I must admit that my curiosity got the better of me when screenshots of Ubuntu’s 8.10, otherwise known as Intrepid Ibex, started to make their appearance. It is only at alpha2 stage so it’s definitely a no-no for production systems. However, it does run surprisingly smoothly even at this stage. Yes, I have seen rough edges and the biggest of them all has made me install it onto my spare PC; there is certainly tendency for systems to hang when you try running 8.10 in virtual machines, my preferred method for these kinds of explorations. Try it in VirtualBox and kernel panic messages ensue while you can log in on VMware Workstation only for the desktop never to load. Those could be major deficiencies for some but they have both been reported with the former being seen by many and the latter being flagged by my own self.
Because I was using a version with the alternate installer, the usual slickness that we expect of Ubuntu installations wasn’t apparent. I am sure that will change in time for the final release but I didn’t find it too taxing to get things going with this means. Nevertheless, I reckon that we will see the usual feel return in later development versions and very much in time for the final release. Because I was installing over the top of a previous Ubuntu installation, I didn’t want to lose everything but I needed to leave it wipe out the previous root system partition for it to continue without freezing. Because my home area is on a separate partition, there was no problem and it picked up settings like desktop backgrounds without a fuss. One thing that might annoy some is that all this takes manual intervention; you don’t get the sort of non-destructive and seamless upgrade capability that openSUSE 11 gives.
What you get when the installation is completed is a Linux desktop that won’t look too different from what we are used to using. Of course, we get the New Human theme with its tasteful chocolate tones in place of the previous default orangey browns. They need to sort out a bug (another of my reports) where black text is being displayed on dark backgrounds on the default display of drop down menus in Firefox and maybe look into why changing the level of enhancements from Compiz Fusion messes up the display of the workspace switcher in the task bar but it’s fine apart from this.
Otherwise, it’s a case of steady as she goes with OpenOffice 2.4, Firefox 3 and so on. That may change as time goes on OpenOffice 3 looming in the horizon. For some, all this continuity is all well and good but I could foresee comments front some parts that nothing dramatic is happening and that Ubuntu cannot afford to stand still with the advances of Fedora, openSUSE, Mandriva and so on. Saying that, I personally like the continuity because it doesn’t mean that my apple cart is going to get overthrown now and again. Indeed, you could say that the whole Linux distribution market has matured very nicely with evolution being the order of the day and I suppose that Ubuntu needs to be seen to be evolving more than perhaps it has been doing.
In summary, it’s early days for Intrepid Ibex but it works well even at this stage. In fact, it is running sufficiently so that I am writing this very post in a Firefox session running on the thing. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes from here and if any more pleasant surprises are visited upon us. After the “safety first” approach of Hardy Heron, I suppose that Canonical can feel a little more adventurous so we’ll see what comes. In the meantime, Here are a few screenshots below for your perusal: