New versions of Ubuntu Linux for desktops, servers to launch Thursday

Desktop version has improved 3G wireless support and guest-user capabilities, while server version gets full Java stack support

Starting Thursday, Ubuntu Linux will make the latest version of its separate desktop and server operating systems available for free download.

The updated Version 8.10 desktop operating system will add a host of usability features for users, including improved 3G wireless support for easier detection and connection to wireless networks.

Also included is a new "guest" capability that allows a user to lend his machine to another user to check e-mail and perform other tasks without disturbing the existing programs or settings.

Users will also be able to install Ubuntu Linux on a portable USB drive so they can carry the operating system with them and use it on any machine. A major benefit of that capability is that users will also be able to save new data to the same thumb drive that contains the operating system.

Another useful feature is integration of multimedia content from the BBC that was previously available only on computers running Microsoft Windows Media Player software. Under the 8.10 version of the operating system, some selected, high-quality streamed BBC content will be available free of charge to Ubuntu users through the built-in Totem Movie Player and Rhythmbox applications.

The server version of the operating system includes the following new features:

  • Virtual Machine Builder, which allows virtual machines to be quickly built from the command line. The new tool "provides a key component to a dynamic provisioning process for businesses using virtualization environments," according to Ubuntu.
  • A complete Java stack, with Apache Tomcat 6.0 and OpenJDK fully supported for developing and deploying Java applications.
  • Improved RAID support for SATA software RAID controllers via dmraid.
  • Encrypted private directories that can keep sensitive data secure even if a system is stolen.

Jane Silber, chief operating officer and head of online services at London-based Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, said the new features for both versions add usability and flexibility for desktop and corporate users.

"The availability of content from the BBC is significant," she said of the new desktop version. "The BBC recognizes how much mainstream adoption of Ubuntu and Linux there is."

Ubuntu users who want to access BBC content will be able to view it using the Totem player, and not have to view it on the BBC Web site using a browser, she said.

"I think it's a signal, a sign of breaking service providers and content out of the browser," Silber said. "If users are able to access content like this in the application and tools they are most used to using, then we think it's significant."

The addition of the full Java stack to the server edition is a boon for many enterprise users, she said.

"We've had pieces of it before, but not the complete stack," she said. "The thing that's different this time is that we are including both OpenJDK and Tomcat."

"Ubuntu 8.10 Server Edition is a terrific milestone that underlines the value in our twin track release strategy," Silber said in a statement. "The server edition embraces cloud computing, virtualization, mail server enhancements, Java development and deployment, as well as a range of services to help system administrators and developers."

Both versions will be available for free download at Ubuntu's Web site.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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