Ubuntu 13.04 release: Laying the groundwork for OS' phone and tablet future

Ubuntu 13.04 release: Laying the groundwork for OS' phone and tablet future

Summary: The 13.04 release of Ubuntu will be made available tomorrow, with Canonical claiming the release brings improvements designed to support its future as a phone, tablet and PC OS.


Ubuntu 13.04 goes on general release tomorrow – bringing with it improvements to support the open source OS' transformation into a platform that runs across phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

The release demonstrates consistently faster boot speeds than earlier versions — down to about 40 seconds on Intel and AMD-based Acer Veriton desktop machines — shrinks memory usage by as much as 50MB, reduces image size and cuts power consumption, according to Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.

"We've been driving Ubuntu to be a coverged OS across different client form factors – tablet, phone, desktop. A lot of underlying work to make that happen has been happening in this development cycle," said Canonical CEO Jane Silber.

"From the user perspective I think what people will notice is a real increase in speed and the visual smoothness of the experience. It's a polishing of the user experience."

Canonical is working on bringing the OS to two reference phones and two tablets, including the Nexus 7. The Ubunutu community already has the OS in some sort of working order on about 40 devices, said Silber.

At present there are code differences between the Ubuntu 13.04 release and Ubuntu Touch stack targeted at phones and tablets, but Silber says the two will converge with a future release, probably with the 13.10 Ubuntu release due out in October. 13.10 will see the X windows system used in 13.04 replaced with the MIR display server, which Silber said will make for a streamlined code base that can be more easily updated to support a range of devices. MIR is available as an option for developer testing of Ubuntu.

While producing a unified OS for multiple devices and form factors is"a big challenge", according to Silber, she said the work is simplified by relying on a common core platform.

"In some ways it's increasing the work, but probably less than you would imagine. We've been working on Unity as an environment for several years now. From the outset we've designed it as an environment that appears differently in different form factors," she said.

Mark Baker, product manager for server at Canonical, said: "We're a relatively small company in comparison to the people operating in the spaces we're looking to push into: the tablet, phone and thin client space. We have to find a model that allows us to scale that development.

"That means having the core Ubuntu platform - the kernel, libraries, APIs and other bits and pieces – that's common across the whole Ubuntu product set. What varies is the presentation layer. Therefore while it's more work than previously it's a lot less work compared to say Apple that has completely different platforms based on the form factor or device they have. We're at least compiling Ubuntu from that common platform."

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth shows off Ubuntu on a Nexus 10 tablet. Photo: Ben Woods / ZDNet

Other incremental changes to the UI in 13.04 include new preview animations in the Dash homescreen, a new fuzzy search algorithm in file search, revamps of system menus for Shutdown and Bluetooth.

The Smart Scopes feature was left out of 13.04 because it was not felt to be ready. The feature would add the ability to search online sites and services like GitHub and Google Drive from the Dash.

The release of 13.04 also sees Canonical halve the support period for the regular non-long term releases of Ubuntu to nine months — something that Silber said was driven by there was driven by a lack of demand for the longer support period and desire to be "as quick and agile as possible".

"We're looking at how we can improve our planning process and move to essentially monthly iterations of planning and development, compared to our previous six monthly iterations. That doesn't mean a new release every month, but in terms of that planning and checkpointing we think we can increase velocity overall if we shorten that planning cycle from six months," said Silber.

The Windows-based installer for Ubuntu Wubi has also been dropped with this release and Silber said she is not aware of "any plans for it to reappear". Parker said there was "some concern over the quality of Wubi as it hadn't been updated in a while" and over whether it would work with Windows 8.

Ubuntu 13.04 also includes the Developer Preview SDK for developers to build native applications for Ubuntu devices. Using this SDK, developers can make a single application for all Ubuntu form factors and publish it in the Ubuntu Software Centre with a single upload. Developers have already started to create applications for Ubuntu across different devices.

