Is Ubuntu 10.10 Worth the Upgrade?

Itching to upgrade to Ubuntu 10.10? Not so fast! Look before you leap, you may want to stick with Ubuntu 10.04, especially if you're a netbook user.

Newest is not always best. Take the Ubuntu 10.10 release that came out on October 10th. Ubuntu users who are happy with their current release may want to hold off before taking the plunge.

The Ubuntu 10.04 release was very solid, with a lot of major improvements that made it a no-brainer for an upgrade. That, plus the fact that it’s a Long Term Support (LTS) release, which is the right time to grab an upgrade for almost all users. The 10.10 “Maverick” release brings some improvements over 10.04, but they’re so minor that it’s probably not worth making the change.

I’ve been running 10.10 betas and the RC for weeks, and had been running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS on a few machines before that. Honestly, it’s hard to see much difference between the two. Plus several points for consistency, but that doesn’t add up to rushing to upgrade at the first opportunity.

Ubuntu does make it easy to upgrade in place — but going from Ubuntu 10.04 LTS to Ubuntu 10.10 means giving up 18 months of support. For some users, 36 months is entirely too long to use a release — you’ve probably already upgraded if you’re in this group. But for more conservative Linux users or for folks who are maintaining machines for others, the transition from 10.04 to 10.10 may not make sense.

Why not upgrade?

Giving up 18 months of support means there has to be a compelling reason to upgrade. For instance, I’m volunteering with a small organization in St. Louis called ByteWORKS. Like Free Geek, ByteWORKS takes in older computers that have been donated by companies or organizations that are refreshing their hardware. Part of the refurb process is installing Ubuntu on the machines — usually a Long Term Support release because most of the users are not Linux experts and it’s important to have a release that’s going to be supported for a long time.

With Ubuntu 10.10, there simply aren’t enough compelling new features over Ubuntu 10.04 to justify switching to the new release. While 10.10 does have some nice refinements and plenty of new packages, none of them are super-compelling. The primary improvements in 10.10, outside the usual version bumps, are in Ubuntu One and the Software Center.

Ubuntu’s revamped Software Center is a bit nicer to use and offers some real improvement over 10.04. The primary new feature in the Software Center is the ability for Canonical to offer proprietary packages for sale. Not exactly a compelling reason for most users to upgrade — especially when there are only a few packages to buy.

The Ubuntu One improvements, likewise. The streaming clients for the iPhone and Android are nice, but probably not worth an upgrade in and of themselves.

Netbook and KDE

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