All posts tagged ‘Ubuntu’

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First Look: Ubuntu 8.10 Arrives, Bringing More User-Friendly Features

ubuntu.jpgThe official next generation release of Ubuntu Linux has just landed. Intrepid Ibex, as this version is known, promises a number of subtle but important feature updates that help make Ubuntu even more user-friendly.

Overall not too much has changed from the beta release we tested earlier, but there were a few last-minute additions worth mentioning: “Cruft Remover” is new utility that tries to get rid of unneeded software packages, and there’s also a new tool for creating a bootable USB stick.

Ubuntu 8.10 is already burning up the torrent tubes, but if you’re holding back here’s a few of the new features that make Ibex a worthwhile upgrade:

  • GNOME 2.24 — Tabbed windows! Need we say more? See our review of GNOME 2.24 for the gritty details.
  • Network Manager — now manage WiFi, 3G and other connections all in one spot. No need to mess with manual configuration files.
  • Guest users — The user switching app had been moved to top right corner and now offers a guest account if someone wants to use your PC and you don’t want them messing things up.
  • Xorg 7.4 — hotpluggable devices (tablets, keyboards, mice, etc) and better stability.
  • More — there are some other small but nice additions — support for encrypted private directories, a new versions of Samba, LDAP and more.

Of the new stuff in Ubuntu 8.10, the most useful in my testing has been the updated version of GNOME. In addition to the tabbed file browser windows many of the GNOME panel applets have seen some very nice updates. The Deskbar search app for instance can now perform calculator operations, search Google and even update Twitter, which has made my old solution — Gnome-do — largely unnecessary.

One thing that still hasn’t changed is the Ubuntu look — the default theme remains more or less the same with some new desktop art. Experienced Linux fans are of course experts at customizing their systems so for many it probably isn’t a huge deal since they’ll change the defaults anyway. Of course there is a new dark theme (pictured above), but you’ll need to delve into the themes panel to enable it (we really like this look, it stays true to Ubuntu’s esthetics, but is considerably more polished).

However, from a new-user point of view, Ubuntu’s look is, well, looking a bit long in the tooth. And with Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth publicly calling for more emphasis on interface design it seem odd that, thus far, the default theme remains nearly the same.

Still, despite the familiar look (which may be a good thing for some users) Ubuntu 8.10 is a worthwhile upgrade. You can grab the latest version from the Ubuntu downloads page. And as with all Ubuntu releases, Kubuntu and the other derivatives have been updated as well.

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Ubuntu Linux Gearing Up for Final Release of ‘Intrepid Ibex’

ubuntu.jpgThe next major version of Ubuntu Linux is almost ready. The Ubuntu Linux team has announced release candidate 1, which will be followed by the final release due next week. It may not be quite ready for prime time, but RC 1 of “Intrepid Ibex,” as this release is known, promises a number of important improvements for the popular Linux distribution.

The latest release of Ubuntu 8.10 follows in the footsteps of Ubuntu 8.04, nick-named “Hardy Heron,” with some subtle, but important feature updates that make Ubuntu even more user-friendly.

The main changes from the earlier beta release are bug fixes and stability improvements. For more details on what’s new in Ubuntu 8.10, check out our review of the first beta.

Most of the changes are improvements to the Ubuntu UI — tabbed windows in GNOME, a better Network manager, improved encryption tools, etc — but one thing to be aware of is that the X.org version behind Ubuntu 8.10 drops support for some older, proprietary nVidia video drivers.

The 71 and 96 series of proprietary nVidia drivers (the ones previously included in the nvidia-glx-legacy and nvidia-glx packages) are not compatible with the version of X.Org that ships with Ubuntu 8.10. If you have a PC with one of the affected chipsets you’ll need to upgrade to the free nVidia driver instead, but unfortunately that driver does not support 3D acceleration.

Other known issues include problems with Intel 4965 wireless chips, which can cause system crashes (there’s a solution available using the backports feature).

