Thursday, 4 February 2010

Ultimate Edition: does it live up to the name?

I only heard about this distro in the last couple of weeks on the Linux Outlaws podcast, it was mentioned and slagged a bit for the name and general colour, but neither Dan or Fab had actually tried the distro so I thought that I would give it a trial run on my desktop. Specs for those interested are: Dual core 2.8 GHz, 4GB ram, 512MB Nvidia GT6800s Graphics card.

The distro installed fairly quickly using the standard Ubuntu installer. I then encountered my first problem: this distro installs grub 2. Nothing major, instead a minor inconvenience that was soon sorted after a few visits to the online help forums.

The first boot of the distro was very slow, so slow that I actually thought my computer had crashed, but eventually the distro loaded and the default Gnome environment loaded up. The first impressions are lasting: don't look, change the appearance theme. The overall theme of UE 2.5 is black and gold. The desktop background looks dated and the constant black actually makes everything difficult to use, black word processor, black menu, black everything. The mouse pointer is a spinning arrow with a shadow included, this looks very childish and was removed along with this awful theme.

Once past the default theme there is one obvious difference between this and Ubuntu: the number of pre-installed apps. The vast number of apps is quite impressive, if maybe a bit pointless to the seasoned Linux user. Most users have a favourite apps for photos, music, media, games, email, micro-blogging etc so to be presented with a choice of four options to perform a single function may be great for begginers, but I found myself uninstalling a lot of the apps simply to make room on the hard disk.

The hardware was picked up very quickly on my initial boot, with the standard Ubuntu message asking if I wished to use propietary drivers. Compiz was enabling all the effects I desired after a reboot of the system, I did notice that this was considerably faster booting the second time around. The sound card was picked up without any hastle as was my usb webcam with built in microphone, a test call on Skype and playing about on Cheese confirmed this.

One major advantage that UE 2.5 has over Ubuntu 9.10 is that it ships, by default, with the original package manager, great no need to remove Ubuntu's new software centre. The distro runs, as you may expect from an Ubuntu system, debian based backages. The majority of the packages that I tested on the distro ran very well with no obvious performance flaws.

The distro advertises on the website that it comes with KDE, Gnome and XFCE. These can be selected at the login screen. However this was not the case with the DVD image that I downloaded from the official site. It gave me the choice of three Gnome environments, a KDE environment and no XFCE option at all. This feature feels more like an afterthought as the KDE environment is simply a default KDE layout, no customization at all to show that this was the UE 2.5 distro. The KDE environment appeared quite unstable: crashing three times and loading once. The three Gnome options do not appear to differ at all.

To be honest, there is not much to review as an independant distro. It claims to be a fork of Ubuntu and on distro watch it is listed as an Ubuntu based distro. However it is simply Ubuntu with a different theme, one which I had to change very quickly after installation. It has a ton of apps which is great to show the range of programs available to a newbie, but not many newbies will be recommended to go for Ultimate Edition, most would probably go for the stanadrd Ubuntu.

I do not wish to sound too negative. Getting past the awful default theme, gives the user access to a very useable distro. A lot of pre-installed software is included and a lot of the hardware runs out of the box with little need for tweaking. I would highly recommend this to somebody trying out Linux for the first time. For those wanting to try something different to Ubuntu then I suggest that you look elsewhere.

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