Set aside for a moment the fact that the install CD includes a video of an interview with Nelson Mandela, in which he expounds on the meaning of "ubuntu." It's over the top, if you ask me.
This is solid distro. The CD includes all the necessary packages for a working GNOME desktop environment, plus a wisely limited selection of popular applications. This design decision stands in sharp contrast to the one manifest in Debian, in which the list of basic desktop packages is horribly bloated. (That this is a long-standing criticism of Debian doesn't make it less valid.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ubuntu installed the desktop environment and only a small handful of applications, giving me the opportunity to choose what else, if anything, to install.
What's more, the hardware detection went almost flawlessly. I added aic7xxx=no_probe to the boot options, and it "just worked." I didn't even have to edit my xorg.conf with the horizontal sync and vertical refresh rates. The optimal settings for my monitor, a Dell 1703FP, are 1280 x 1024 @ 60Hz. It's set at 75Hz, but I'm fine with that.
It was also easy to add repositories. I went to UbuntuGuide.org and overwrote my sources.list with the one provided there. It worked like a charm; I got all the packages I needed and then some.
Last but not least, I can access the shared files/folders on the other desktop on our network, which runs Windows XP. I connect to smb://guest@HOSTNAME/SHARENAME. The hostname can be replaced with the server's IP address. This has been reported to work in some situations where the hostname isn't recognized. It works both ways on my network. There must be a way to connect using a password-protected account, but I haven't investigated this thoroughly.
So I'm feeling quite satisfied. However, to be fair, I do have a small handful of grievances with this release, which I may as well air here (in bullet points because I'm short on time):
- I didn't see option to set the root password during the install process. I need to look into this because I'm worried the default is something asinine like "admin". Luckily the installer adds your first user account to the list of sudoers, so you're still able to edit system internals.
- If you decide not to partition your hard drive manually, the automatic partitioning scheme available puts everything—except the swap, of course—on a single ext3 partition. By contrast, Debian lets you choose between three schemes: a single partition, a separate home partition and separate partitions for almost everything.
- The Ubuntu splash screen displays at some weird resolution, like 720 x 400. It doesn't seem to matter how you tell the live CD to set it. If you can specify a resolution for the splash when running from the CD, there must be a way to do it when running from the hard drive. This is a relatively low priority, though.
- Emacs still isn't included in the desktop packages. This is an almost trivial issue, but one that continues to irk me.
Image from Nuxified.org