Spring is in the air! The trees are budding and the flowers are starting to come out of their slumber. It also means that it is time for another release of the desktop oriented Ubuntu Linux.
Ubuntu will frequently produce what is called a LTS or a Long Term Support release. That means unlike non LTS releases, this version is meant to be stable and to also have security updates and fixes for the next three years. A release like this is meant for those who want to install something that will be somewhat guaranteed to work for the next 3 years. The previous LTS, Ubuntu 8.04 codenamed “Hardy Heron” was released in 2008.
It would not be a release if there weren’t some new things. First, there is, as usual, a lot of updated software. This is something that is very typical of new releases. So if something was updated since 9.04 was released, it has seen an update in 10.04. This includes the default desktop for Ubuntu, Gnome which has been updated to the latest release. Firefox has been updated to 3.6 and the kernel has been updated to 2.6.32.
Gnome includes an all new default look for Ubuntu that is not brown or orange. People who hate brown and orange can rejoice! The new look is a very shiny and black and quite beautiful. The orange logo is now a monochromatic white in color and all status icons follow the same theme including a new applet in this release, the Indicator Applet. This applet holds indicators for Bluetooth, the battery indicator, the volume indicator, a combined chat and email indicator and other indicators that you might regularly need. Also, they made one major change that I totally disagree with and that is they moved the Minimize/Maximize/Close set of controls to the left side of the window. They also changed the order of the controls to Maximize/Minimize/Close. I am not quite sure why this change was made and for me, it smacks of changing for the sake of change like when Microsoft changed Office in Office 2007. It’s mildly annoying especially since you can’t change it easily. It is possible to change it, but it’s not easy for new users. I am going to live with it for now since I have grown used to it already. Oh….this change is on EVERY theme and not just the default.
The next to last applet in the default configuration of the top panel is also new and is called the MeMenu. Ubuntu 10.04 is going to be social network aware from the get go and this applet is part of this. From this applet you can configure what the MeMenu calls Broadcast Accounts which are just accounts in the new Gwibber Social Client which is now in the default install.
Gwibber supports Flickr, Twitter, StatusNet, Qaiku, Facebook, FriendFeed, Digg and Identi.ca. Long time Linux users have already been using this application and it is fantastic. In one fell swoop, I can update all of my micro blog accounts and Facebook as well.
Empathy replaced Pidgin(formerly GAIM) as the default IM client in 9.04, but it is even better now. I may even try replacing my standby, Pidgin. Empathy has support for Facebook and MySpace chat as well as Google Talk, Yahoo Instant Messenger and more. It even supports IRC, or Internet Relay Chat. For more on Empathy, check out the Empathy page on gnome.org.
One thing that is not a surprise to people who have been following Ubuntu, but may be a surprise for some is that Ubuntu has changed the default search provider from Google to Yahoo. I am not sure why this decision was made, but it’s a easy one to correct since you can just change this in Firefox.
When doing a clean install, you will notice that The GIMP image editing program is no longer in the default install. It’s been justified by needing space on the CD. I personally think this is a misstep. The GIMP is a showcase Linux app that a lot of people will actually use before going to Linux since there is a Windows and Mac port of the application. Yeah, it’s easily installable, but I think that maybe they should look at moving to a DVD iso instead of a CD. This could allow them to keep the GIMP in there. Then again, Ubuntu is targeting the new Linux user with ease of use and new Linux users may not need to edit images like I do. The included Fspot photo management software package can do a lot of what new users need so maybe this move is ok. It still kind of annoys me though.
There are many more under the hood changes that just don’t matter to the end-user all that much. The exception is the number of changes that have sped up the boot time considerably. These changes have made Ubuntu 10.04 one of the fastest Linux distros I have ever booted on my netbook. It takes less than 30 seconds for the login prompt to appear on my screen once the BIOS checks have passed. While this doesn’t matter much for servers, it makes a lot of difference when powering up your laptop when you get home from work!
The default music program, he Ubuntu One Music Store. This is really a front end for the 7 digital music store. This is a welcome change and I am looking forward to buying music with this service. Some Linux users are concerned about this since MP3 doesn’t play by default in Ubuntu, but when you first access the store, it will check to see if you have the mp3 support installed, and then it will install it automatically(after prompting for your password) if you don’t have it installed. The music will not have any DRM either.will eventually get support of t
Now this preview is based on the Alpha 3 release of 10.04 that has been updated to the beta. That means it’s not quite yet ready for production use. However, if the stability of the alpha is any indication, next month’s release of Ubuntu 10.04 should be a great release and is well worth the time and effort for those who already run it and is definitely a great release for those who are brand new to Linux.
What I liked: New theme was not brown. Empathy had grown on me and the social media additions to the default install are very welcome!
What I didn’t care for: Not including the GIMP is a bad idea. The GIMP is a showcase Linux app that just should be installed by default.