An Early Glimpse at Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)

Date Published: 10/03/2009 23:47 Logo of Ubuntu Linux

As an avid fan of all things Linux, I recently decided to take a look at what we're going to see in the next release of Canonical's Ubuntu distribution (to be released 23rd April 2009). I've used Ubuntu for many years and still opt to use it as my main operating system. It was the distribution which pulled me from the clutches of Microsoft and still to this day it does everything I need from an OS. I've tried and still regularly use many other distributions such as Fedora and Gentoo but Ubuntu is still my primary choice. I thought I would express what I have found while having a look around at this new release which is still in development. This is not by any means final, all judgements should be made on the final product but since I am looking forward to the new edition I thought I would get an early glimpse at what we can expect at the end of April 2009.

Whats New in Jaunty Jackalope (9.04)?

With a release cycle as short as 6 months it always amazes me that Canonical find things to update other than the odd security patch and new theme. Yet they bi-annually churn out a new version of their OS with new features we haven't seen before and some little tweaks which just make using your computer all that more pleasant. Heres a list of features which are to be included in the new release:

  • Linux Kernel 2.6.28 - For the geekiest of us that take interest in which kernel we are running Jaunty will come with 2.6.28. The newest stable linux kernel means better hardware compatibility and improved support for the ext4 file system.
  • Introduction of ext4 - After years in development the ext4 file system is now available within the linux kernel and Ubuntu 9.04 will offer the option to use this as your default file system. Ext3 will however still be the default.
  • X-Org Server 1.6 - As usual the new release will package with the newest versions of GNOME and X server (their release cycles all very nicely tie together). For some people this may cause bother since they may not be able to acquire drivers but hopefully most proprietry drivers should work with the new X server. Beware to those those with ATI graphics cards since you, as tends to be the case, will probably be worst hit.
  • Improvements to Font Rendering - The DPI (dots per inch) of fonts can now be set to best suit your monitor instead of settling for the default 96. This should allow for cleaner and clearer looking text.
  • New Notifications - The notifications for things such as lower battery power or loss of a wireless connection in GNOME have been revamped to appear more seemless and more user friendly. This won't make a massive difference but it helps Ubuntu come closer to Apple when it comes to making a good looking GUI.
  • New Packages - As with all Ubuntu releases they have updated the package list to ensure the pre-installed software is up to date as the timings will allow. Many people were disappointed at the release of Intrepid Ibex when Open Office 3.0 wasn't included by default since the release of 3 was past the software deadline for 8.10. On this occasion ofcourse Open Office 3 is included by default which is excellent since 3 is the best performing open office release to date.

Taking a Look at the Alpha Release

Screenshot Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope Login Screen

I acquired my copy of the alpha 5 release of Ubuntu from the offical ubuntu site here (http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/releases/jaunty/alpha-5/). I downloaded a Live CD via torrent and installed it onto a virtual machine. The installer was the same as it was for Intrepid taking no longer than 20 minutes to install and get up and running. The Live CD now carries out the install with a full GUI meaning even beginners wouldn't have difficulty installing Ubuntu. Once installed I was greeted once again with a new login screen as is standard with Ubuntu releases. Apart from this I noticed no other updates to the artwork but the deadline for artwork has not yet passed (19th March 2009) so this is to be expected.

Screenshot of the Ubuntu System Janitor

After spending a few days poking around on Jaunty and using it as my main OS (even though its installed on a virtual machine) I found it to be another solid Ubuntu release. The upgrades to the rendering of fonts is visible straight away. The text appears much more crisp and defined than it has on previous releases. I feel this addition will make it much easier to switch to smaller fonts, saving screen space. I personally use a Samsung NC10 as my primary computer (a netbook with a 10 inch screen) so saving screen space is a primary concern, I find this new feature particularly pleasing. Whenever I try a new distro or release I tend to spend a while checking out the menus for new interface features I may need and with Ubuntu I always find a few. The main one I've discovered is the System Janitor. This is simply a graphical interface for the auto-clean feature of apt-get. Since I tend update every 6 months I don't really have any issues with my system getting full of old out-dated packages and data, but I can see this being a very handy feature for others. Keeping your computer fresh and running clean is crucial and although linux distros don't have a tendency to deteriorate its nice to have tools like the system janitor present to fix any potential problems.

To be honest the alpha release does not seem to be giving much away. There are notable improvements but as with all releases of Ubuntu, people will always ask whether releases really have to be this frequent. The jury is out until the full release is issued and it can be fully tested but at the moment it seems to be another typical edition of Ubuntu, minor adjustments working towards something great. I would highly recommend trying it via a live CD to get to grips with it before commiting it to your hard drive. Waiting for the full release is also the best option as there will still be features which are not included in alpha 5 for the upcoming beta.

Canonical have done some fantastic things for the linux community, to rise to the most popular distribution in less than 5 years is spectacular. Even though some people seem to think that Ubuntu is for linux beginners I believe it is an important step towards showing the world what open source software has to offer. Canonical continue to improve their operating system, without directly trying to gain ground from competitors. Vista was such a massive failure because Microsoft concentrated far too heavily on making their system look nice, like OS X, instead on concentrating on what really matters, functionality. Canonical concentrate on making their OS work, making it stable and secure whilst taking away some command line interaction so to open it up to lesser trained users. For this we have to thank the thousands of people who contribute to the open source community as their ongoing charitable work continues to improve the software we know and love.

I'm confident when the final release of Jaunty emerges it will show just as much improvement over Intrepid Ibex as Intrepid did over Hardy Heron. I hope Canonical carry on their excellent work as I see more opportunities coming their way as more companies look to cut costs in the face of an ever worsening recession.

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