Ubuntu 8.10, named Intrepid Ibex, is scheduled for release next week, so we figured it's time to run down the checklist of improvements, fixes, and enhancements since Hardy Heron came out earlier this year. The last six months of development have brought tons of new functionality that make running Linux easier for all users--power users and neophytes alike.Oh, and there's a new wallpaper.
The biggest changes to Ibex over Heron are, as always, the addition of the latest version of GNOME, X.Org, the Linux kernel. Ibex includes Gnome 2.24, X.Org 7.4, and version 2.6.27 of the kernel. We'll talk about each one as well as show you some of the Ubuntu-specific apps that you can expect to see.
GNOME is the desktop environment of choice for Ubuntu, and is responsible for most of the user interface elements that users actually see. Everything from the login screen to the system's application launching menus and file browser are a part of GNOME.
GNOME 2.24 includes many new applications, including a time-tracking application, a SIP-based audio/visual conferencing client called Ekiga, and a whole lot of sweet applets that add advanced functions to your desktop. GNOME also includes an enhanced tab-based file browser, a smart search utility that solves basic math and allows you to search popular sites directly, and more advanced resolution controls for X.Org. Gnome 2.24 also includes much needed enhancements for mobile users, with better Bluetooth support and support for Offline access to Exchange servers using the Evolution application
X.Org is the software that actually draws the graphical UI. X.Org offers all the features you'd expect in a modern renderer, like support for 3D-composited desktop and even hardware-accelerated video playback.
X.Org 7.4 doesn't include a ton of sexy enhancements like GNOME, but it does offer a few very noticeable performance and compatibility improvements, namely in boot time improvements and support for a wider variety of input devices. Hotplugging support for input devices actually works now, so you can plug in mice and tablets and use them without having to reboot. Improvements to X.Org also allow for the easier to manage display control panel, which allows users to adjust resolutions and screen placement for single and multiple monitor displays easily.
The Linux kernel handles the basic functions of the operating system, from managing memory allocation to support for hardware like IDE controllers and mice, the kernel is the underpinnings for the entire operating system.
The 2.6.27 kernel offers the usual mix of performance enhancements, power user features, and support for new hardware. We're especially excited about the speed enhancements to the Ext4 file system, better support for USB webcams, and some significant gains in battery life for mobile users.
The stuff we've talked about previously isn't exclusive to Ubuntu. Any Linux distro that uses the same versions of GNOME, X.Org, or the kernel will see the same benefits. However, Ubuntu developers also add a fair amount of their own secret sauce to each Ubuntu release, and Ibex is no different. Here are the big improvements Ibex upgraders can look forward to.
Getting networking in Linux working has long been a challenge, especially for wireless connections. The new Network Manager is a great improvement over the previous release. It allows your Ubuntu machine to connect to the network before a user logs in, supports 3G connections, multiple simultaneous connections, and PPPoE.
One of our favorite PC security tips for Windows is to create a limited user account for other people to use. Ibex adds a default Guest account with limited write support and no access to user files stored in the home directory.
Ubuntu now supports the high-quality setting in YouTube! We shall celebrate by watching videos of other people's animals at a better quality level. Additionally, now Ubuntu users can view the programming the BBC puts online in Totem. That's right, you can enjoy fine shows like Scotland Outdoors and The Archers from your Linux PC.
Type ecryptfs-setup-private in the Terminal, and you can hide and encrypt a folder in your Home directory. The process is seamless, and ties into your user login, so when you're logged in, you see the contents, but any other users won't even see that the file is there. This folder gives a secure location that you can use to store sensitive files, without paying the performance penalty that full-disk encryption incurs.
OK, so this is kind of an X.Org feature, but it's incredibly handy for normal users. Anyone who's delved into the xorg.conf file in the past, which stores all the settings for your Linux install's graphical configuration, including specifics about your videocard, mouse, monitors, and other peripherals, knows what a hassle it is to get everything working. With the new release, most users will be able to operate with an empty xorg.conf, letting the OS detect and choose the proper driver, and detect monitor resolutions and input devices automatically, without requiring user input.
There are the high-points of the next release of Ubuntu, which is scheduled to be launched by October 31. If you want to take a sneak peek at Intrepid Ibex, it's easy. You can download the ISO file, then follow our instructions here. Alternately, if you're already running Ubuntu, press Alt+F2, and run "update-manager -d" without the quotes. Click the Upgrade prompt, and your existing Ubuntu install will upgrade to Intrepid Ibex.