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Ubuntu goes 3-D
IMAX theaters needed
The folks at Canonical have started to prepare their servers for downloads of the latest Ubuntu release - 7.10 or "Gutsy Gibbon."
Past Ubuntu releases have been marred by downed servers, as the Umbongo faithful rush to get their fresh code injection. So, this time around, Mark Shuttleworth and crew are doing their outreach early. They've started talking up the OS before it's available on Thursday, hoping to spread out demand a bit.
With 7.10, Umbongo users will find fresh additions for the client and the server.
Most notably for the client crowd is the production version of Compiz. This software gives Ubuntu some 3-D graphics that by our account surpass anything seen on Windows or Mac OS X. We've run Compiz in beta for several weeks now with no problems and expect users will enjoy the production version.
It's mostly eye candy to be sure, although the Compiz code serves a larger purpose. It adds a contemporary feel to the often 1990s looking Linux desktop. In addition, it shows that the open source development model can out pace the big boys with style when needed.
On the more practical front, users will find the Tracker tool for indexing files on your system. This software mimics the Spotlight tool available for many moons with Mac OS X and Vista's desktop search. Basically, you're able to find any file on a system with relative ease.
"I believe we're the first (Linux) distribution to deliver that out of the box," Shuttleworth said, during a conference call with reporters.
Shuttleworth also highlighted 7.10's improved support for plug-and-play hardware such as printers. The Ubuntu update system has been tweaked to permit more hardware updates over the coming weeks, meaning that it should be just about the most up-to-date Linux OS available.
Umbongo customers will see better support for VGA projectors as well, so you just might be able to run a public demonstration of your fancy Linux rig.
Those of you dabbling with the dark side via dual boot Windows machines will enjoy the ability to read and write files on the (NTFS) Windows partition.
And the developers/Firefox fanatics can rest easy now that Canonical has permitted the automatic installation of validated browser plugins.
While Canonical enjoys its client goodwill - despite Shuttleworth's predilection for gluing wombats - it's also very focused on the server. It dished out the "first real" server release about one year ago and is hammering away at some server specific tools.
For example, there's a tool dubbed AppArmor that provides a level of isolation on server systems. Certain processes are cordoned off into their own area. "Even in the event of a compromise of that process, the attacker's ability to gain access to more information on the server or to compromise other pieces of the server is greatly limited," Shuttleworth said.
Canonical is hyping a "tickless kernel" as well that is a fine-tuned idle mode which cuts down on system power consumption.
Developers will see a fresh release of Python, along with support for OpenMP with GCC 4.2
The latest Ubuntu release will enjoy 18 months of maintenance. The next Long Term Support OS will arrive in 2008 and have three years of support on the desktop and five years on the server.
Trading Ubuntu Futures
Moving forward, Canonical expects to keep the silly names for its operating system, including the next Hardy Heron release. We asked Shuttleworth why a man who glues wombats together insists on these animal names. "I don't think I said Gutsy Gibbon once," he said, during the conference call. Apparently, other Ubuntu team members asked the Shuttled One to stick with the proper Version tracking.
Shuttleworth, however, will continue using the code-names, especially when talking to the developers. They enjoy the monikers, and the names provide a simple way of distinguishing between versions.
Canonical also hopes to keep attracting more OEMs to its operating system. The company has, in particular, been talking up its goal of pulling more server vendors into the fold.
Sun Microsystems signed on ages ago as an Ubuntu supporter, although we've heard little about this project in recent months.
Starting Oct 29, the Ubuntu Developer Summit kicks off near Boston. It will be a Gutsy affair.
Shuttleworth expects future Summits to be scattered around the globe, but suggested that Asia will see more than its fair share of conferences due to budding interest in the OS there.
Those of you wanting to hear how the Ubuntu development process works should tune in to our recent interview with Shuttleworth. No wombats were harmed during the recording of the program. ®