The development cycle of the next major release from the wildly popular Linux distribution Ubuntu started on October 20 and was given the monicker of Dapper Drake. That is a name we will all be hearing quite a bit on the road to final, scheduled for April 20, 2006, and well beyond. Let's a take a look at a recent build for the upcoming Ubuntu 6.04. I choose to call it "pre-beta."
Dapper's admirable goals include software discovery and installation, making it easier to install new software; network-wide enterprise updates for simplified centralized administration; and support for Dapper on mission-critical enterprise servers. Said of the development cycle, "we want to make sure we can deliver on the promise of a super-stable and ultra-polished Ubuntu for the masses."
In a wiki document titled "DapperGoals ", it is written:
- Substantial polish and integration of the existing desktop environment is the primary desktop goal, for both Ubuntu (GNOME) and Kubuntu (KDE).
- Dapper should come pre-configured to do the Right Thing, without asking questions, with all forms of content that the standard install is configured to handle. Double-click on a PDF, and you should see it in Evince (Ubuntu). Double click on a PNG, and you should see it in the Gnome image viewer.
- The sound theme should be professional, and muted by default (other than startup and shutdown sounds).
- Artwork will be an evolution of the Breezy artwork, with substantial work done to make an excellent overall visual impression on Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Edubuntu.
- High priority will be given to specifications that require relatively little new code but improve the "smoothness" or polished feel of the final product.
- Software discovery and installation will be a target of focused work. It should be even easier to find software that is either part of Ubuntu main, or universe/multiverse (recognising the issues of support and supportability involved), and even 3rd party software that is built and packaged for Ubuntu.
- We will work hard to make network-wide enterprise updates easy to manage. So people who are deploying Dapper across a corporate network can ensure that they retain control over the distribution of updates to those desktops.
- We will consider LSB and related certification standards. We have not yet determined the feasibility of aiming for compliance with such standards, but will take the decision at UBZ.
- We will support the server administrators who want to deploy Dapper on mission-critical servers, with a flavour of kernel specifically tuned to meet their needs.
Are they on the right track? This will be my first install of Ubuntu. I've briefly looked at the livecds of Ubuntu and Kubuntu and reviewed Edubuntu livecd, but never actually done a hard drive install and spent any real length of time exploring the depths. I'm not a fan of gnome or agree with the sudo philosphy of better security, but today I take a look at what will become Ubuntu 6.04.
It all starts with a download, a burn, a boot. One is greeted by what I refer to as an "ascii-graphic" installer. It walks the user thru various steps in order to obtain an Ubuntu Linux install. The beginning stages are non-interactive while the installer does some setup and hardware detection.
My install became interactive when it failed to detect my network card(s). Instead it offered to let me go thru hardware detection again, and when it failed again it insisted I had some firewire hardware to configure. I declined to configure that as I actually have none and after looping thru this process a few times, I ctrl+alt+F2'd to a terminal and
modprobe via-rhine. That helped the installer detect my network card and it proceded to set up dhcp and bring up the connection.
I was asked my hostname and sent to a hard disk partitioner. Given the choices of formatting all of either of my hard drives or manual, I chose manual. Next, I chose the partition I wanted to install upon, set up some options, and clicked yes to procede. I was asked my timezone and it was off to install the base system and copy the packages.
After a short while of installing I was asked to set up a user and it left me alone again to do some more configuring, most notably the apt installer. After the myocardial infarction that the progress bar/screen gave me when it said it was installing grub on my lilo system, I was asked for my input as to where to install it <shewee>. Skipping this step wasn't offered, but I could choose /dev/fd0.
At this point the system wants to reboot to install the software packages and it shoots a screen about level of error reporting, but doesn't give one time to read or adjust the level. Augh well, not important -> reboots.
Here is where it picks up the software installation. After it mounts all partitions it can possibly find, it asks for input concerning the X resolution desired, and continues installing and configuring our new ubuntu system. I was left scratching my head and making a mental note to google the "bicyclerepair" configuration it spent a few seconds working. As I haven't had a bicycle in about 20 years, I've since googled and found it's a framework and refactoring tool for Python. hmmmm... ok.
Now we can log-in. Foregoing the personal critique of color choice, the login is a nice tidy screen featuring a few options. In the lower right hand side is one's machine name and time of day. On the left are the options to reboot or shutdown. In the primary focal area, one can choose their language (only don't!). Choosing this option opens a nice big empty box that renders the system locked. A hard reset with all partitions mounted later, we can now choose our session. We are basically offered gnome, gnome, or gnome. I chose gnome.
One is ushered into their shiny new Ubuntu desktop by an attractive nautilus splash box and relaxing startup sound. An uncluttered desktop of Gnome 2.13.1 is served up by Xorg 6.8.2 ontop of Linux-188.8.131.52.
The menus are chocked full of applications for just about any task at hand. In the accessories menu we find things such as an archive manager, file browser, dictionary and calculator. In the graphics menu are gimp, image viewer (eye of gnome), a thumbnail viewer (gThumb), and xsane (which worked  out of the box here). Your game choices are not limited by their gnome/gtk dependency as 17 different applications are given ranging from solitare and black jack to mines and gnometris.
OpenOffice.org 2.0 is found in this pre-release as well as evolution for mail, firefox for browsing, gaim for instant messaging, gnomemeeting for video conferencing, X-chat for irc, and bittorrent for file sharing.
The sound menu has many different applications for listening to or ripping of music as well as burning a cd. The systems tools offered range from menu editing, system configuration, system logs, reporting bugs, to loginning in as another user. The places menu has nice links for seaching for files, browsing local files or connecting to network folders.
Under System we find Preferences and Administration. In the preferences menu we find shortcuts to all kinds of system configuration tools. One can customize their system to each his own including Assistive Technology Support. Under Administration one can configure their network connection, view disk information, add users or groups, adjust time and date, edit the menu and much much more.
There is also help available. Gnome has it's help available and Ubuntu provides specific help for using their system. One can browse these local html and man pages or be taken to the Ubuntu wiki.
And of course the piece de resistance: synaptic. What is any deb system without apt-get and front-end synaptic? Ubuntu's version worked as advertised here. Smooth, even flawless, installation of additional applications, if they were available, was experienced. I was disappointed to not find xawtv or mplayer offered in the default apt-get repository.
During my testing of this not-even-an-alpha, Ubuntu Dapper Drake seemed very stable with only a few glitches here and there. Besides the few mentioned above, trying to use totem first shot an error about not being able to use the video device and then locked the system up. Any delay in inputting your user password in the dialogue boxes presented for apps requiring root priviledges resulted in a lock up. The cd player worked the first time and then never again.
The default desktop itself was quite nice if you don't mind the color. The theme was a very nice and unobtrusive choice and ubuntu always has some nice wallpapers. The abundance of software included leaves hardly any use for synaptic.
The installer wasn't any more user friendly than anyone else's. Seems if developers, not ubuntu specifically, take away the software selection step they call it more user friendly. It worked as designed except for the network card glitch.
So, all in all, Ubuntu was found to be another nice and capable Linux distribution. I don't understand all the big hoopla surrounding it. It's nice enough, but I just can't see what everyone else does. To me there are many as nice and several nicer. But if it's your cup of tea, it doesn't look as tho Dapper Drake is going to disappoint you.