Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ubuntu 12.10 Review: Is Quantal Quetzal better than Ubuntu 12.04 LTS?

As it happens with every new release of Ubuntu, it is compared to the last release. And if the last release is an LTS, a comparison is definitely required to answer - is the new release good enough to motivate users leave the long term support version and embrace the latest one? My current review is focused on the same question.
From Ubuntu 12.10 Comparison
I am comparing here the latest Quantal release with the Ubuntu Precise 12.04.1 LTS release, both 32 bit. Also, point to be considered here is that both releases are just 6 months apart. So, I wasn't expecting anything radically different between the two, but just a few incremental innovations.

High level comparison

Ubuntu 12.04.1 ISO (730 MB) is a bit lighter than Ubuntu 12.10 ISO (790 MB). I booted up both of them on my Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 GHz Intel 2nd Gen Ci3 processor and 2 GB DDR3 RAM.
Look and feel wise both the distros seem identical. A high level comparison of Quantal and Precise is given in tabular form below:

Parameters Ubuntu 12.10 Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS
Size of ISO 790 MB 730 MB
Booting time (post installation) 9 sec 15 sec
Desktop Unity with Gnome 3.6 Unity with Gnome 3.4
Linux kernel 3.5.0-17 3.2.0-29
CPU usage (live boot) 20-30% 4-15%
RAM usage (live boot) 456 MB 310 MB
CPU Usage (post installation) 20-30% 5-20%
RAM usage (post installation) 412 MB 280 MB
Installation time (with 1 MBPS connection) 30 min. 30 min.
Wifi detection Immediate Immediate
Touchpad detection Works by default Works by default
Ease of use A bit on the slower side Is actually faster than Quantal
Eye candy factor Looks awesome! Looks awesome
Repository Ubuntu Software Center Ubuntu Software Center 5.2.5
File Manager Nautilus 3.4.2 Nautilus 3.4.2

So, net-net, Quantal has a faster booting time, Unity 6.8 interface actually loads faster than the older (5.2?) Unity interface. Unity seems more refined and a lot more stable in Quantal than Precise. Linux kernel and Gnome shell, too, are upgraded to the latest available release. But, Nautilus is not! It is the same 3.4.2 though 3.6 is available! Possibly Nautilus 3.6, widely disliked, didn't gel well with the Unity interface and hence, developers decided to retain 3.4 version. However, all these upgrades come at a cost - significantly higher resource utilization! Precise is a lot more lighter and less taxing on resources than Quantal. Personally, I felt Precise is a bit faster than Quantal - though you won't feel the difference if you are using a high end machine. Installation process is pretty much the same and takes the same amount of time - no change there!

Application-wise both are pretty similar - only Quantal has all latest versions of the same applications that Precise has, namely: Firefox 16.01, LibreOffice 3.6.2, and Thunderbird 16.01. For movies, Ubuntu is using Totem; for photography, it's Shotwell; and for music, it's Rhythmbox. Anyway, Firefox and Thunderbird upgrades are possibly not that significant as they are upgraded separately to the latest available version irrespective of which Ubuntu release you are using! So, no big change there in. 

Incremental changes

Apart from differences in the Gnome, Linux and application versions, Quantal brings in one major change and a few subtle changes from Precise.

Major changes:

New "Web Apps": These are applets that connect the local operating system to web and cloud content. In addition to providing online results to search content, these can add webmail and social networking notifications to Ubuntu's mail menu. Now this search is integrated to Dash and you can see the results I got when I searched for Justin Timberlake songs in my computer. In addition to what was there in my system, it gave me results from Ubuntu music store and Amazon as well.

From Ubuntu 12.10 Comparison

Web apps are currently offered for 40 sites like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and can be installed by accessing the websites in Firefox and accepting the automatic installation request. By default, Ubuntu 12.10 has the following web apps:
  • Amazon app: I won't call it an app, it is merely a bookmark on the Unity sidebar. Once you click it, it will open site in Firefox browser.
From Ubuntu 12.10 Comparison
  • Ubuntu Music Store: Again similar to Unity one and Amazon bookmarks, Ubuntu music store is integrated to the Unity sidebar to be accessed through Firefox. Its content is rich and I could search a lot of Indian artists as well including the legends like Kishore Kumar. Similarly, popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter can also be saved on Unity sidebar as bookmarks.

From Ubuntu 12.10 Comparison
Minor changes
  • Online integration of social network and email: In Quantal, Ubuntu achieves a lot more integration of social and email networks with a single point of sign in. 
From Ubuntu 12.10 Comparison
  • Preview mode: Once you right click an application icon on dash, it takes you to preview mode. Currently it looks like at work in progress phase and doesn't offer much!
  • New Grub2 boot loader: This is specifically designed for Windows 8 OS, which has UEFI secure boot feature that doesn't allow dual boot with any other OS. Hence, if you are already tired of Windows 8 Metro interface and want to install a Linux OS alongside, you'll need to install Quantal; Precise won't work on your system!
  • Remote Desktop Protocol: It's a new feature and allows users to set up a RDP account to access any remote machine added to the account. Very good, but hardly any use for me at this point in time.
  • No Unity 2D: Till Precise, there was an option of Unity 2D for machines with limited resources. Now, it has been dropped.
  • Python 3: Still, Python 2 is supported.
  • New Dash photo lens along with the already existing music and video lens and Gwibber lens, with a changed Gwibber icon.
From Ubuntu 12.10 Comparison
From Ubuntu 12.10 Comparison
  • LVM support: Now you can install in a logical volume and increase its size, if required, without needing to reinstall the entire system again.
Does this new features and upgraded applications justify an upgrade?

