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Another novelty in Ubuntu 8.04 is PolicyKit. The software provides mechanisms to request additional privileges for certain actions via desktop applications and replaces the old sudo mechanism with which individual programs could run with root privileges. A number of GNOME tools for system configuration already use PolicyKit. Users are no longer asked to enter their password when a program is launched; rather, individual functions are unlocked with a dedicated button. The advantage is that the program no longer runs with escalated privileges that might be exploited if there is a security vulnerability.

PolicyKit is based on a HAL and D-bus and makes sure that applications are able to request actions otherwise reserved for programs with root rights. No "major" security solution anchored in the kernel, such as AppArmor or SELinux, is required although Ubuntu 8.04 contains both of them. AppArmor is installed in the standard version, though it only has the rights of the CUPS print server. SELinux has to be installed from the Universe repository.

Speaking of security, in version 8.04 Ubuntu has finally added a firewall, though it is switched off under standard settings. The command sudo ufw enable allows the "Uncomplicated Firewall" to be enabled with the distributor's predefined rules. There is no tool to customise the settings.

Likewise Open is a new addition to the Universe repository; this tool allows a Ubuntu computer to be integrated in an Active Directory – and you can login with the AD account. Access to files shared under Windows in your network works smoothly, but NFS drives can only be mounted once you have installed nfs-common.


Ubuntu 8.04 is a sound update, though one without any major breakthroughs. The software is up to date, and the system is properly pre-configured. Innovations such as PolicyKit, the Wubi Windows installer, the new sound server, and the burner software make the operating system much more user friendly without taking Ubuntu to a completely new level of quality. For Ubuntu fans there is no reason not to upgrade; for users of other Linux distributions, the long-term support offered for version 8.04 might be a reason to try out Ubuntu. Wubi also makes it easier than ever before for Windows users to get to know a complete Linux system.

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