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Ubuntu Karmic Koala Climbs Into the Ring

By Jack M. Germain
Oct 28, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Canonical, the commercial developer of the open source operating system Ubuntu, will release on Thursday Ubuntu 9.10 Server Edition and Ubuntu 9.10 Desktop Edition. The two latest releases, which go by the moniker "Karmic Koala," come on the heals of last week's release of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system.

Ubuntu Karmic Koala Climbs Into the Ring

The latest Ubuntu releases could raise the ante in the competitive field of computer operating systems, where Microsoft, Apple and open source offerings like Ubuntu vie for users.

Ubuntu 9.10 Server Edition introduces Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) as a fully supported technology. Ubuntu 9.10 desktop features a redesigned interface with faster boot and login, a revamped audio framework and improved 3G broadband connectivity.

"This is a busy week for operating systems. But users get the advantage because it's a great time for consumers to try out Ubuntu for free rather than paying for an upgrade to Windows 7," Steve George, director of support and products for Canonical, told LinuxInsider.

Feigned Competition

Canonical is not planning to initiate a special media campaign against Windows 7, which was released last week. In fact, the fact that both new operating system releases are taking place at roughly the same time is purely accidental, according to George.

"Actually, we think Microsoft planned its release to coincide with ours," quipped George.

The nomenclature for Canonical's release timetable is based on the year and month of the planned release. So Ubuntu 9.10 stands for 2009, 10th month. This latest version comes with free security upgrades for 18 months, he explained.

Server Specifics

Code writers gave special attention to the core server product and kernel in this latest edition. For example, numerous kernel improvements support both Xen (guest) and KVM (host and guest) virtualization. Caching performance is also improved.

Developers added MySQL 5.1 and upgraded the directory stack and Single Sign On tools for improved directory integration. This version offers fully supported framework enhancing Web server options.

Also included is support for the USB 3.0 protocol to handle higher transfer rates when those devices become available. Server users will get additional system management support through the WBEM (Web-based enterprise management) protocols, which open up support of Ubuntu environment to the most popular system management tools currently deployed in enterprises.

Ubuntu's own systems management tool, Landscape, now has a dedicated server for its hosted version that allows deployments to be managed entirely within the firewall and will fully support Ubuntu 9.10 Server Edition and Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud.

Desktop Delights

In their approach to growing this newest Ubuntu version, Canonical code writers made it a point to focus on details. The 100 Paper Cuts initiative organized with the Ubuntu community allowed users to nominate minor annoyances that impacted their enjoyment of the platform.

That feedback so far led to over 50 fixes that removed minor irritants, such as inconsistent naming or poorly organized application choices. Larger-scale user experience improvements include a refreshed Ubuntu Software Center. This gives users easier access to information about the software available and brings the world of open source applications closer to them.

Plus One More

Ubuntu 9.10 includes the integration of 'Ubuntu One' as a standard component of the desktop. This is an umbrella name for a suite of online services which were released in beta in May 2009.

Ubuntu One offers users an enhanced desktop experience with simplified backup, synchronization and sharing of files with an expanded set of features including Tomboy Notes and contacts synchronization.

Netbook and smartbook users will be able to use the Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix (UNR) interface. UNR integrates the Empathy instant messaging program for text, voice, video and file transfers to make communication easier.

Effortless Experience

"Ubuntu 9.10 gives users more reasons than ever to seriously consider Linux at a time when many are thinking again about their operating system options. We are delivering a platform for users interested in an easy-to-use, great-looking, Web-friendly operating system," said Jane Silber, COO at Canonical.

Deployment on popular notebook, desktop and netbook models continue to drive Ubuntu into the mainstream of computing choices, she said.

Opportune Time

The main significance for consumers to consider Ubuntu as an alternative to Windows 7 is the cost of upgrading, according to George. The new release will work with most current-generation hardware, so users will not have to worry about costly upgrades, he explained.

"We see three main reasons to consider Ubuntu as a Windows 7 alternative. One is it is easy to use. Two, it's fun to work with a beautiful interface. Three, Ubuntu comes with all the applications consumers and business users need," said George.

Consumers can install the latest Ubuntu release within Windows XP or Windows Vista to try out a fully functional version of the open source operating system, noted George. This way, the existing Windows environment remains intact on the user's computer until a decision is made between migrating to Ubuntu or staying with Windows.

Pricing and Availability

Ubuntu 9.10 Server and Desktop Editions are downloadable for free.

Ubuntu One offers 2 GB of storage for free and 50 GB for $10 per month.

Canonical also provides support products for desktop and notebook users priced from $55 per year.

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