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Lucid Lynx paves way for Ubuntu shake-up

A release candidate takes Ubuntu 10.04 a step closer to completion, while Canonical prepares 'surprises' for its next move

Canonical has published the release candidate for Ubuntu 10.04 — codenamed Lucid Lynx — which adds consumer-friendly features, better integration with cloud infrastructure, and a new look.

The release of the finalised version on Thursday came two weeks after the beta version was made available for public testing. The operating system update is now more or less complete, Canonical said.

"We consider this release candidate to be complete, stable and suitable for testing by any user," said Ubuntu release manager Steve Langasek in a statement.

As a long-term support (LTS) edition of Ubuntu, Lucid Lynx will be supported for three years on the desktop or five years for the server version, in contrast to the 18 months of support for standard releases. It is intended as a significant update, putting into place new features the company intends to develop in coming releases, according to Canonical.

The release of a new LTS will leave Canonical free to aim for more radical changes with the Ubuntu version scheduled for completion in October — called Maverick Meerkat — the company has said.

Earlier this month, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said changes with Maverick Meerkat will include the updating of the desktop from the Gnome 2.x series to Gnome 3.0. It will also include a revamp of the interface for netbooks, designed to integrate social-networking features into applications.

"This is a time of change, and we're not afraid to surprise people with a bold move if the opportunity for dramatic improvement presents itself," Shuttleworth said in a blog post.

Canonical said it is seeking feedback and bug fixes ahead of Lucid Lynx's final release, scheduled for 29 April. The company released a list of the known bugs it plans to fix before the software's official launch.

Release-candidate versions released on Thursday include desktop and server editions; server versions tailored for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) and Amazon's EC2 cloud-computing service; and a version aimed at netbooks. Canonical also put the Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, Ubuntu Studio and Mythbuntu into beta on Thursday.

Canonical said it has improved the UEC installer, so that UEC components are now automatically discovered and registered, even if the different components are on different servers. Official server images for deploying Ubuntu directly onto UEC or EC2 have been released.

Security improvements include tweaks to the firewall and in kernel hardening, Canonical said.

The company highlighted the MeMenu which, using the open-source microblogging client Gwibber, allows users to manage their instant messaging and to post short messages to a range of networks.

Another notable update is the Gnome desktop design. It moves away from the previous style based on the colour brown, which was known as Human, in favour of a style that Canonical has said is inspired by light. It includes new indicators and wallpapers, two new themes called Ambiance and Radiance, and new product logos.

In addition, the desktop OS will be the first to integrate Canonical's upcoming music store, Ubuntu One (U1). This will allow users to purchase music directly through the default music player Rhythmbox. U1 is currently going through a limited beta test.

The operating system is based on the 2.6.32.9 Linux kernel and includes the latest Gnome desktop, X.org 7.5, OpenOffice 3.2 and Firefox 3.6.

It was to be the first Ubuntu OS to switch the default search engine from Google to Yahoo as part of a revenue-sharing deal between Yahoo and Canonical, but Canonical has abandoned that deal and will stick with Google after all, said Rick Spencer, engineering manager for Canonical's desktop team, earlier this month.

"It was not our intention to 'flap' between providers, but the underlying circumstances can change unpredictably," Spencer said in a 7 April message to the Ubuntu developer mailing list. He did not give any specific reason for the change.

The removal of the Hal package allows Ubuntu to boot and resume from suspend faster, the company said, while the addition of the likewise-open package adds Active Directory authentication support.

The release uses the open-source Nouveau video driver by default for Nvidia graphics hardware to improve resolution detection. It also includes three proprietary Nvidia drivers, Canonical said.

The release notes and downloads are available from Canonical's website.