Well, honestly I don't care about the upgraded applications, I can add quantal ppa's and install them in Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS. Already I added GIMP 2.8 and planning to add LibreOffice 3.6. So, the question boils down to the incremental features like web apps, LVM support, RBP, Python 3, etc. I used them quite for last two days and in my opinion, Ubuntu 12.10 integrates social media much more than its predecessors. Of course, preview and dash lens are promising and can potentially integrate my system to web in a much better way in future. Unity is much better and smoother to use in Quantal. Unity is getting good with every release but it remains inflexible as ever - you simply can't change the looks! 

So, based on all these facts and numbers that I gave above, it depends on users taste whether s(he) would like to upgrade or not. Definitely Quantal has some significant improvements, especially in social network integration and web apps, over Precise and is graphically more appealing. However, there are some drawbacks as well like too much of Amazon, more resource consumption, a bit slower than Precise, among others.

Personally, I feel all of these incremental innovations as work in progress for bigger things to come in future. I'll wait for the future and give Ubuntu 12.10 a miss for now, sticking to Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS. We'll see where it goes possibly in 13.04 or 13.10.


  1. Good comparison. BTW, how do you add Quantal PPAs to Precise?

    1. You have to add ppa's for each app separately, e.g. to add web ppa's
      sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webapps/preview
      sudo apt-get update
      sudo apt-get install

      I added GIMP and now I am thinking of adding Web ppa's as well ...

    2. Got it. I'm still in a dilemma whether to upgrade my Xubuntu Precise. I'll decide after your review. And in case I don't upgrade, I had to know how to get the latest. Thanks. :)

  2. I created a simple step-by-step guide with screenshots that can help you upgrade from Ubuntu 12.04 to 12.10 with ease. Check it out and let me know what you think!

    1. Very good guide and really easy to follow. Thanks Maurice.
      Also, through terminal one can upgrade as well using the command:
      sudo do-release-upgrade -d


  3. Oddly, the upgrade from Precise to Quantal seems to break the Google Musicmanager. When you try to run it on Quantal, it starts up fine, but doesn't seem to upload any new tunes, and the options dialog will not start. If you run it from a terminal, you get this error:
    log4cxx: No appender could be found for logger (root).
    log4cxx: Please initialize the log4cxx system properly.
    which seems to indicate that the version of log4cxx in Musicmanager does not play well with the version installed in the libraries (although Musicmanager is not a dynamic app, so it shouldn't have library troubles, right?).

    1. Yes, same experience with me. Instead of upgrading, I did a fresh install of Quantal to make everything work. Upgrading never worked for me in Ubuntu, be it from Natty to Oneiric or Precise to Quantal, unfortunately. Every time I had to do a fresh install.

    2. My upgrade to 12.10 from 12.04 was a disaster. Nothing seemed to work correctly. I did a fresh install of 12.04LTS and then over wrote it with a full backup from 12.04 (made just before the upgrade). I hate Unity so I'm using the older version of the Desktop.

  4. hey dude, im going to be honest. i looked all over the freaking web looking for an article that will answer the question of "which ubuntu should i get", and this is the only one that actually helped. good stuff man,

    thank you for this article.

  5. 12.04 might be a little more stable because it has been made more conservatively, but unless you are having trouble with 12.10 there is no need to downgrade.

    12.04 is supported for 5 years, for businesses using Ubuntu. Individuals usually prefer to stick with the latest release, which is not "beta" but just a little more experimental as it will only be supported for 18 months. The longer support time for LTS is for businesses. You, as a regular user, would not want to stay on 12.04 for five years as everything would be old and crusty by that point.

    1. I didn't have much luck with upgrading Ubuntu and most of the time I need to do a fresh installation. So, for me it makes sense to stick to Ubuntu 12.04 with 5 years of support. Also, the 12.04.2 upgrade is actually very good and I am getting better performance from Unity. However, I disagree on the old and crusty application point. I am running LibreOffice 4.0.0, GIMP 2.8.2, Skype 4.1 on my Ubuntu Precise. It's just a matter of knowing how to install the latest apps without compromising on stability. Even you can do the same with Ubuntu 10.04 if you don't really want to upgrade (I guess Apr'13 it is expiring).


    2. Also, speculations are there of a rolling release of Ubuntu expected in 2013. If it comes out, jolly good. Always the distro will be up-to-date (like what happens with Archbang, Fuduntu, Manjaro, PCLinuxOS, etc.).

  6. It's not true that you can't install Precise with a Windows 8 PC, as mine has both. Maybe it has something to do with the fact Precise was installed there first instead of the other way, but yet is not impossible.

    1. Interesting! My statement was for Windows 8 laptops/PCs available in the market. If Win8 is pre-installed then the recommended choice is Ubuntu 12.10. You have actually mentioned an interesting option. Thanks!