Ubuntu 7.04, code-named Feisty Fawn, was released yesterday. I had heard all sorts of good things about it, so I decided to give it a try and see if it resolves some of the issues I’ve had to deal with on my laptop. I don’t really feel like I need the upgrade, because I think I have a pretty functional system right now, but I was curious to see whether they had made the road less rocky for other people with the same extremely-common hardware. The answer is no. This time it didn’t even manage to initialize my video card in lame-o “vesa” mode, which the previous version had been able to do. It did manage to detect my wireless card, but not to initialize it. The failure mode is revealing: it recognized the card, knew that it needed to download firmware to it from a specific location, but the distribution did not include any file at that location. Perhaps the file doesn’t exist because of some license issue or philosophical objection to including proprietary binaries in the distribution, but I don’t care. If that’s the case, then the appropriate response would be a message explaining – in user terms, not developer/code terms – why the device could not be initialized. A link to resources that the user could use to resolve the problem himself would be even better. “File not found” is not an adequate response, especially when the significance of the file is less than obvious from its name.

My other gripe has to do with the use of the PC speaker. Why does every LiveCD or new install have to start up with the system beep enabled at full volume, with no obvious way to disable it or even turn it down? It’s annoying and inconsiderate to assault the user with such a loud blast every time they (for example) type [tab] for filename completion and no match is found. I’m sure the developers themselves do that all the time, I’m also pretty sure none of them have their system beep enabled at full volume, so why do they subject users to it? The only answer that comes to mind is that it’s because they’re not thinking about the user.