Still, despite the lingering issues, Ubuntu 8.10 is shaping up to be a very nice update for the popular Linux distro. We’ll be sure to give you a full review when the final version is available. In the mean time you can test the release candidate by grabbing a copy from the Ubuntu downloads page.

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First Look: Ubuntu ‘Intrepid Ibex’ Beta Delivers Improved UI, New Features

ubuntu.jpgThe first beta for the next major version of Ubuntu Linux is now available for download and testing. While it isn’t finished yet, the beta version of “Intrepid Ibex,” as this release is known, promises a number of important improvements for the popular Linux distribution.

The first beta of Ubuntu 8.10 follows in the footsteps of Ubuntu 8.04, nick-named “Hardy Heron,” with incremental upgrades that, while not necessarily flashy and obvious, make for a much nicer user experience.

Perhaps the most noticeable change in Ubuntu 8.10 is the new GNOME 2.24 desktop, which brings tabbed Nautilus windows and some new apps like Empathy, a new instant messaging client. Ubuntu, however, seems to be sticking with Pidgin as the default IM client, to enable Empathy you’ll need to install it via Add/Remove.

Ubuntu 8.10 desktop

You’ll also notice some new applets in GNOME 2.24, including a much improved Deskbar search app which can now perform calculator operations, search Google and even update Twitter.

For more details on everything that’s new in GNOME 2.24, be sure to check out our earlier review.

deskbarUpdate Twitter using the GNOME Deskbar

Some of the less obvious, but equally nice improvements in the 8.10 beta include an upgrade for X.org, which offers better support for hot-pluggable input devices — tablets, keyboards, mice, etc — and should stop most people from needing to muck with the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file.

It’s a tiny change, and may be unique to the beta, but long time Ubuntu users will notice that the login chime has been changed — no more drumming sounds of the African Savannah.

guestUbuntu’s new default Guest account

Also new in 8.10 is the inclusion of guest accounts for the fast user switching feature. The guest account creates a temporary password-less user account with restricted privileges; guests cannot access any home directories or permanently store data, which makes it a safe way to let your friends check their e-mail without needing to worry that they’ll mess something up.

Ubuntu 8.10 also features the latest version of Network Manager, the graphical interface for setting up and tweaking both Ethernet and wireless network connections. The manager has a host of new features, including a very easy way to manage of 3G connections — good news for those hacking Ubuntu onto their GSM-enabled netbook.

As with all Ubuntu releases, the alternative distros have also released beta versions. Perhaps the most significant is the release of Kubuntu, which is based on the KDE desktop instead of GNOME, and includes the latest stable version of KDE 4. See our earlier coverage for more on what’s new in KDE 4.1.

If the new features have you wanting to upgrade, head over to the Ubuntu downloads page and grab an ISO image, but be warned: this is a beta and bugs do exist. Unless you’re looking to just do some testing, we suggest holding out for the final release, which is set to arrive later this month.

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Ubuntu Linux Looks to the Cloud for ‘Jaunty Jackalope’

jackalopeUbuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has announced that the upcoming Ubuntu 9.04 will be code named “Jaunty Jackalope” and should arrive April 2009. While most Ubuntu users are probably looking forward to 8.10′s release next month, Shuttleworth and team are already looking to the future, one that will push the OS toward hybrid “weblications.”

Shuttleworth, who has previously said that in order for Linux to compete on the desktop, it must “look as good as OS X,” promises that 9.04 will make the Ubuntu experience “comparable to those of the traditional big OSV’s — Microsoft and Apple.” But he also stresses the importance of what he calls “weblications” — desktop apps that integrate with web-based counterparts.

In a post to the Ubuntu mailing list Shuttleworth writes, “the bar is set very high, and we have been given the opportunity to leap over it… we want to make sure that the very best thinking across the whole open source ecosystem is reflected in Ubuntu, because many people will judge free software as a whole by what we do.”