Ubuntu Server

Also released today is Ubuntu Server 13.04. Ubuntu Server 13.04 is bundled, and has been tested, with the open source cloud management software suite OpenStack, the latest 'Grizzly' release.

"OpenStack is installed in a high availability configuration where we have all the components set up in a failover or multi-master way, so if one of the pieces goes down the cloud as a whole is not affected," said Parker.

The release includes the Ceph object, block and file storage system, integrated with its OpenStack implementation. A common use for Ceph's is enabling object storage clusters to be set up using commodity hardware.

This release of Ubuntu brings substantial enhancements to the Juju, the GUI tool that Ubuntu provides for managing distributed and cloud environments, which provides a visual representation of the relationships between services running on clouds like Amazon EC2 or OpenStack.

The release increases the number of Juju 'Charms', definition files for deploying services to cloud platforms, to more than 130 common cloud workloads. The collection of Charms includes major web development frameworks such as Node.js, Django and Ruby on Rails, enabling rapid orchestration of web applications using any of these frameworks on EC2 and OpenStack clouds. This delivers a flexible PaaS experience and freedom to choose the cloud that best meets enterprise needs. Charms are also available for the databases that underpin web applications, including MongoDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL and Cassandra.

Canonical's Landscape management tool now has OpenStack awareness built-in, and supports critical workflows for production cloud environments, such as live updating of host kernels and other components in a running cloud.

This release of Ubuntu has been tested running on multiple hypervisors, including KVM, Microsoft's Hyper-V, VMWare's ESX and Citrix Xen — with VMWare ESX and Nicira NVP network virtualisation now part of Ubuntu's continuous integration testing.

Canonical will provide commercial support for OpenStack and will collaborate with VMware on issues related to vSphere or NVP running with OpenStack.

Topics: Operating Systems, Open Source, Ubuntu


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Ubuntu 13.04 release: Laying the groundwork for OS' phone and tablet future

    Until they change it in the next release and the release after that. Ubuntu has never been good about sticking with one concept and requires the user to learn the new interface and changes every 6 months. Too much hassle after wiping the drive, downloading and burning the iso, installing, compiling, configuring, and by the time that is done its time to upgrade again. Linux was never made for a touch interface. This is just putting lipstick on a pig. Oh and telnet sucks and never should be disabled in linux but the big wigs still want to keep that security nightmare around. Guess its par for the course of linux.
    • Comments

      @Loverxock-Davidson you really don't know how to use Linux flavors, especially Ubuntu. Do you really think that we it arrives on a tablet that you will be doing installing, compiling and configuring? Using the Ubuntu Software store I don't need to do any of that unless the actual software is badly written and badly written packages don't come from the OS writers, they come from third-parties. As far as touch goes? BSD was never designed for touch but look what Apple did to it. Personally speaking I think that Linux was always suitable for embedded architectures since you could always selectively remove parts that you never need, with windows you couldn't do that until recently. A tablet needs a light-weight OS just like an embedded device and you just piggy-back any GUI you want. MS could never do that which is why they have a such a small share of the set-top box market.
    • Not surprising it takes L-D 6 months

      I download ISOs at night (I have a computer to do that, I don't have to stay up and watch it). Then for the 20 minutes it takes to install it (I'm old fashioned, use DVDs), I go to the bathroom and compile a #2. Reading The Collected Rants of Loverock Davidson gives me inspiration.
      • 20 minutes to compile a #2?

        You need a little more Raisin Bran in your diet.
        Michael Kelly
      • Thanks for being a fan!

        Be sure to tell your friends about me!
        • What he tells his friends

          Won't be complementary.
          Alan Smithie
    • 6-Month Release Cycles

      The 6-Month release cycles pave the way for new features to be implemented between LTS releases. You are perfectly welcome to stay away from non-LTS releases and upgrade every 2 years, or heck stay on your favorite LTS release for 4 years if you like. Early adoption comes with its penalties and if you want to ride the cutting edge then be prepared for a few nicks and cuts along the way.
    • Telnet?

