Ubuntu 12.04 full review

How the whimsical naming scheme of Mark Shuttleworth managed to dodge adding a P-adjective to 'Penguin', we’ll never know. As founder of Canonical, the commercial company behind Ubuntu, it’s Shuttleworth who pulls these names from his imaginative hat.

Ubuntu has employed animal codenames since it was launched as the friendly face of desktop Linux in 2004. Then starting with Ubuntu 6.06, the convention has run alphabetically, including such classics as Hardy Heron and, our favourite moniker, Maverick Meerkat. Read more reviews of operating systems.

It’s a neat way to keep a versioning history in the OS name. More recently Google has magpied this idea of alphabet increments with its confectionery-themed Android updates.

But this year’s long-term support (LTS) release of Ubuntu – Ubuntu 12.04 – has settled on Precise Pangolin as its name rather than anything quite as apt as, say, Petulant Penguin. Canonical has promised to provide support and patches to this OS for five years.

For users of the previous biannual update, last autumn’s Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, Ubunutu 12.04 has less to offer in ground-shaking interface changes. The big overhaul’s already happened, this time last year with Natty Narwhal and its default Unity interface.

Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

Ubuntu 12.04 tips its hat to Mac OS X with a similar side Dock and System Settings panel

With Unity, an OS X-style dock is fixed to the left side of the screen, and a menu strip runs across the top. It's a look that owes more to the Apple Mac than Windows now, including close/minimise/maximise buttons in each window's top-left corner. Read the review of Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

Two updates later, and Unity has seen a modicum of polishing, a new way to interact with the system, along with various other nips and tucks to this popular Linux operating system.

Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin: Installation 

We tried Precise Pangolin on a Dell Vostro V13 laptop and as a VM in VirtualBox 4.1 under Mac OS X. Canonical has developed a very easy and approachable setup procedure, letting you run the full OS from a USB stick, then install at leisure from the booted Ubuntu. 

By ticking the option for third-party software during installation, we even found a working Adobe Flash plugin was included, although hardware acceleration was not enabled. There may be a way to do so but it’d likely require some CLI skills to get it working. 

On a Windows PC, you’re offered the chance to import documents and settings from an incumbent Microsoft Windows installation. 

Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

As well as pre-installed apps, Ubuntu 12.04 makes it easy to find and install many, many more – most for free – through the built-in Software Centre

With our Dell notebook, we found all essential hardware worked immediately from the default installation, and required no third-party proprietary drivers.

For laptops, though, the crucial issues of power management and standby responsiveness could be improved, although this may necessitate customisation to specific hardware for best results.

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