Ubuntu's Gutsy Leap Forward - 14 Nov 2007

You've heard it stated that Linux isn't ready for prime time desktops in enterprise environments, but is that really true? The way I see it, such blanket statements are essentially harmful misinformation because how any particular OS is suited to a network environment depends entirely on the particular network environment and the needs of the users.

I've been experimenting with Linux for quite a long time and am more attracted to the free varieties as opposed to the ones from commercial companies because I don't want to pay to experiment. So my platforms of choice have typically been Debian or derivatives thereof. So far, my favorite desktop version of Linux is Ubuntu, which is based on Debian.

I recently stopped by the Ubuntu Web site to see what's happening because the developers have pledged to release an update at least every six months. I was pleasantly surprised to see that just last week, Canonical (the company that sponsors Ubuntu development) released Ubuntu 7.10, code-named Gutsy Gibbon. I think the code name is fitting because based on the basic release notes, this latest version makes some considerable leaps in terms of security and overall manageability.

Before I get to the security aspect, I want to point out that Ubuntu 7.10 now supports writing to NTFS partitions; previous versions supported only the ability to read NTFS partitions. The new version also supports fully automatic plug-and-play printer installations and provides improved thin-client support that offers better compression, automatic logon, and more. You can manage all clients, including client installations, configurations, and upgrades, from one system.

Ubuntu 7.10 Desktop Edition now also includes Compiz Fusion, which adds jazzy 3D effects. Other slick features include fast user switching, desktop search, a plug-in finder and installer for Mozilla Firefox, and automated installation of "non-free" driver packages.

That said, the security improvements are what really grabbed my attention. When you download Ubuntu, you can now choose an alternate installer that implements either full disk encryption or partition-based encryption. A new script has been added to the base installation that helps automate creation and storage of profiles for authentication. A third new feature of the base installation is the addition of AppArmor, which helps limit the resources that an application can access. AppArmor was maintained by Novell until last month, and now the open-source community has picked up the ball.

Finally, Ubuntu comes prepackaged with OpenOffice, and you can get Ubuntu in several styles. Kubuntu uses the KDE desktop instead of the Gnome desktop. Xubuntu is a lighter weight version of Ubuntu that requires less memory, which is helpful for use on older systems. Edubuntu is tailored especially for educational environments and classroom use for children.

So that's it in a nutshell. If you're curious about Linux, seriously consider taking a good look at Ubuntu (available at the URL below). As far as I can tell, it's one of the best Linux platforms available.

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