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New privacy controls

With the introduction of the HUD and the new Dash home screen, even more pieces of Unity are now surfacing data from the underlying Zeitgeist engine. Zeitgeist is basically a global log that records almost every action within the desktop. This gives Unity a lot of power as it can use that data to customise lists and options based on the user's actual usage of the system. But such an overarching logging facility has also raised concerns within the Ubuntu community that the operating system is spying on the user. To address this, Ubuntu developers and the Zeitgeist team have created a new Privacy Manager application that can be accessed right from Ubuntu's System Settings application.

Zoom The new Privacy Manager allows users to delete personal data on a per-application basis

In the Privacy Manager, users can disable Zeitgeist logging system-wide with an easy toggle and also exercise fine-grained control about what exactly the system records. They can exclude folders, single files or even types of files from being recorded. They can also blacklist applications to prevent any of their data or usage from appearing within Zeitgeist and thus in the recently used applications and files dialogs within Unity. Additionally, the new privacy controls give the user control over the anonymous error reporting capabilities and the information that is sent to Canonical for diagnostic purposes.

Default applications

Zoom Rhythmbox is back as the default music player in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

The biggest change in terms of bundled software in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS concerns the default music player: After being chosen as Ubuntu's music player in version 11.04, Banshee has again been replaced by Rhythmbox. The Ubuntu developers have also removed the note-taking application Tomboy from the default installation, causing the Mono framework to be dropped from the live CD image. The stated reason for these changes is that by removing Banshee, Tomboy and thus Mono, the developers can save space for other programs on the tightly packed default CD image. Despite the fact that the Ubuntu One Music Store has again been integrated into Rythmbox, the application itself does appear to be a bit more dated than Banshee and is lacking a few of the latter's more advanced features, especially where available plugins are concerned.

Users of Canonical's Ubuntu One cloud backup service can look forward to a completely redesigned interface in Precise Pangolin. A new setup wizard installs the application on demand and then guides the user through the process of signing up for the service. Once installed, the new Ubuntu One control panel lets users adjust settings, manage which devices are connected to their account, and select what folders they want to synchronise.

The Software Center, which is the primary way for users to install applications in Ubuntu, now supports PayPal payments for installing commercial applications. Users can now also opt-in to receive personalised recommendations based on the applications they have installed in the past. The Software Center installer now also automatically installs corresponding language packages for applications, which includes translations, help files and spell-check dictionaries.

Other software changes in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS include an update to LibreOffice 3.5.2, the inclusion of Remmina as the new default remote desktop client, and many updates for the included packages and across the Ubuntu repositories.

Under the hood

Beyond the changes on the desktop, the Ubuntu developers have been busy laying the foundation for the extended support of this LTS version. To make Ubuntu's implementation of sudo more consistent with the upstream configuration of the program and also with Debian's handling of elevating users to root-level access, the group for system administrators has been changed from "admin" to "sudo".

The developers have disabled the option to put systems into the hibernation state by default as past experience has shown this method to be unreliable and results to widely fluctuate between different hardware configurations. Users can still use the suspend-to-RAM function to power down their computers without shutting them off. To save battery on laptop installations, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS includes new scripts to disable USB and PCI devices when they are not needed and the machine is running on battery mode. The RC6 power-saving mode for certain newer Intel integrated graphics systems has now been enabled by default which leads to significantly better battery life on laptops running the new version of Ubuntu.

Other underlying modifications include the use of dnsmasq and resolvcong for DNS resolution. These changes were made to make Ubuntu's DNS system more stable and to better support scenarios where users access the internet over a virtual private network (VPN). According to the developers, the new infrastructure should also make DNS queries a bit faster.

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS ships version 3.2.0-23-36 of the Ubuntu kernel, which is based on version 3.2.14 of the upstream Linux kernel. As part of the development, the distribution's kernel team has conducted a review of the possible kernel configurations and adjusted the settings for the Ubuntu kernel accordingly.

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