of Quicken and WordPerfect you are running. But it has worked for me in the past. Of course, there are several free Quicken-like apps like GnuCash. And a plethora of good free word processors including LibreOffice...
        karl.davenport
      • ... Wine

        3.0

        Libre office > Wordperfect
        Wine = use of Quicken

        THat is all
        James Fallon
        • 'wine'

          6.0

          In the past, using earlier versions of Ubuntu, I installed Wine successfully and used it with various windows programs. It can be a pain to get working. For some it may not work at all, or just be a CPU hog. My experience with Wine is that just as in real life, too much of it can result in a splitting headache the next day.
          teageelee`
      • Like To Give Your Finanical Information Away For Free!

        1.0

        Not too many years ago Quicken was designed to report your financial information back to Intuit without you knowing about it.
        marlorcomp
    • Where is the Touch Interface?

      Totally a joke here. I have no idea if Ubuntu has a touch interface or not! I guess Ubuntu and all of Linux is really just a server OS right? The only folks I know who actually use and like Linux of any flavor are developers.

      I get why a developer would like it, but why is the mainstream effort always so far behind? Group think for an add on operating system to a market with so much competition seems to me like something between arrogance or hobbyist ignorance.

      If folks want to burn time on something, why not ubiquitous software that flies on all OS's? Building dozens of new OS's that seem to recreate what is already done, just free, seems indulgent.

      Imagine if these folks instead spent time trying to optimize healthcare, or improving our space program. Or offering 100 ways to optimize the existing OS's, with hardening options, add on software, or extensions that would make them bullet proof.

      Add ons like that would sell. Instead of always trying to take them down and basically embarrassing themselves because they are almost always a generation behind, why not slice into the big dogs with add on profits?

      Just wondering. I know it isn't popular here to like commercial OS solutions that are successful, but somehow they have their hooks in me.
      WCMedows
      • RE: Touch interface, etc.

        8.0

        Thanks for an excellent review, Terry. Very informative.

        WCMedows: I had been trying with mixed success to install and use the latest Bodhi Linux on a Dell Latitude XT2, which has legendary problems with its touchscreen, even with the original Windows drivers. Bodhi seemed a great solution for a while because it is very tablet-aware, but the familiar problems kept recurring so I decided to go for Ubuntu 12.10 because I'm more familiar with the Ubuntu system.

        I'm very pleased. No more random cursor movements seizing control of my screen, and the pen stylus works without any tweaking at all on my part, as does the touchpad. All in all, I can't imagine expecting any more from an operating system that cost me nothing. I admit I like the Gnome desktop a little better, but Unity is growing on me and it does function very well.

        As for your other thoughts about reinventing the wheel, I agree but I also think it's good for all these developers to hone their skills in a well-established Linux environment. Check out Paul Lutus' cross-platform programming in Java. I use a few of his programs in both Windows and Linux (Ubuntu and Mint, not that it really matters). It can be done, and should be done much more. It's just silly to port software back and forth between operating systems.
        Jeff Seager
  • Do you need the Ubuntu Software Center?

    First thing I do, most probably a lot of users do, is to install Synaptic. Then onwards, I don't need the Ubuntu Software Center. If I need something nice, I'd install the Deepin Software Center. Actually, when you have Synaptic, who needs software centers?
    Ariya243
    • I have the same reservations aboiut "software centres"

      7.0

      Synaptic does the job pretty well. And of course if you know what you want already, then the good ol' "apt-get" terminal command is very quick and powerful - especially as you can simply copy and paste a list of apps from a text file, like so:-

      sudo apt-get install an-application another-application yet-another-application etc
      mrgoose
  • Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) review

    1.0

    I don't see how its possible for any linux operating system to get an 8. Requires entirely too much effort to get it installed and even more to keep it running. Constant configurations, things not working the way they should, can't take full advantage of the hardware due to generic drivers.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Not sure if troll...

      3.0

      Or just haven't used a Linux distro since 1997.
      karl.davenport
      • @karl.davenport

        8.0

        Troll was correct as he does not use any Linux Distro and has stated so.

        Ubuntu is an Excellent Linux Distro
        RickLively
      • There was a time...

        When I thought that Lovecock was a complete plonker. I must apologise for this.

        Reading his latest inane comment, it is obvious that parts of him are missing!
        mrgoose
    • Linux gets an 8 if Windows gets below an 8

      I use Linux primarily because it is so much easier to install and maintain than Windows. There are no constant configurations, no nag screens from HP, Adobe, Java, and others to update. Printer installs take seconds instead of several minutes (for example a typical HP printer). Less crap running in the background (updaters from Java, HP, Epson, Flash, Acrobat Reader; various accellerators, printer monitors, etc). Supported scanners require little or no installation and use a common interface.

      Have converted several computers for friends who enjoy the speed and ease of use over Windows. I still use Windows in a virtual machine for an invoicing program, Nero (I really like the disk labeler), and most audio editing and mixing of live recordings of bands and orchestras.

      Ubuntu is currently my OS of choice, but I do use some other distributions.
      rich3page
      • This version doesn't get an 8...

        Must add to my previous comment. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is my current OS of choice. Ubuntu 12.10 definitely is not!

        I downloaded last night and installed on a Pentium 4 3GHz system. Not only was the performance noticeably slower for 12.10 over 12.04, it crawled. I tried playing a video DVD, which play fine under 12.04, but was only getting about 1.5 frames per second with 12.10.

        I cannot confirm or refute other claims by the author -- I can say 12.10 will not be used on any of my computers. I just hope Canonical doesn't "improve" 12.04 through updates to match the 12.10 performance.
        rich3page
    • Installing is easy.

      1.0

      Loverock Davidson,

      I'm sorry to hear that. I find ubuntu 12.10 really disgusting, but you can't say that installing it requires a lot of configuration, etc. Today installing a ubuntu distro is very straight forward no matter if you are talking about 12.04 or 12.10.

      I stand for ubuntu 12.04 maybe with an 8 and for ubuntu 12.10 with 1.
      hdsk
  • 12.10 is pretty good, but here's how to make is a whole lot nicer...

    7.0

    sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop

    Best wishes, G.
    mrgoose
  • I like how Ubuntu is evolving

    8.0

    There are some performance issues with this one, which I feel will be ironed out with the next iteration. Overall, these are good changes. Unity is maturing, though not perfect.

    This is a good Linux for the average user.
    Michael Alan Goff