Upcoming Ubuntu release to improve features for educators, general, power users

Upcoming Ubuntu release to improve features for educators, general, power users

Summary: Ubuntu continues to emerge as a leader in mainstream Linux distributions and is increasingly friendly to the average end user. Much to the chagrin of Linux purists, who are more concerned with the raw power and customizability of the OS rather than developing a mainstream alternative to Windows, Ubuntu and other distributions like OpenSUSE and PCLinuxOS continue to march ahead with distributions that are truly usable in most educational settings.

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Ubuntu continues to emerge as a leader in mainstream Linux distributions and is increasingly friendly to the average end user. Much to the chagrin of Linux purists, who are more concerned with the raw power and customizability of the OS rather than developing a mainstream alternative to Windows, Ubuntu and other distributions like OpenSUSE and PCLinuxOS continue to march ahead with distributions that are truly usable in most educational settings.

Recent advances in video components and driver development are making Ubuntu quite a bit friendlier for the classroom (these updates actually apply to several upcoming distributions, but the visual changes to Ubuntu are especially apparent at this website). Eye candy aside, it will shortly be as easy to hook up a digital projector or other secondary monitor to an Ubuntu laptop as it is for an XP, Vista, or Mac OS machine. While some distributions have handled this better than others, all too often, users ended up editing configuration files to use external monitors. This is not fun in front of a classroom.

While Ubuntu 7.04 (their last major release) marked some serious improvements in plug-and-play-style driver support, 7.10 (the so-called Gutsy Gibbon release) will include automatic configuration of most printers. Similarly, printing to PDF files is now supported at the OS level, rather than only in OpenOffice, so virtually all applications can be used to generate PDFs. It also looks as though automatic installation of Firefox plugins will be built in as well, removing one more potential configuration step from average users.

As with their 7.04 release, it looks like Ubuntu 7.10 will set a fairly high bar for usability. This is a good thing, no matter what Linus Torvalds says; if all of the money saved by using an open source OS in your school is eaten up by training and setup costs, and the good will of the open source community is negated by your angry, confused users (the vast majority of whom have no desire to be Linux geeks), then you might as well use Windows. Alternatives are good and so is competition. While the alternatives don't need to look like something out of Redmond, it sure helps if they are user friendly. As soon as Ubuntu 7.10 becomes available, I'll pop it on a few student machines and let you know just how friendly it is.

And if you're wondering, check the countdown timer below to see just how long you have to wait (Are you as excited as I am? No wonder my students think I'm a geek...)

Topics: Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Windows

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • A kid waiting for christmas presents

    To me, the wait for Ubuntu 7.10 feels much like waiting for the Christmas presents when I was a kid.... :-)

    (I say christmas, but I should say Saint Nicholas evening, December 5, which is in my country the time for presents to children, much more so than christmas.).

    I think the natural curiosity and sense of adventure of your students will easily overcome their problems with handling a new operating system. Especially one as user friendly as Ubuntu.

    Only adults tend to whine when confronted with something new and unaccustomed. So I think the negative reactions on your Linux experiment will be limited.

    Greetz, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • Only adults tend to whine when confronted with something new

      I'm guessing that you have never actually taught in a public high school.
      swoopee
  • As a Dapper (6.06) user,....

    ...looking at upgrading "any minute now", I'm looking at Gutsy and beyond.

    I'm still tied to Windows for some of my professional requirements (tax software that's tied to Windows, Tax Office forms that require IE...etc) but I'm increasingly looking for alternatives to both my profession and the software required to perform it.

    Ubuntu....my only real foray into Linux, and really, a successful one....is so close to being a complete alternative to Windows already, and I'm using a version that's almost ancient, that I fear for Windows given the advancements already made in Linux.

    If knowledge of Linux became more widespread, especially amongst students, not just IT students, the proverbial snowball would become an avalanche in a short time.

    I'm not proclaiming the year of Linux, but only because MS will make sure that Windows users will "need" Windows and use their market dominance to make it difficult for any competitor to make any inroads.

