Ubuntu 12.10 appears to put many finishing touches on the Unity desktop which has recently been updated to version 6.8. The Unity desktop has seen a vast amount of attention for this release, and again there are more controversial changes.
The Ubuntu 12.10 release does offer many convenient little tweaks, but users should have no real need to upgrade unless they would like to experience the new web apps feature.
The Ubuntu team has ultimately chosen to revamp the installation media for the Ubuntu distribution. The CD, DVD, and alternate images have all been removed in favor of a single new updated DVD ISO download. Thankfully this version will work on USB leaving some flexibility. 800MB is the expected download size, hopefully it does not continue to grow too fast.
The 12.10 release is the first to add support for the new UEFI Secure Boot protocol. This change should improve compatibility for some newly available hardware. This change will help users attempting to dual-boot Windows 8.
The Unity desktop has received much attention again for the 12.10 release. The dash has received many small tweaks, improvements, and bug-fixes. The dash also contains additional lenses for even more convenience.
The Unity launcher is now more flexible. Many more items are freely movable inside the dash. Several items may also be completely removed.
The 2D version of the Unity desktop has now been removed. Users lacking graphical acceleration are able to use Unity thanks to the llvmpipe driver.
Users will now notice new lenses inside the Unity dash. These lenses include one for photos, one for Gwibber messages, and one for shopping suggestions. The Gwibber lens will allow users to search through Facebook, or Twitter messages directly from the dash. Unfortunately results from Amazon will appear when you are searching the home lens. Users with minimal screen sizes have expressed their concern about the clutter.
The Unity dash also provides a new preview feature for the 12.10 release. The new preview feature will display relevant information about items appearing inside the Unity dash. This feature is available when viewing applications, music, or photos from the dash. You can preview items inside the dash with a single right-click. Users may then choose to launch the previewed application. If the application is not found on the system it can then be installed.
Popular websites that users may visit frequently will now perform similar to common desktop applications. For example, after adding your user accounts, you will find launchers for Twitter, Facebook and other applications inside the Ubuntu dash and the launcher. After opening one of the web apps you will notice that they even work with the new Unity HUD. Notifications for these web apps will also be displayed inside the dash and launcher for even more convenience. Online search results will now be appearing inside the dash as well. This controversial feature can be disabled if users are not interested.
The Ubuntu Software Center has even seen some minor updates. The Software Center will now load faster, you will notice that applications install faster too. The banners which appear at the top of the software center will now cause a web browser to be opened when clicked.
The new Software Updater tool will automatically check for package updates when launched. This tool replaced the old Update Manager and is generally the same as before.
Ubuntu has updated the default desktop wallpaper, this time for one that looks exactly the same, again. The default theme now provides support for GTK 3.6.
Stability has improved slightly, unfortunately this release sacrifices quality for speed. Online integration and the new web app feature is likely the primary reason for much of the speed reduction. Even a slight lag in your internet connection will now ripple through your whole user interface. Needless to say there are still some lingering bugs that never seem to disappear with Ubuntu. All is well after you disable or hide the crash reports and online integration.
Flash is performing with fewer crashes than previous versions. Full-screen mode for YouTube and other video sites is also more stable.
I must say that I was slightly more satisfied with this release than I was with many of the previous versions. The new web apps feature will certainly be loved by users who are frequently online. This is simply another big red light for everyone that is paranoid about security. If any of the new features seem enticing then I would recommend an upgrade. After spending 3 weeks testing this release I believe it is time to move on. Next I will be giving Kubuntu 12.10 the attention that it so rightly deserves, stay tuned.