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Ubuntu's 9.10 Improvements

Ubuntu 9.10, codenamed Karmic Koala, is just about the corner, with its programmed launch on October 29th. This release is a special one, preparing the way for the next LTS which is due to appear the next April (Lucid Lynx, 10.04). Lots and lots of features and improvements have been added, the main goal being to achieve a 10 second boot time for Lucid. In order to obtain that spectacular time, Karmic changed a few key components of the OS comparing it with the current release, 9.04 (codenamed Jaunty Jackalope).

upstart

upstart is an event-based replacement for the usual /sbin/init daemon which handles starting of tasks and services during boot, stopping them during shutdown and supervising them while the system is running. Developed initially for the Ubuntu distribution, upstart is intended to be suitable for deployment in all Linux distributions as a replacement for System-V init. Among upstart’s users there are Fedora 9 and later, Debian (optional), Nokia’s Maemo platform and Palm’s WebOS.

xsplash

Having X starting sooner helped improve the boot times for Ubuntu. xsplash replaces usplash for displaying the boot screen, which allows using native resolutions, eliminating disproportioned boot screens. The only downside is that at shutdown, when the X is stopped, so is xsplash, removing all the eye-candy that masks the shutdown information. Therefore the user sees all the information regarding shutting down processes.

Ubuntu Software Center

Ubuntu Software Center is a new application meant to replace Synaptic Package Manager, Add/Remove…, Software Sources, Gdebi and possible Update Manager. Again this is targeted at the 10.04 release, but the application has made it in Karmic. With a clean and interesting UI, the software center wants to be an easy and intuitive way to install applications and possible (in the future) to buy them. For every application there is the possibility of displaying a screen-shot that should preview the user where he/she should look for the launcher after the application is installed or how the application looks like.

Ubuntu One

Karmic Koala includes by default the client for accessing Ubuntu One on-line file sharing and storing sevice which is based on Amazon S3 storage servers. The service is similar to Dropbox, but unfortunately inferior in features and portability, as it runs only on Ubuntu clients (from 9.04 and forward). The service offers free 2GB accounts and 50GB payed ones ($10.00 USD).

Other features

Ubuntu 9.10 will include the new GNOME 2.28, ext4 file system by default (the other file systems are still available using the manual partitioner, but will no longer be upgraded) and GRUB 2. Other security improvements have been added like AppArmor application profiles, better capabilities for UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall) and memory execution protection by handling code different.

User experience

I have tested Karmic Koala in a virtual machine using Sun’s VirtualBox allocating 512MB RAM and 2 processors, with a 3 partition style (swap, root folder and home folder - both ext4) for an 8GB virtual disk. The system boots incredibly fast (less than 20 seconds) and has a nice look. GNOME 2.28 has changed a bit from 2.26.1 which¬† is shipped in Ubuntu 9.04. I have also tested Empathy, the new multi-protocol instant messaging client, but I wasn’t thrilled. It still needs some features that Pidgin has been offering in the last two years. Still the desktop sharing functions and the audio/video capabilities (via selected protocols) are a strong addition. If you want to obtain the full performance potential ext4 has to offer, you should opt for a clean install though. Just upgrading ext3 to ext4 won’t suffice, even if you will obtain some improvements. So be careful to use backups at least for your home folder.

Can’t wait for the official release! Will you upgrade too?

Linux, Ubuntu

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