Ubuntu 12.10: What to Expect
According to my sources, it's almost October, and that can mean but one thing: The debut of Ubuntu 12.10 is almost upon us. To prepare, here's a look at some of the biggest changes to expect in the forthcoming release of one of the world's most popular open source operating systems.
Codenamed (in the Ubuntu tradition of alliterative homages to exotic wildlife) "Quantal Quetzal," Ubuntu 12.10 will officially become stable on Oct. 18. For now, though, a beta version is already available, and beta 2 is expected to land on Sept. 27.
Ubuntu 12.10: What's New
All in all, 12.10 will not be a game-changing release. Unlike some earlier versions of Ubuntu, it doesn't introduce any radically new features or interfaces. Users who choose to upgrade can expect solid incremental enhancements, but nothing that will shatter their worlds.
That said, there are some significant changes to expect in Ubuntu 12.10, including:
- A standardized installation image. Rather than shipping a "regular" ISO image for installing Ubuntu in addition to a supersized DVD image and an "alternate" CD, the desktop edition of Ubuntu 12.10 will come in one single flavor in the form of an 800MB image. Users can burn it to a DVD or load it onto a USB drive to create a bootable medium for installing Ubuntu to hard disk.
- The 2D version of Unity, Canonical's home-grown desktop interface, is no longer available. Instead, Unity 3D, which offers a full range of desktop effects via hardware acceleration, will be the only choice. If your video device doesn't support hardware acceleration, however, fret not: Unity in Ubuntu 12.10 will use the CPU to run desktop effects in cases where the graphics card doesn't support them. (Personally, I'm skeptical how well this will work on truly old computers which lack powerful processors, but perhaps this is Canonical's way of telling users that Ubuntu 12.10 is not for legacy hardware.)
- Various application updates. Naturally, the latest iteration of Ubuntu will bring with it updated versions of many of the applications and code in its software stack. The full list is too long to list here, but the two major items to note are Python, which will be available by default in Ubuntu 12.10 only in version 3, and the Linux kernel, which reaches version 3.5.3.
- Support for full disk encryption out of the box. Previous versions of Ubuntu supported encryption of users' home folders, though not entire disks. If you wanted the latter, you needed third-party tools, and some relatively advanced skills. Now, devices can be fully encrypted in only a few clicks while installing Ubuntu. For most people, the associated hassle of having to remember an encryption key to boot their computers may make this feature not worth the trouble, but for business users or those particularly paranoid about their personal data, this could be a very useful tool.
There's a lot more to Ubuntu 12.10 than this, but these four changes represent the ones users are most likely to notice during their first exposure to the operating system. Stay tuned for more coverage as the Oct. 18 release date approaches, and as other novel features reach maturity.