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A ringing endorsement for Ubuntu 13.04

By Chin Wong | May. 07, 2013 at 12:01am
GIVEN the lukewarm press that accompanied the launch of Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail), I had very few expectations when I upgraded my PC from Version 12.10.

I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised and suitably impressed with the latest version of the popular Linux-based operating system.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I liked.

First, it was the most painless upgrade I can recall since I started using Ubuntu as my primary operating system in 2006.

Over the years, I have almost always opted for a clean install rather than an update. That meant backing up my data files and formatting my drive for a fresh installation of the new operating system. I know, that sounds like a lot more work than simply clicking on the Upgrade button in Ubuntu’s Update Manager, but experience has taught me this approach was the most trouble-free in the long run.

This time around, however, I chose the update path and was surprised at how smoothly things went. In the past, updates almost always left me with something broken. A program or a function that worked fine before but would no longer work after the upgrade. I remember how one upgrade had left my system temporarily without sound—until I found a fix online and applied it.

Raring Ringtail broke nothing. All the settings and programs I had before the upgrade were carried over to the new system without a hitch, and even my aging Epson scanner and Canon inkjet printer required no new drivers. Third-party software such as Dropbox and Skype still ran perfectly.

In short, everything just worked after the update. In fact, my system performed better and was snappier after I upgraded to Ubuntu 13.04, which is the second reason I like Raring.

The latest version focuses on improving Ubuntu’s performance even on lightweight systems and it shows. Although I have not run tests to quantify these performance improvements, Raring clearly has resulted in faster response times on Ubuntu’s default Unity interface. The system simply feels snappier after the upgrade and is a joy to use.

About the only adjustment I had to make was figuring out how to regain some features in the new file manager, which is a stripped down version of Nautilus 3.4 used in Ubuntu 12.10. Unfortunately, perhaps in the name of a simpler and more streamlined product, the developers of the file manager, now called Files 3.6, dropped many of the functions that were built into Nautilus 3.4.

Among these features, I missed most the ability to open an extra panel by pressing the F3 key to create two tiled panes, which made it easy to copy or move files around from one directory to another.

Other features that have been removed in the file manager are: Compact View, Type Ahead Find, the New file templates and the Tree View.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution to the new file manager woes. Simply replace it with one that works like the old Nautilus. A program called Nemo File Manager, which is a fork of the Nautilus project, fits the bill perfectly by restoring all the features removed from Nautilus 3.4 and adding a few of its own, such as a unified, configurable tool bar, detachable tabs and an option to show the full path in the title bar and tab bars.

To install Nemo, open a terminal window (Ctrl-Alt-T) and type the following lines:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install nemo

To make things more convenient, run the program (Alt-F2 and type “nemo”) and pin it to the Unity launcher. You may, if you wish, even replace the existing Files icon with Nemo’s folder, so that Nemo, not Files 3.6, will run whenever you click on the file manager.

Other than the initial hiccups over Files, I’ve been extremely pleased with Ubuntu 13.04. Unity, which I didn’t like at first, has begun to grow on me, and the better performance and interface enhancements make it even more fun to use.

Whether you are new to Linux or an old Ubuntu hand, I have no hesitation in giving Raring Ringtail a ringing endorsement. Chin Wong

Column archive and blog at: http://www.chinwong.com
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