    Why do you think that Office is not available for Linux, if Linux is not a threat? Given that Office is available for Mac, and MS uses it to try to lock people in, why do you think they haven't ported it to Linux? I'll give you a clue...it's not because Linux is not worth it. It's because MS doesn't want to give Windows users less of an excuse to stick with Windows.
    mdsmedia
    • Office

      While it may not be available for linux (and probably never will be until M$ is "forced" to), crossover runs it rather nicely. Then there is the Staroffice and openoffice alternatives.
      Dave32265
  • Keep Hammering Those Nails

    In Microsoft's coffin.
    itanalyst
  • As a newbie to Linux

    I am trying different distros and am learning. But as a novice Linuxer, I find the documentation so lacking. Driver support also needs a big improvement. Using Ubuntu, I was able to download programs and used the synaptic handler. But for the life of me, I could not figure out what to do next to get the programs running? Also, I do love my eye candy and with all the screensavers, StyleXP themes that I use, I would miss it. But what I find fascinating is the Linux that runs on a flash drive http://www.puppylinux.org/user/viewpage.php?page_id=1 but alas, this linux does not have a driver for my Realtek 8168 ethernet or my dell 6400 wirless card. But as a newbie, I do feel capable of using linux and am very happy that the distros are getting more user friendly for newbies.
    esteckis@...
    • Can Puppy . . .

      use NDISWRAPPER? That's what I use to run PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu 7.04 on my 6000. You just have to tell it where the windows driver is (in PCLinuxOS, there's a GUI interface for it . . .), and it will set it up. PCL runs great on my Laptop, and I have the Dell 1350 (1370?) wireless card . . .
      JLHenry
      • Like I said, I am a newbie with Linux :)

        I appreciate your help, but I still do not even know how to explore files or how to load or search for drivers. Let's not even go to the area of RPM or Tars,let alone compile lol. I will do research on NDISWRAPPER but at my stage of using linux, I am still trying to break away from the one click install button with MS. I just thought the idea of being able to run a complete system on a flash drive was a fascinating idea using The puppy linux. Ubuntu will run on my systems fine, but the problem as a newbie is where do I go from there to install and try new things.
        esteckis@...
        • Go here...

          For advice on ANY aspect of Ubuntu go to http://ubuntuforums.org/
          The friendly folk there will answer just about any question and you can search for topics to see if your question has already been asked and answered. And yes, they are VERY gentle with newbies. :)
          Max
          maxfried
          • Thanks for the help :)

            I have used the forum before and it is excellent. But here is a problem I had that took me 3 days of searching to figure out why I had no internet connection using Ubuntu. My MB is ASUS with a Realtek RTL8168 network adapter. Now when I received the Ubunto cd, I ran the live CD and could not get an internet connection. So I figured it needed an update for the network driver. I installed the Ubuntu next to windows on the same HD. OK, Ubuntu starts up and loads all the drivers fine, but still I cannot connect to the net. So I went to my laptop and searched the forum like crazy and did a couple of posts. Most of the replies stated that they had the same MB with no problem. As a newbie I could not figure it out. Then I happen to come across 3 days later while searching through the forum (and totally by chance)that if you keep windows on the disk that under the windows hardware configuration windows will disable the network adapter upon system shutdown and you have to change that option. I am not blaming Ubuntu for this option, but as a Linux newbie (home user) I should have been able to locate this information much easier instead of getting so frustrated on not being able to access the net and my lack of experience with Linux and having no idea how to review my hardware configuration under Linux.
            esteckis@...
          • These types of surprises are typical with Linux ...

