Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

The name's ridiculous, but "Jaunty Jackalope," the next release of the popular Linux distribution Ubuntu, is seriously focused on the user experience. Dig what's new and improved in the beta of Ubuntu 9.04, released today.

One feature I couldn't show in the screenshots was the improved boot time in Jaunty. Having lived in it for about a week and installed a few apps, it took 24.9 seconds from choosing my OS to boot in Grub to a login window, and about 19 seconds more to get to a fully-loaded desktop (about 43 total).
What's below are screenshots taken from the last alpha version before it. If Jaunty's release schedule holds (and it almost always does), a final release is just a month off. Ubuntu's beta releases are usually pretty close to the final thing, though, and it's easy enough to download an ISO file, then live-boot and test it without harm using UNetbootin from Windows or Linux.
Yada yada technical geekery. Here's how Ubuntu 9.04 looks and works different from before; click on a thumbnail for a bigger view and description:

The new notification system is a solid step forward, even if their app-to-app consistency was a little shaky in the alpha. Taking an obvious cue from the unobtrusive <a href="">Growl</a> OS X notifications, nearly everything with ambient information—screen brightness, volume levels, Wi-Fi connections, IM, GNOME-Do announcers—fades in and drops out from the upper-right corner. Small things can make a big difference—like adding an installation option that clearly tells a Windows user what happens after they let Ubuntu put itself in some empty hard drive space. It's not the default, but you can partition and install Ubuntu 9.04 with <a href="">ext4</a>, a faster, more advanced format.If you're installing 9.04 over or alongside a system running Windows Vista or even the Windows 7 beta, it can pick up documents, settings, and Firefox profiles before it moves in. On most modern monitors that can report their details, Ubuntu will automatically adjust fonts and rendering to provide a clear look. On my laptop monitor set to a 1680x1050 resolution, for instance, Ubuntu bumped up the font size a little and auto-selected the LCD smoothing option. The core Linux components all get an upgrade, including the GNOME desktop (which includes native Exchange support in the Evolution manager), GIMP, (finally moving up to 3.0), Compiz, the Brasero burning tool, and lots more.
By default, Ubuntu now puts a 60-second delay on most session actions you initiate—shutdown, restart, or log out, really—to safeguard against oops-no-wait-too-late moments. The Computer Janitor tool that didn't quite make it into the last release makes a (tentative) appearance in 9.04 ... And we kinda wish it had stuck on the drawing board, given how it really didn't like trying to clean up a system I'd just installed just earlier that week, with perhaps one unofficial Python script running.

For a thoroughly detailed screenshot tour of the KDE and Xfce-based variants of Ubuntu 9.04, Kubuntu and Xubuntu, check out Softpedia's review of Ubuntu 9.04 Alpha 6.
What are you liking about the Jaunty Jackalope? What's still on your must-have list before a Linux switch makes sense? Tell us everything in the comments.

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