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29 April 2010, 19:31

What's new in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

by Christopher von Eitzen

The latest 10.04 release of Ubuntu, code named "Lucid Lynx", includes a number of new features, updates and changes since 9.10 arrived last October. Ubuntu Logo The developers have been busy working on the Linux distribution's new look and feel, better Ubuntu One integration, a new installer and improved hardware support.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS has finally arrived and it includes the latest software and updates, while adding a number of new features and updating the distributions overall look. It's been two years since the release of Ubuntu 8.04, the last Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu, and users running 8.04 – or even 9.04 and 9.10 for that matter – will definitely notice a wide range of changes and improvements. Canonical CEO Jane Silber says that, "Ubuntu 10.04 LTS challenges the perceptions of the Linux desktop, bringing a whole new category of users to the world of Ubuntu."

Traditionally, the LTS versions focus on optimising overall system stability and usually don't include a lot of new features. The LTS versions of Ubuntu, itself derived from the Debian Linux distribution, are supported for three years for the desktop releases and five years for server releases, while the standard releases are supported for 18 months of updates for both the desktop and server versions. Support for the previous desktop version - 9.10, expires in April 2011.

Ubuntu's New Look

Zoom Ubuntu's new "Light" look.
One of the first things that previous Ubuntu users will notice is the new branding and a new look in the Desktop Edition of Ubuntu 10.04, replacing the distribution's signature brown with a new "Light" default theme, along with an updated Ubuntu logo. The major refresh of Ubuntu's look and feel includes changes to the indicators, icons, wallpapers and adds two new themes – Ambiance and Radiance. Radiance has brighter colours and a light grey task bar while the default Ambiance theme uses darker shades and a black task bar.

Another major interface change that might initially throw off some users is the location of the window management buttons. Controversially, these buttons have been moved to the left end of the window bar and their order has been reversed as "close-minimise-maximise". According to a Launchpad post by Mark Shuttleworth, this will be carried through to future releases and the change was made because of plans to add new controls to the right end of bar. Apparently the developers are going "to experiment in 10.10 with some innovative options there".

Some users may not like the new button arrangement, but it can easily be changed by pressing Alt+F2 to open the Run Application dialogue box. Typing in gconf-editor and, in the left side bar of the Configuration Editor, selecting Apps > Metacity > General brings up the window button layout. Editing the button_layout property from close,minimize,maximize: to :close,minimize,maximize will move the buttons over to the right of the Window bar as determined by the position of the colon. More adventurous users can edit this entry to also change the button order.

Getting Social

Zoom The Me Menu in 10.04.
One of the major themes for the 10.04 release is the inclusion of tools for interacting with social networks out-of-the-box. Lucid Lynx's online social networking integration connects to a number of online chat accounts, such as Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ, and allows users to broadcast to services like Facebook and Twitter via the built-in Empathy chat client and Gwibber microblogging client.

New messages can be displayed by clicking the envelope icon in the upper menu bar and users can even change their online status – for example: available, away, invisible or offline – for multiple accounts by simply clicking their name in the menu bar to access the Me Menu, making it a one-stop shop for chat and social network accounts.

Under the hood

The latest Ubuntu release is based on the 2.6.32 Linux kernel and includes 7.5 with X Server 1.7 and the latest GNOME 2.30 desktop environment, the last release before GNOME 3.0 which is scheduled for September of this year. The open source Nouveau video driver is used by default for NVIDIA graphics hardware with KMS support for improved resolution detection and less flickering during start-up. Three different proprietary NVIDIA drivers are also available, installable from the Administration -> Hardware Drivers menu option. Other changes include the removal of the previously deprecated HAL package from the boot process resulting in a noticeably faster boot and resume from suspend. (HAL is still present in the system as some applications such as the Palm Pilot Tool still make use of it).

Reducing the overall boot time has been a goal of every Ubuntu release so far. In June of last year, Canonical said that it wanted to get this time down to ten seconds on the average system. According to tests carried out by Phoronix, although the boot time for 10.04 is improved, it hasn't reached its goal just yet; the Dell Mini 9 took nearly 20 seconds to boot.


Many of the included default applications have been replaced or updated in 10.04, such as version 3.2 of the office suite (now branded as Oracle) and Firefox 3.6.3, which is configured to always show the tab bar by default. OpenOffice 3.2 opens noticeably faster that the previous version. The included F-Spot personal photo management application lets users organise, touch up and share their digital images and the Rythmbox Music Player is integrated for managing and playing audio files. Package updates include MySQL 5.1, which is the only version of MySQL available in 10.04, version 1.92 of the popular Transmission BitTorrent client and the 2.30.0 release of the Brasero CD/DVD burning application.

A new scanning application, called Simple Scan, has been added to Ubuntu to make scanning documents even easier. The program only includes the most necessary and used features. Another addition is the simple GStreamer-based PiTiVi movie editor, which can trim and combine clips, add transitions and so on.

Ubuntu One, originally introduced in 9.10, is now more fully integrated into Ubuntu itself. It helps users to easily sync their files, Firefox bookmarks, notes and address book entries across multiple Ubuntu installations. In addition to syncing a single user's information, Ubuntu One can create share folders to ease collaboration between two or more people. Existing Ubuntu one users can enter their credentials in the Ubuntu One Preferences application. By default, users get 2 GB of free "personal cloud storage", however, more is available for an additional monthly fee, starting at $10 per month for 50 GB.

Zoom The new Ubuntu One Music Store is integrated into Rythmbox.
The new Ubuntu One Music Store, similar to iTunes on Mac and PC, is also integrated into the Rythmbox Music Player in Lucid Lynx. Users can purchase high quality 256 kbps or higher MP3 audio files that are free of digital rights management (DRM) and can be played on virtually any portable device. Currently there are a total of 5 regional stores. The UK, US and German stores offer music from all major and independent labels, while the EU store – which servers most of the EU member countries – has fewer major label artists. The fifth "World" store, however, only has independent music labels.

As previously announced, the Ubuntu developers have removed the former default free image editing tool GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) because they considered it not to be "a good first experience for new users" due to its complexity. It is, however, still available in the Software Centre under the Graphics category for easy installation if required.

Next: Software Centre, Yahoo, Installation and Looking Forward

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