I was fully expecting Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn, to come out last April 1st. I was partly disappointed because it wasn't yet the full release, but the beta was ready for download.
Normally I pass on betas (a habit no doubt ingrained by my past years of using Microsoft products), but I was already feeling a bit impatient, so I decided to take the plunge. A few hours of downloading the Alternate Install ISO file (which I prefer for my slower machines), burned to CD, and installed.
I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by some of the improvements.
On the whole, Feisty doesn't really offer anything significantly new for the interface. Some of the icons have been streamlined even further but it's nothing much to write home about.
On the other hand, the performance is perceptibly faster than my previous version, Edgy Eft. Bootup is much faster and applications come up more quickly and smoothly...and we're talking about a five-year old AMD Duron with only 256MB RAM (of which 64MB is shared with video.)
The Ubuntu 7.04 page describes other improvements but very few of which I'll actually be able to use. There's easy Windows migration but since I haven't used Microsoft products to any significant degree, I doubt I'll be able to try it until I help out another hapless Windows convert. There's also an improved Ethernet stack which features Avahi, which I won't be able to try out for a while. And there's the 3D desktop which won't run on my underpowered hardware. Oh, boo-hoo!
On the upside, I finally have a use for the Totem media player. The codec wizard, which I'll describe in another post, is a sensible compromise between Ubuntu's free software-only philosophy and end-user multimedia needs.
One final drawback, at least with the beta version: updating Feisty after the CD install requires 300MB worth of downloads. The CD install itself is already functional, but if you're anal retentive about getting the latest updates like I am, it's an additional kink. Thankfully, it doesn't require a whole lot of intervention and can be done via Synaptic.
So, what's the final verdict? Is the move worthwhile? If only for the improved performance, absolutely yes. I'm squeezing a bit more life out of my increasingly ancient desktop, and considering that it's a spankin' new OS version, it's certainly worth it.