It's here: A shiny new release of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution. But why should you care? You may not use Ubuntu — or maybe you don't really know much about Linux at all. Well, here are 10 new or improved features that make Ubuntu 10.04 worth caring about.
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[UPDATE: version number corrected throughout.]
1: GNOME 2.30
This is the final 2.x release before the major upgrade to 3. If you haven't seen what 3.0 is all about, I can promise you that you will either LOVE it or you will HATE it. But for those fans of GNOME, this is the last time you will see your beloved 2.x released in Ubuntu flavor. I have experienced 2.30 and it is fantastic. Is this new? Not really... but it marks the end of an era for GNOME that should be mentioned. GNOME 3 will be a graceful successor to GNOME 2.x. In fact, I can promise that GNOME 3 will succeed where KDE 4 failed — in being a useful desktop upgrade right out of the starting gate.
2: HAL begone!
Ubuntu 10.04 has done away with HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) during the boot process. This means that 10-second boot time has finally arrived. I have tested this and have seen 10-second boot-ups, and they are a thing of beauty (if beauty can be measured in such ways). The removal of HAL also drastically speeds up resume-from-suspend times for those of you in laptop land.
3: Fully open source NVidia driver
This really speaks only to the purists out there, but as of 10.04, anyone using an NVidia graphics card can rest assured they are using a fully open source driver for it. No more having to rely on proprietary drivers (at least for NVidia cards). I have experienced these open source drivers and they work as well as their proprietary counterparts.
4: Social networking integration
From the main panel (top panel), you can instantly interact with social networking sites. This feature, called the MeMenu, is built upon the Gwibber framework (which itself has been rebuilt on top of the new desktopcouch backend). The MeMenu also supports multi-column view so that you can monitor more than one social network at a time.
5: Ubuntu One Music Store
Built into the Rythmbox Music Player, the Ubuntu One Music Store offers instant access to millions of songs you can purchase (a la iTunes). This falls with strategic perfection into the Ubuntu Software Center's ability to enable you to purchase commercial software right from the desktop. And did I mention these songs can be synced with all of your Ubuntu One-registered computers? Take that, iTunes!
6: Cloud computing
Is the cloud a buzzword or will it eventually overtake the computing world? Only time will tell. But with 10.04, at least that experience is made easier. The Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Installer now supports auto-discovery of all UEC components (even if the controllers and Walrus are on different servers). This is a huge step forward in the cloud computing arena for sure.
7: KDE 4.4
10.04 is the first LTS release to contain KDE 4. And this version, 4.4.2, is the most useful, stable yet. If you have been waiting around for a release of KDE 4 that is actually USEABLE, this is it —a viable version of the KDE 4.x desktop that doesn't require a seemingly infinite amount of tweaking to gain any semblance of stability. KDE 4.4.2 is rock solid.
8: Ubuntu One iPhone apps
Canonical has released some Funambol-based mobile client applications. One such client is the Ubuntu One client for the iPhone. This lets you keep your files in sync between your Ubuntu machines and your mobile device. This is a paid-only service (with a 30-day trial for Ubuntu One members).
9: iPhone support
Speaking of iPhones... Ubuntu 10.04 has built-in iPhone support, allowing drag-and-drop capabilities in Rhythmbox. No longer do you need to hack-n-slash ifuse to try to get this system working (only to find it has totally hosed your music and downloads). Now you, your iPhone, Ubuntu, and Rhythmbox can happily drag and drop your way to music Nirvana (depending upon your tastes, of course).
10: MUCH improved sound control
Prior to 10.04, Ubuntu sound control was almost always hit or miss. You could control the volume from the panel applet and not much more. Now, however, you can control sound volume, input/output devices, and hardware all from one user-friendly location. And unlike previous versions, Pulse Audio comes with numerous improvements. Pulse Audio was one of the major misses in recent releases. It has now reached sufficient maturity so that people won't be begging for a coup.
Give it a try
As you can tell, I am fairly excited about the new release. When you get your hands on it, prepare to be WOWed. Then, come share your impressions with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.