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What’s new in Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat

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Two days ago, Martin Pitt -stable release updates manager in Ubuntu- announced the release of the third alpha version of Ubuntu 10.10, internally known as “Maverick Meerkat”. Maverick Meerkat alpha 3 will become Ubuntu 10.10 in October 10.

It is interesting to devote some time to the Maverick blueprint list to know the details in the feature development. For a detailed analysis of Ubuntu’s Maverick Meerkat release cycle, have a look at at this post.

Let’s go through new features in this alpha 3 release. From the visual point of view, there aren’t too many changes since alpha 2. The most important interface changes were introduced to Unity. Most of the development focused on Ubuntu Netbook Edition.

Ubuntu Desktop got some improvements to the Sound Indicator, Ubuntu Software Center and that’s about it while Unity in Ubuntu Netbook Edition got some major changes, there is also a new Indicator DateTime. An important decision is that Ubuntu 10.10 will ship with Firefox 3.6 and Ubuntu Netbook Edition won’t have Chromium by default after all (it will also ship Firefox 3.6). Also, Ubuntu 10.10 will have a new font that is already available for testing (you will need a Launchpad account).

One of the most innovative part of this alpha released is OneConf. You should know that the first version of OneConf has been released. It is available in the default software repositories. OneConf can be installed as usual via the Synaptic Package Manager. It allows you to synchronize the applications installed on your Ubuntu desktops, laptops or netbook machines, via the Ubuntu One service. After the installation, OneConf can be found in the File menu of the Ubuntu Software Center application and it is entitled “Inventory on Ubuntu One“.

Also introduced in the second Alpha version, the software center includes a History plugin that will keep an evidence of what packages you have installed, removed or updated.

GNOME Shell and GNOME 3 will not make it to Ubuntu 10.10 as it was initially expected. Also, the default theme seems to be same as Lucid. However, there are going to be some changes in this version. Some of them are:

Shotwell

Shotwell will be the default photo manager replacing F-Spot. It is a lot neat and has better interface than F-spot.

Ubuntu Software Center

There will be changes in the usability and appearance of Ubuntu Software Center. It will feature “What’s new” section which will show the latest softwares. It now also has nice animation effects and better appearance and constantly changing with each update. It will also feature a paid apps section where the user will be able to buy applications for Ubuntu.

Rhythmbox and Sound Applet

Rhythmbox will remain the default audio player but it will have feature enhancements. It will have link sharing button which lets you share about the track in social networking sites and more feature enhancements are in progress. Also, the sound applet will feature per application sound and controls for selected applications. This lets you to control rhythmbox right from the sound applet.

Aptitude

If you used aptitude to install programs from the command line, you will no longer be able to do so because aptitude is being removed from the default desktop installation. You will need to use it from software center (or synaptic or apt-get) if you wish to use it.

Unity Interface

Unity features a launcher appearing in the left side of the Ubuntu Network Edition desktop. Ubuntu Netbook Edition will feature Global Menu, at the top (similar to Mac OS X), which is supposed to save desktop space. Not only does it look awesome, it should also improve usability of UNE.

Chromium

Firefox 3.x will remain the default browser in Ubuntu Netbook Edition. It was announced earlier that Chromium would be replacing Firefox, but recently, they have decided to stick with Firefox.

BTRFS (B-tree FileSystem)

A new file-system called BTRFS (Butter FS), that was added to Linux kernel 2.6.29-rc1 for testing, has made it to Ubuntu installer as well. However, stable release of BTRFS is still pending, this file system offers pooling, snapshots, checksums and integral multi-device spanning that other Linux file systems fail to deliver. This will be available as optional file system in the installation wizard as an optional file system.

Compiz

There are minor changes in default set of animations for Compiz which makes the desktop experience better.

Updated Packages

The new features in Alpha 3, actually include a lot of updated packages:

  • the GNOME base platform updated to the current 2.31 version;
  • the new Unity interface is now the default in Ubuntu Netbook edition;
  • KDE platform was updated to the 4.5 release candidate, the standard web browser is now Rekonq, a KDE browser, based on Webkit;
  • Xfce was updated to the current 4.6.2 release, this fixes many of the bugs and updates the programs used in Xubuntu…

With every new release, packages (applications and software) are updated very frequently. In the case of Ubuntu, since it is based on Debian’s Unstable Branch, many of these packages came from automatic syncs. The period of automatic syncs is already over for this release cycle, so from now on there will be fewer changes.

Ubuntu

  • The GNOME base platform has been updated to the current 2.31 versions. This particularly includes the new dconf and gsettings API. dconf is a low-level configuration system. Its main purpose is to provide a backend to GSettings on platforms that don’t already have configuration storage systems.
  • Evolution was updated to version 2.30, which is much faster compared to the version delivered in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.
  • Firefox has been updated to the 3.6.8 version
  • Transmission BitTorrent client to version 2.03.
  • The highly anticipated btrfs filesystem can now be safely used on new installations, via manual partitioning. Remember that you must create an EXT3 or EXT4 /boot partition first, you cannot use btrfs for your boot partition.

Ubuntu Netbook Edition

  • The new Unity interface is now the default in Ubuntu Netbook Edition.
  • This includes the global menu bar as part of the default interface.
  • The date/time indicator now has a real calendar widget.
  • The standard photo management application has been switched to Shotwell.

