Ubuntu Linux 12.10 review: Better, but slower

Ubuntu Linux 12.10 review: Better, but slower

Summary: The newest version of Ubuntu Linux is almost here and it's looking pretty good, but it also has some quirks and it's slower than I'd like.

Say hello to the newest Ubuntu Linux: Quantal Quetzal.

On October 18th, Ubuntu 12.10, the latest and greatest version of this popular Linux distribution arrives. On the eve of its arrival, it's looking pretty good, but it's far from flawless.

There's been a lot of fussing over Ubuntu's business-related changes. Some people are upset that Ubuntu is actively soliciting donations. Others aren't happy with how Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, is dealing with Microsoft attempt to block other operating systems from Windows 8 PCs with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot.. And, probably the most people were upset with Ubuntu's attempt to add Amazon search results by default to Ubuntu searches.

Those are all noteworthy issues, but they are also beside the main point: This is a new release of Ubuntu. What's new in it? How good it is? I've been using Ubuntu 12.10, aka "Quantal Quetzal, since its first beta and, hours before it's official release, I can safely say that this is a newer, better Ubuntu... for most users.

Slideshow: Say hello to Ubuntu 12.10 Linux

Let's start with the basics. I primarily tested Ubuntu 12.10 on my Dell Inspiron 530S powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. This PC has 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set. I also tested it on a variety of other PCs, primarily my old Lenovo ThinkPad R61. This 2008-vintage notebook is powered by a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7500 and has 2GBs of RAM.

Underneath the new Ubuntu's hood, you'll find the 3.5.4 Linux kernel. On top of that, you'll find GNOME 3.6 applications and libraries. What you won't find, of course, is the GNOME 3.6 shell itself. Ubuntu gave up, as many other Linux users and developers have, on the GNOME 3.x interface. GNOME still serves as the foundation though for Ubuntu's Unity and Head Up Display (HUD) interface.

Ubuntu hasn't embraced all of GNOME 3.6 for its under-pinnings though. After toying with the idea of adding the widely disliked GNOME Nautilus 3.6 file manager to Ubuntu, the programmers wisely walked away from that notion and returned to the more usable Nautilus 3.4 file manager.

Canonical had also intended to move Ubuntu to Python 3.2, but they were not "able to convert everything to Python 3 for Ubuntu 12.10." So, for now at least Python 2 will continue to be supported. Eventually, though, if you're building applications with Python, you won't be able to rely on Python 2 being there by default for you.

As for programs for those of who don't like getting our hands dirty with deep technology, Ubuntu 12.10 includes the latest versions of many popular Linux desktop applications. These include: Firefox 16.01; LibreOffice 3.6.2, and Thunderbird 16.01. For movies, Ubuntu is using Totem; for photography, it's Shotwell; and for music, it's Rhythmbox. If you want other programs, I know I do, it's easy enough to install your preferred apps. For me, for instance, I much prefer Banshee for music and Evolution for e-mail.

That said, what's new and interesting here. For starters, there are more "lens," special purpose search result windows in the HUD dash. With them you can now search for your songs, videos, apps, documents, and photos. You can also search not only on your PC and network drives but on Web sites as well. So, for example with photos you can search for your images by name, tag or Exchangeable image file format (EXIF) data and on Facebook and Flickr.

Once, you've found what you might be searching for, you can also now do a quick, right-click preview look to see if the file you really want. It's a nice feature, but it does make the screen a little cluttered and I, for one, don't need to see full-screen previews every time I look a brief look at a file.

Ubuntu is also continuing to integrate the Web into the desktop in other ways. While it hasn't gone as far as Google Chromebooks or the Ubuntu-based Peppermint desktop Linux, you can engage with such services as Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM, and Google+ from the desktop. This integration, which relies on Firefox, works fairly well, but it can take a bit since Firefox isn't that fast anymore. These services are on top of the Ubuntu One cloud storage and music streaming service.

One result of all this "live" Web activity is that Ubuntu is no longer directly supporting PCs that don't have 3D graphic acceleration. Instead, it uses Gallium llvmpipe, a 3D software graphics accelerator to support a common version of Unity for all PCs. That's great for developers, but it's not so hot for those of us using older hardware.

I found Ubuntu 12.10 to look and feel slower than Ubuntu 12.04.1, the recently released long term support of Ubuntu. I also found some other video quirks that may or may not be related to the shift to llvmpipe. These have included videos played by Totem playing in very dark tones and my Dell system's inability to stay at its maximum resolution.

All-in-all, I like this new Ubuntu. I must say though that I don't love it. It's not the interface, Unity, unlike GNOME 3.x or Microsoft's Metro, is useful. Mind you, I still prefer a more traditional desktop interface such as Cinnamon, but Unity with its multitude of lens can be very handy. In particular, I think new users will like it.

No, the real problem is that Ubuntu is just slower than I expect a Linux distribution to be on older, slower hardware. I'm sure it will be fine on newer, faster PCs, but one of the things I've always liked about Linux is how it's let me extend the lifespan of my PCs for years more than Windows or Mac OS X would. That's just not the case with Ubuntu 12.10.

So, my recommendation is that if you have a newish PC, go ahead and give Ubuntu 12.10 a try. If not, then either stick with what you've got or give a distribution such as Linux Mint a try. Its newest edition may be months old now, but it's still my best Linux desktop of 2012.

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Topics: Ubuntu, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Software Development, PCs

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  • This field is required

    "I found Ubuntu 12.10 to look and feel slower than Ubuntu 12.04.1..."

    That is unfortunate. I have an older machine running Lubuntu 12.04 and it looks like it will stay that way. On my newer laptop I will stick with Mint with MATE.
    • On Topic, Congrats!!

      I'm with you Lubuntu, Xubuntu for older machines.

      It's all the fancy non-essentials.

      Even Win8 (demo) runs better without the bling, (won't run Metro on my old netbook though).
      "Classic Shell" very rapid, tempted but no.
    • Old hardware

      This pining for running old hardware remains really quite endearing in an article on a tech site aimed at a First World audience. NOBODY is running old hardware on their main machines. if people do then it's hobbyist or proving some point to nobody in particular.

      I'm not in the first world but manage a core i5 machine just fine. Yes, I do have older hardware around, my daughter uses an old laptop. It runs XP, which remains miles ahead of LXDE/Lubuntu/XFCE/Xubuntu or whatever other-buntu. (I know, I tried.)
      Han CNX
      • Oldie (but still like tech)!

        I'm retired and I like tech.
        I like the challenge of keeping both cheap and up to date.

        I also think repurposing older stuff and preserving resources is worthwhile.
        I did my consumerist bit in my younger days, I've grown up now!

        Think about doing the same, your daughter might appreciate a liveable environment at our age.

      • Oh Please

        My Kids all use Ubuntu on netbooks that came originally with lobotomized versions of windows 7 home and one child uses a old acer aspire 3000 with 2GB ram so your comment while your opinion doesnt take into account people here in the states who make use of older or under powered machines for their kids simply because we cant afford to buy them a shiny iPad that doesnt do half the stuff their smokin fast ubuntu machines give them
      • must be nobody

        > This pining for running old hardware remains really quite endearing in an article on a tech site
        > aimed at a First World audience. NOBODY is running old hardware on their main machines.
        > if people do then it's hobbyist or proving some point to nobody in particular.

        Really??? You must be calling me a "nobody" then. It's time you wake up and understand there's an extended economic depression going on (despite political mouthpieces trying to claim to the contrary). A *lot* of us do not have the money to buy new kit, and running on that "old" hardware is the only option we have, and if we're in the tech field, simply abandoning computers altogether is not a option.
      • Agreed

        I too have used ubuntu on an older machine that had Windows XP but was very disappointed. I was under the impression that it would run faster than XP, but to my dismay, it did not. I wish I hadn't switched to ubuntu. Apps are lacking, not as fast as XP = what's the use?

        Stay with windows or if you have the money, buy an Apple and use OSx. The machines that were used to do the test on this new Linus OS will run Windows 7 just fine, so again, what's the use?
        • and what version of ubuntu was this?

          I've yet to really see one not outperform XP....especially if you're using one of the lighter desktops. It was the horrible performance of XP that led me to switch 5 years ago and its been my daily driver for both home and work ever since.
          • :O

            XP came out on 2001. So, please use linux distro came same year and then compare to it. If you try to run OS which released after that it will slow for sure.
          • How do you compare?