As for the specifics of Jaunty Jackalope, Shuttle worth says the focus will be improving boot time and making the general performance snappier. He also writes that Ubuntu 9.04 will focus on the web-desktop metaphor, which is why the Ubuntu team has chosen the Jackalope code name:

Another goal is the the blurring of web services and desktop applications. “Is it a deer? Is it a bunny? Or is it a weblication — a desktop application that seamlessly integrates the web!” This hare has legs — and horns — and we’ll be exploring it in much more detail for Jaunty.

More specifics will likely be hammered out at the Ubuntu conference in Mountain View December where the developers will finalize their Jaunty plans.

[photo credit, Mykl Roventine, Flickr]

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Shuttleworth: ‘Linux is Mobile OS of the Future’

Mark Shuttleworth in Portland

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth gave a keynote at O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention in Portland on Tuesday, affirming that Linux is the platform for the future. On Monday, he gave a more laid-back version to a couple hundred people at a theater pub, including mostly Q&A.

He discussed his 2002 trip to the International Space Station, including a lively anecdote about nearly activating the escape sequence. Where Shuttleworth really preached was when he discussed the future of free software to the open source crowd.

On Mobile

“I have no doubt Linux is the platform for mobile devices in the future.”

“iPhone set the benchmark for what to expect of a mobile phone.”

Shuttleworth noted that the influence of iPhone will go beyond phones. There will be many devices that are neither laptop nor desktop.

“We’re talking about picture frames, remote controls, television sets, hotel in-room, video-on-demand, porn-delivery systems. Anything in the future that you can imagine touching or interacting with.”

On Open Source

In 2003 “we were just scratching the surface of what is possible with free software, both in terms of the amount of energy that’s going into the free software stack and in terms of the economics of it.

We needed to find a way to deliver a certified free software stack, something that’s good enough for production, that’s not a second class offering, and deliver that free of charge. That means trying to find business models around it that are entirely service-based.”

Shuttleworth lauded Redhat and Novell for reaching their technical audiences who enjoy playing OS mechanic. He said to go further, we need to focus on the audiences that require software to work without tinkering.

“Users have the right to expect secure, robust, tested, integrated and supported software.”

Signs are that Linux is making positive improvements. Shuttleworth said recent data from Chinese users given Linux machines is that as many as 20% leave Linux installed, surprisingly high for a country where piracy is less shunned.

One of Shuttleworth’s larger laughs of the night came from a quip about users installing copied versions of Windows:

“People say installing Linux is hard. You should try installing (pirated) Windows.”

On Microsoft

“I have great respect for Microsoft. A lot of people forget this, but Microsoft made software cheap. Before Microsoft, software was expensive.”

Shuttleworth also noted that Microsoft created standards where there were none before. Then he shrugged and acknowledged that the standards might not be the ones that Open Source advocates wanted.

“In the 80s, that was the best way to move software forward. Now I think free software is the best way to move software forward.”

On Shrink-wrapped Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a free operating system, but one audience member relayed a story of seeing a boxed version on a shelf at Best Buy.

“I’m delighted. I want to see other companies be successful around the platform. If that gives people who would not otherwise try free software a reason to try free software, I think that’s great.”

On One Laptop Per Child

“Extraordinary success. Entire category of sub-notebooks would not have happened without One Laptop Per Child.”

On Linux Gaming

“There are two pieces: networking, where we’re strong, and graphics where we’re weak.”

Shuttleworth suggested that casual gaming, where users do not have high graphical expectations, is a place to start.

On Developers

Shuttleworth lamented the decrease in software engineering degrees, then predicted a software-rich future.

“Some people don’t think software matters any more. Look at the iPhone, or Facebook. The whole experience is a software experience. More and more interactions in our life will be driven by software.”

For those who want the full effect, listen to a crowd-recorded audio version of Shuttleworth’s talk.

Shuttleworth photo courtesy of Hockley Photography

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