Sunday Marks Release of Ubuntu 10.10, No Towels Required

New release brings tweaks to desktop, netbook, and cloud features

Well, you just knew Canonical would have to do this: the UK-based Linux distributor has formally announced the release date of the latest version of Ubuntu 10.10 to be… 10/10/10.

Despite the Sunday release date, October 10 was simply too good a day for the folks at Canonical to pass up, given the version number synchronicity—particularly when you also consider that October 10 also marks an auspicious date for those of us of the geek persuasion. The numbers in 10/10/10, in binary, represent 42 in base-10 math, which is an All-Important Number.

Faced with such confluence of geek forces, one would hope Maverick Meerkat would have its towel, so to speak. Indeed, after working with the RC version of the Ubuntu desktop for the past couple of weeks, I have yet to be disappointed with anything on this distribution. It’s a tight distro, with smooth integration of widgets that handle social media and media playing.

This user’s opinion is likely music to the ears of Steve George. Director, Corporate Services for Canonical, because that sort of integration is what the dev team at Canonical and the Ubuntu community were shooting for. When I spoke to George yesterday, he emphasized that one of the overall approaches to this particular Ubuntu release was making the desktop environment a completely seamless window to the Internet and the cloud and Web systems that reside there.

“Bringing the Web to the desktop is a big part of what we’re doing,” George said.

Nowhere is this effort more evident that in the Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE), which is now home to the Unity desktop environment. Unity features a simpler interface designed specifically for mobile users with smaller screens. Like the desktop, it’s rocking the aubergine, but it takes a slimmed-down approach to presenting users with apps that they most commonly use first, in a less-is-more approach.

Another seriously tweaked effort within Ubuntu is the Software Centre (which goes by Center here in the States). George said that Canonical spent a lot of time on this tool, trying to leverage the goodness of Linux (namely, a plethora of choice for applications) with the need to make apps easy to find and install for all ranges of users. It’s an interesting dichotomy: veteran Linux users have no issues, and in fact revel in the notion that Linux distributions have thousands of packages to choose from. Users new to Linux can have adverse reactions to such choice.

It’s a balance Canonical is well aware of, according to George. The Software Center has been designed to steer newer users to what Canonical feels are the best-in-class for desktop applications, while still tapping into the well-spring of Linux goodness for the rest of us.

Over on the Server Edition, it’s all about the cloud. Already a top virtual machine on Amazon Web Services, Ubuntu Server keeps the theme going with cloud integration tools including the ability to run an AMI (Amazon Machine Image) offline on a KVM virtual machine. This enables users to test and develop on local servers before pushing the machine out to a public cloud—presumably Amazon, though Canonical partner Eucalyptus can host such a VM, too.

The Server isn’t the only thing out on the cloud. Bolstered by the initial success of its Ubuntu One program, Canonical is also promoting expanded plans for the cloud service, as well as a push beyond the Ubuntu desktop.

Building on the success of Ubuntu One’s cloud storage and music store, the cloud service will now offer the capability to sync with Windows machines thanks to a new Windows client, as well as enable music streaming from your personal music library to mobile devices thanks to new Android and iPhone apps.

Even with these changes, Ubuntu 10.10 isn’t going to be a drastic shift from Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, but that’s par for the course with any Linux distro on a six-month release cycle these days. And that’s very likely a good thing, because for those of us doing upgrades from one Ubuntu version to the next, massive change isn’t what we always want to see when we’re trying to get work done.

Check it out for yourself on 10/10/10. No towel required.

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