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'Lucid Lynx' Ubuntu enters beta

The test version of Ubuntu 10.04 gives the Linux OS desktop features such as Twitter integration, while the server edition gets a cloud polish

Canonical has released the first beta of Ubuntu Linux 10.04, code-named 'Lucid Lynx', which adds consumer-friendly features such as integrated social networking and a new look.

The Linux operating system beta was made available on Friday in desktop, server and netbook versions. Canonical also issued a testing version of Ubuntu 10.04 Server for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud and Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Lucid Lynx is a long-term support version of the OS, meaning the software will be supported for three years on the desktop or five years for the server version, in contrast with 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 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.

"We now feature built-in integration with Twitter, identi.ca, Facebook and other social networks with the MeMenu in the panel, which is built upon the Gwibber project... Gwibber now also supports a multi-column view for monitoring multiple feeds simultaneously," Canonical said.

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.

On the server side, Canonical has updated the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud installer to support more installation topologies and to provide an official Ubuntu Server image for Amazon's EC2. It has also made security tweaks to the firewall and in kernel hardening.

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 is 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. 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 Kubuntu, Edubuntu and other Ubuntu variants were also released for beta testing on Friday. The software is available from Canonical, which has released a list of new features and known bugs on its website. The company cautioned users not to install the beta version on production machines.

Canonical is planning one more beta release for Ubuntu 10.04, followed by a release candidate on 22 April and a final release on 29 April.