[ Wednesday, 3 September 2008, admin ]
There are only two months left for the new Ubuntu release to appear. I’ve decided to check out what is it that the Ubuntu developers have been preparing for us. Yet again, there are no huge, revolutionary changes, but some of them are really interesting. I’ve decided to write a few words about them.
You can track information about upcoming changes on Launchpad and Ubuntu.com web-site. The second one gives only a little bit of information — just about planned software updates. So, Alpha 4 has a new version of X.org server and Linux kernel. There is also a new Network Manager. It has one of my long waited features, namely 3G network support. Of course there are no big problems with establishing this kinds of connections nowadays on Ubuntu, but the developers are promising to make this process even faster and a lot easier. Currently all the things needed to establish a 3G connections, like APN or password need to be typed by the user. Average user might get lost during the configuration. The autoconfig features of new Network Manager promis to change this. Other functionalities include things like:
- you don’t have to log in to connect (this is also of of the most requested features),
- PPP and PPPOE connections management,
- management of many active devices.
There’s been a guest account introduced. I think that it is really a great solution (also when it comes to security). First of all we cannot trust anyone that much, to give him (or her) the access to our files (just imagine what would happen if someone found out about your world domination plans…). What’s more we can just simply save our passwords and logins while using a web browser — there will be no possibility that our friend will log into our mail account and do nasty stuff. Guests have almost no rights — they have no access to other users’ files and they cannot save any files pernamently (guest’s directory is temporary).
Private and encrypted directory
Another nice thing in the upcoming Ubuntu release is a new private directory (~/Private). Other users have no access to it (chmod 700). But the really cool part is that it is encrypted! Currently on alpha stage, in order to obtain this feature you have to execute only three simple commands:
sudo apt-get install ecryptfs-utils auth-client-config sudo auth-client-config -p ecryptfs_standard \\ -t pam-auth,pam-session,pam-password ecryptfs-setup-private
I hope that in the final version this will be set by default.
After many upgrades our system often looks like a real mess — we have many spare packages, old kernels etc. In new Ubuntu a cleaner has been summoned to fix those for you. It will clean all the post-upgrades mess automatically keeping your computer filesystem tidy.
Installation from USB
At last easy and comfortable Ubuntu installation from pendrives is possible. It is another weapon in our hands — usually we don’t have a Linux CD in our pocket, it is simply to big to fit. A little USB stick makes it way easier and it is way faster, too.
It takes only a few seconds for the newest KDE to reach a fully operational stage couting from the login screen till you can use it. As for GNOME in Ubuntu, it needs more time. But none of us like to wait, so developers want to make the boot time as short as it is possible (by updating scripts, leaving unnecessary things etc.).
New installer’s look
Ubuntu installer (which hasn’t been updated since the very beginning of the system) now finally will be redesigned. No details of those changes have emerged, yet, though. While installing Alpha 4, I haven’t noticed any differences between the new installer and the old one.
Automatic installation of the drivers
In its present version Ubuntu can pick the best drivers for graphic cards and some wireless devices, and when it is needed it can download and install drivers automatically. In the new version printer drivers will be added. I will not elaborate on advantages — they are obvious
GUI for fonconfig edition
As for now to make use of fontconfig settings we have to manually modify the configuration file. It is to be changed. A comfortable GUI will allow us to change our fonts settings in GNOME. It is useful especially when many users work on one computer.
Tabs in Nautilus
YES! At last! Many have been awaiting these feature for ages! We can now browse content in Nautilus using tabs.
Fast application search in Synaptic
A very useful feature. Simply type what you’re searching for (e.g. “audio”) and the results will appear in a moment. You don’t even need to press the Enter key
Some other changes include: BIOS Software RAID/FakeRAID support, better Flash support, faster installation from DVD, PackageKit integration, better power management, improvements in spell checking and menu structure. Of course this is not a complete list, but I think that all those listed changes are really important for average users.
It is worth mentioning that a well known problem with killing hard disks due to incorrect manufacturers’ setings has not been solved. Also not all multimedia keys work out of the box. I had to configure them using System → Preferences → Keyboard Shortcuts. The default looks changed a little bit (in the right directon!), but it will be redesigned again for stable version.
Is it really worth trying now?
Is it worth migrating to the new Ubuntu version just now? Well, if you like to take risk, just do it. I have used the Alpha version for testing purposes only. Most things are not ready just yet and the system is not as stable like Hardy, which is obvious. The stable release is planned for October 30th so I think it is worth to wait a little bit more.
If you only need the 3G network support there is an option to use it in Ubuntu 8.04. It is enough to add those repositories:
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/network-manager/ubuntu hardy main deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/network-manager/ubuntu hardy main
/etc/apt/sources.list file… and upgrade your system. Good luck and tell us about your experiences with the latest Alpha!