Dapper Drake (Ubuntu alpha 6) was announced today. So I burned the live ISO and booted it on my constrained test machine. That machine is an Athlon XP 2400+ (2GHz) running on a low-end nForce2 motherboard with 384 M of memory (a pair of left-over DIMMS, one 256M, the other 128M), and a now-small 30Gig hard drive. The video card is a low-end ATi 9200 video card (64-bit, 64Mb of memory). In spite of its limitations I have both SuSE 10 and Windows XP 2 installed (dual boot), and both run quite well. My wife uses it for email, web browsing, and simple document editing using OpenOffice Writer.
It is a testament to the hard work and high standards of many Linux developers that a number of Linux distributions are available as live filesystems that allow anyone to quickly and easily boot up and run Linux without having to install it first (in fact this post about running Ubuntu alpha 6 was written with Firefox running on Ubuntu alpha 6). I first saw this capability 10 years ago with Yggdrasil Linux. That capability has been polished to a high shine with current distributions such as Knoppix and Ubuntu, just to name two.
Ubuntu alpha 6 booted up and ran with hardly any issues. The only issue I had is with Ua6's limited screen resolution of 1024 x 786, and that's the highest it would go. Windows and SuSE boot into 1280 by 1024, and can even go higher. Other than that it ran smooth as silk.
The most welcome change to the distribution appears to be the inclusion of Gnome 2.14. I am no fan of Gnome, but this version has finally fixed a problem that has bugged me with every Linux distribution I've installed. I call it the immediate grab-and-drag problem. In Windows I can grab a window and immediately start to drag it across the screen. Or I can grab the edge of a resizable window and immediately resize it. But that doesn't seem to work under current distributions. Under SuSE 10, for example, I can grab a window or border and it may start dragging immediately, or I might wind up performing an action somewhere else on the desktop, such as grabbing text and then inadvertently dropping when I release the mouse button. Gnome 2.14 fixes this.
Gnome 2.14 is very fast, even on my machine. It's faster than SuSE 10 running its version of KDE. It matches the snappy feel of Windows XP on this machine. And this, from an OS that has to load its applications from the DVD from which it was booted. The color scheme and the design of the controls are the best I've ever seen in Gnome. This is the first default theme I've ever seen that I didn't want to find an immediate replacement for. It's polished and quite professional looking.
I'm not ready to install it yet, but for an alpha release, and with my limited testing, I have to admit that the next version of Ubuntu is on track to be one of the best releases ever.