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That’s the new Ubuntu in a nutshell. Yesterday I explained how Ubuntu 10.04 can integrate all your inboxes – including email, social networks and instant messaging – into one central place. But that’s not the only new feature that’ll come with the new release on April 29th: there are also a number of small changes that, collectively, give Ubuntu 10.04 a polish I’ve never seen in any Linux distribution.
I’ve been using the beta version of this Linux-based operating system for a week now, and I have to say I’m really impressed. Ubuntu 10.04 is by far the best Linux release I’ve ever used.
While there’s no one killer feature, a number of small improvements add up to an attractive operating system usable by anyone right out of the box. The release shows a great deal of maturity on the part of developers, who continually try to find balance between satisfying their core audience of Linux fanatics whilst still making a platform viable for the average user. I’ve already explored several things that are easier to do in Ubuntu than in Windows, and if this release is any sign of things to come I may have to do another such list before the end of the year.
Let’s take a look.
No More Confusing Graphics Programs
My first example of polish: the Gimp is gone!
Now don’t get me wrong: I love the Gimp. It’s a fantastic photo editor, and I’ll be using it for years to come. But it shouldn’t be included in Ubuntu by default.
Ubuntu should be the distribution that’s easy to use. So with this release, Ubuntu leaves out the complex-by-design Gimp and instead offers basic image editing through F-Spot:
With these Ubuntu 10.04 tools, average users can quickly get done what they want to get done. I know, I know: this is basic functionality at best. But it’s impossible to make an advanced photo editor that’s easy to use, and Ubuntu shouldn’t include anything the user can’t figure out quickly – that can make people feel overwhelmed. Not including the Gimp by default shows a remarkable degree of maturity on the part of the Ubuntu project; they’re taking themselves seriously as an operating system, and not thinking of themselves as some mere Linux distribution.
And for the user who already knows how to use the Gimp? A quick trip to the software manager and you’ve got it. Everybody wins.
Additionally, the ugly and confusing Xsane is replaced with a new, easy-to-understand program called Simple Scan. Xsane always worked great for me, but I hated the interface. This solves that, and I’m happy about it.
Built-In Video Editor
It’s always been hard to find a decent video editor on Linux. Ubuntu 10.04 has one out of the box: PiTiVi.
Sure, it’s not an advanced video editor, but it does a pretty good job at what it’s for: putting together quick videos for the likes of YouTube. I managed to throw this video together using it, and it amuses me to no end, so I’m happy with video editing in Ubuntu.
What else do you need to know?
Games That Don’t Suck
It’s a relatively small thing, I know, but the games offered by default in Ubuntu always kind of bugged me. I had no idea how to play most of them, and the AI for “four in a row” was so difficult I never once managed to beat it on easy (and I’m not alone.)
No more confusing or absurdly difficult games in this release, however: only five focused, quality efforts for your downtime. Check out the selection:
My favorite is gBrainy, which while being little more than an extended quiz is a fantastic way to wake up your brain in the morning. Fire up this game and you’ll see a series of questions testing your logic, math and memory skills.
I love it, and think you will too.
Slick New Look
As you’ve noticed from my screenshots and pictures, Ubuntu’s gone through a bit of rebranding. Gone is the infamous brown, replaced by a sleek new look that’s still completely unique. Yep; it’s a Linux distribution with an eye for aesthetics. I’m shocked too.
The re-branding goes beyond the skin you see here: new logos for the program were designed and the Ubuntu website will be re-branded when 10.04 launches at the end of the month. The boot screen for Ubuntu 10.04 features this new logo, and I for one love it:
Ubuntu’s not really had a major re-branding since launching, so the fresh look is very welcome in my opinion.
A quick note to those of you complaining about the buttons moving to the wrong side: get over it. The change is quite aesthetically pleasing, sets Ubuntu apart from both Windows and Mac, and only takes an hour to adjust to. If you can’t adjust simply learn to use keyboard shortcuts and forget the buttons are even there.
Ubuntu One Evolves
Of course, this new release of Ubuntu offers further integration with the cloud-based Ubuntu One service. You’ll receive 2 gigabytes of Dropbox-style file syncing, as well as support for syncing your email contacts and more. There’s also the new Ubuntu One Music store, integrated into the default music player Rhythmbox. Any music you buy here will follow you on all your computers via Ubuntu One, a nice little feature if you want to automatically keep all your music in one place.
Ubuntu One’s a great addition to the operating system, and gives Canonical (the company funding Ubuntu) a potential revenue stream. I think what they’re doing is fantastic and I hope things like this eventually make Ubuntu profitable for Canonical; they deserve it for providing us with such a great free operating system.
Any one of these changes would, alone, be superficial. Taken as a whole, however, and we see Ubuntu maturing as a vibrant, viable operating system with plenty of polish. Simply put, Ubuntu is not just for Linux nerds anymore.
If you’ve any interest in replacing Windows or OSX with something different you should check this out, because you won’t be disappointed. Ubuntu’s proving it can not only build a community around an open-source project, but also work with this community to build a focused product. This is no small feat, and the Ubuntu team should be commended for this.
Ubuntu 10.04 officially comes out on April 29th, but if you’re brave you can download it now.
Well guys, what do you think? Is Ubuntu 10.04 as amazing as I’m making it out to be, or am I just a hopeless fanboy raving about a shiny new toy? If you’re trying the beta, is there a great new feature that I’m missing? Should I wipe my hard drive and install Gentoo, like a real man? Commenting doesn’t kill kittens, so feel free to do so!