      Telnet? Really? What decade do you live in?
    • For a while I was moving off the "L-D is really a bot" theory

      But I'm starting to be persuaded back. His rantings have such a canned feel, as do his replies ...

      I've previously postulated he was in fact some grad student's attempt at an emacs "inane" mode for eliza. Then, for a period of a couple of months, he actually posted a comment or two that, well, actually moved the needle a bit on the Shannon/Kolmogorov complexity scale.

      But now he's back to leaving that needle dead pinned to the 0 post. So now I'm back to considering if he might in fact be a bot, a development effort.

      Certainly, when it comes to the topic of Linux (or Windows, for that matter), he couldn't pass a turing test.
    • You're old-hat

      Let me guess, you're a member of every webpage that talks about Linux in the slightest, and bash every article about it?
      Matthew Cohee
    • FYI:

      "Our most potent Operating System competitor is Linux and the phenomena around Open Source and free software. The same phenomena fuels competitors to all of our products. The ease of picking up Linux to learn it or to modify some piece of it is very attractive. The academic community, start up companies, foreign governments and many other constituencies are putting their best work into Linux." Bill Gates.

      Bill thinks Linux is a contender. Perhaps, you should too, unless you know something he doesn't.
  • Linux Versus Linux

    One thing is clear: no proprietary OS is going to gain a foothold in the computer industry ever again. The only thing likely to knock Android off its perch is another Linux-based OS. The future belongs to Open Source.
    • How is that clear?

      I'm not saying an open source OS can't succeed, but how do you come to the conclusion that only open source OSes can usurp today's leaders?
      Michael Kelly
    • iOS is proprietary and pulls in 65-75% of all mobile profits.

      How is that not a foothold?

      n. A place providing support for the foot in climbing or standing.
      n. A firm or secure position that provides a base for further advancement.
    • Sigh. Ubuntu Not So Much Better Than Windows 8 With Lock-In Tricks

      I have bashed Windows 8 quite a bit for attempting to pull a lock-in stunt. But to be fair an objective, what Android is doing, and what Ubuntu is attempting to do, is not better. These latter two OS's have hijacked the meaning of "open". When people hear "open source", they think, "Great. Having the source code means that anything is possible. Open source is as open as open gets."


      What Android pulled off, and now Ubuntu, leverage the good-will of those who like the idea of open-ness. The source code for the OS might be open, but the ~platform~ is not. I cannot, take a native Linux application, give it to one of my customers, and let that customer run it on his/her device. Canonical vilified Google in public recently over their non-open open-ness, but Canonical is ATTEMPTING TO DO THE SAME THING. The scheme goes like this:

      1. Take truly open OS like Linux.
      2. Create an App Store.
      2. Put a shell around the OS that blocks any code that has not been sold through App Store. Replace native API surfaces with intermediates like Dalvik, Javascript engines, etc. to prevent circumvention.
      4. Declare that any app sold through the App Store must pay a 20% commission to proprietor of App Store/open-closed OS.
      5. Put out some press-release blurb about "empowering" the community with open-ness.
      6. When native C/C++ coders see that the API has been seal and cry foul, create something that ends in the letter "DK", like "SDK", "NDK", "UDK", whatever-DK, and put out another press-release blurb that purports "native development".
      7. Take C/C++ code, compile it to native code, but sandbox it in the run-time environment so that it cannot do much beyond fiddling with its own GUI. DO NOT...under any circumstances, give access to the actual underlying OS or the hardware.
      8. Let third-party developers fight over trying to do what they need to do on the "open" platform using a mess of C/C++, Java, Javascript, HTML, whatever...while the actual device is controlled by owner of the OS.
      9. Form partnerships with cell phone carriers where carrier get some action and you gets some action from pushing the "open" closed platform onto everyone.
      10. Create a forum where all those who pose a threat to you, by either exposing what you are doing, or creating something that really is Open, like straight Liniux, can play with code, and with each other, to express their creativity.

