Ubuntu 7.04 »Feisty Fawn«

(April 20, 2007)

The long-awaited release of the new Ubuntu version, 7.04 alias »Feisty Fawn«, was done today as scheduled. Just after work, I downloaded my copy (rather slowly, just 100 KB/sec, even though I used BitTorrent) and installed it into my Linux playground partition. Here’s what I noticed.

The first impression was »WTF, is this really Feisty or did I accidentally download 6.10 again?«, because the bootloader and the Live CD desktop looks exactly as in the previous version. The installer changed a bit, though. The new migration wizard is a nice idea, but sadly not functional. It did recognize my previous openSUSE 10.2 installation, but the only thing it offered was to import my Firefox settings. It ignored the Windows installation altogether, maybe because I’m using the German version of Windows (other German testers complained about this, too). I didn’t want to import anything in the first place, so I didn’t bother about that.
What’s worse is that the partition setup is even more crappy than before. It did check my disks for about five minutes before I could even click on »no, I don’t want to accept that brain-dead suggestion to cripple my Windows partition«. The manual setup seems to be more concise now, but that’s only on the first sight. In fact, it has become even more confusing by combining the »kill your partitions« part with the »select mountpoints« one. But in the end, the installer just run fine.

The GRUB menu is as ugly as ever – I bet they’re making this a tradition, or even a trademark: »If the boot screen looks like it’s from the last millennium, it’s Ubuntu.«. I was also surprised to see a file system check of the root partition, claiming it has not been mounted for some 47192 days, followed by a reboot. I guess the installer did not cleanly unmount the target partition.
Talking about fsck weirdness, I noticed in disappointment that they’re still checking all my FAT partitions on every boot. If anyone at Canonical has a good explanation for why this could be of any use, I’d gladly hear it.

On the first attempt to play any MPEG media file, Ubuntu offers to install some restricted codec stuff. It’s good to have this feature in Ubuntu finally, as Kubuntu already had it for a while. However, it’s a bit broken and inconsistent: Some of my DVB recordings still didn’t play back properly. Also, I was surprised to see that they consider SID next to MP3, MPEG-1/2, AC-3 and DVD as one of the most important formats, as it’s part of the default codecs package. It would even be nicer if SID support actually worked – but after clicking on some random HVSC tune, the system recommended to install AmaroK instead of playing the file straight away. Having AmaroK around is a good idea anyway, so I chose to install it, and with it most of the KDE libraries. Unfortunately, AmaroK is broken to the point of unusability: It crashed permanently and played neither MP3 nor the SID tunes it has been recommended for.

To finally fix my multimedia troubles, I used Automatix to install some additional codecs as well as Kaffeine for watching TV. The good news is that Kaffeine was finally able to play back my DVB recordings, but live TV didn’t work, because Ubuntu’s udevd seem to be broken: The drivers for my DVB-T card were not loaded, even though they are unrestricted, firmware-free vanilla kernel drivers. sudo modprobe cx88-dvb solved the problem for now, but after the next update, I’d like to see that happen automatically.

One thing really impressed me: Being able to use desktop effects without much manual intervention. On the first click on System/Settings/Desktop Effects, I was told that the commercial nVidia driver has to be downloaded. After clicking OK, the new driver was automatically installed, and after a reboot I could finally use wobbly windows, desktop cubes and all that funky stuff. I didn’t even need Automatix for that! Now that’s cool. The only minor drawback is that they’re still relying on Compiz instead of Beryl, thus limiting customizability.

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