Ubuntu 7.04 Upgrade First Impressions

Today I upgraded my machine from Ubuntu 6.10 to Ubuntu 7.04, and just like my previous upgrade from Ubuntu 6.06 to 6.10, the whole process went very smoothly. Apart from a couple of minor issues with the new desktop effects, which I’ll go into more detail later in this post, everything else went fine.

The upgrade instructions were very simple to follow. Make sure you read the notice on the upgrade page, which states you must have the latest version of Update Manager (0.45.2) before you upgrade. Otherwise, you will receive an Authentication failed error. I followed the recommended route, which is to go to the System -> Administration -> Update Manager menu option and follow the prompts. Once the upgrade process starts you get a dialog as follows:
Upgrading Ubuntu

There are well over 900 package updates so the whole download process will take some time, depending on the download speed of your network connection. I had no issues during the download process. It did mention during the download that it would overwrite a couple of files that I had modified, but I don’t remember ever modifying the files it mentioned, so I let the installer overwrite these files with the new versions. You do have the option to review these modified files at this point, and you can choose to keep the original files if you wish.

Once the install had finished I was glad to see my desktop looked just as it did before the upgrade. Boot startup times into Ubuntu are about the same as Edgy, no improvement here. The first thing I noticed after booting into Feisty was a new network icon in the top right of the desktop.

Network Manager icon

This is the Network Manager applet . If you right-click on this icon you can get some basic information about your network connection. I have a wired connection, using a pair of Solwise 85Mbps homeplugs, and Ubuntu 7.04 had no trouble connecting to my router.

My network setup is fairly simple so I would be interested to hear views on anyone who has upgraded who uses a wireless router. Is the upgrade any better than from Ubuntu 6.06 to 6.10 ?

I was also glad to see that all my existing apps that I had installed in Ubuntu 6.10, like Google Picasa web albums, were still there and working OK. Firefox worked as before and I had no issues visiting web sites that use Flash. All my existing Ubuntu themes also worked as before.

Existing apps

One of the new features that has been touted quite a lot in Ubuntu 7.04 is easier installation of multimedia codecs. I was keen to try this out as I have several MPG videos that I could never figure out how to play in Ubuntu 6.10. I selected one of these troublesome videos and tried to open it using the Totem Movie Player. As soon as it tried to open the video I got this dialog.

Gnome codec install

I clicked the Yes button and It found the necessary codecs for me.

installing codecs

I selected the codec that was ranked the highest in popularity, Ubuntu then installed the codec and the video started playing perfectly with sound. Quite impressive eh!

Next up, I wanted to see if anything had changed with my display resolution or screen refresh rate. I’ve got a Dell 1907FP LCD monitor. Thankfully everything was as before the upgrade. I had the same selection of screen resolutions and refresh rates to choose from. I’ve got a Nvidia 6600 graphics card and I have run into problems with refresh rates before in Ubuntu, so I was glad to see this part of the upgrade had gone smoothly.

screenshot-screen-resolution-preferences.png

Another new feature in Ubuntu 7.04 is desktop effects. This is experimental software in this release but I was still keen to see what all the fuss was about, so I decided to enable the desktop effects.

The first thing to do is select the Sytem -> Preferences -> Desktop Effects menu option. You’ll then get a dialog similar to this one.

Restricted Manager.

After you enable the driver you are prompted to restart the system.

Desktop effects

Once the system had restarted I noticed a new restricted drivers icon in the top right of the desktop (up near where the clock and restart button is). I’ll come back to this icon later. I then selected the Sytem -> Preferences -> Desktop Effects menu option again which gave me this dialog.

Desktop effects

I didn’t think much of the wobble effect. This basically makes a window wobble when it opens. This is quite distracting when navigating any of the Ubuntu menu options, and would probably give me a headache after a while. I also found the opening and closing of menu options more sluggish. The main problem though was my screen refresh rate. I now only had a choice of either 50 or 55hz.

screen resolution preferences

I could have probably edited a config file somewhere to fix this, but the overall sluggishness of the UI wanted me to remove the desktop effects. I didn’t even bother to try getting the cube effect to work. I was worried at this point that this may not be possible, and that a complete reinstall of Ubuntu may be looming! Thankfully switching the desktop effects off is an easy process. All you need to do is click on the restricted drivers icon I mentioned earlier and you can disable the graphics driver.

restricted drivers

Once that is done you are prompted to restart the system. After doing this I was pleased to see the display had reverted back to as it was before, and that I was able to select a decent refresh rate again.

Next I wanted to make sure that all my existing remote connections would work OK. I use SSH to connect to various remote servers and have these saved as shortcuts on my desktop. When I opened one of these existing shortcuts I got this dialog.

authentication

For those familiar with this dialog will notice it is an improvement over the previous one. The radio button labels now make more sense. If you choose to remember a password forever you get this dialog, which is similar to the one in previous versions.

default keyring

Finally I wanted to make sure all my existing devices work. I checked the following devices and they all worked as before:

External hard drive
No problems here although I still can’t eject the device properly like in previous versions of Ubuntu.

Scanner
No problems with my ageing Epson Perfection scanner. I was able to start the xsane image scanner application and scan documents OK.

Sound card
Didn’t expect to find any issues here. No problems found.

Apple iPod
I was able to connect my Apple iPod 30Gb without any issues, and was able to use the Rhythmbox music player to manage my iPod files.

Summary
This is a top notch product and I take my hat off to all the hard working development folks who worked on this. It’s a definite improvement over the previous version, especially around the installation of multimedia codecs. The upgrade process is a breeze and my desktop was left exactly as it was before the upgrade.

If you’re considering the switch away from Windows, there is now even more incentive to make the switch. What are you waiting for!

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