      If you are a software engineer, who believes in non-locked-down ecosystems, on Windows, Linux, or whatever (Apple IMO deserves a pass - their customers like being sheep), you owe it to the yourself and the community to spread this message around.

      I authorize you to copy it verbatim and/or edited and re-post it elsewhere, if you so choose.
      Le Chaud Lapin
      • Are you sure Canonical is planning a closed store?

        Given their history of open repositories and allowing the user to add third party repositories, I'd want to see more proof that they plan to lock out competition before making an accusation.

        And for the record, you are not bound to using Google's Android store either.
        Michael Kelly
        • I am not sure what Ubuntu has in mind.

          I did post a message asking, quite clearly, what the situation was on the Ubuntu question forum. The only response that I got was a double-thumb-down, as well as someone sorta-kinda agreeing with me. Another engineer asked a similar question in the forum in March, and his post was ignored.

          Note that I am not worried about the App Store. If I am banned from the App Store for eternity, that would not bother me at all.

          What I am worried about is the device. If the platform is truly open, then I should be able to put my software on that device, and have it execute, in the same way I put my software on "Big Linux", and have it execute.

          Whether the App Store is closed or not, right now, that is not possible on either Android or Ubuntu Phone.
          Le Chaud Lapin
      • Umm ... exactly which of those steps has Canonical done?

        They did 1. They did your first #2 (not your 2nd #2 :-). They're doing #9 because, well, you HAVE to in order to distribute your OS on a phone. #5, they've issued press releases, but the burden is on you to show false intent.

        I love FOSS - but it's ludicrous to believe that every FOSS effort has to stay away from setting a clear vision that drives architectural choices that involve change. And that every voice has to be equal, with no leadership. Isn't that what you're asking for? So your priority is being able to use C++ to get to native APIs from GUI code. So go be a part of a project that has a similar vision, for heaven's sake. Why does every project have to have that specific vision?
      • I disagree

        I find nowhere that there's a 20% commission to for any thing to go on the Ubuntu software centre. Almost everything on there is free, most things that aren't are the games mainly, which are all on steam for the most part. Steam now supports Ubuntu Linux, and i available free on the software centre so you don't even need the software centre for those games now.

        The coding for Ubuntu Linux is 100% open, every piece of software can be changed, you can even go so far as to change the splash loading screen when you turn your computer on. Anyone with any sort of level of programming, or even just an idea can work on the project just by contacting Canonical (for the most part, everyone knows there's a lot of of technical mumbo-jumbo with that), and there's a lot of people wanting to work on it. Probably every Ubuntu user feels like being a part I can guess, I sure do.

        The terminal can interact with everything completely, you can even go so far as to change the kind of terminal you use to interact with everything, it's so customisable they should of called it "Custom" or something similar. I don't know what level of programming you have learned, you seem to elude with you're tone that you have some; you need to take a closer look at this and drop the conspiracy theory. It's baseless assumption like that getting us nowhere. One look at the community forums would prove it's "open-ness" as you say. It's so open even if you don't want to change to a different program, you can interact with the source code of that program itself and reprogram it if you wanted, and make it into whatever you want. You have it look like a chessboard, sound like an alien, and to quantum physics, all by reprogramming the regular calculator that comes with each distribution. It would all be supported too, the software necessary, the hardware, the drivers, whatever terminal interface you want to use, whatever programming format you want to use, etc. etc. etc.

        Your rant is biased and meaningless. Ubuntu Linux is exactly like straight Linux you're so hung up on, it has an amazingly dedicated community, the same amount of open control, and developers/users with an amazing vision to create the a future of possibilities. Possibilities you can have control over, at least technologically.

        Most things that require some programming knowledge are easily learned from a visit to the community forum f.y.i..
        Matthew Cohee
  • Much improved Ubuntu

    I installed the 13.04 beta last week on my netbook. Everything seems a little faster and smoother, but the biggest improvement is in video play. In previous versions video play was at times sluggish or downright balky. Now its as good as my tablet or PC's. It isn't hard to imagine that using Ubuntu on a touchscreen will be very nice.