Ubuntu 8.10 – A Month In

November 29, 2008

in Linux,Tech

For over 10 years I have supported Microsoft Windows in an enterprise environment both at the desktop and server level.  I decided it was time to learn something new a year and a half ago.  I decided to learn Linux and Unix.  During the initial months I tried out various Linux distributions and finally decided on Ubuntu.  I believe that was back on version 7.04.  The latest version of Ubuntu, version 8.10, has been released for over a month now.   I have been running it since shortly after its release and I am here to talk about what has stood out to me.

Of course Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) has the latest version of packages like Open Office and Firefox, but here are the top things I have really noticed.  Keep in mind that I jumped from 7.10 to 8.10 and skipped 8.04 so some of these enhancements may have shipped with 8.04.

The biggest updated for me is the improvement in dual monitor support.   In previous versions I had to tinker with the xorg.conf file until I got both monitors running the way I wanted.  Also when my laptop was not connected to the second monitor, the OS would still operate like the it was there.  Applications windows would open up on the phantom screen requiring me to manually move the window back over to the laptop screen so I could see it.   As soon as I installed 8.10 both monitors were up and running.   All I had to do was go to preferences, then the screen resolution applet, and unchecked mirror screens.  Once I applied this change I had two separate screens and was able to set the resolution for each using the same applet.  Ubuntu now detects when I am not connected to the second monitor and loads up with only a single monitor configuration.

The second biggest update is the inclusion of mobile broadband support.  I live in an area where I can not get DSL or a cable modem.  I have found that a 3G card is my best option for an Internet connection.  I am still running Windows XP on my desktop at home in order to connect with the 3G card.  I then use Internet Connection Sharing to connect my Ubuntu laptop to the Internet.  This is the second biggest update because I have been unable to get my card to work properly.  At times it connects but the speed is much slower than it should be.  Other times I can not get it to connect at all.  I am encouraged however, because I have found a bug report for my model card and version 8.10.  It appears that they have identified the issue.  Once this is resolved, mobile broadband support will be my favorite update from 8.10.

Other changes I have noticed is that Pidgin is now part of the distribution.  This is great since I use this on a daily basis.   Not only is it included in the distribution, but it seems to be integrated in the Gnome desktop.   I can now set my status right from the top panel in what appears to be the Fast User Switch applet.  Not a feature that would make someone switch OS’s or distributions but it is a nice option to have.  Another nice little feature that I noticed was the ability to leave a message for the currently logged on user from a locked screen.  Once the user returns they are alerted on their desktop of the new message.  Again not a game changer but nice to have the option.  One of the advertised options that is worth mentioning is the ability to log out and allow a user to log in as “guest” with limited access.  This will be nice if you lend your laptop to someone and don’t want to worry about giving out your password or allowing them access to your documents.

While these updates are certainly not all the improvements in Ubuntu 8.10, they are the things that have stood out to me.  Everyone uses their computer differently and someone else would certainly find some of the other updates a bigger deal to them.  Please take a moment and comment on what your favorite update is and why.

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