Ubuntu Feisty Fawn Looks Promising

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For the past couple weeks, I've been running Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, the version of Ubuntu Linux scheduled for release next month. Actually, I'm running Kubuntu—the flavor with a KDE desktop. So, just mentally add the "K" throughout this post.

Earlier this month, the hard drive on my primary workstation chinacat developed some bad blocks in critical areas. I replaced the drive and bravely decided to go ahead and load the pre-release version of Ubuntu. Fortunately, it's been remarkably robust. The system has been in heavy use I've only found a few minor bugs—which is remarkable for pre-beta software. The Ubuntu developers have responded quickly to my bug reports.

I've been impressed at how robust the Feisty applications and controls seem to be. Especially the desktop and system adminstration. One of the most difficult Linux administrative chores is adding printers. It can be bad enough just trying to add a simple printer hanging off a USB. My situation is even more difficult. I've got a couple of printers on a dedicated server, I want to use the lpd protocol to connect to the server, and I want to provide two queues for each device (one that processes the printing and one that provides a raw device). The GUI administration tool handled all this with ease.

I'm beginning to think the Ubuntu project may have taken a bad turn a year ago and Feisty represents a turn to recovery. A year ago, Ubuntu Dapper Drake was issued as a Long Term Support (LTS) release. They promised this release would have a longer lifetime, with full patch and security bugfix support through 2009, instead of the usual 18 months.

I realize that in retrospect there were two problems with this LTS release. First, LTS targets data centers more than desktops. One signficant part of this release was enhanced server support. This all sounds great, but it's not the Ubuntu sweet spot. If I want a robust, stable server, I'm going to choose Debian or Red Hat Linux, not Ubuntu. I understand that the Dapper release was an attempt to address that, but I think that's a poor choice. Ubuntu shines on the desktop, and given limited resources, maybe Ubuntu leaders should focus there instead of trying to be all things to all applications. I fear that the LTS effort may have been a distraction from providing a good desktop release.

The second problem is that it took a lot of work to get this LTS release out. Ubuntu normally runs on a six month release cycle. The Dapper release was slipped two months to get it all together. The next release, Edgy Eft, was done on a compressed four month schedule. Maybe that's why the Edgy release sucked so bad.

Every system that I upgraded to Edgy had significant problems. My workstation chinacat could not sync my calendar and contacts to my Samsung SPH-i500 PalmOS phone. My media computer coldsnap lost its wireless, and I had to build the network driver from source. The only Ubuntu computer I had that didn't have problems with Edgy Eft was my laptop hepcat—and that's because given the serial catastrophes of Edgy, I left it at Dapper.

All these problems had me concerned about the future of Ubuntu. Thanks to the promising results of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, I'm a believer again.