Whether you love or loathe Ubuntu, 13.04 'Raring Ringtail' won't change your mind

A test of the newly-released Ubuntu 13.04 release across four systems shows it's a solid release. But if you've previously been a fan of Ubuntu or feared it, this isn't the release to make you think otherwise.

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Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) review

Some of the features that were to be included in Ubuntu 13.04 have been shelved in favour of presenting a polished and solid release, with most of the improvements residing behind the scenes. As a result, Raring Ringtail may seem a bit of a disappointment.

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As just about every Linux blogger on the planet has noted, the final release of Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) was made available last week . I'm running behind most of them with this post, because I wanted to get it loaded onto several of my laptops and test some specific points before writing. My initial impressions are good, in that it installs relatively easily and runs well, and some particularly troubling problems from the pre-releaseshave been fixed in the final release.

However, my overall opinion is still the same: if you liked Ubuntu before, your are probably going to like this release even more.

There are significant improvements, both cosmetic and functional, in this release but if you didn't like it before, you are almost certainly not going to like this release either. I fall in the 'dislike' category, and I haven't seen anything in this release that changes my feelings. I don't see that as being a problem on either side — I don't like it, so I don't use it other than to load it and make sure that it works on my systems, and then keeping it available in case I need to look at something to help one of my friends whom I have set up with Ubuntu; I don't think I am part of the 'target market' for Ubuntu, so they most likely don't care about my likes and dislikes of various parts of the OS.

Less intimidating?

I was in a SANS training class last week, and I happened to talk to a couple of other attendees about Linux in general, and Ubuntu in particular. They were very experienced Windows users, and I found their comments quite interesting and enlightening. They said that they found Ubuntu to be the easiest distribution to understand, and the least "intimidating" conceptually compared to other Linux distributions that they had tried.

I have to say honestly that I am baffled by the "easiest to understand" statement, as I would have thought that Unity would be completely foreign to them, but they seemed to have picked it up very quicky, so maybe this is a function of what you want to use it for, and what kind of access to the system or applications you're trying to get.

On the other hand, the part about "less intimidating" I think is because of the way Ubuntu has been presented and treated over the past couple of years. It seems like Ubuntu has gone to a lot of trouble to present itself as an 'out of the box solution' — there hasn't been the talk about downloading/compiling/modifying the kernel, drivers, or whatever other parts of the operating system.

For the general public and average users, that might be shielding Ubuntu from a lot of the criticism that's directed at other Linux distributions. I think that might be a bit unfair, because I can treat openSuSE, Fedora and Linux Mint the same way if I want — just load and use them and not do anything else. However, Ubuntu clearly has a stronger reputation for this kind of use than other Linux distributions.

Anyway, I consider this to be a good thing, because it helps expand the general distribution of Linux. It doesn't matter even a little bit whether I, or any other experienced Linux user, loathes Ubuntu and refuses to use it. We are already convinced, and we'll use whatever distribution we're comfortable with.

What is important is showing that Linux can be a viable and even superior alternative for desktop use, and if the approach that Ubuntu is taking to this is working (which it appears to be) then more power to them. I don't often agree with a lot of the things that Mark Shuttleworth says (that probably doesn't concern him very much either), but I recently read something that I thought was exactly right. If you don't like Ubuntu, don't use it, move on to whatever suits your needs — but there's no reason to "poison the well" for others just because it isn't right for you.

Four system test

OK, that was a much longer digression than I had intended, so let me get back to what I started to write about. I have now installed it on the following systems:

  • Fujitsu Lifebook S6510: Intel Core2Duo, Intel graphics and wi-fi, 14-inch display, Legacy (DOS) BIOS
  • Acer Aspire One 725: AMD C-70, Radeon graphics, Atheros wi-fi, 11.6-inch display, UEFI BIOS
  • HP Pavilion dm1-4310ez: AMD E2, Radeon graphics, Ralink wi-fi, 11.6-inch display, UEFI BIOS
  • Acer Aspire One 533: AMD C-60, Radeon graphics, Atheros wi-fi, 10-inch display, Legacy BIOS

The results so far have been very good.

S6510: This is a golden oldie these days, but I still have it on my desk and it still works. Ubuntu installed with absolutely no problems, and everything worked. I was able to configure dual displays with the laptop screen at 1,280 by 800 and an external 1,280 by 1,024 (another golden oldie...). Both wired and wireless network adapters work just fine. On this one I noted that if you have an internet connection while you are running the installation, it does a good job of determining your local timezone and likely keyboard configuration itself.

AO725: This is a relatively new system with UEFI BIOS and Secure Boot, and it was my first really pleasant surprise with this Ubuntu release. When I tried a 13.04 daily build last week, it did not work properly with Secure Boot enabled. They seem to have fixed that problem in the final release, because it installed and booted with Secure Boot enabled with absolutely no problem, and no extra configuration, repair or tweaking on my part. (Note for those who have read my previous UEFI posts: the one thing it does not do is get itself installed as the default boot object, after Ubuntu installation finished the laptop still booted Windows 8, and I had to hit the Boot Select key to interrupt that, but I was then able to select and boot Ubuntu from there, which I could not do last week.)

Ubuntu Menu
Ubuntu Menu

Pavilion dm1: This was my second pleasant surprise. This system has a Raling 3290 wi-fi adapter, and the daily build I tried last week didn't have the firmware file included for that adapter. During the installation this time it showed me a list of available networks, rather than just the name of the adapter, so I knew already then that they had fixed this problem. Sure enough, wireless networking works just fine now.

AO522: I wanted to try it on at least one of my netbooks. Again, it installed with absolutely no problem, and everything works. The screen is correctly detected and configured at 1,024 x 600, and as with the others the wired and wireless networking are just fine.

Ubuntu Shutdown/Reboot Dialog

So, to summarise, Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail is available, and seems to work well on everything I have tried so far. If you are an Ubuntu follower, this is very good news. If you haven't tried it yet, don't let the negative opinions and criticism from various experienced Linux users dissuade you — give it a try! You might find that you like it — a lot of people I have talked do certainly do.