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Ubuntu 7.04 arrives with optional Java stack
Apr. 19, 2007

Analysis -- Who needs Vista, when Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, has just released the latest version of its popular Linux distribution: Ubuntu version 7.04?

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Despite concerns that this release might be delayed by last minute, fine tuning of ATI graphic card drivers and the network manager panel applet, Ubuntu 7.04 made its release date.

"In the coming months, many individuals and businesses will be making the decision to upgrade their existing computer systems and their operating systems," said Jane Silber, Canonical's director of operations, in a statement "With added features to both the desktop and server editions, Ubuntu 7.04 is the most user-friendly version to date and is ideally suited to anyone who wants to make the switch to Linux and join the community of Ubuntu users. In fact, with this version of Ubuntu, it is easier than ever to move away from proprietary platforms."

At least one major computer figure, not usually associated with Linux or Ubuntu, is giving it a try. Michael Dell announced yesterday that he's using the new Ubuntu on his personal laptop.

Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's CEO, said, however, that "You shouldn't read too much into this. I'm thrilled he's using it, but I didn't know that he was going to announce it, and I can't comment on any talks we are, or are not, having with Dell about preloading Ubuntu onto Dell laptops and desktops."

Like earlier editions of Ubuntu, this new v7.04 release comes in five versions: Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu Desktop, Edubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu. Along with the self-explanatory server and desktop versions, Edubuntu is meant for educational uses; Kubuntu is a desktop platform that uses KDE 3.5.6 for its desktop environment instead of Ubuntu's GNOME 2.18; and Xubuntu is a desktop for lower-end PCs and uses the lightweight Xfce 4.4 desktop manager.

All of these are built around the new Linux 2.6.20 kernel. This is a cutting-edge distribution, and it includes the latest of open-source software. Users interested in a more settled, stable distribution with full support can turn to Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Long Term Support).

Ubuntu 7.04, aka Feisty Fawn, is currently available for the 32-bit x86, AMD64 or EM64T and UltraSPARC architectures.

Ubuntu Server

The Server Edition boasts improved virtualization support and it also includes improved hardware support and easier tools for upgrades.

On x86 systems with the Intel VT or AMD-V extensions, Ubuntu supports the new KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine support) virtualization, which was first implemented in the Linux 2.60.20 kernel. This enables users to run multiple virtual machines on an unmodified Linux kernel. Each virtual machine has private virtualized hardware: a network card, disk, graphics adapter and so on.

The server also has a new management tool that enables simple, automated upgrading to new releases of Ubuntu. This completes the ability to easily and safely upgrade Ubuntu whether using it on the desktop or server. The server tool gives administrators control over how the upgrade will be undertaken and lets the manager override decisions where required.

By default, the upgrade tools provide full dependency-checking to insure that an upgrade doesn't interfere with the server. Whether using Ubuntu server on a single system or across a data center, this ability to upgrade seamlessly should help administrators save time and money.

Both server and desktop Ubuntu users will also now have the option of adding Sun Microsystems Inc. Java stack to their systems. Sun, in partnership with Canonical, is releasing a complete, free Java stack consisting of Sun's open-source JEE (Java Enterprise Edition) 5 GlassFish application server, the Java SE Development Kit 6, Java DB 10.2, the Sun-supported version of the Apache Derby relational database manager , and the NetBeans IDE (integrated development environment) 5.5.

This stack will be made available to Ubuntu users via Ubuntu's Multiverse repository. With this, Ubuntu users will be able to add this Java stack, roughly equivalent to Red Hat's JBoss offering, to their distribution by using the Synaptic Package Manager.

In addition to virtualization and optional Java support and easy upgrades, new server features include:
  • A range of new performance improvements including better performance on multicore processors, support for the Processor Data Area and optimizations for 64-bit architectures.

  • New print and sound support through Jetpipe, a printing architecture, and PulseAudio sound server for thin clients.

  • Improved availability of network services via improved scheduling for highly parallel services. Services such as SQL and Apache should remain more responsive and stable under heavy loads.

  • Secure remote network installation using a remote SSH (Secure Shell) terminal.

  • Improvements on UltraSPARC systems so that Ubuntu recognizes other operating system installations and can install without damaging data or operating systems.

  • An updated LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python/Perl) stack, which includes new versions of Apache, 2.2.3; MySQL 5.0.38, Python, 2.5; and PHP 5.2.1.

  • Updates to the supported cluster suites: Updates to the latest software along with the latest Red Hat GFS (Global File System) and OCFS2 (Oracle Cluster File System). The server also includes technology previews of GFS2 and the new local mount capability for OCFS2 for administrators to start testing before production deployments.

Ubuntu Desktop

On the desktop side, the new Ubuntu comes with a Windows migration tool. The tool recognizes Internet Explorer favorites, Firefox bookmarks, desktop wallpaper, AOL IM and Yahoo IM contacts, and imports them all into Ubuntu during installation. This offers easier and faster migration for new users of Ubuntu and individuals wanting to run a dual-boot system.

While Ubuntu is not embracing proprietary software the way Freespire has, this new version does make it simpler to work with proprietary multimedia formats. It includes a new guided wizard for automatically installing multimedia codices not shipped with Ubuntu, which gives users a safe and easy way to experience proprietary music and videos.

Ubuntu 7.04 will also work with Linspire's upcoming open CNR (Click 'N Run) application installation program, which will let users easily install both open-source and proprietary programs.

Shuttleworth noted that, "There are no plans to make CNR part of the default package management." Users who prefer to use the traditional Synaptic Package Manager or even the command-line Deb commands can continue to do so.

The new desktop also includes plug-and-play, network-sharing support with Avahi. This is a system that facilitates service discovery on a local network. Its functionality is similar to Apple Mac OS X's Rendezvous and Bonjour. This Zeroconf (Zero configuration) enables users to immediately view and use network-enabled printers and file and media servers.

All versions of Ubuntu 7.04 will be maintained for 18 months on both the desktop and server, with additional free support available from the Ubuntu community. For deployments that require additional service guarantees, full telephone and online support is commercially available globally from the professional support team at Canonical and service partners.

Paid support is optional. Ubuntu remains a completely free-of-charge Linux distribution.

Users can download Ubuntu from the Linux distribution's main site, here. However, we, and many other would-be Ubuntu 7.04 users, have found that the main Ubuntu site is completely swamped with demand for the new distribution. An alternative way to get a copy is to use BitTorrent. A complete listing of available Ubuntu torrents can be found at the Ubuntu torrent download site.

According to Shuttleworth, while "The main site is absolutely swamped, with about 160 mirrors of Ubuntu now running, we hope that the logjam will soon be gone."

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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