The newest version of Ubuntu (9.04, codenamed “Jaunty Jackalope”) is set to be released on April 23, 2009. While there are some noticeable differences, much of the improvement in 9.10 can be found under the hood.
Every Ubuntu release comes with new software, and Jaunty is no exception. Jaunty comes with GNOME 2.25.92 (in Alpha 5) and many other packages like OpenOffice.org 3.0, GIMP 2.6.5, and much more. Jaunty will also include X server 1.6, which includes new features like X input 1.5, predictable pointer acceleration, and RandR 1.3.
Also, Jaunty introduces the “Computer Janitor”, a new administration utility meant to help clean up orphaned packages. Although there are no orphans on the LiveCD or in a new installation, this tool will help maintain old installations that have been around for awhile and have been upgraded a few times.
The notification system in Ubuntu has also been improved. Instead of the beige balloons that pop up when you connect to a network, are notified of updates, etc. Jaunty will have attractive black boxes that appear briefly to display the message. Some of this functionality is already present in Alpha 5, as was shown when a service crashed during our test.
The login screen in Jaunty has been changed considerably from previous releases. The tired brown theme has been replaced with a sleek black color scheme. Some new colors (including a nice rich purple) have been used in the login screen design, and we can only speculate on the other ways that additional colors could be used.
It is very likely that black will be used throughout 9.10, based on the evidence we have seen with the login screen and notification system. For the most part, it is still too early to tell since the rest of Jaunty still looks identical to 8.10, right down to the wallpaper.
Jaunty also has the ability to improve font sizing by defaulting to your monitor's actual capabilities instead of forcing the old 96 DPI setting used in previous versions. Ultimately, this will deliver better text rendering.
Although EXT3 is still going to be the default filesystem used in 9.04, new installations will have the option of using EXT4 instead; you can install the 9.04 alpha (not recommended) to an EXT4 partition if you use manual partitioning. (you still need an ext3 partition to boot from if you go that route) EXT4 is the successor to the EXT3 filesystem, and includes a number of new improvements, including larger volume sizes, (1 exabyte volumes are now supported) backward and forward compatibility with EXT2 and 3 under certain conditions, (EXT3 volumes can be mounted as EXT4) and much more.
Gparted will also include a new ability to format partitions as EXT4.
Ubuntu includes the new 2.6.28-8.26 kernel , based on 184.108.40.206. Although the most noticeable difference is a new entry on your GRUB menu, the kernel has many under-the-hood enhancements, like support for EXT4, memory efficiency improvements, disk shock protection, and much more.
The installation utility in Jaunty has been improved as well. The city selection screen (used to set the clock) has been improved to show time zones rather than individual cities. Previously, you would have to select a “closest match” city in your time zone if your actual city was not included on the list. (many regions are under-represented) Now, you can select your time zone in a generic sense, which is much easier than trying to locate a particular city on a map or in a list.
The Ubuntu development team went to great lengths to give Ubuntu a faster boot time; they got it down down to 21.4 seconds, according to a report released earlier this year. During our test of Jaunty Alpha 5, the LiveCD took 1 minute 12 seconds (rounded to nearest second, and ignoring time spent on the boot/language selection menus) to go from initial boot to desktop.
Once installed to a virtual machine, Jaunty took 25 seconds (rounded to nearest second) to go from the GRUB menu to the login screen. There is probably some extra lag caused by the use of virtualization in our tests, but these boot times are still much better than previous versions and are within reasonable bounds of the developer's claims.