Unable to contain my excitement and with the patience of a pregnant gnat, I decided to upgrade a machine (or two) to the latest Ubuntu: 12.04 [Porcine Paraguayan]. Before we go any further, I'm not sure this review is going to help you much unless you're a user of Xubuntu, like me.
Ubuntu comes in a few basic flavors: Ubuntu, the default; Kubuntu, with the KDE desktop; and Xubuntu, with the XFCE desktop. KDE has a high Bling Factor and uses the most resources. XFCE is a fairly lightweight, customizable distribution. Plain old Ubuntu used to come with the Gnome desktop and performed somewhere in the middle.
Unfortunately the folks at Canonical (parent of Ubuntu) had a bit of an aneurysm (or a lot of crack) and replaced Gnome with Unity. This is the most highly contested feature of Ubuntu. It is arguably the most highly detested feature of Ubuntu also. Unity started out as a simple interface for netbooks and progressed (regressed) to the Big Deal about 12.04. It's the default and you're pretty much stuck with it. It's very graphical and not very configurable. Can you guess where I stand on the issue?
Using Xubuntu means I don't have to deal with Unity. Since I have everything set up as I like it, upgrades don't look significantly different. I get the nicer features and everything looks pretty much the same as it did before. But remember, if you install Ubuntu from scratch, you'll get Unity. If you install Xubuntu, you won't.
You might like Unity.
The upgrade was pretty slow, as it is wont to be on the first official day of release. I broke with tradition and did not install the beta version, which is usually quite stable. After quite a few hours of downloading I was almost done, when the dog walked over to the laptop, stood on the right key, and canceled the upgrade. He had no idea why I was screaming but he figured it must have been his fault. Fortunately the upgrade process will continue more or less from where it was when it was interrupted. Ubuntu: now dog-proof.
The first thing I noticed was that the hiding panels hid all of the time, as opposed to the 11.10 and previous panels, which only hid some of the time. This is a pretty good thing. Thus far the laptop I upgraded is completely stable.
At work I upgraded a desktop quickly and painlessly, using the Update Manager. Then I set about installing Xubuntu in parallel with Linux Mint Debian XFCE. This failed miserably. Spectacularly. Repeatedly. And continuously, until I remembered that I was unable to install Xubuntu on this brand new HP machine in the first place, leading me to try LMDE. I even wiped LMDE but no luck. Some web searching turned up others having similar problems, which seem to be related to HP's BIOS and the way it sees hard drives. I called our HP rep, who has been too busy to find me an answer (for two months). But this is not the fault of Ubuntu.
Another desktop got fouled up before the installation so I started from scratch, as opposed to an upgrade. This too failed miserably. And repeatedly. The possible cause here was a previously encrypted HOME partition, which Xubuntu fresh install could not see or process, just leaving me hanging out there in Linux Space.
I was beginning to take this personally.
NOTE: Always make your HOME partition separate. This way if you need to reinstall, you'll have all of your data ready.
Another try got me a fresh install of Xubuntu 12.04 [Pregnant Peacock]. Then it froze consistently when I accessed the Screensaver control. Finally I got everything working, probably due to a better video driver. Do you drink at work? I did.
After what seemed like twelve hours, I arrived home. Eager for more grief, I decided to try upgrading my main laptop. After at least two hours of downloading, I got an error and the entire installation stopped. The error indicated there was a dependency issue around ncurses and I got past it here.
I am typing this on the aforementioned laptop, which seems to indicate that the upgrade was successful. If you hear any screaming, it means there was a glitch.
SO WHAT'S NEW?
I have no earthly idea. To be honest Xubuntu kinda sucks in the documentation department. There's a menu item called IBus, which I clicked on, to no avail. I was a little scared, as I try never to touch anything with an `I' in front of it. As if you didn't know, it's a next-generation input framework. Got it?
No matter how hard I try, I always seem to wind up with Pidgin and XChat. I try valiantly to not select them or uninstall them, but like zombies, they come back and they're always there. Same with the games. Funny, OSes always come with games but no porn. Guess which one is much more popular?
There is a menu editor. Hopefully it's a new and improved menu editor because the last one came up when you clicked on it but was incapable of much else (kinda like Congress). Apparently you need some sort of advanced physics degree to edit menus in XFCE and my degree expired last year.
Like the last release, the Ubuntu Software Center is front and center. This is a real shame, as it seems quite slow, bloated, and useless to me. But if it makes you happy, please use it. I like Synaptic and sometimes the command line.
There are some important privacy controls I read about in Ubuntu but I have yet to locate them in Xubuntu. I'll update you as I go along.
So for those of you playing along at home, the score is five total; with three successes, one user error, and one HP error. I say go for it.
UPDATE-a few days later
I have upgraded or installed Xubuntu on most of my computers and laptops. I haven't seen any glitches, although most of the installs were hampered by the ncurses issue mentioned above. Shutdown feels faster, moreso than startup. Don't forget to add Medibuntu to your repositiories after you upgrade, for all sorts of multimedia goodness.
Do NOT encrypt your HOME partition. As a security guy, I loved this option and selected it when presented. When I went to mount my old HOME partition, I had to decrypt it. It refused to decrypt. After hours of research and trying, I now have gigs and gigs of encrypted data that I can't touch and seem to have lost forever.