Latest posts by Bobby Travis (see all)
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Credit given where credit’s due, Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions based on Ubuntu (like Linux Mint and Jolicloud which we will cover soon), have made massive strides in terms of features and usability. The features and raw speed of Ubuntu’s latest release (10.04), Lucid Lynx, are very enticing to the tech curious, especially those who like software alternatives and getting stuff for free. Be warned, however, if you are not familiar with the background workings of Linux (Ubuntu or otherwise), even a shiny new integrated help manual may not be enough to get you to jumpship.
Lucid Lynx offers several great new features:
Integrated Social Apps, Contacts and Chat
Integration of Gwibber and Empathy does a nice combination of Digsby and Threadsy, allowing you to interact with Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, FriendFeed, email, and multiple Chat services. Multiple accounts on services are possible and you can configure notification popups, as well as quickly broadcast messages to your services without even opening a web browser. The fact that these services are served as (essentially) part of your operating system makes them incredibly convenient – all OS platforms should have such features in this day and age. Ubuntu One is also included – see below for more info.
Ubuntu One is a cloud service that offers 2GB of storage and syncing capability, much like Dropbox. The cool thing about Ubuntu One is that it has its own, DRM-free music store that can automatically sync your purchased tracks with your Ubuntu One account and then allows you to download those tracks to three other machines that are not running Ubuntu One. You can also (though there are still issues, I understand) sync contacts across platforms, including mobile. This is built off of Funambol, which is a well tested, open source contact-sync service. Unfortunately, though, this feature will cost $10/month after a 30day trial – this is something I find a bit odd on an open source, free platform, but I suppose the bills must be paid, yes?
The Ubuntu One Music Store is also integrated with Rhythmbox (pre-installed music player for Ubuntu 10.04) and works very much like the iTunes store. It should also be mentioned that every track purchased will help to save the endangered Iberian Lynx.
Less Default App Confusion
One of the problems with previous versions of Ubuntu, at least from a newer-user perspective, was the amount of pre-installed and often not-so-user-friendly apps that came with the OS. Too much at once tends to lead new users down the garden path of confusion and overwhelm, and so the good folks at Ubuntu stripped down the pre-installed apps, removing the super-powered and utterly stupefying (to new users, I said, so flame elsewhere…) GIMP and the like; providing mainly “core function” types of programs to make the strain of the new much less obvious.
Fancy New Help Menu
This is probably the best thing the Ubuntu team could have conceived of, especially if they are trying to encourage new-user adoption. The manual is part of the system, so you don’t have to download it, and you don’t have to wade through forum posts you only understand a quarter of. The Help Menu is easy to understand and navigate, and includes handy install links to software that it tells you to install. This makes life somewhat easier in Ubuntu and leaves one with a much nicer taste in one’s mouth when things go awry. All in all… yay!
Ubuntu 10.04 is probably the fastest loading (full) operating system I have ever come across. That alone nearly inspired me to switch from my Windows 7 OS, which runs mysteriously slower since I upgraded from the Release Candidate to the full operating system. Lucid Lynx loaded from scratch almost as fast as my Windows OS loads from standby.
…but still Linux
Linux is still Linux, no matter the facelift. The moniker “It Just Works” is a sham. Really, Linux “Just Works Until It Doesn’t.” There are still driver issues with bluetooth (even on new machines) wifi (on old and new machines – along with an inexplicable hatred for WPA security), graphics acceleration issues, etc. Many of these things can be fixed, but generally – and help menu or no – users need to seek out tutorials containing code fixes they don’t understand, following instructions that they are never sure will work, why they work or don’t work, and could potentially screw up their machines.
Ubuntu has always done a good job of making the front end more useable than most Linux Distributions, but average-user unfamiliarity, backend complexity, and the fact that much of the easily downloadable software just doesn’t work the way that people are used to (without at least a few hoops to jump through) will still keep the average user from going too far with Ubuntu Lucid Lynx.
The greatest thing about the more recent Ubuntu distributions, Lucid Lynx included, is that users who want to give it a try can install and uninstall it directly from Windows (using Wubi). Just run the installer and reboot, choosing the Ubuntu boot option. This goes a long way to getting people to at least give it a go to see if Ubuntu is their cup of tea. When you’re done, you can uninstall Ubuntu from your windows control panel, no messing with partitions, no annoyances. You can download the Windows installer here.
What do you think of the new features in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx? Willing to give it a shot?