Ubuntu Lucid gets social

Lucid Lynx, the next version of Ubuntu Linux, is scheduled for release next month but as the alpha versions show there are a number of interesting changes to be included in this latest release.

One of the big changes in Ubuntu 10.4 (aka Lucid Lynx) is the built-in social networking tools. These include a menu bar option for posting updates directly to any number of social networking sites. This change has been introduced for the first time in the third alpha release, made last week. Called the MeMenu the tool expands on the existing “presence” menu to add a text box for updating the users status on any of their accounts. The existing presence menu includes rudimentary options for marking a user available or away on their instant messaging account. The MeMenu uses the much-improved Gwibber tool to broadcast the status updates to all networks.

Gwibber creator Ryan Paul says he “originally created Gwibber in 2007 with the goal of producing a multi-service social networking application for the GNOME desktop environment. I wanted to be able to communicate seamlessly with multiple social networking services and view all of the content in a combined stream … Gwibber was initially proposed for inclusion in Ubuntu last year when Canonical authored its ‘Social by Default’ blueprint. It [includes] support for Twitter, Identi.ca, Facebook, FriendFeed, Flickr, Digg, and Qaiku.”

iPhone support

Also included in Lucid Lynx is support for iPod and iPhone devices. This is an important inclusion for many users who would naturally shy away from Ubuntu if it did not support the Apple products.

Traditionally Ubuntu, and Linux in general, has had patchy support for Apple products. In large part this was because of Apple’s habit of changing file formats and databases with each new release of its iPods to thwart users not using its iTunes software. Early reviews of Lucid Lynx report that it does indeed support practically all of Apple’s current hardware lineup.

By default Lucid Lynx will be able to both browse the iPhone or Touch using the Nautilus file manager as well as play the contents through the Rhythmbox media player.

UbuntuOne music

Related to this is the UbuntuOne Music store which will be included in Lucid Lynx. The music store will be integrated with UbuntuOne, the cloud storage service offered by Canonical, and will operate in a way similar to Apple’s iTunes. Users will log into the music store using their existing Ubuntu One username. Although the service will be linked to the Ubuntu One service users are expected to be able to use a number of existing desktop media players to access the store, including Rhythmbox and Banshee, as well as a Web-based interface. Already a Rhythmbox plugin for the Ubuntu One Music Store is listed in Ubuntu’s blueprints.

Ubuntu Lucid Lynx will be released at the end of April.

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Ubuntu Lucid gets social