Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat pops out

Linux fans today celebrated one of the geekiest days of the year with the release of Ubuntu 10.10, otherwise known as Maverick Meerkat.

October 10, 2010
Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat pops out

This latest release was timed to coincide with 10 October 2010, or 10.10.10, also equal to 42 in binary.

The latest release of Ubuntu, six months after the release of Ubuntu 10.04, is one of the most anticipated Ubuntu releases to date as it introduces a number of major interface enhancements as well as software management improvements.

On the desktop the interface for Maverick Meerkat has been given a few small tweaks to improve the overall appearance. Some of these changes include better audio controls and improvements to the social networking features.

Better software management

One of the major improvements in Ubuntu 10.10 is in the software management tool. This has been made significantly more attractive which makes it simpler to use. The manager now also includes options to install non-free software alongside the usual open source options. This is a step towards Canonical’s overall ambition to create a better user experience as well as initiating an Ubuntu software marketplace.

Easier dual boots

The hard drive partitioning portion of the installer has also been made easier on the eye. Most first-time users will want to install Ubuntu alongside Windows rather than over it. The much-needed partition overhaul recognises this and makes it more understandable for inexperienced users to do this.

Audio makes good sound

A long-time frustration in the Linux community has been the poor audio management tools. A few years ago Ubuntu and others embarked on a process of simplifying audio management and while initially this was seen as a failure, the work is now starting to pay off. In Maverick the audio menubar item now has additional features, including the ability to view currently playing songs, start, stop and skip tracks through the menubar item and even include cover art in the drop-down menu. The audio menubar item also gives access to settings to control audio for each application currently running.

Being social

Ubuntu’s Me Menu, first introduced in Ubuntu 10.04, gets a few additional tweaks this time around. The Me Menu integrates all popular social networks into one application so that users can post to networks such as Twitter, Identi.ca and Facebook directly from their desktop. Users are also notified of incoming IM and social network messages without needing to have a client application running.

Multi-touch

This is one for the netbook and tablet users. Maverick Meerkat adds the beginnings of multi-touch support in this release. Not everyone will be able to use this feature yet but for the growing tablet PC market it is an important addition. Canonical is calling its multi-touch system uTouch which, it says, goes beyond simply being a way of adding touch input. Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth says that uTouch is the start of a “touch language” in which gestures can be linked together to create more complex actions. It’s clearly still early days for uTouch but it is one of the features that holds significant promise for Ubuntu’s future.

Ubuntu One: More than storage

Ubuntu One, Canonical’s online storage service, also continues to evolve in this release. What started out as a simple cloud storage service now includes a host of additional features. Among these are the ability to store and share folders, create short URLs for sharing documents, browse and purchase music, store bookmarks and synchronise notes. A Windows and Android version of Ubuntu One is also in the works and should be available soon. 

Netbook focus

Where changes to Ubuntu Maverick are most obvious is in the netbook edition of Ubuntu 10.10. Ubuntu developers have added a number of new elements to the version aimed at smaller portable PCs. Among these is multi-touch support but also the new Unity interface. The Unity interface rearranges the desktop to provide larger, easier to use buttons for touch screens as well as maximising the screen space available for running applications.

Overall the general impression left by Maverick Meerkat is of a more mature, more user-friendly Linux distribution that is well placed to be used by a broad range of users.

Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat is available via the Ubuntu website

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