First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx operating system
Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx is the latest Linux operating system from Canonical, aimed at consumers. It's free, but is it sufficiently consumer friendly that you should switch from Windows?
- Easier to use with a great new look
- Can be tedious working through issues if you are not familiar with Ubuntu
Ubuntu is more workable than ever with an attractive new look, less grimy looking than the all-brown of yore. But Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx is still not everyman's OS, as problems will inevitably arise that require tech support from a Linux-speaking friend, or your time spent scouring forums. If you have the patience and time to work through issues, there’s the potential to enjoy a secure and versatile operating system. If you want a safe and reliable computer that just works, there are solutions available but Lucid Lynx isn’t quite one of them yet.
Buy now (Selling at 3 stores)
We tried Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx 32-bit Desktop Edition on a Samsung N110 netbook. Out of the box, Lucid supported the Intel graphics and wireless card. The audio system worked fine, and webcam too, so Skype was not a problem once we’d installed the app from a debian package found on Skype’s site.
But problems existed with the keyboard, and waking from sleep. While the Fn-left/right keys supported volume adjustment (with a pretty translucent overlay), screen brightness controls on Fn-up/down did not work. Worse, after the netbook woke from sleep, the screen would dim to the point of unreadability, with no chance to correct short of a reboot.
Time spent on forums discussing Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx showed others with these problems, but no fix worked for us. So we turned our attention to a Samsung N510 Ion-platform netbook.
Impressively, its nVidia 9400M graphics were supported, allowing smooth screen animations, including the compelling Compiz effects unavailable beyond Linux. But first we had to get internet connectivity; we were initially defeated by the lack of support for the popular Realtek 802.11 card.
With more forum help, we got this working, although it would sometimes fail to connect after waking from sleep. And this Samsung had the same perplexing problem with keyboard controls and brightness adjustments.
To be fair, hardware support of every available computer must by challenging. But we were surprised that Canonical hadn’t worked harder on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx to support laptops from a popular top-tier manufacturer.
We finally gave up on the Samsung after failing to get a DVD to play with Movie Player or VLC.
Our third attempt with a Packard Bell EasyNote TJ74 was mixed too. Here, wireless and graphics worked, even keyboard controls of volume and brightness. But the internal mic was not found. DVD playback was possible through VLC, but only after libdvdcss had been installed using apt-get through the command line. And the F-Spot photo app bizarrely refused to launch.
Canonical has added cloud computing support to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx, with its own Ubuntu One services. It’s free to enroll and receive up to 2GB of online storage, useful for synchronising files between computers. We tried syncing a folder between two machines, which worked but took a few hours to appear.
You can buy MP3 music through Rhythmbox, using an Ubuntu-branded version of 7Digital’s shop. Choice is smaller than iTunes, and quality and pricing less consistent; many songs are at the same 79p/track price but at lower 192kb/s MP3 quality.
Purchased tracks are downloaded to Rhythmbox and automatically synced to your other Lucid computers’ music libraries. Rhythmbox has limited compatibility with the iPod. It played its loaded files but with some distortion and we couldn’t transfer our purchased music to it.
The free 2GB storage is enough for a few music files and backing up some photos and your contacts book. But if you really want to take advantage of Ubuntu’s cloud, you’ll need to pay dues to Canonical – arguably a gentler way to repay the favour of getting a (somewhat incomplete) operating system for free. It costs around £80 a year ($10/month) for the 50GB storage provided, and is still in beta. And its facilities don’t come close to rivalling Apple’s MobileMe just yet.
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