Just a few more days. Yes, the U.S. presidential election is a mere week away, but there’s another countdown going on. Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop Edition, the Intrepid Ibex release, is set to go live on Thursday.
The beta has excited both users and potential users of the popular distro because of its rich mobility functionality, including 3G support and the ability to create a portable Linux desktop using a USB thumb drive.
The latter feature, in particular, has the potential to spur the use of Linux on the desktop generally, Dan Olds, principal analyst with Gabriel Consulting, told LinuxInsider. “You don’t see that with Windows — putting your desktop identity on a thumb drive and using it on whichever computer you want.” For that reason alone, he speculated, 8.10 could attract users who have watched Linux from the wings but have not yet taken the plunge.
The 3G network support means users can move from wired and WiFi networks onto 3G cell phone networks. Another new feature, the Guest Session, allows users to share their desktops by creating a temporary password-less user account with restricted privileges: a hastily constructed but safe environment in which one can lend a laptop to someone else for a quick e-mail check. This is another feature that will allow Linux to capture desktop share at the margins, Olds noted.
However, the 3G support is the feature that has received the most buzz from the user base and industry, Gerry Carr, marketing manager for Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, told LinuxInsider.
“That is the most significant change — and it is a reflection of how computing is changing. Mobile, Internet-ready and virus-free is what people expect.”
The 3G support has been tested on most of the smartphone platforms, including BT and Verizon, Carr said.
Still, loyal users aren’t about to discount the lure of the typical enhancements in any upgrade. “I am upgrading because I want to get the latest release of Open Office,” Laurent Duperval, president of IT consulting firm Duperval Consulting, told LinuxInsider.
Bread and Butter
Other features in 8.10:
- GNOME 2.24, a desktop environment that includes the Nautilus file manager with tab support and eject icons for removable drives, and the File Roller archive manager, which now supports ALZ, RZIP, CAB and TAR.7Z file types;
- X.Org 7.4, the latest stable version of X.Org, which provides better support for input devices such as tablets, keyboards, and mice. It also allows users to run without an /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. A new failsafe X is introduced, to give better tools for troubleshooting X startup failures;
- Ubuntu 8.10 Beta includes Linux kernel 2.6.27, which has upgraded hardware support and numerous bug fixes.
- Network Manager 0.7, which besides the 3G support also includes system-wide settings functionality, management of multiple active devices, management of PPP and PPPOE connections, management of devices with static Internet protocol configurations and route management for devices;
- DKMS allows kernel drivers to be automatically rebuilt when new kernels are released — making it possible for kernel package updates to be made available immediately without waiting for rebuilds of driver packages, and without third-party driver packages becoming out of date when installing these kernel updates.
- Samba 3.2, which has such new features as clustered file server support, encrypted network transport, IPv6 support, and better integration with the latest version of Microsoft Windows clients and servers.
- A new plug-in for the Totem movie player that fetches free digital content from the BBC.
Canonical will also be making Ubuntu 8.10 Server Edition generally available this week. This release, which will be supported for 18 months, has significantly boosted functionality in virtualization, Java development and system management.