            Since few Windoze applications will run on Ubuntu, how can you compare performance? It certainly takes more time for Ubuntu to boot up. The only other thing you can compare is it's screen-saver recovery time.
      • XP miles ahead? You're insane

        Even Vista isn't on par with 12.04. The last Ubuntu version to be behind XP was 9.10.
      • Idiocy

        NOBODY is running old hardware on their main machines.

        I was going to reply to that piece of idiocy and then I read this...

        It runs XP, which remains miles ahead of LXDE/Lubuntu/XFCE/Xubuntu or whatever other-buntu

        ...and realised you're simply not credible.
      • Old hardware indeed!

        Your attitude toward those running "old hardware" is sheer ignorance and bigotry. Not everyone has the financial resources to update to the newest state-of-the-artless every time the industry comes up with a way to make more money. And not everyone has the time to figure out why none of their vital applications work with the latest and greatest hardware or software, or to reprogram all their systems to run. I still run my bookkeeping and tax accounting using MS-DOS (!) applications, because THEY WORK, unlike the cr#p that passes for software now-a-days. And I still use "older hardware" because IT WORKS, unlike the cr#p that passes for hardware now-a-days. I've yet to purchase a motherboard, operating system, or software application that actual performs all its touted features. Inevitably something doesn't work as promised, and inevitably there will be compatibility issues that force one to "upgrade" additional hardware and/or software components. And for what? So we can have more dancing monkeys to perform the same tasks less efficiently?
      • Some of us have little choice in the hardware we use

        Thank you Steven for a useful and informative article.

        @Han, I would consider myself first world, and quite a bit above hobbyist [1], but I am financially constrained (disability pension). I definitely appreciate articles that help me get the most out of my old hardware. It's not practical to test every version of every OS that's out there, so reading a review from someone who has tested a particular OS on older hardware is very useful.

        My "main" machine is a 6 year old Inspiron 9400 with a Centrino Duo processor, and 3GB RAM, running Windows 7.

        My 2nd machine (that I inherited when a friend bought a Macbook) is an old Inspiron 640m with only 1GB of RAM. I hope that Linux will breath a few more years of life into the older machine.

        [1] I have a technical and electronics engineering background. I've been using computers since 1980, and I was a software developer until 2007.
    • It does'ne affect you (us)

      Ubuntu 12.10 is slow because of Unity. But the base is as responsive as earlier. So, these regressions does not affect Lubuntu or other derivatives. In-fact, I use LXDE installed on top of Ubuntu instead of Unity on my old system. I love Unity but unfortunately, my old computers can't use it. I use it on my new laptop however.
    • Yep, Lubuntu . . .

      . . . works well, and runs fast. I started using it on an old single core 1GB desktop that runs python-whiteboard in my classroom. I liked it so much better than Unity, I switched to it on my new notebook.
  • I'm unhappy with Linux blocking the installation of Windows

    "Others aren't happy with how Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, is dealing with Microsoft attempt to block other operating systems from Windows 8 PCs with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot"

    I think it is telling that you think it is perfectly fine for chromebook Linux to implement secure boot for the SOLE purpose of blocking Windows but when MS implements secure boot for the sole purpose of enhancing PC security, this is evil. It says a lot about your "integrity" as a human being.
    • re: I'm unhappy with Linux blocking the installation of Windows


      (note the horns)

      You can boot other OS's on chromebooks; the key is to switch it to developer mode. There are several tutorials on how to do this online. Mostly people do this to install Ubuntu, though.
      • So turning off secureboot is all that is required?

        Good, then I'll be looking for SJVN to provide an update now that he has been informed (for the 10th time) that Microsoft is requiring all Windows 8 certified PCs to provide the option of turning off secure boot, thus doing the exact opposite of blocking Linux.

        Want to bet that SJVN will provide no such update?

        Want to bet that SJVN will continue to post the LIE in his blog that Microsoft is blocking the install of other OSs in Windows 8?
        • Oh Look

          It's one of LD's multiple personalities.
          Alan Smithie