With Ubuntu 7.10 arriving 2/7 ago, I used a lazy saturday to play around with the new Ubuntu. My tinker and game machine runs a single core 3800 Athlon 64 and is moderately zippy, but plagued by a collection of slow and old IDE – HD’s that are filling its slots. Nevertheless, it’s got a nice 6800 Nvidia GPU that once was a pretty groovy card (though these days can’t even run Neverwinter Nights 2 properly. If I would be a hardware company, I would be paying these game studios big bucks: every time a new, demanding game comes out, gazillions of nerds chuck out their old motherboards, graphic cards and processors and get a new set. Good for me, as I am quite happy to buy second hand gear used that was one year ago at the cutting edge.
Anyway, back to the original topic: It took only 18 minutes for Gutsy beta to install on one of my modest HDs. Startup time from Grub to login a very respectable thirty seconds (beat that, OpenSuse and XP). After logging in the first positive surprise: my RT2500 chipset Wland card is accepted without trouble and performs admirably. Gnome network manager works out of the box (a first) and Gutsy seemed to be generally speedier. OpenOffice 2.3 on Gnome 2.2 looks great and the whole operating system feels stable, zippy and comfortable. After my recent excursions into KDE land and my dependency on XP for games, it always is a great feeling of comfort to be greeted by these warm colours, tasteful fonts and general air of ‘it just works, you know?’.
Nevertheless, the proof in the pudding would always be whether the Ubuntu development team would have finally cracked the ‘nvidia out of the box’ problem and sadly, for this machine and this early beta, it hasn’t. While I am the first to agree that I really don’t have any need for the whole compiz/beryl thingie, wobbly windows and cubic desktops, it would have been nice to know that my GPU is actually being used for something and not just idling around, setting up the ‘restricted driver’ option ended in failure (x didn’t seem to start) and I had to manually edit xorg.conf and pop the generic nvidia driver back in. Little bit of work left there for the team. Apart from that, everything seems to be just marvellous.
Kudos to Uncle Shuttleworth and his happy helpers.