The newest Ubuntu Linux, Impish Indri, arrives

There's a new Ubuntu in town, Ubuntu Linux 21.10.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

First things first. An Indri, aka a Babakoto, is a very large lemur. Ubuntu 21.10, Impish Indri, is Canonical's latest Ubuntu Linux release. It's the short-term -- nine months of support -- predecessor to the company's next long-term support (LTS) version, Ubuntu 22.04.

As such, while we usually think of Ubuntu as a desktop Linux distribution, it's far more than that. As  Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical and Ubuntu's founder says, "We aim to bring Ubuntu to all the corners of the enterprise and all the places developers want to innovate. That goes from "the biggest public clouds to the tiniest devices, from [Nvidia] DGX servers to Windows WSL [Windows Subsystem for Linux] workstations, open source is the springboard for new ideas and Ubuntu makes that springboard safe, secure and consistent."

On the desktop, the new Ubuntu default interface is GNOME 40. While you can use the brand-spanking-new GNOME 41, that's not the interface 21.10 comes with. Still, a few GNOME 41 apps such as Calendar app, GNOME Disk Utility, Eye of GNOME (aka Image Viewer), and GNOME System Monitor have made it into this new Ubuntu.

In addition, there are some changes from vanilla GNOME 40. The Ubuntu 21.10 version still comes with the handy Ubuntu Dock on your display's left side. Ubuntu Dock also now comes with a persistent trash can icon, USB drive shortcuts, and a separator between pinned and running apps. All-in-all I like this new look.

There are, of course, other desktop choices for the latest Ubuntu. The most mature of these to date appear to be Cinnamon and the old Ubuntu Unity interface, which lives on as an independent project. Other desktops, such as KDE, Kubuntu, and Xfce, Xubuntu, will be out for 21.10 shortly.

The default desktop programs have also seen updates. New programs include the LibreOffice 7.2 office suite, the Thunderbird 91 e-mail client, and the Firefox 92 web browser. This is not the usual Firefox though. While the old-school Deb-package-based Firefox is available, the default is now a containerized Snap version.

Why? Because that's the way Mozilla, Firefox's parent company, wanted it. The snapped version of Firefox is being "jointly maintained by Mozilla and the Ubuntu desktop team, and published by Mozilla."

OF course, not everyone, such as the Linux Mint team, is happy about using snaps. Other users have complained that snap-based programs are slower than their vanilla versions. For now, the snaps are only the default in the main Ubuntu release and not in the various Ubuntu flavors nor downstream Linux distros, such as Mint, that rely on the Ubuntu Deb repo version. When the next LTS version, Ubuntu 22.4, arrives, it may be a different story. Stay tuned.

This current Ubuntu update comes with many new tools for developers. These include the all-new PHP 8 and GCC 11. The latter includes better support for static analysis. This will make life easier for low-level C and C++ programmers. 

Ubuntu 21.10 also offers a snap Apache Cassandra package. With this open-source NoSQL distributed database, you can easily set up a Cassandra cluster.

For DevOps developers, Canonical has made trustworthy Ubuntu 21.10 Open Container Initiative (OCI) images available from Docker Hub and Amazon ECR Public Registry. Besides the Ubuntu base image, Canonical also maintains a curated set of application images. The LTS Docker Images are backed by Canonical for Ubuntu's full, 10-year support life.

The latest LTS Docker Images from Canonical include Grafana, Prometheus, and NGINX. Apache Cassandra v4 is a new addition, with real-time scraping, alerts, and improved Prometheus integration. Squid, a caching proxy, and Bind9, a full-featured DNS system, are also joining the portfolio of LTS Docker Images.

Underneath it all, Ubuntu runs on the Linux 5.13 kernel. With this comes Kernel Electric Fence (KFENCE). This new high-performance run-time memory error detector for production environments comes with low overhead while still detecting common memory errors. By default, Ubuntu 21.10 also randomizes the kernel stack's memory location at each system-call entry on both the amd64 and arm64 architectures with a minimum impact on performance and an increase in protection against memory-based attacks. 

Ubuntu is now friendlier to Windows users than ever. WSL 2.0, now supports Ubuntu graphical applications. Microsoft recently made WSL2 for Windows 11 more easily available as a separate app in the Microsoft Store. If you develop for both Windows and Linux, Ubuntu 21.10 is a natural fit. 

If you want to try Ubuntu with Kubernetes cloud-native projects, Canonical makes it as easy as falling off a log. They can do that with MicroK8s. This program installs Kubernetes with a single command and forms a Kubernetes edge cluster with just two commands. MicroK8s now comes with the latest CNCF-certified stable Kubernetes 1.22. It also now supports Kata containers. Kata lets you use lightweight virtual machines (VM) in a container runtime while providing stronger workload security than conventional containers by using hardware virtualization technology for isolation.

Ubuntu 21.10 is available for download today for 64-bit systems. Older 32-bit PCs are no longer supported. For still-supported 32-bit Ubuntu, you need to turn back the clock to Ubuntu 16.04.07

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