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It's here! Ubuntu 7.10 arrives
Oct. 18, 2007

Ubuntu users rejoice. Ubuntu 7.10 is here.

Ubuntu, the remarkably popular desktop Linux distribution that tries to bring the latest and greatest open-source programs every six months, arrived Oct. 18. The Gutsy Gibbon Ubuntu 7.10 Desktop Edition includes improvements in advanced plug-and-play printing, enhanced browsing and the option of a smooth new user interface built on top of the new GNOME 2.20 desktop.

The distribution, based on Desktop Linux's survey of Ubuntu's download sites and mirrors, seems to be, as of 11 a.m. EDT, available on all sites. Just because a site has the new release doesn't mean you'll be able to download it. We found that about half the sites were already at maximum capacity and not allowing any more users.

Users can also download Ubuntu 7.10 via BitTorrent. In these early hours, we found that the Ubuntu Torrents are not especially fast. We were seeing speeds in the 10 to 20 Kbps (kilobits per second) range. This was due to the relatively small number of seedsóBitTorrent sites with the full distributionócompared to the much larger number of peers.

The latest version of Ubuntu includes numerous new features. In particular, its hardware support has been improved. Besides better plug-and-play configuration for printers, the new Ubuntu includes automatic firmware installation for Broadcom Wi-Fi cards.

Laptop users will also be pleased to see improved support for display systems. With Gutsy Gibbon, full external VGA (projector) support is available out of the box, with easy reconfiguration when hardware is switched. Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical CEO and Ubuntu's founder, believes that Ubuntu 7.10 now offers the best VGA out support for laptops of any Linux distribution.

This version also comes with compiz and Compiz Fusion enabled by default. This part brings 3-D desktop and other eye candy that improves the desktop's visual appeal. Ubuntu 7.10 automatically detects whether the hardware is capable of running compiz. If it's not compiz-capable, it will fall back to normal desktop. Additional effects can be enabled in "System/Preferences/Appearance" under the "Visual Effects" tab. You can also disable the effects entirely. Some users, even with high-end graphic cards and the appropriate drivers, may run into trouble. For more on potential graphics problems, see the Ubuntu 7.10 release notes.

Ubuntu 7.10 users now have full read and write capability for all Windows partitions, including NTFS files. This is especially useful for users with dual-boot Windows/Ubuntu systems. This support comes from NTFS3G--an open-source, freely available read/write NTFS driver for Linux. While this will allow users access to Windows XP and Vista file systems, users are not encouraged to try to run disk-intensive Linux applications, such as the MySQL database, off NTFS drives.

The new Ubuntu also comes with GNOME's new Tracker 0.6.3 desktop search application. With this, users can search their systems for files, folders, chat logs or photos using both free text searches, the way Beagle and Google enable users to search, or structured searches using RDF Query. This capability includes the deskbar applet, a central location on users' desktops for all local and Web search operations.

To use Tracker effectively, Ubuntu also includes Deskbar. With this users can not only search their PCs, but they also launch Web searches with their favorite Web search engine.

Ubuntu 7.10 also includes a new option in the Ubuntu application installer to help users select and automatically install several popular Firefox plug-ins. These extensions and plug-ins have been validated by Ubuntu for a richer, safer Web-browsing experience.

The distribution also comes with greatly improved and easier-to-maintain security. This comes to Ubuntu thanks to AppArmor. Shuttleworth describes this as the second generation of Linux security.

All in all, the new Ubuntu appears at first glance to be a solid improvement on the last version and one that both young and old Ubuntu users will find a worthwhile upgrade. New users can use the Ubuntu CD as a live CD to get a taste of Ubuntu without having to install it on their Windows PCs. Users who want to upgrade from Ubuntu 7.04 to 7.10 should follow the instructions on the Ubuntu upgrade page. For those who'd rather not install or upgrade software of any sort, Dell has announced that it will soon be shipping desktops and laptops with Ubuntu 7.10.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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