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Ubuntu 23.04 Lunar Lobster scuttles into public view

You may be all a Flutter over the installer

Ubuntu 23.04, codenamed Lunar Lobster, has crawled out of beta and onto public release today.

The latest reincarnation of Canonical's widely used Linux operating system brings with it a number of added features and some refinements ranging from improvements to the standard desktop interface and Snap package manager to some additional enterprise features and Linux kernel 6.2.

As with all odd-year Ubuntu updates, 23.04 is a short-term release. In this case, that means in just six months Lunar Lobster will climb down into its lava tube, shed its carapace, and metamorphize into the yet unnamed 23.10 release. And, three months after that, Lunar Lobster's support will come to an abrupt end.

But if you can live with the short nine-month support window, or are a frequent distro-hopper, Ubuntu 23.04 includes a few notable improvements over last October's Kinetic Kudu, or the now year-old long-term support (LTS) release.

The first thing you'll notice out of the gate is 23.04 is sporting an all-new installer called Subiquity, which was developed using Google's Flutter toolkit.

Once installed — or booted from the live install media — Ubuntu Desktop users will be greeted with the latest version of Gnome, version 44. The desktop environment brings with it a few notable changes, most notably a much improved quick settings menu, better Bluetooth management, and a dark mode. For a full rundown of everything new in Gnome 44, check out our coverage of its release candidate.

Snap, crackle, and pop!

In addition to the update desktop environment and swanky new installer, Ubuntu's, at times controversial, Snap package manager has also received a refresh with this release.

Updates for installed Snaps are now downloaded in the background and applied automatically when the application is closed. But if you're worried about a silent update bricking your apps, there is a toggle to pause these updates if desired.

And on the topic of Snap packages, the release sees the Steam client, along with its associated dependencies like 32-bit libraries and Mesa drivers, promoted to the stable channel. So, if the first thing on your to-do list after getting Lunar Lobster installed is gaming this should speed up the process. And if you happen to be running Ubuntu Desktop on a Raspberry Pi, 23.04 adds hardware acceleration support for rendering in Firefox.

For those running Ubuntu Desktop in their enterprise, Lunar Lobster may not be their first choice given its short support window, but it still has some welcome improvements, particularly when it comes to integration with Microsoft Office 365.

For one, Lunar Lobster adds support for Microsoft Azure Active Directory — a first for a Linux desktop according to Canonical. The feature will allow users on Microsoft 365 Enterprise plans to authenticate Ubuntu Desktops using a common set of credentials.

For those hesitant to deploy such a short-lived release just to take advantage of this feature set, Canonical notes that users won't have to wait until next spring to get the features in an LTS package. The Linux distro's parent company plans to backport Azure Active Directory support to Ubuntu 22:04 after it's received enough feedback.

In addition to Microsoft 365 authentication, the release supports the Active Directory Bridging Toolsuite's Samba winbind domain service, which should enable similar functionality with Amazon Workspaces and other older AD configurations, according to Canonical. However, it appears that at least some of these features may require an Ubuntu Pro license to take advantage of these enterprise features.

Lunar Lobster is available for download on the Ubuntu website today. ®

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