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Ubuntu 9.10 for desktops heeds user complaints

Bridget Botelho
Canonical Ltd. has shown users some love with Ubuntu desktop release 9.10; the new version will be officially available on Thursday with more than 50 fixes that users have requested.

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The company addressed user complaints made through the One Hundre Paper Cuts initiative and made some small fixes and also addressed some bigger issues.

The result, according to Canonical, is that Ubuntu 9.10 is more user-friendly than previous editions. It is free of minor irritants such as inconsistent naming and poorly organized application choices and includes more significant user experience improvements, such as a refreshed Ubuntu Software Center and the integration of Ubuntu One as a standard component of the desktop.

It also includes a new audio framework, improved 3G broadband connectivity and faster boot and login times for a better user experience.

Ubuntu user and security analyst Michael Montecillo of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates said that the most significant aspect of the new release is how close Ubuntu has aligned itself with the user community.

Ubuntu really seems focused on pleasing their users.
Michael Montecillo,
analystEnterprise Management Associates
"Look at the areas where Ubuntu has focused their attention: boot times, audio experience and broadband 3G support," Montecillo said. "These are not typically areas where OS vendors apply a significant amount of attention. However, Ubuntu really seems focused on pleasing their users, as is evidenced by their One Hundred Paper Cuts project."

The best thing about the current release, according to John Locke, the founder of Seattle-based IT consulting company Freelock Computing, is the time that Canonical has spent "polishing up the little things."

Ubuntu as lower-cost alternative to Windows
With its enhanced features, ease of use and potentially lower cost than Windows operating systems, the question is whether Ubuntu can draw new users, such as former Windows shops, to the OS.

"The great thing about this is that it's applying polish to a solid, proven, reliable, lightweight core instead of taking a buggy, but polished, mess and trying to make the core work better," Locke said. "For all the general Web stuff most home users do, Ubuntu's a great platform, and it's hard to see why you would need to spend money on another operating system."

Canonical's CEO, Mark Shuttleworth, said during the product briefing Monday that the new Ubuntu release can compete with Windows 7, which began shipping last week.

That may be true in some cases. Locke said he recommends Ubuntu over Windows to anyone who can run it. "Not only do you get far more out of the box than with Windows - a full office suite, powerful photo editor and thousands of easily-installable programs, [but] it's much less expensive and more fun," he said.

And one IT pro from a large hospital in Rhode Island said though it is a Windows shop, there is a buzz about Ubuntu's strengths. "It is generally easy to install, it's stable, easily upgradeable, generally considered to be more secure that Windows, and best of all, it's free to obtain, install and use," he said.

Ubuntu support is not free, however; Canonical provides support products for desktop and notebook users priced from $55 per year – which is less than Microsoft support. "The long-term focus of Ubuntu to create a better user experience will without a doubt eventually bring more Windows users over to Ubuntu," Montecillo said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer


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