Kubuntu

  • KDE Platform was updated to the 4.5 release candidate.
  • The standard web browser is now Rekonq, a KDE browser, based on Webkit.
  • Qt was updated to the current 4.7 beta release.

Xubuntu

  • Xfce4 was updated to the current 4.6.2 release.
  • This fixes many of the bugs and updates the programs used in Xubuntu.
  • New default applications:
    • Parole (Xfce4 Media Player) replaced Totem Movie Player,
    • Xfburn (Xfce4 CD/DVD burning tool) replaced Brassero, and
    • xfce4-taskmanager (Xfce4 process manager) replaced Gnome-Task-Manager.

Edubuntu

  • Edubuntu changes include the changes from Ubuntu.
  • The edubuntu-artwork package has been split into smaller packages to improve future updates and reduce download sizes.

Software-Center

The software-center got a “Featured” and “Whats New” carousel in the Frontpage. It is faster  and more responsive and contains a “History” feature that keeps track of what was installed/removed/upgraded. Plugin support is added and technical items will not be shown by default.

Linux kernel 2.6.35

Alpha 3 includes the 2.6.35-14.19 kernel based on 2.6.35 final.

This kernel includes new security enhancements. Of major note is the change the default behavior of PTRACE which is used by gdb, strace, ltrace, etc. The behavior for 10.10 is that only child processes can be PTRACEd, due to the default value of “1” in /proc/sys/kernel/ptrace_scope. This value may be inappropriate for some development systems and servers with only admin accounts. If using “sudo” for PTRACE is not desired, please change this value to “0”.

Ubuntu Server Cloud images

cloud-init, the configurable initialization process for Ubuntu Server cloud images, has gained new features in Maverick Alpha 2, including pluggable hooks, ebsmount, ext4 support, and new stanzas in the cloud-config format. It is a tool that makes it easy to customize generic Ubuntu cloud images. Rather than having to tweak a cloud-based system manually after it first boots, users can deploy cloud-init to automate tasks like adding repositories and importing ssh keys when an image is initialized.

As of Maverick alpha 2, the cloud-init package in Ubuntu provides several new features. Among others:

  • Adoption of ext4 for the root file system, replacing ext3. This update seems a bit overdue, since other editions of Ubuntu have used ext4 by default for several releases now, but it’s nice to see UEC come up to speed and take advantage of ext4’s better performance.
  • ebsmount, a tool for mounting Elastic Block Store (EBS) devices, will be included in the Universe repository for Maverick.  This change should add a lot of flexibility for users who want to maintain storage volumes independent of their systems.
  • New stanzas have been introduced for cloud-init; in particular, they will make it easier to enable byobu, control cloud-config modules and preseed debconf.
  • It will now be possible to upgrade the kernels of Ubuntu 10.10-based UEC and EC2 images after initialization.  This functionality is included in Alpha 3. Like the new stanzas for cloud-init, the ability to update kernels will certainly add some valuable customizability to Ubuntu cloud images.

Since Canonical bets on Ubuntu’s ability to compete in the cloud market, the improvements to cloud-init represent an important component of one possible major revenue stream to support Ubuntu development. The cloud-init updates are only one example of Canonical’s recent efforts to advance its standing within the cloud market. The company also recently announced its deployment of DB2 virtual appliances and an endeavor to integrate UEC with other popular platforms. The cloud clearly represents a central element of Canonical’s push to establish Ubuntu as a viable operating system well beyond the desktop.

Starting with Alpha 3, cloud images instances can now manage their own kernel, and can upgrade kernels with apt. This is done by utilizing pv-grub provided by Amazon.

Installation

The new btrfs file system may now be used during installation via manual partitioning, as long as /boot is on some other file system.

Known issues

As is to be expected at this stage of the release process, there are several known bugs that users are likely to run into with Maverick Alpha 3. We have documented them here for your convenience along with any known workarounds, so that you don’t need to spend time reporting these bugs again:

  • OEM mode installation fails when you do not have an internet connection, due to a failure to install the oem-config package from the installation image. If you need this for testing, please ensure you have a network connection all the time. (613008)
  • The Wubi Windows installer was reported to fail. Investigation of the problems are ongoing (600578, 613288)
  • Ubuntu Netbook Edition with Unity does not currently provide a fallback for systems without a 3D capable video driver, such as Nvidia cards. (600567)
  • On systems with very little memory (256 MB and below), ureadahead causes out-of-memory conditions, which may break booting. (600359)
  • Applications using sqlite3 encounters a lot of performance issues and query accuracy, like in banshee. (612370)
  • A pre-release version of Eucalyptus 2.0 was included for alpha 3, and it still has rough edges. In particular, registration after installation is currently unreliable (609112), and complex topologies (separating the CLC from the Walrus, for example) are not supported yet (613033). When Installing a ‘node’ system, expect 2 x grub issues that can be safely ignored. (613463).
  • KDM times out when starting from the Kubuntu live image, following the prompts from failsafe X should start the session (613574)

Downloading Maverick Meerkat

Alpha 3 is the third in a series of milestone CD images that will be released throughout the Maverick development cycle.  The Alpha images are known to be reasonably free of showstopper CD build or installer bugs, while representing a very recent snapshot of Maverick. You can download Maverick Meerkat Alpha 3 in all flavors here:

Find here a list of mirrors.

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  1. October 10, 2010 at 12:48

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