The beta release of Karmic Koala, the next version of Ubuntu Linux, just arrived on the net. Wondering what's new inside the open-source operating system? We took a tour and brought back these screenshots.
In general, Ubuntu 9.10, or Karmic Koala, doesn't have a whole ton of new-new features over what we saw in 9.04. That's in part because Karmic is a "long term support" (LTS) release, one that will see updates and security fixes for a longer period of time (three years on desktop, five years on servers) than the 18 months given to standard releases. It's also because a lot of the focus has been on more nuts-and-bolts areas, like boot-up management, application security and other bits.
That said, there is some new stuff worth checking out.
Faster, slicker boot-up
As previously noted, Ubuntu 9.10 uses GRUB 2 and its graphical boot loader if you're using more than one OS, boots faster than 9.04 (purportedly), and doesn't give you an antsy feeling by splashing a lot of kernel talk on your screen during startup.
Ubuntu's partition editor better explains what's happening when you're choosing a spot for it. The installation dialog offers smarter picks of auto-login, password protection, or even encrypted home folder protection. While actually copying the files, Ubuntu's installer shows a few of the OS' features—shades of the very familiar Windows XP installation.
New IM client
For whatever reason, both the default GNOME desktop and Ubuntu decided to switch from Pidgin to Empathy for a default instant messaging client. Unfortunate for those who got to know Pidgin so well, but Empathy seems like a pretty remarkable simulation of the look and layout, if without the many, many preferences and menu options.
The software store
We asked for it, it was already in the works, and now it's here. The looks are a bit, well, My First Software Store, but it's definitely a more simple, streamlined installation tool than the Synaptic or "Add/Remove Software" tool. Each app gets a screenshot and text description, along with a link to its official web site. You can queue up multiple apps for installation, and choosing or adding new software sources still allows you to browse while the repositories are being refreshed.
We still think it looks like a less feature-rich Dropbox, but having it installed by default and integrated into the file system might make regular Ubuntu users a little more familiar and trusting of the 2 GB of free space given to every Ubuntu user.
Now, this—this is neat. A full read-out on all the disks in your system, including USB and CD/DVD, with health and temperature gauges and simple tools to change partitions or format, if you so choose. You might still want to do the heavy lifting in the GParted app, but this is a good tool to have handy.
Disk display in Nautilus
Speaking of drives, the way they're laid out in the file browser is a bit more convenient for those working with multiple partitions or a lot of drives. The size is listed first, then the section you're accessing. Small, but really helpful tweak.
Unsure if everything's got the right driver and running fine on your system? A system test tool in the System->Administration menu runs step-by-step through audio, video, and other hardware tests, giving you bug report and help look-up options when something's not quite up to snuff.
Like what you see? Found something else new in Karmic Koala we didn't see? Tell us in the comments.