Ubuntu Karmic: The good stuff

Next month will see the release of Ubuntu 9.10, otherwise known as Karmic Koala, the latest version of the popular Linux operating system from Mark Shuttleworth’s team. Going, as it will, head-to-head with Windows 7, which is also expected to be released in October, Ubuntu  is going to have to make a good impression if it doesn’t want to get blown away by Microsoft’s latest operating system.

There are already test versions of Karmic Koala available which are not quite complete but do give some idea of what users can expect from the latest Ubuntu release when it appears. We take a look at a few of the lesser-known changes and additions which will feature in the new release.

Ubuntu One

Ubuntu One is Canonical’s file synchronising and collaborating software. It is very similar to the Dropbox service which allows users to automatically synchronise desktop files with an online service as they work. The initial 2GB service is free of charge and there is a 10GB option which costs US$10 a month. Ubuntu One’s primary benefit is that it is tightly integrated into the desktop so synchronising files is seamless. The downside is that, unlike Dropbox, it is only available for Ubuntu users. Which means that users who regularly switch between Windows, Mac and Linux will not be able to enjoy the benefits.

Empathy IM

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. Which means that Ubuntu is likely to ship with Empathy instead of Pidgin. The initial decision was made because of Empathy’s video and voice support for Gtalk and XMPP. But Pidgin now has that capability so the Ubuntu team may change that again before the final release.

Touchpad

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 configuration settings in Karmic now have 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.

Better audio

Better audio is expected from Ubuntu 9.10 and again this is going to be a critical proving ground for the Linux upstart. 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 more 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 must live up to its promise of making audio “just work” in order to remain in the game.

Ubuntu 9.10 is scheduled for release at the end of October and looks likely to be one of the best releases to date.

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala – discussion

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Ubuntu Karmic: The good stuff