Another April, Another Linux release

Its that time of the year again, and we are back in Linux release season. The usual suspects are all here again except for openSUSE who moved to a funky 8-month~year release cycle (I’m not sure they know what release schedule they’re using).

I’ve been testing the pre-releases of Fedora 11 and Ubuntu 9.04 (haven’t had a chance to test Mandriva 2009.1 which is a shame because I used to really like Mandriva) and my impressions are as follows:

Fedora 11

Its going to be horrible. There are some serious regressions in current Fedora Rawhide1, which the developers do not seem to be interested in resolving:

  • Something has changed in the audio infrastructure and now the sound server (pulseaudio) takes its time closing the sound card when its not being used and opening it again whenever beeps and clicks are needed – this causes loud “initialization artifacts” to be heard and introduces annoying latencies for simple sound effects. Fedora devs claim nothing changed on their side (and I can’t actually point at a specific thing they did wrong, so they might be right in that regard) and that they have no intention to implement any workarounds (like not closing an idle sound card), and they put all the blame on the ALSA project, which I also don’t see anything they did wrong but they did not even relate to my bug report.
  • The new X server (the graphics subsystem) leaks memory like there is no tomorrow, and again no serious attention is given to that important detail.
  • The single one reason to upgrade to Fedora 11 as far as I’m concerned is the support for native MAPI connections in Evolution 2.26 which would allow users to work properly with MS-Exchange servers2: this feature is currently very far from being stable and this late into the release cycle I don’t see it working in time for the release. I even had a very serious data loss when using MAPI with evolution where my Inbox was entirely deleted and purged without any provocation on my side. I believe that this will not happen in the current version, but there are other problems.

Basically the only improvement Fedora 11 offers (except for newer kernels and a new GNOME version that offers some minor improvements) is better graphical boot support (plymooth) which now works for Intel chipsets as well as the ATI chips that worked before (not sure about nVidia though). The release plan also looks dodgy – the current alpha is very old (as alpha releases go anyway) and the beta has been pushed back for a week now and is still not released (hopefully it will be released later today, but who knows). They even tried to ship Firefox 3.1 which is unlikely to be ready on time for their release. Fedora doesn’t even have a release counter, so no free advertisement for them (come back one year).

If you are a Fedora user, then I highly recommend you wait with the 11 upgrade till much much later (I’ll keep using the current 11 and report if the situation changes), or just switch to the competition.

Ubuntu 9.04

Is brilliant. I hate the code name (“jaunty”? “Jackalope”? How about “Jazz the Jackrabit”? hmm?), but the operating system is top notch – very polished, very stable. Nothing very much new and improved – its just as before only slightly better. They have their own bugs (including an Adobe Flash related crash in x86_64) – but nothing as serious as those listed above, and in general I would consider the current snapshot to already be release quality.

If you are an Ubuntu user, I recommend you upgrade early (by running update-manager -d) and beat the traffic on the Ubuntu servers when update-manager will automatically offer the new version to all Ubuntu users, come release day (last time it was a disaster – an upgrade on release day can take even a day to complete. See previous post on the subject).

And here is the mandatory release counter (which is very pretty, kudos for that):

Mandriva 2009.1

No, I have nothing to actually say on that. I’ll try to find some time to test the pre-release before the late April release date, but I won’t promise anything.

  1. that is how the development branch is called – like “factory” for openSUSE and “cooker” for Mandriva []
  2. the old OWA method has serious drawbacks and stability problems []

3 Responses to “Another April, Another Linux release”

  1. Eran:

    Well, Jaunty Jackalope does sound weird but I think calling it “Jazz the Jackrabbit” would have been copyright infringement.
    But we can call it “Jazz” as a nickname. 🙂

  2. Oded:

    Fedora Project released the beta for Fedora 11 on April 1st (a day late then expected after the initial week long delay). I’m downloading it and I will attempt a fresh install on my workstation, but I’m not keeping my hopes up.

  3. Oded:

    More impressions from Ubuntu 9.04 – it boots significantly faster then previous versions: on my old Athlon 64, it takes about 25 seconds to the login screen and about 20 seconds more for a usable desktop (not including the time it takes me to type in my password).

    They also have a couple of new UI themes for people who do not like “Human”: “Dust” and “Dust Sand” look very nice if a bit minimalistic, I use now “New Wave” which is interesting even if a bit darker then normal: the panels are dark while the menus and window content are bright – a weird combination but looks nice and the style is very crisp and professional looking. For some reason Firefox doesn’t like the “dark panels/white menus” combination and the menu headers use black text which is almost invisible on the dark panel. If this bothers you, you can go into the “customize” dialog and choose “new wave dark menus” widget style which will make the menus dark with bright text and then the Firefox menu headers will also look bright text on dark background.

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