First Look: Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Alpha 1

The Hardy Heron has passed the torch to the Intrepid Ibex. The next iteration of the Ubuntu Linux distribution was made available Saturday. You can download the alpha release of Ubuntu version 8.10a from Ubuntu’s website.

Intrepid Ibex features updates to the Linux kernel under the hood as well as some interesting new gizmos on the desktop. The most noticeable change to Linux’s leading desktop is a darker brown visual theme. The new design is not a major departure from the brown theme of previous releases, but it’s the first face lift for Ubuntu’s user interface in a while. This visual refresh was actually considered for Hardy Heron (version 8.04), but it was later removed from that release.

As far as what’s in store for the final release of Ibex, you can find all of the planning details on the Ubuntu wiki.

Ibex will introduce some new networking configuration tools that let users find and connect to wi-fi networks more easily through the user interface. The new network manager will include support for most broadband wireless 3G networks. Effort is also being dedicated to speeding up the system’s performance. The new alpha is utilizing some pre-fetching techniques to cut down on boot speed and the amount of time it takes to load programs. Another notable improvement to be included in the final release is support for USB-based installation images.

These enhancements demonstrate Ubuntu’s dedication to the mini-notebook and mobile internet devices (MIDs) markets. Canonical, the company which sponsors Ubuntu’s development, has announced its plans to compete more fiercely in this space beginning with Intrepid Ibex. Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said in March that Ubuntu’s developers were “re-engineer[ing] the user interaction model so that Ubuntu works as well on a high-end workstation as it does on a feisty little subnotebook,” and that Ubuntu 8.10 would focus on providing “pervasive internet access, the ability to tap into bandwidth whenever and wherever you happen to be.”

Since then, Canonical has released two specific builds of Ubuntu for low-power and handheld devices — Ubuntu Netbook Remix for ultra-portable notebooks and Ubuntu MID Edition for mobiles powered by Intel’s Atom chipset. Canonical was especially quick to move in the mini-notebook space once Microsoft announced its plans to phase out Windows XP, a decision Redmond quickly amended by offering to continue sales of XP on these low-power devices.

Intrepid Ibex will also include to better Flash support and better KDE support for Firefox. Basic installations will include the upcoming release of Open Office 3.

It remains to be seen how earth-shattering any of the enhancements will be on more high-performance machines once they’re baked into the final release.

Additional alpha releases are forthcoming. Stable beta releases should begin hitting the Ubuntu site sometime around the beginning of October. The final release is scheduled for October 30. New Ubuntu releases appear twice every year, as Canonical is dedicated to a strict six month release schedule.

Note: There is no LiveCD for this alpha. You can only run it by using a text-based installer. Later alpha releases will include a LiveCD build so you can run Intrepid Ibex in a live environment without installing it.


Firefox on the Intrepid Ibex desktop with the new brown user interface — sure to cause some controversy.


The default desktop wallpaper for Ubuntu 8.10a Intrepid Ibex.

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