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Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution, having the reputation of being very user-friendly. Karmic Koala boosts the usability even further and brings a range of improvements on every aspect. And yes, the brown-orange theme has finally gone away!!
Having tried the Alpha
5 in Sptember and finding it stable and fast in my laptop, I
was very eager to try the official release.
If reading the
rest bores you, the verdict in 2 words is: it
rocks!!

Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty
Jackalope had nice improvements such as the ext4 filesystem, which
offered faster boot times among other advantages and the cool
redesigned notification system, the disaster of the Intel graphics
driver made it unusable to 50% of laptops... Having this terrible
regression fixed by switching to the new UXA acceleration method, what
new does Karmic Koala brought that made me and everyone else write
dithyrambic reviews???

First of all, ext4 has now
matured enough and it is the default option on a new installation. It
makes the boot process a lot faster, which is a big plus especially to
netbooks.
In Karmic Koala, apart from the under the hood
technical improvements, there were leaps in usability.
During
the development of Karmic Koala, the 100 papercuts
project
started with the aim to fix minor annoyances, which
experienced users wouldn't notice any more, but are visible to
newcomers and adding up they could make a noticeable difference in
usability.
While Ubuntu is being installed, there is a
slideshow that guides users to the programs they need to use(Empathy
for IM, Evolution for emails, F-Spot for photo album...) and most
importantly to the Software Center in order to install programs.
Amen!!!Finally the new Ubuntu user can figure out how to install a
program without having to find someone who has done it before or ask in
forums.The Software Center is a much improved version of the old
Add/Remove(which many assumed that it was mainly for Uninstalling
programs, like in the "intuitive" windows) and has the big advantage of
fetching a screenshot of each application to help the user find what
he/she 
wants among the thousands of available applications. It is
also lays the necessary infrastructure for Companies to sell their
applications, in the likes of the Android market.


The artwork finally improved
considerably, with a fancier boot screen and a very cool -in my
opinion- GDM login screen. As for the notification system, it dims
& blurs when you hover the mouse over it and it simply looks
awesome!!! I really hope it makes way upstream to Gnome, so every Gnome
based distro will have it. The Human theme was updated and it is dark
brown instead of the much criticized brown-orange of previous versions
and there are other themes you can actually use(in the past versions, I
haven't heard of a single person in the world to have ever
used  Crux theme for more than a day...). The new Humanity
icons are far superior to the mundane Human icons of the previous
versions and there are abundant wallpapers to choose from vs the only
2-3 wallpapers in the past.

Ubuntu One client
preinstalled. Ubuntu One can be very useful for sharing files between
Ubuntu PCs. Unfortunately if you use other OSs apart from Ubuntu , you
won't find the appropriate client for them...But you can still use the
Web GUI to get a file
you need or upload something. The more frequent use I can find for
Ubuntu One is syncing files between my home PC and my netbook, which
runs Ubuntu Netbook Remix.



The deafault applications
are in their newest versions: Firefox 3.5, OpenOffice 3.1, Gnome 2.28
and kernel 2.6.31.Kubuntu comes
with KDE 4.3.2, which has the awesome, the best theme ever "Air", to
which win7 theme looks suspiciously alike (good move by MS!). If
someone would make a Gnome rip-off theme of "KDE Air" I would
immediately use it, in place of anything else. Unfortunately Kubuntu
doesn't come with all the improvements of Ubuntu, such as the Software
Center.
Netbook users will prefer the UNR edition
(Ubuntu Netbook Remix)
, whose interface was revamped to be
even easier to use in the small netbook screens.


There is also the server
edition
, but personally I'll wait for 10.04, which will be an
LTS version with 5 year support for servers. Till then my 8.04 install
will keep serving me, as it has without failure for the last 1,5 year.
For anyone who wants to set up a new server, it is a good choice
because you can get official paid
support
from Canonical should you want to, and it also has
Eucalyptus infastructure for deploying your Ubuntu installation to
Amazon Servers.

The Future:
Next Ubuntu version 10.04
"Lucid Lynx" will be a Long Term Support(LTS) version and will receive
5 years of support for servers and 3 years for all other editiions.
Since it will be an LTS version, the primary goal will be maximum
stability, which will make it a good choice for OEMs to include in
their products. The artwork design will once again improve, as well as
the usability probably with another launch of the "100 papercuts"
project. Currently, no radical new features have been announced and
there probably won't be any, since ext4 is already the default file
system and the next generation BTRFS is still under heavy development.
Gnome 3.0 with the totally redisigned Gnome-shell won't make it for the
same reason(not mature enough for an LTS version) but it will be
available in the repositories.
In the netbook field, Ubuntu
Moblin remix will be released as well as the awesome (I have used awesome too many times, haven't I? But it's worth it ) looking Kubuntu
Netbook Remix, which will be the best looking netbook OS by a long
shot.

So what are you waiting for?? Download Ubuntu today and give it a try.

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