As the winter draws in, it’s time for wrap up warm with some open source goodness, as the October 29th release date of Ubuntu‘s latest version, Karmic Koala, draws near. So, let’s take a look at what’s new!
Running the installer from the Live CD is the same user-friendly set up that Ubuntu always has. Although in addition to drive encryption that came in with the last version, there is now an added option to format your hard drive with the new Ext4 file system, a new version of Linux’s native file format.
Once the installer gets running, you get to watch a presentation of screens telling you all the key features of the operating system. This something Windows has had for years, and is a great idea to educate new users on just what they can do with Ubuntu.
Once you’re into the Ubuntu desktop, everything will be familiar if you’ve used previous versions. Although, you can see straight away a fresh set of icons have been used, and the default wallpaper is much brighter than previous versions.
Browsing the applications and system menus gives you a view of the key new features to Karmic.
The default IM application has been switched from the long-standing Pidgin, to a new but very similar application called Empathy. I expect few users will really notice the difference here.
In the applications menu, you will find the “Ubuntu Software Center”. Desktop Linux distributions have long had software to deliver applications to you. Ubuntu’s has been the “Synaptic Package Manager”. Although Software Centre gives you a far more user friendly interface. The distinction of having a single section named “Free software” hints at Cannonical’s long term goals of being able to deliver commercial software to the Ubuntu desktop. This is a boon for developers. Until now, Linux’s repository method of delivering software has been a mixed blessing for them. The aspiration of new developers is to get their work into as many repositories as possible. However, commercial developers have shied away from this because Linux repositories have offered little opportunity for generating an income.
Confusingly, there is another existing application called “Add/Remove Applications” alongside the Synaptic Package Manager in the System/Administration menu. This appears to offer the same software set as Synatpic does, although again with a better user interface, including popularity ratings.
Finally, we have the addition of “Ubuntu One”, Cannonical’s other embryonic software as a service. Ubuntu One is a Dropbox like service (utilising Amazon S3), available to all Ubuntu users. For free, everyone gets 2GB of storage, but this can be expanded to 50GB for $10 (US) a month, although I couldn’t find where you are meant to authenticate your account. You can also access your files via the web and share specific files and folders with specific individuals. The eventual aim is that you will be able to synchronise all of your application settings across multiple Ubuntu computers. This is a promising service, but from my own research I have yet to find any information about privacy and encryption, which are essential to me for any on-line storage service. On the other hand, the Cannonical deserve kudos for finding innovative ways to generate more income from their desktop operating system.
You can find more screen shots at my Ubuntu 9.10 Flickr gallery.
If all of this has caught your interest, then go Get Ubuntu!