Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hardy Heron – Full Review

While Gutsy involved some very obvious changes to the desktop, Hardy so far strikes me as a more under-the-hood upgrade. Overall, this resulted in a fairly seamless upgrade with a couple of exceptions. This post was delayed because I didn’t want my (very frustrating) search for a music app to interfere with my review of the upgrade.

See full post for my (few) upgrade problems, things I like about Hardy, things I don’t like and my overall opinion of this upgrade.

I. Upgrade Problems

1) Errors installing Scrollkeeper: Honestly, I have no idea what this means. It about gave me a heart-attack during the install because my computer got stuck on this for several minutes. Here’s what it looks like:
There have been others with this issue but it had a much bigger effect for them than me. Unless, this error is the reason for problem #2?

2) Kernel Panic with -18 Kernel: With Gutsy, I had Kernel problems because I was loading an older version without realizing it. With Hardy, the most recent version was the source of my troubles. An older version worked OK (so I could check things out) but it’s best to use the most recent one I think. Many other people have had kernel issues with this upgrade but unfortunately, the fixes can be a bit technical. Here’s what worked for me.

I booted into recovery-mode for the latest kernel. Recovery-mode has undergone some changes. Instead of a terminal, it now goes to a very basic menu. I choose to “Rebuild damaged/broken packages”. Once complete, there's an option to reboot in normal mode.
No more kernel panic. I was able to reboot into version 18 with no trouble at all. Since my initial upgrade, there’s been a kernel update to -19 which I haven’t had any trouble with at all.

3) PulseAudio Integration: This didn’t appear until very late in the game (after 2wks). Because of my music application difficulty, I guess I may not have noticed it right away. Basically, PulseAudio confuses the computer when two applications (like your music player & your browser) try to use sound at the same time so it just doesn’t play one (usually video sound in your browser). Now I had this exact problem with Gutsy and could never get it fixed. However for Hardy, after some looking around, I found this very helpful guide in the Ubuntu forums. I performed steps A & B, then rebooted. This completely corrected my sound problems. So, bad = there can be sound problems, good = they’re a lot more fixable than in Gutsy.

II. Things I Like In Hardy

1) Streaming Sound WORKS (for the most part): With the exception of the confusion listed above, the improvement to streaming sound functionality is huge. Even before they were fixed, the sound issues were less frequent and pervasive. In Gutsy, it really interfered with my Last.FM app, music player(s), and video streaming. In Hardy, my problems were limited to video streaming and were much more correctable. This is the single most noticeable improvement from Gutsy to Hardy. I know for some people it went the other way around but in my case, Hardy is a dream sound-wise compared to Gutsy. The only other sound issue was with Last.FM. It kept stopping and then buffering the files the first few days. But then I got some software updates and it never happened again.

2) Shorter Boot & Shutdown Times: I have no idea why this would occur or even if it was supposed to. But it is nice, especially when I have to restart after a round of updates.

3) Brasero CD Burner: I do really like this application because since switching to Ubuntu, I’ve been making more data CD’s for back-up programs, etc. Brasero lets you burn several types of CDs and it’s quite intuitive to use. For audio CD’s, creating and rearranging a track-list is dead simple:
Brasero does have one flaw. It doesn’t accurately track file size. I have to attempt burning my disc several times because while it said I had plenty of room left (see bar in lower right), the actual MB amount was over the limit of the disc:
As you can see this MB amount is barely below the 700MB limit of the discs. But if you look at the earlier pic, it appears there’s tons of space left! You don’t know the MB amount until you start the burn process. If you burn a lot of CDs this would only be a problem at first, until you get a feel for it but it is annoying.

4) A Couple of Little things: Just some minor features that I noticed and liked. (a) Hard drives are labeled by their memory size not their “designation” (ex – sbc3). Much easier to keep track of. (b) This is a tiny change that makes a big difference. The “Control Center” is now available immediately under the system menu:

III. Things I Don’t Like In Hardy

1) Start-Up Manager Changes: One of the changes in Gutsy I really liked was the improved “Start-Up Manager” functions. For some reason, those changes have been removed and the “Start Up Manager” greatly simplified (to the point of being useless). Here’s the Gutsy version:
And here’s the Hardy version:
Doesn't this look so useful? Choosing the kernel version and a number of other functions has been removed. Why?

2) Most of My Firefox Themes Were Obsolete: With the Upgrade to Firefox 3, most of my themes just became null & void. A mitigating factor on this is that Firefox will regularly check for updated versions that are compatible so I don’t have to go digging for them myself. Still, Firefox was kinda plain for a while. By the time of the “official” Firefox3 release last week, several themes including Phoneity Modern (my fav), were all upgraded for the latest version.

3) XMMS Is GONE: I’ve already ranted about this here. This was the biggest Hardy downer for me.

IV. Overall Opinions

I actually like Hardy. Again most of the changes are either less noticeable than Gutsy or involve things I don’t use. But for the things I do use and see, this was a good, relatively glitch-free upgrade. After reading the forums, I was really worried about making my sound troubles worse and Firefox 3 being buggy. For whatever reason, they didn’t come up during my upgrade. For the most part, Hardy is a great deal more stable than Gutsy for me. The most significant change is the lack of XMMS (which I’m certain I will get over...eventually).

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