The Ubuntu development team will today released version 9.10 of the popular Linux operating system. Also known as Karmic Koala, Ubuntu 9.10 is packed with a number of new features that make it a solid competitor in the desktop operating space. Although Ubuntu has been criticised in the past for relatively small improvements in its feature set with each new release, the past six months of Karmic development have not been wasted and the newest release has a number of notable and important features. We take a look at what users can expect.
Ubuntu One is Ubuntu’s version of Dropbox, an online synchronisation tool that makes it easy to backup, synchronise and retrieve documents from an online storage repository. Initially trialled in May this year, Ubuntu One is now a standard component of the Karmic desktop and has many of the same features of Dropbox such as the ability to share files with other users. Ubuntu One’s main advantage is that it is tightly integrated into the desktop and can automatically synchronise information in a range of Ubuntu applications.
For application developers Karmic includes “Quickly”, a simplified toolset for anyone wanting to write new Ubuntu applications. The Quickly toolset automates many of the mundane tasks of programming applications as well as making it easy for developers to package their applications and distribute it through the Ubuntu software repositories.
The increasingly popular netbook market is also a significant focus in the Karmic release. Ubuntu’s netbook-specific interface, Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR), has also been given an overhaul for this release. The most obvious change will be that the right-hand bar, which housed links to the various hard drives, removable drives and common directories, is to be removed and this menu now integrated into the single left-hand menu under a “files and folders” menu option. The result is a pleasingly larger area for launcher icons and a less cluttered overall appearance.
One of the more interesting decisions that has been made by the Gnome development team is to replace the Pidgin IM client with Empathy as the default. As a result Ubuntu includes Empathy as its default IM client in place of Pidgin. The initial decision was made because of Empathy’s video and voice support for Gtalk and XMPP. This is also part of a general move by Ubuntu to create a unified framework for all desktop communications.
As more and more users work on laptop computers this change is sure to please many. Again it is a Gnome feature, but as the default for Ubuntu, it means that Karmic will ship with it. The mouse configurations settings in Karmic now has an option to disable the touchpad while typing. This is a great feature for users that find they are inadvertently moving the mouse pointer around while they are typing. Also in the mouse settings is an option to enable two-finger scrolling. This means that on certain hardware users will be able to use any part of the touchpad to scroll the onscreen display. It is a significant improvement for laptop users.
Audio has also been improved in Ubuntu 9.10, a critical proving ground for Linux and Ubuntu. Audio handling on Linux has been famously bad over the years and as multimedia becomes an increasingly important part of the modern desktop, audio failings become increasingly noticeable. This is even more the case since Windows 7 includes Windows Media Player 12 which not only makes it easier for users to manage their media files but also makes it easy to stream multimedia over home networks. Ubuntu Karmic needs live up to its promise of making audio “just work” in order to remain in the game. Audio improvements also mean that users will be able to have greater sound control across multiple applications.
One of the more noticeable changes for long-time Ubuntu users is the new Software Center, a graphical package management tool that replaces the traditional Gnome Add/Remove tool. In the Karmic release the Software Center does pretty much the same as Add/Remove did but it is easier to use and is built with future plans in mind. Among those will be unifying all the underlying software management tools into one, as well as offering commercial applications to users through the Software Center.
Ubuntu Karmic Koala – discussion