Earlier today, Canonical Ltd. announced the availability of the latest release of the world’s most popular GNU/Linux distribution, codenamed “Oneiric Ocelot”.
Ubuntu 11.04 is the fifteenth incarnation of what started out as an ambitious fork of Debian seven years ago. Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, has managed to push out a new version of the operating system twice a year for nearly three quarters of a decade now. Ubuntu 11.10 supersedes Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) which was released back in April, on the same day as our Spring Fundraising Gala.
There’s a lot to like in Oneiric Ocelot. Unity, the desktop environment introduced in Natty, has received some serious polish, making it significantly easier to use. Unity now has a graceful 2D fallback mode, for computers without modern graphics cards or 3D-capable drivers. The menus have been somewhat reorganized to be more intuitive, and music search is now built in to the desktop.
Oneiric is also the first release of Ubuntu to feature Mozilla Thunderbird as the default email client — a very welcome change if you ask us. (Gnome Evolution is still available to users through the repositories).
Ubuntu ships with Linux 3.0 as its kernel and is built on top of GNOME 3.2. Major applications like LibreOffice have also been updated to the latest stable version, with the notable exclusion of Mozilla Firefox (which was already at Version 7 prior to the release of Oneiric; Firefox switched to a fast released cycle following the release of Natty Narwhal).
“Ease of use, stylishness and key tasks such as safe web surfing, document sharing, office productivity and personal clouds for music, files and photos are central to the Ubuntu experience.” said Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical, in a release highlighting the improvements in Oneiric. “That’s why Ubuntu is now a global phenomenon — not just for system administrators, developers and expert users, but for a growing community of home users that want a simpler, safer way to use the PC.”
Of course, today is also release day for Ubuntu’s derivatives, including Kubuntu, which we use. Kubuntu 11.04 ships with Version 4.7.1 of the KDE Software Compilation and includes a great many refinements. KPackageKit, the old package manager, has been replaced with the new Muon Software Center, and Dolphin, the KDE equivalent of Windows Explorer, has a cleaner default look.
The Kickoff menu (KDE’s equivalent of the Windows start button) also incorporates breadcrumb navigation for easier browsing of applications.
I’ve already upgraded one computer from Kubuntu 11.04 (Natty) to Kubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric) and it was just about the most painless upgrade I’ve ever run. KDE SC 4.7 is a solid, stable desktop environment that puts the user in the driver’s seat. It is fully customizable and easy to use.
As far as performance goes, I like what I’ve seen so far. Applications open faster and there is zero lag when moving in between windows or workspaces.
It’s been very exciting over the last few years to watch Ubuntu and Kubuntu mature. GNU/Linux on the desktop has never been more appealing.
If you haven’t tried Ubuntu (or Kubuntu), consider downloading Oneiric Ocelot 11.10 and going for a test drive. You do not have to make any changes to your computer to try Ubuntu — it’s so powerful and flexible that it can be run from a CD or DVD, or a USB stick. (This is what’s known as a live installation).
If you eventually decide you want to install Ubuntu to your hard drive, you can do so without displacing Windows, if you like.