I tried a live CD (well, SD card) of 12.04 to check it worked.
It needed help finding firmware for my wireless but with that copied
from the existing install it worked fine. It supported my trackpad
better than 10.04 did.
Upgrade instructions always tell you to back up first. They have a
point but really, it’s the wrong approach: what you should be doing is
backing up anything you care about routinely, so that when you come to
perform a risky operation you don’t have to make a special backup. So
rather than make a backup I just checked that the latest backup of the
target machine was recent enough.
Upgrading From 10.04
To get Update Manager to show 12.04 as available you need to have
it set to check for only LTS releases and to start it as
update-manager -d. The latter at least is deliberate;
apparently LTS users are not being automatically offered an upgrade
until the first point release.
The upgrade disabled third party sources. (It was easy to restore
them after the upgrade, via Update Manager’s settings.) I reviewed
the packages to be removed (only two) and “no longer needed” (sixty).
It wasn’t clear from this whether the latter would be removed or not,
but nothing in the list looked irrecoverably essential, so I went
It took about four hours to download all the packages, with the
download rate going all over the place. I think they were having a
After this the upgrade only required interaction once that I
recall, when Glibc asked which services to restart. (Services ought
to be able to advertise their restart-on-upgrade requirements so that
there’s no need to get user confirmation.)
During the upgrade a dialog box with unreadable text popped up.
Copy + paste revealed that the text said “An error occurred while
loading or saving configuration information for
evolution-alarm-notify. Some of your configuration settings may not
work properly.” I don’t use Evolution so I stopped caring and clicked
what I think was “OK”. This happened twice, and it didn’t block the
progress of the upgrade; this is obviously some other program
complaining about some rug having been pulled from under its feet.
Having finished it announced that it had 14 packages to remove and
another 423 that were no longer needed. Since it was mentioning
things like gdm I hit “Keep”. (As it turns out, 12.04 uses a
different display manager, so I needn’t have worried.) After reboot
it took a little longer than I expected to come back up but it did let
me log in.
The guest session was enabled by default. I don’t approve. More
worryingly after a wander through the system settings I didn’t
encounter a way to disable
page describes how. Upstart didn’t seem to be able to restart
lightdm so I rebooted instead.
Using the “print screen” key to take a screenshot is unreliable.
For instance, it doesn’t work when a drop-down menu is being
It’s certainly not as bad as people say it is. Menus seem to be
attached to windows again, which IIRC wasn’t the case in earlier
iterations. This has its advantages, but is a shame in some ways:
putting menus at the edge of the
screen makes them
easier to aim for.
The “folding up” effect to fit the whole Launcher on screen when
not in use is a bit distracting. Rearranging its contents is impeded
by the problem that dragging an icon to the top or bottom of the
screen doesn’t scroll the launcher - so to move icons a great distance
can mean multiple operations. Reducing the icon size helps with this
but of course this also reduces the target area. Removing application
you don’t need also helps - this requires dragging them to the Rubbish
Bin at the bottom. Canonical have a bit more to learn from Apple on
this point; the Dock has a right-click menu offering a variety of
operations, including removal.
The bias towards occupying all of the available screen is pretty
welcome on my netbook’s small display.
The icons at the bottom of the Dash could really do with some
tooltips. The Home, Music and Films icons are clear enough but I
couldn’t have told you what the Applications icon meant before
clicking on it and ditto the Files and Folders icon.
Dragging items from the Dash to the Launcher sort of works - when I
tried doing it for the Screenshot program, I ended up with a gap in
the Launcher that can be clicked on to start the program but not
dragged into the Rubbish bin.
After a restart the problem went away.
The narrowness of the settings/power icon at the top right of the
screen causes an ergonomic problem: the menu that drops down from it
is wide and the text a long way to the left, and it’s natural to move
the pointer down and left to reach the menu items. But it’s too easy
to cross the menu to the left of it first, resulting in a switch to
that menu instead. If you aim for “System Settings” you risk ending
up with “Switch user account”.
On going into the Appearance settings, I was informed that “Ubuntu
10.04 has experienced an internal error”.
matter seems to be in hand. The timing may well have been
Sliders having a marker at the default position, to make it easy to
restore default behavior, is a great idea, and one I don’t think I’ve
Language Support takes several seconds to start up even on second
and subsequent times, and was ridiculously slow the first time. This
is evidently a known problem since you get to spend a while watching a
progress bar. Once it’s got its act together, it offers a choice of
none, ibus, lo-gtk or hi-gtk for the keyboard input method. There is
a help button but only tells you that the recommended choice is ibus
(why isn’t it the default then?), and doesn’t offer any hints on how
to make good use of it.
The Privacy window doesn’t make it particularly clear what kind of
activity is being recorded and what is done with the records. Some
kind of documentation is needed here.
The keyboard shortcuts shows a couple of the shortcuts twice, which
is a bit weird.
The trackpad supports two-finger scrolling but unfortunately
doesn’t support reversing the direction.
Default applications and autorun settings are somewhat oddly under
an opaque “Details” settings item, which otherwise tells you about
your hardware (and which couldn’t identify my video card, although
this didn’t seem to be causing anything else any trouble).
KDE and XFCE
You can install these using the kubuntu-desktop
and xubuntu-desktop packages - no need to reinstall the whole
system just to switch desktop environment. Both install their own
branding which takes precedence over the native Ubuntu branding during
startup; you can remove the relevant plymouth-… packages
without disturbing anything else.
I bounced off the current iteration of KDE pretty hard but XFCE
looked much more tolerable. Unity refugees should take a look.