Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 around the corner

Recently, my hard drive failed. I heard it coming, heralded as it was by the signature clicks and whines of a dying machine. Lucky me, the warning signs meant almost everything got backed up. Almost. I never bothered to make a Windows recovery disk. So, a week or so ago, facing the daunting task of getting XP back on the machine without a disk, I simply opted to install Ubuntu 8.10.

The last time I installed Ubuntu, 6.04 or so, I had to fight to get a lot of stuff to work. The last week or so, with 8.10, has been a completely wonderful experience.

I've faced a few weird bugs, but they turned out to be bugs in Firefox or Inkscape, not in the system itself. The lack of a robust pdf editor is bit of a hurdle, and I've found DVD to Xvid conversion far easier on Windows (unexpectedly). The lack of Google's Chrome makes me sad, but FF seems to be zipping along fine for now, especially as I rely more on bookmarklets and less on extensions. But the system works well. And those drawbacks are balanced by the feeling of power I get when the system asks me whether I want to run a certain program, or if I would rather read the underlying python, see how it works. Fueled by all this access, I have already helped triage a few bugs, and even submitted some code to a project.

The big news in the Ubuntu world is the upcoming release of 9.04, "Jaunty Jackalope." Tomorrow, Ubuntu 9.04 will be frozen for beta, which will be released on the 26th. The most astonishing thing about Ubuntu, beyond all the open access, is the fact this collection of amateurs (and a few full-time coders) can all be mobilized to stick to very strict release cycles, and that every one of those releases is so much better than the last. I cannot think of a major commercial software program that sticks this rigorously to release dates.

When the beta hits on the 26th, or when the final version hits April 23rd, I'll definitely upgrade to "Jaunty Jackalope", and start the next six month cycle of anticipation as I await the release of "Kosmic Koala."

Looking back, I am a little grateful Windows is hard to shoehorn onto a system, even for those with the rights to do so. The Microsoft lockdown helped me make a switch that was long overdue, and I'm not looking to go back anytime soon.