Slick New Ubuntu ‘Jaunty Jackalope’ Springs Onto Netbooks

The latest version of Ubuntu Linux is hot off the press and available for download. The new release, known as “Jaunty Jackalope,” continues Ubuntu’s slow but steady progression with a handful of slick new features, some welcome speed and stability improvements and a new “Netbook Remix” package optimized for the latest tiny laptops.

You can grab your copy of the free operating system from the Ubuntu downloads page. There are versions for desktop and server environments, the Netbook Remix, and versions for 32-bit and 64-bit hardware.

The Netbook Remix is a new addition to the Ubuntu family and offers a stripped down, user-friendly Linux that’s specially optimized for the small screens and limited hardware capabilities of netbooks. Ubuntu’s release notes claim the Netbook Remix will work with Asus’ EeePC 900, Acer’s Aspire One and Dell’s Mini 9 netbooks. However, while it took a little extra tinkering, I was able to get Ubuntu working on my EeePC 1000H as well. The result is a powerful, but simple interface that’s far snappier than competing options like Windows XP.

Overall, I’ve been pleased with Jaunty. To see what’s in store for users, we took the release candidate for a spin earlier this week. We found that none of the changes in Ubuntu 9.04 are earth-shattering, but the subtle changes add up to nicer Linux experience that could go a long way toward winning the much-maligned OS some new fans.

Jaunty Jackalope’s most noticeable change to the user interface is its new notification system. It informs you when new e-mails arrive or friends want to chat, and it informs you of system changes like volume level and battery status. The alerts appear as translucent message windows that pop up, stay for a moment, then fade away — a bit like Growl on Mac OS X.

This represents a break from the traditional way of doing things under GNOME, the graphical desktop environment upon which Ubuntu Linux was designed. It shows an attempt by Canonical, the corporation that oversees the development and distribution of Ubuntu, to provide more useful notices and to do so within a slicker interface than what’s available. GNOME purists may not like Canonical’s decision to create its own system, but the results are quite nice. (Flash demo).

GNOME 2.26, Ubuntu’s default desktop, ships with some improved applications that are installed by default. There’s an improved version of the Evolution e-mail client, which now works much better in Microsoft Exchange environments, and an update to the Brasero app for burning CDs and DVDs.

The overall interface design has been improved, too. Especially enjoyable is the new Ubuntu theme, “New Wave,” which is a nice mash-up between the default Human theme and the dark theme that arrived in Ubuntu 8.10. The Ubuntu team has also made some nice interface tweaks to dialog boxes, loading bars and other UI gadgets that give Jaunty Jackalope a slicker look than earlier Ubuntu releases.

Under the hood, Jaunty brings an updated version of the Linux kernel as well as the latest version of the GNOME desktop. Work on these are ongoing, and each release sees reduced boot times and better overall performance.

Thanks to the new Linux kernel (version 2.6.28) Ubuntu now offers support for the Ext4 filesystem and includes a new wireless package that should help those using newer wi-fi cards. The new Ext4 support isn’t the default choice for Ubuntu yet, but Ext4 does offers a number of advantages over its predecessor including support for larger disks, better defragging tools and a speed boost. However, there are some reports of lost data with Ext4, so proceed with caution.

Also new to this version is experimental support for Eucalyptus, a set of technologies that can be used to deploy a web app server with an elastic block storage (EBS) system, much like Amazon’s EC2 service. Using Eucalyptus, developers can create their own private clouds for storing data and running web apps. The Eucalyptus code is only included in Ubuntu Server, but it’s open-source, so it can be downloaded by anyone.

See Also: