If you’ve been thinking about giving Linux a run on your computer, Ubuntu’s next major release could be the one for you.
Ubuntu 12.04, otherwise known as Precise Pangolin, will be released in April 2012 and promises to be one of the better releases of the past year from Canonical as the Ubuntu developers finally get to grips with the major desktop changes the OS has been going through.
Ubuntu 12.04 is also what’s known as a Long Term Support (LTS) release, which means that it is designed to be one of the more stable releases. Because LTS releases are meant to be supported for five years on desktops and servers they tend to be more conservative than the other releases.
So, if you’re keen to dabble in a little Linux what can you expect from the Precise Pangolin?
A refined Unity desktop
Ubuntu’s new default desktop is known as Unity and has been relatively controversial within the Ubuntu community. One of the criticisms has been that Unity was rushed out and not yet mature enough for day-to-day use.
The good news is that it’s been a good year since Unity made its first appearance and in that time it has matured significantly. And with the focus on quality in Ubuntu 12.04, Unity is likely to be fully bedded down.
Better multi-monitor support
Previous versions of Unity have had niggling problems with multi-monitor support, including missing menus when maximising windows on both monitors. Ubuntu developers have committed to fix these glitches and with many users now using more than one screen it is much needed.
No more mono
From Ubuntu 12.04 Ubuntu will remove all traces of Mono, the .Net-compatible framework. Removing Mono will please the many Mono haters in the Ubuntu community.
The advantage of removing Mono is that it will free up a lot of space in the initial install with the libraries gone. Mono was widely criticised for being too resource intensive and taking up too much space.
The downside of removing Mono will be that many popular applications that rely on Mono, including Banshee and Tomboy, will have to be removed as well.
On the media player front Precise Pangolin will revert to Rhythmbox as the default. This will replace Banshee which was the default for a short while, but now that Mono is to be removed Banshee is without a home.
Better software centre
Among the expected improvements in Precise Pangolin are improvements to the Ubuntu Software Centre. Over the past couple of releases the software centre has added a host of new features, including user ratings.
In the Precise Pangolin likely improvements will include plugin support, an option for videos and better support for application syncing across PCs.
Under the hood Ubuntu 12.04 will ship with Linux Kernel version 3.2 which has a number of interesting improvements. Some of these changes include better support for the VMWare graphics stack and improved support for open source graphics drivers.
The 3.2 kernel also integrates Samsung’s Exynos4 DRM driver which will add 3D support for ARM-based mobile devices.
Although Unity will be the default desktop environment Precise Pangolin will also ship with Gnome 3.2 as an alternative. Gnome 3.4 is scheduled to be released a month before Precise Pangolin but with this being an LTS release the developers will be more conservative than with other releases.
From Ubuntu 12.04 users can expect a slightly larger download. Developers have decided to drop the self-imposed 700MB limit of the release and increase this to 750MB. For users this means the install download will no longer fit on a single CD but require either a DVD or a flash drive install.