My installation of Debian Testing fell apart due to stupidity on my part. I'm unfortunately sick and don't have time or energy to fix it, but I do need my computer in working order this week for a presentation.
So I decided to use my misfortune to give Ubuntu 10.10 (64-bit) a try. Here are some notes.
-Out of the box, it is lighter and less bloated than Ubuntu 10.04. It uses about 200 MB on my machine, compared to 350 MB or so in 10.04. I'm glad they fixed that. If you turn off Bluetooth and the email pinger and all that other garbage, it uses very little RAM after boot, which is impressive. I'm tempted to see if Xubuntu got performance upgrades as well.
-The installer is streamlined now and looks and operates far better than the old one. It saves some of the mundane questions for when it's actually installing and copying files, which is pretty neat. It can also download updates and ubuntu-restricted-extras if asked.
-It still has a ton of social networking applications I have no use for. A quick trip to Synaptic fixed that.
-Their version of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is outdated. Boo hoo.
-The Network Manager applet doesn't connect to some wi-fi networks automatically, even if they are marked as auto. Thankfully they connect quickly enough with a button press, but it's still annoying. I hope this gets fixed in an update.
-The default theme and wallpaper is still ugly, but significantly less so than 10.04. The default font is cool but a bit of an eyesore.
-Battery life is amazing. What are they putting in these distros to make them last so long? 10.10 approaches four hours, even while using wi-fi! Maybe this goes hand in hand with the performance aspect.
Verdict: It seems pretty solid and stable. 10.10 strikes me more as a service pack for 10.04 than a full blown new distro, which I think is a good thing for Ubuntu at this point. I'm actually surprised to hear myself say this, but it may be worth upgrading, depending on how close you are to Ubuntu's default desktop. If you deviate a little to none, I'd suggest you look into it. If you're totally out of town, probably not.
I don't know if I will stay here or move back to Debian. Maybe after I'm done being sick and busy.