Ubuntu 12.04 arrives and it's great

Canonical's latest Linux distribution, Ubuntu 12.04, is now available for your home and office and it's a winner.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor


It's morning for the latest Ubuntu Linux desktop release.

It's morning for the latest Ubuntu desktop Linux release.

The wait is over. The final version of Canonical's Ubuntu 12.04, Precise Pangolin is out. To download your copy of this popular Linux distribution head to the Ubuntu download page. If you're already using the last version, Ubuntu 11.10 you can now upgrade automatically upgrade to 12.04 with Update Manager. If you need more help with your upgrade see the Upgrade from Ubuntu 11.10 to 12.04 LTS page.

LTS, you ask? That stands for long term support. This is the Ubuntu version that will be supported for five years, through April 2017. If you have a business, and you've been thinking about using Ubuntu on your desktops or servers, this is the version you want.

However, before leaping to the Ubuntu site to download the freshest bytes and bits, you may want to wait for a bit. Canonical tells me that the site is currently getting overwhelmed and some people are not being able to get into it. For me, the site and download links worked, but at speeds of about 100Kbps, they certainly aren't fast.

If you really can't stand to wait for a minute, take Jorge Castro, a Canonical staffer's suggestion, and use one of "mirrors hosted on Amazon's S3 service, which has a bunch of capacity and should be fast for users where an Amazon region is close:"

You should use whichever region is closest to you, you can either manually add these to


file or paste them into the custom URL field of the software sources application.

East Coast US: deb http://us-east-1.ec2.archive.ubuntu.com.s3.amazonaws.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse

West Coast US (California): deb http://us-west-1.ec2.archive.ubuntu.com.s3.amazonaws.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse

West Coast US (Oregon) deb http://us-west-1.ec2.archive.ubuntu.com.s3.amazonaws.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse

South America (São Paulo, Brazil) deb http://sa-east-1.ec2.archive.ubuntu.com.s3.amazonaws.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse

Western Europe (Dublin, Ireland) deb http://eu-west-1.ec2.archive.ubuntu.com.s3.amazonaws.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse

SouthEast Asia (Singapore) deb http://ap-southeast-1.ec2.archive.ubuntu.com.s3.amazonaws.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse

NorthEast Asia (Tokyo) deb http://ap-northeast-1.ec2.archive.ubuntu.com.s3.amazonaws.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse

I've been using Ubuntu 12.04 in beta for two months now. I've found it to be an excellent, stable, and extremely end-user friendly desktop operating system. Note, I didn't say a really welcoming Linux desktop, I said an end-user friendly desktop operating system. I was able to get my Spanish-speaking mother-in-law on Ubuntu Linux and she was able to just use it without any fuss or muss.

A big reason why was because Ubuntu's Unity desktop is so darn easy to new-comers to you. She literally never had a single question in three weeks of using as her only computer. True, she wasn't asking it to do much-Web browsing, watching video, doing e-mail, writing documents-but is that all most people ask of their computers most days?

A first look at Ubuntu Linux 12.04's Unity desktop (Gallery)

Yes, I know some of you really don't like Ubuntu's Unity desktop with its dash of Head Up Display (HUD). This latest update of Unity is based on GNOME 3.4.1, but the disagreeable GNOME default interface is hidden away.

I know some of you still want a more traditional GNOME 2.x style desktop. I get that. It's why my primary Linux desktop is Mint 12 with its Cinnamon GNOME 2 retake.

A walk through Mint Linux's new/old Cinnamon desktop (Gallery)

That said, if you haven't tried Unity for a while, give it a try. Yes, it is different, and yes it is easy--it's hard to feel like a cutting edge operating system guru when you know a semi-computer illiterate 80-year old can work the basics as well as you can--but if you put that "It's different and I don't like it!" mindset aside you may just be pleasantly surprised.

However you should also know that Unity/HUD is a "What you see is what you get" desktops. For example, the Unity launchbar, short of major tweaking beyond what most casual users can do, is permanently glued to the left of the screen. I was also somewhat puzzled by Ubuntu's new default black display. It's easy enough to put up a wallpaper--just right click on it and pick Change Desktop Background--but matte black by default? Really?

Technically speaking, the new Ubuntu is based, as always, on Debian Linux. For its Linux kernel, 12.04 uses the 3.2 Linux kernel. It also supports the full range of Linux file systems including Btfrs (aka Butter), ext3, ext4, JFS, ReiserFS, and XFS. By default, it uses ext4.

You can run Ubuntu on as little as 512MBs of RAM and with a 486 processor. Faster is better, but for practical purpose any recent system with one GB of RAM will work just fine with Ubuntu.

I have it running on a wide variety of systems and I haven't seen a single glitch on any of them. Let me add to that despite the cries of some Linux haters, I also didn't find any peripherals it wouldn't work either either. Wi-Fi cards, multi-function printers, scanners, all worked just fine with this release.

If you happen to have a system with an Intel Sandy Bridge chipset, you'll also see much better power management. Starting with this version, Ubuntu can turn the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) all the way down to zero watts if it's not being used. Canonical claims that "comparing under idle loads with machine state where RC6 is disabled, improved power usage of around 40-60% has been witnessed." I didn't see that much difference, but I did notice that my battery life on my new Lenovo ThinkPad, which uses the latest Sandy Bridge chipset, idled for much longer than I'd expected.

There have also been some desktop software changes. The default music player has is now Rhythmbox, instead of Banshee. I'm still a Banshee fan, but no worries, with the Ubuntu Software Center, Ubuntu's take on an app store, it was easy for me to bring it back.

The office suite is still LibreOffice, but it's been updated to 3.5.2. That's a pure win in my book since I think LibreOffice is the best office suite around on any platform these days.

Unfortunately, LibreOffice still isn't completely integrated with Unity. It still uses its own menu interface instead of Unity's universal menu. This doesn't get in the way of using the program at all, but by now I'd expected them to have integrated it into the interface the way they have Firefox.

Firefox remains Ubuntu's default Web browser. I could have lived without that but you can always download Chrome or get its pure open-source brother Chromium from the Ubuntu Software Center.

Another program, which hasn't been changed out, is Thunderbird for e-mail. I just don't get this. Evolution is simply the best e-mail client on any operating system and it's already a GNOME-based program so adding it to Ubuntu is trivial. Oh well, the Software Center once more came to my rescue.

There are some nice little extras. For example the video lens, a Head Up Display view for searching for videos, makes it easy to search for videos no matter whether they're on your local PC, your media server, or on YouTube.

When all is said and done, Ubuntu 12.04 is an outstanding Linux desktop distribution. I'm still going to stick with Mint myself for day-in and day-out work, but if I were going to start a new user on Linux, who wasn't interested in the technology, and just wanted a fast, easy-to-use, and secure desktop, I'd give them the new Ubuntu in a New York minute.

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