This is the first real look at what will be a major Ubuntu upgrade. There’s a whole laundry list of new features, but I see four major improvements for most users.
The first are the combination of the new GNOME 2.24 desktop interface and X.org 7.4 windows system. This pairing should give users a faster graphical interface. It certainly, in the updated archive manager, File Roller, now has more support for other compressed formats such as ALZ, RZIP, CAB, and the TAR.7Z file types. Nautilus, the GNOME file manager, also now has tabs and I, for one, find that a very useful feature.
Next up, I like the encrypted private directory feature. While I’ve never lost or had a laptop stolen, I feel a lot better knowing that it if were to happen no one could break into my files.
Many of you may not know about DKMS (Dynamic Kernel Module Support), but you’re going to enjoy the improvements it brings to Ubuntu. DKMS will make it easier for you to get up-to-the-minute drivers without hand compiling device drivers. For users this will be an almost invisible change, but if you pay attention you’ll notice that your devices work more effectively and, in some cases, you’ll have access to more features sooner than you would have with older Linux distributions.
Finally, this latest distribution includes Samba 3.2. This is a major step-forward in getting Ubuntu to work closer with Windows clients and servers file systems. If you haven’t tried Samba 3.2 yet, you’re in for a pleasant surprise with the new Ubuntu. You’ll find that it works faster and authenticates more easily with Windows Server systems. It doesn’t have full AD (Active Directory) support yet, that will come in the forthcoming Samba 4.0, but it’s still significantly better than what has come before.
There’s also one ‘gotcha’ to look out for though with this beta release. While the firmware corruption problem with Intel GigE Ethernet hardware and this release’s 2.6.27 Linux kernel has just been patched, that came too late for this distribution. So, Canonical, to avoid frying users’ Ethernet hardware chose to disable the e1000e driver. That means if your PC has the potentially endangered hardware in it—the Intel ICH8 and ICH9 chipset with their 82566 and 82567 Ethernet chipsets—your chips won’t be in any danger… because you won’t even be able to use them. So, if you install this beta, and find you just lost your Ethernet connection, chances are you have the Intel Gigabit Ethernet hardware in your PC.
Rather than run into this annoyance, you should run the following command from a shell terminal before trying to install the beta.
lspci | grep 8256
if you see anything except the return of the shell prompt, you’ve got a vulnerable chipset and you shouldn’t install this beta.
If your PC is good to go, you can download the Ubuntu 8.10, Intrepid Ibex, now. The final version is due out on October 30th, 2008.