            They tend to get fixed, only to be followed by new ones. But the good news is that the more one works with Linux, the more adept one tends to become in using available Internet based resources to solve the problems. I was a Unix admin for years back in the 1980's and 90's, and have been a Linux user for 8 years now, and I still get temporarily stuck on a problem occasionally. But no way I would use any other OS. I just really like Linux and for me its well worth the minor frustrations. I have found a good basic tutorial for Linux is RUTE. It is accessible via the web or can be purchased in paper form. It is really pretty exhaustive, but written with the user in mind, but it doesn't cover these kinds of situations. The best resource for these problems for me has simply been Google. With Google, if you can formulate a search string that concisely describes your Linux problem, it will usually lead you to an answer out there somewhere.
            George Mitchell
          • ubuntu forum is about the only place gentle to newbies

            Most forums you go to asking for help they treat you like an idiot because you don't already know as much as they do.

            Stay away from Linux chat on yahoo they're like overly prideful barracudas just waiting to chomp on a newbie
            ITdaized
          • Re: ubuntu forum is about the only place gentle to newbies

            [i]Stay away from Linux chat on yahoo they're like overly prideful barracudas just waiting to chomp on a newbie[/i]

            The people in #gentoo on freenode are like scolding nannies. Stay away from there, too. Made me go back to Slackware.

            I've found mail lists to be the most helpful resource, and I use chat only as a last resort.



            :)
            none none
          • Just don't pay attention to these immature know it alls ...

            I used to have to deal with them back in my days as a Unix administrator, Anything I would do to try to help my users (which as I saw it was my job) was rewarded with accusations of "throwing pears to the swine". These people believe that there is this "secret knowledge" that only they should be privileged to know. Everyone else should be cursed to dwell in darkness until they have paid sufficient tribute to these gods of technology. The best solution I found was just to ignore them.
            George Mitchell
          • Re: ubuntu forum is about the only place gentle to newbies

            As a Linux newbie, I can certify, they're great folks. I just started using Linux(Kubuntu 7.04)and had a few issues with sound etc. with absolutely no idea how to fix them(I didn't even know what sudo, apt get etc were). I have to say these guys were very prompt and helpful, no talking down to newbies, just telling you whatever you needed to help you out. Had just about all my Linux issues sorted out by day 2.
            To me the Ubuntu community is part of the great experience I get with Ubuntu. It's a great OS, sure, but the guys behind the scenes are great folks too, and if any Ubuntu community chaps are reading this, my heartfelt thanks to you. I recommend Ubuntu to all my friends who want to try Linux, and you're the main reason why.
            balaknair
      • RE: Can Puppy . . .

        Yes, Puppy 2.0 and later can use the wrapper fairly well. When you go to the connection wizard you should be able to select ndiswrapper and (if the driver configured properly) load a listed driver. If not you have to know where you untared it because you'll be asked.

        No guarantee it will work even when you load it. I've run into similar issues before with Puppy 2.14 and 2.16.
        nwoodson@...
  • RE: Upcoming Ubuntu release to improve features for educators, general, pow

    I have used Ubuntu the last two years and I was not able to wait (!!!) so I installed Ubuntu 7.10 beta on top of my Ubuntu 7.04 partition and I am already enjoying the improvements. I hope that Ubuntu really keep hammering the nails, as fellows say, and make this distro friendlier and friendlier for mainstream, average users. Two thumbs up to Ubuntu 7.10!
    emmerc7@...
  • RE: Upcoming Ubuntu release to improve features for educators, general, pow

    This article is absolutely on track. Serious unix/linux sys ads might not be impressed with distros like Ubuntu and OpenSuse, but that is not the point, nor is it the market. Linux/bsd is beginning to dominate the server market because of competition. Competition is good: it drives prices; drives value via quality and choices; and prevents market manipulation by large corporate interests. We need to create the same competitive environment in the desktop market. Good on you!!
    nrringlee@...
  • Lack of MS Office for Linux

    It's been mentioned that MS have ported Office to the Mac. Yes, and it's just as buggy and unreliable on the Mac and one of the very few things that can bring OSX to a screaming hang/halt.
    So we will know that MS considers Linux a threat when they offer Office for it - no doubt it will be just as reliable then as it is for Windows and Mac users alike (NOT).
    maxfried
    • Err..OpenOffice?

      I happen to think it's great and will save documents in Office format.
      itanalyst