For some, the Linux operating system is about offering an alternative to proprietary commercial systems. For Ubuntu Linux and its new Intrepid Ibex distribution, it’s also about offering more features that extend usability and effectiveness.
Intrepid Ibex — the name for Ubuntu version 8.10 — is being released today with a host of new features for both Linux desktop and server users. Among the additions are networking, virtualization, security and user management enhancement.
The new release comes at a key time for the popular, closely watched Linux distribution. Canonical, Ubuntu’s commercial sponsor, claims that the distro has over 8 million existing users, though commercially the effort is not yet profitable.
The launch also marks the project’s second release this year, following Hardy Heron’s launch in April. The release also is out ahead of its competitors’ release cycle, with Red Hat Fedora 10 and Novell OpenSUSE 11.1 both slotted for release before the end of 2008.
“Ubuntu 8.10 on the desktop is all about embracing Internet and enabling Ubuntu on the go,” Chris Kenyon, director of business development at Canonical, told InternetNews.com. “We’ve inherited many improvements from the broader open source community in terms of Wi-Fi connectivity, and specifically, connectivity around 3G.”
The new connectivity enhancements come by way of the NetworkManager package, which will also benefit other upcoming Linux distributions, including Red Hat’s Fedora 10.
Intrepid Ibex also benefits from the latest GNOME 2.24 Linux desktop, which backers claim improves the overall desktop experience.
Additionally, underlying user data on Intrepid Ibex itself will be more secure, thanks to the ecryptfs data encryption technology it uses.
“Ecryptfs provides the user with a private, encrypted directory so if their hardware gets stolen the thief will not get access to the users data,” Nick Barcet, Ubuntu’s server product manager, told InternetNews.com. “We think that’s an important step for user security and this applies not only for servers but desktops too.”
Another item that Ubuntu has baked into its Intrepid Ibex desktop is the ability to use guest sessions, which allows limited access to basic applications without logging in. The idea is that a guest session enables quick access — without having to create or use an existing account — while protecting existing user data and settings.
Though the guest session access could potentially be the basis for a kiosk type of application for Ubuntu, that’s not it’s intended function.
“You should read into this as it is — just a simple use case around an individual user,” Kenyon said. “A kiosk is not what’s going on, but it could be a good way of using it.”
In another enhancement designed around quick access to Linux, Ubuntu Ibex will now include a USB key edition, enabling the entire operating system to be run from a portable USB device. Red Hat included a similar feature in its Fedora 9 release earlier this year.
Kenyon noted that USB-based Linux is now becoming an easier way of getting Linux to new users than using LiveCDs. A LiveCD (or DVD) is a bootable Linux distribution that runs an entire operating system from the media drive. Unlike USB-based media, CD/DVD’s are not easily updatable.
Page 2: Virtualization additions — and where’s OpenOffice.org 3?
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Virtualization and OpenOffice
Building virtualization with Intrepid Ibex gets a boost with the Ubuntu-developed VM Builder tools. Barcet explained that VM Builder is a piece of Python code that creates Xen, KVM and VMware-based virtual machines.
“VM builder is a script you invoke where you define what you want as a machine and it will create a virtual machine so you can integrate it within an automated build process,” Barcet said. “It can also be useful for administrators that want to deploy virtual machines on a wide number of machines.”
However, Ubuntu Ibex does not have any sort of virtual machine migration technology, like VMware’s Vmotion, that would enable a live virtual machine to be moved across physical servers in real time.
Barcet said Ubuntu developers are working on such features along with Red Hat and others in the open source community, as part of a wider open source virtualization effort.
Yet Barcet added that there is no real sense of urgency for Ubuntu on Vmotion currently, as the typical virtualization use case for Ubuntu is as a single host.
There is another key open source element that Ubuntu Ibex does not have by default. It does not include the latest OpenOffice.org 3 release. Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth noted on a conference call with press and analysts that he was a supporter of OpenOffice.org (OOo) and that he liked the new features in version 3.
But both Shuttleworth and his CTO, Matt Zimmerman, noted that OOo 3 didn’t make it into Ibex because the latest version of the suite came out later than expected. As a result, Ubuntu wasn’t able to do the complete testing to integrate it into Ibex by default.
Zimmerman added that OOo 3 is still available to Ubuntu users — they just have to download and install it themselves, as opposed to getting it as part of the Ibex release.