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24 April 2008, 18:06

Ubuntu 8.04: a first look

Dr. Oliver Diedrich

With Ubuntu 8.04, its developers have produced the first version with Long Term Support (LTS) in two years. Three years of updates are guaranteed by Canonical, the firm behind Ubuntu, for the desktop version, with five years granted for the server version. Ubuntu 8.04 is therefore also attractive for the business world. Ubuntu sponsor Mark Shuttleworth hopes that the new version of Ubuntu will become a serious competitor to Suse Linux and Red Hat Linux with certification by Sun.

Ubuntu is pursuing a different strategy to Novell and Red Hat, the leading Linux distributors who have one version for companies – Suse Linux Enterprise, Red Hat Enterprise Linux – and another for consumers that can be downloaded for free – OpenSuse, Fedora. The latter is updated twice a year, whereas a new Enterprise version is released every two to three years. But with Ubuntu, there is no distinction between consumers and enterprises. Every fourth semi-annual release is an LTS version with extended support – the last such version, Ubuntu 6.06, was released in June 2006.

As usual in LTS versions, the focus is not primarily on new functions, but rather on stability and user friendliness. There are no revolutionary new features. Instead, the focus is on up-dating and tweaking the software included.

The default Ubuntu desktop
Zoom Ubuntu 8.04: a clean desktop


Ubuntu 8.04 is available in a number of variants. The standard distribution consists of a choice of CD image available in a desktop version, a server version, and an "Alternate Install" version, each of which is also available in a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. The desktop version is a Live CD whose uncomplicated installer puts the system on your hard disk with a few mouse clicks. At least 384 MB RAM is required.

The two other variants use a text mode installer that offers users more options, such as RAID volumes and the Logical Volume Manager (LVM); it can also run in 256 MB RAM. Desktop and Alternate Install set up a preconfigured desktop system; the server version does without a graphical interface.

Ubuntu installation screen
Zoom The DVD version offers all installation methods on one medium

The Ubuntu DVD puts all of these options on a single medium. For the server installation, press F4 to open "Options" under the menu item "Install in text mode". "Test Ubuntu" boots a live system, which can also install the operating system, while "Install Ubuntu" launches the GUI installer rather than booting into a live system – it also runs in 256 MB of RAM. If you use the desktop CD, you have to choose the boot option "only-ubiquity" when booting to launch the installer directly without a live system.

There also a number of Ubuntu variants that use a desktop other than the standard GNOME. Kubuntu uses KDE 3 or the new KDE 4 ("Remix"), and Xubuntu uses the lightweight XFCE desktop. Gobuntu installs a standard Ubuntu exclusively with open source software – no proprietary drivers, applications, or firmware files. Edubuntu focuses on software for schools. Mythbuntu uses Ubuntu to set up a PVR system. Aside from the main Ubuntu version, only Edubuntu has the LTS stamp and therefore benefits from extended support.

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