Canonicalâ€™s latest free Ubuntu Linux operating system version is officially released today. Ubuntu 9.04 for desktop, server and â€œnetbook remixâ€ is available for immediate download, CD purchase or you can request a free CD.
Ubuntu is a free operating system that can be used on desktop PCs, notebooks, work/business PCs as well as other devices that support either the x86 CPU or ARM CPUs (beginning with version 9.04, previous versions only supported x86). It is a version of Linux that includes a graphical desktop. In fact, beginning with 8.x, Ubuntu comes standard with theÂ Compiz Fusion 3D desktop, which enables someÂ really amazing effectsÂ (andÂ here, andhere) that puts Windows Vista to shame. As in Vista, these features require a moderate to high-end 3D accelerated graphics card, and can be enabled easily in the screen controls options.
The usable qualities of Ubuntu easily surpass anything seen in Vista. Its only real limitations come in the form of software. Most applications written for Windows were not also ported to Ubuntu (or, more generally, Linux). As a result, many of peopleâ€™s favorite programs will not run natively in Linux. However, there are almost always alternatives that have been written which provide similar functionality, and are also free.
In the alternative, VMware has created a server version of their software which can be downloaded for free. It creates a virtual machine which runs inside of Ubuntu. From there, any Windows operating system can be installed and made to run full-screen, in a window or alongside multiple versions of Windows (and even other versions of Linux) at the same time. This functionality is limited only by system resources.
Note: In my tests on an AMD Athlon X2 CPU without hardware virtualization assist, the operating system ran about 30% slower in Ubuntu than it did natively on the machine by itself. In addition, some features (such as 3D games) were not possible due to driver limitations, which enable the Windows instance to operate smoothly with VMwareâ€™s hypervisor layer (and ultimately with Ubuntu itself). Files can be exchanged back and forth, as can data on the system clipboard. And, just as in regular Windows running natively on a machine, all software can be installed. Virtual Windows machines also have one additional feature which can be a life saver: Simply by copying the VMware disk files associated with the virtual machine, the entire state of a machine can be backed up or copied to another computer, allowing one to take a virtual machine from work to home and back again, even on a USB thumb drive, for example.
Ubuntu 9.04 includes the latest 184.108.40.206 kernel, and a host of features. Some of theÂ highlightsÂ include:
- OpenOffice 3.0
- Latest Skype
- Latest Adobe Flash
- Faster boot times (reportedly as low as 25 seconds)
- Gnome 2.26
- Brasero 2.26 (all-in-one CD burning application)
- Better (more intuitive) multi-monitor support
- X.Org server 1.6, which supports several new video cards, as well as ATI-specific improvements including EXA acceleration (by default), 2D support for R6/R7 series, 3D support for R5 series, along with an updated -fglrx proprietary driver for R6/R7 series 3D support.
- More uniform notifications and system messages
- Ext4 file system support
- AÂ Netbook RemixÂ version, which offers:
- Even faster boot speeds
- Enhanced power management
- Easier network switching
- More intuitive icons and other design changes
- Native support for Acer Aspire One, Asus Eee PC 1000, Dell Mini 9
- AÂ Server Edition, which offers:
- web, print, file, database and mail servers â€“ more efficiently. Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition integrates the latest, stable Open Source applications from across the community, packaged and ready for users to deploy. New enhancements include improved virtualization with the latest KVM features, clustering support in Samba file server and easier mail server setup with out-of-the-box Dovecot-Postfix integration.Â
In addition, Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition will preview Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). Ubuntu is the first commercially-supported distribution to enable businesses to build cloud environments inside their firewalls. With Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition, organizations can explore the benefits of cloud computing without the data or security issues associated with moving data to an external cloud provider. Following a successful beta program last year, Ubuntu Server Edition 9.04 will also be fully available on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
Jane Silber, COO, Canonical, says: â€œWith every release, we see Ubuntu Desktop Edition make significant steps forward in appealing to mainstream computer users. With access to the latest office productivity suite, support for Skype and Adobe Flash, and faster boot times, weâ€™re confident that Ubuntu 9.04 Desktop Edition will see more people join millions of others and make the switch to an open platform.â€
Ubuntu 9.04 also comes with a native ARM processor port, for MIDs and low-end netbooks featuring an ARM CPU instead of an x86 CPU, and specifically the ARMv5EL and ARMv6EL-VFP architectures. See Geek.comâ€™s previous coverage for additional information onÂ Ubuntuâ€™s ARM support.Â You canÂ download Ubuntu here
Ubuntu 8.x was advanced enough that it could read and write to all Windows hard drive formats without error. It provided trouble-free operations when I was working as an online journalist up to 12 hours per day, along with personal computer time. I have had no problems at all, no comparable â€œblue screens of deathâ€ or anything negative with the experience.
The only problems I could possibly come up with are a lack of full hardware support (though this is literally changing every day as new drivers are created constantly) and that some of the free software programs I have downloaded and tested had some odd user-interface effects, such as needing to move away from a button, then back over it before it would accept a click, for example.
For all other software programs I have used VMware Server and Windows XP or Windows 2000. Windows 2000, for example, is a small 32-bit version of Windows (installs for a few dozen Megabytes) and is adequate to run most Windows software. And since it is such a small footprint, its performance is more than adequate even when running inside the VMware hypervisor as a virtual machine.
I would encourage everyone to download Ubuntu, burn the ISO to CD, and then at least boot into Ubuntu and take the test drive. If you have a permanent Internet connection, or a WiFi connection, youâ€™ll immediately be able to surf the web with the built-in Firefox browser.
There are several user forums with answers to most every question a new Ubuntu user could come up with. One problem Iâ€™m having right now is how to enable my Verizon wireless card, which is PCMCIA, not USB. There is a native SuSE Linux support for it, but as of right now I have not found native Ubuntu support for it. If I can figure out how to do this, I will be done with Windows forever.