As Peter Judge has pointed out in his blog, tomorrow's Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) release is certainly not focused exclusively on improvements for mobile computing. However, that is where I use it the most, so these are the changes and improvements I have seen the most. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Support for Mobile Broadband connection (3G cellular modems). This is something I had said was crucial for my use, so I am glad to see them getting it going. As of the Release Candidate it is still not perfect, and it has some significant restrictions, but it certainly does work.
- Continuing improvement in WiFi wireless networking support. The overall implementation and use are now very smooth, and don't require any of the "fiddling under the hood" that many users had come to expect from Linux. When you are in range of one or more wireless networks, the Network Manager will inform you; you can connect to a wireless network very easily, whether it is unprotected or has WEP, WPA or WPA2 security, both on Wireless-G and Wireless-N connections.
- Combine these two improvements with Ubuntu's extremely solid wired networking connection, and you have a really good, seamless internet connection for a mobile computer. I frequently use my laptops on wireless-N connections at home, switch to my Sierra Wireless AirCard 880 during my commute via bus and train, and then to a wired connection in my office. Very nice.
- Improved video/graphic display support, particularly in the area of multiple displays on laptops with docking stations. This is, of course, dependent on the specific display adapter in a notebook, and the device driver available for it. But with my Lifebook S6510, which has an Intel Mobile 965GM display adapter, I am able to use an external display on the laptop port replicator, and I can choose whether I want the screens to be "mirrored", in which case I simply close the laptop lid and use only the external display, or separated, in which case my effective desktop space is nearly doubled, and I can work on both displays independently.
- Power Management is working very well. First, it is accessible through the battery icon in the status panel, which is nice and easy. It has separate preferences for display control and automatic sleep activation when running on batteries or external power, and common ones for such things as pressing power and sleep buttons. Suspend/Hibernate/Resume all work just fine, of course.
The bottom line is that I am now able to use my laptops with Ubuntu pretty much anywhere and anytime that I want. That is very nice, and it certainly beats having to boot Windows for my commute twice a day! Canonical have done an excellent job with this new release.