Jeremy Bicha announced the second beta of Ubuntu Gnome Remix 12.10 yesterday. This release is another step towards bringing the pure Gnome experience to Ubuntu. This beta will definitely please the long time Gnome-Ubuntu users who felt left out when Ubuntu switched to Unity. Now Gnome users have more choices, they can use Ubuntu, openSUSE or Fedora for pure Gnome experience; those who want a tweaked version of Gnome Shell can always try Cinnamon on Linux Mint.
What's New? It's Still Beta
So, what's new in this beta and is it ready for the 'prime' time? Ubuntu 12.10 brings Gnome 3.6, which was released just a few days ago. So what you get with Ubuntu 12.10 Gnome Remix is the 'pure' and the latest Gnome Shell experience on top or the 'consumer' grade Ubuntu. Jeremy Bicha and the team has ensured to stay as close as possible to the 'stock' Gnome.
Ubuntu 12.10 is using Grub 2 so the boot menu is cleaner than before, all you see is the names of the installed distributions.
All the apps you need
Ubuntu Gnome Remix comes with the stock Gnome apps which includes Empathy for instant messaging, Evolution as an email client, Disk a refined disk partition manager, Files (Nautilus file manager), Web (teh default web browser) and Boxes (a Virtual Machine app). There are whole lot of other applications available on the 800+MB CD image.
Installed aps can be accessed from Activities which you can trigger by hitting the super key and then accessing it from 'show application' icon on the launcher. [check out the image gallery] Here you can access the app from particular category which is listed neatly.
Ubuntu Gnome Remix Image Gallery
However, I don't use the stock apps so I grabbed Synaptic Package Manager and installed Firefox, LibreOffice, ThunderBird (as it allows to change the location where you want to keep your folder), GIMP and the rest of the lot.
The choice of pre-installed applications depends on what is the goal of Ubuntu Gnome Remix - to simply offer Gnome on top of Ubuntu or to offer a complete desktop experience with Gnome. However, as we know the goal of developers is to stick to pure Gnome experience.
Speed and overall experience
I found Ubuntu Gnome Remix to be fast (I have not tried Unity for months so I can't talk about the Unity experience on 12.10), it's as fast as openSUSE 12.2 is. I did notice that openSUSE 12.2 was a bit faster to boot when compared with Ubuntu as it has switched to systemd 44.
The new lock screen is elegant and shows the time in big fonts with your default desktop wallpaper in the background. To stay closer to Gnome UGR is using GDM instead of its own LightDM. Both look great and it's more about preference.
How an old Gnome user feel?
I have been a long-time (and loyal) Gnome user ever since I switched to GNU/Linux in 2005. I have been a Gnome user all these years until Ubuntu came with Unity. I tried Unity, liked it, but somehow I felt more in control with KDE and switched to KDE. OpenSUSE has become my preferred distro.
Prior to UGR, the Gnome experience under Ubuntu was broken and there was no unbruised way of using Gnome with your friendly OS. UGR brings that comfort back, which a Gnome-Ubuntu user expects – it's simple, and works out of the box.
After using it for 2 days it felt extremely stable (there were no crash reports, which I surprisingly see often on Ubuntu 12.04 running Unity whenever I try it).
There are few annoying bugs such as Dropbox won't link to any folder other than the default /home/dropbox folder where as all my data sits outside home on different partitions.
The overall Gnome experience was fine unless you want to use extensions, which pivotal for a 'useful' Gnome experience. Most extensions stop working after upgrading to the latest version of Gnome. Under UGR I was not able to use a majority of extensions I was using under Gnome 3.4.
Gnome team need to fix this problem as it leaves a user with a PC which he can't use anymore. When you visit the extensions site all these 'incompatible extensions appear grayed out which can't be installed and used.
Gnome also needs a built-in tool or some kind of integration with the Gnome Tweak Tool which allows a user to install and manage extensions without having to open a browser. Currently Gnome Tweak Tool does give a link which opens the extension site so that a user can install them. Management of extensions needs a lot of work given Gnome's focus is on ease of use and out-of-the box experience.
I was unable to use the extensions which I was using with Gnome 3.4 which left me bruised.
Great gnome experience
Beyond these glitches, Ubuntu 12.10 offers a great Gnome 3.6 shell experience. Jeremy Bicha has done a commendable job by creating a solid Gnome flavor of Ubuntu. I know quit a lot of Ubuntu users who moved away due to the lack of stable Gnome Shell edition of Ubuntu. I think UGR will bring those users back. Ubuntu Gnome Remix is healthy for the growth of Gnome as Ubuntu is a major distribution and the Gnome project will definitely benefit from this user-base.
You can download and test Ubuntu Gnome Remix 12.10 from this link.