One week after launch, we come with first impressions about Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin. Why after a week? Because we wanted to make sure that the new version of Ubuntu deserves our attention. Precise Pangolin doesn’t include any dramatic changes, but offers a number of improvements and refinements to the Unity interface. As an LTS release, the OS will receive support and updates for five years for both versions (desktop, server). Unlike previous LTS releases, which received support for three years for the desktop version and five years for the server version, Canonical decided to offer support for five years for both versions.
Even though it’s the most popular Linux distribution, with the introduction of the new Unity interface in the previous versions, Ubuntu was very unstable and problematic. One of the biggest problems was lack of support for newer hardware, especially graphics cards from nVidia and trackpads whose clickable button is built into the surface, as Apple’s Magic Trackpad. To our surprise, Precise Pangolin solves most hardware problems and drivers support is much improved.
What’s new in Precise Pangolin?
The new HUD is probably the most interesting and innovative feature in Precise Pangolin. The HUD introduces a new way to access application menus. Instead of traditional GUI, where you navigate your mouse to find the desired option, now all you have to do is to press the Alt key to display the HUD and write what you’re searching for. All options containing the name you’ve typed will automatically appear in the list. But don’t worry, the classic menus are still there, they’re just hidden. Any application that supports Ubuntu’s global menu bar will also support the HUD.
Ubuntu 12.04 comes with a new application for Privacy. It is well known that most operating systems record user activity, but unlike other operating systems, Ubuntu adds an application that centralizes all options relating to privacy, and offers users the ability to stop recording activity in certain programs, or a complete deactivation of this function.
Also, in the new version of Ubuntu, some configuration options have been added for the Unity interface. The Appearance options can be found by accessing the System Settings from the Launcher. Here, under the Look tab, you can resize the icons in the Launcher, and under the Behavior tab you can chose to hide the Launcher when the mouse is not over it.
Besides the appearance settings, now many more applications also support “quicklists“. This feature displays a list of options when you right click on icons in the Launcher. The feature is similar to that in Windows 7.
Another change in Unity is the addition of Video Lens. The buttons at the bottom of the Dash are called Lenses. These allow searching by a particular category of content, namely, applications, files, music and now video. In the new Video Lens you can search videos stored locally or on the Internet via YouTube, Vimeo, TED Talks and other similar websites.
Ubuntu Software Center and Ubuntu One were redesigned. Besides the redesign, Ubuntu Software Center is now offering personalized recommendations for each user. To enable these recommendations, all you have to do is to click on Turn On Recommendations.
We were surprised to see Rhythmbox included in Precise Pangolin as default music player. It seems that Banshee had too many stability problems, but that wasn’t the only reason it was removed. Tomboy also seems to have been removed from Ubuntu 12.04, due to a patent dispute between Microsoft and Novell, which involved Mono. Mono is now considered proprietary software by the Linux community. You can still find both applications in Ubuntu Software Center if you wish to install them.
All good in the new Ubuntu but it seems that some problems still remained unsolved. Although the sound was improved (you no longer hear that synthetic noise), if you want a multi-channel sound, it’s next to impossible without making changes to important system files. If you don’t know the Linux command line, then this can be quite difficult. It seems that sound options have no effect when you select anything other than Analog Stereo Duplex. Hopefully they’ll solve these problems and they will include fixes in future updates.
Even if some problems are still present, Ubuntu continues to improve. We are quite pleased with the overall quality of the OS and we recommend it. If you want to test the new Ubuntu, or if you want to switch from Windows to Linux you can download the OS free from the official Ubuntu website.