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Canonical unveils Ubuntu 23.04 'Lunar Lobster': A Linux distro for work and play

Ubuntu wants to be your work and home desktop. The Linux distro's latest version boasts productivity and gaming enhancements.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Canonical Ubuntu 23.04, Lunar Lobster

Canonical Ubuntu 23.04, Lunar Lobster.

Image: sjvn/ZDNET

Canonical has officially released Ubuntu 23.04, codenamed Lunar Lobster, which is the latest version of its Linux distribution and it boasts improvements for enterprise developer desktops, gaming enhancements, a revamped installer, and an expanded focus on gaming. 

"This Ubuntu milestone release demonstrates our progress in raising the bar for the enterprise developer desktops, thanks to our best-in-class Linux integration with Active Directory (AD) Domain Services and now Azure Active Directory," said Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth.

Also: Ubuntu Lunar Lobster could be the surprise hit of 2023

He also referred to the fresh focus on gaming: "Our expanded investment in Ubuntu gaming means your downtime is just as satisfying."

As my Linux-loving colleague Jack Wallen said in his recent early look at Lunar Lobster, this release "puts on a masterclass for how an operating system should evolve."

The benefits of the release start with the new, streamlined Ubuntu Desktop installer. While it's designed for enterprise deployment and customization at scale, the one-off installer is attractive. Much as I love Linux, the various distributions' installers can't usually be described as "handsome". Whether you're installing an Ubuntu server or desktop, the installation also uses the same auto-install configuration workflows, thanks to the unified Subiquity installation engine.

Also: How to install Ubuntu Linux (It's easy!)

Ubuntu 23.04 aims to make the Linux desktop accessible to all and it sports a refreshed user interface, which supports modern yet familiar first-time user experiences and new enterprise management capabilities. 

Proof of the distribution's accessibility comes from Thijs van dek Kanp, national director of technical operations at education specialist Compudopt, who praised the new installer: "Our approach combines Landscape (Ubuntu's administration program) management with Subiquity to enable us to deploy and securely manage our devices with ease, regardless of their location. The new desktop installer introduced in Ubuntu 23.04 will greatly simplify our workflows going forward."

For the first time, the Ubuntu Desktop 23.04 offers native user authentication with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). This addition enables Microsoft 365 (M365) users to authenticate their Ubuntu desktops with the same credentials used for M365 or Azure. 

IT administrators can evaluate the aad-auth feature and provide feedback for backporting to the Ubuntu 22.04 Long-Term Support (LTS) release later this year. If your business is a heavy user of Microsoft Office, this process will enable your organization to keep using Office while running it on the safer, more secure Ubuntu Linux. 

Also: Ready to ditch Windows for Linux? This is the ideal distro for you

The Active Directory Bridging Toolsuite (ADsys) also now supports Samba winbindd Domain Services besides System Security Services Daemon (SSSD). This support means you can use Ubuntu with AD on Amazon Workspaces and older AD configurations. ADsys is available with Ubuntu Pro, which enables IT administrators to manage mixed Windows and Ubuntu desktop fleets using familiar workflows. This shift is all part of Canonical's plans to make Ubuntu an office desktop.

The new Ubuntu also includes updated toolchains and runtimes for important programming languages, such as Python, Java, Go, C, C++, Rust, and .Net. It also comes with improved container security and lifecycle management and enhanced debugging support. Desktop snaps now feature refresh awareness, allowing automatic updates of specific snaps to be paused as desired.

Many users will find the latest GNOME 44 desktop to be a pleasure to use. It provides usability improvements and quick settings options for Bluetooth device management and dark mode. Additionally, the Firefox snap has seen significant performance gains on the Raspberry Pi with hardware-accelerated rendering.

Also: Universal Blue is a new paradigm for the Linux desktop and it's brilliant

Of course, the new Ubuntu release also comes with the latest versions of the standard Linux programs we know and love, which includes Firefox 112 for web browsing, LibreOffice 7.1.2 for open-source office use, and Thunderbird 102.10.0 for email.

Finally, Ubuntu 23.04 takes Linux gaming to the next level with the promotion of the early access beta Steam snap to the stable channel. The Steam snap bundles key dependencies to run both new and older titles, including 32-bit libraries and cutting-edge Mesa drivers.

In summary, Ubuntu 23.04 is an impressive release. Give it a try -- I think you might like it, whether you use it for development, office work, or just for gaming fun.

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