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Friday, October 31, 2008

Ubuntu's Intrepid Ibex Brings lots of User Friendly Features

The official next generation release of Ubuntu Linux has just landed. Intrepid Ibex, as this version is known, promises a number of subtle but important feature updates that help make Ubuntu even more user-friendly.

Overall not too much has changed from the beta release we tested earlier, but there were a few last-minute additions worth mentioning: “Cruft Remover” is new utility that tries to get rid of unneeded software packages, and there’s also a new tool for creating a bootable USB stick.

Ubuntu 8.10 is already burning up the torrent tubes, but if you’re holding back here’s a few of the new features that make Ibex a worthwhile upgrade:

  • GNOME 2.24 — Tabbed windows! Need we say more? See our review of GNOME 2.24 for the gritty details.
  • Network Manager — now manage WiFi, 3G and other connections all in one spot. No need to mess with manual configuration files.
  • Guest users — The user switching app had been moved to top right corner and now offers a guest account if someone wants to use your PC and you don’t want them messing things up.
  • Xorg 7.4 — hotpluggable devices (tablets, keyboards, mice, etc) and better stability.
  • More — there are some other small but nice additions — support for encrypted private directories, a new versions of Samba, LDAP and more.

Of the new stuff in Ubuntu 8.10, the most useful in my testing has been the updated version of GNOME. In addition to the tabbed file browser windows many of the GNOME panel applets have seen some very nice updates. The Deskbar search app for instance can now perform calculator operations, search Google and even update Twitter, which has made my old solution — Gnome-do — largely unnecessary.

One thing that still hasn’t changed is the Ubuntu look — the default theme remains more or less the same with some new desktop art. Experienced Linux fans are of course experts at customizing their systems so for many it probably isn’t a huge deal since they’ll change the defaults anyway. Of course there is a new dark theme (pictured above), but you’ll need to delve into the themes panel to enable it (we really like this look, it stays true to Ubuntu’s esthetics, but is considerably more polished).

However, from a new-user point of view, Ubuntu’s look is, well, looking a bit long in the tooth. And with Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth publicly calling for more emphasis on interface design it seem odd that, thus far, the default theme remains nearly the same.

Still, despite the familiar look (which may be a good thing for some users) Ubuntu 8.10 is a worthwhile upgrade. You can grab the latest version from the Ubuntu downloads page. And as with all Ubuntu releases, Kubuntu and the other derivatives have been updated as well.