Ubuntu Users Looking a Bit Jaunty Today

It's that time again, ladies and gents — time for the biannual release of a new Ubuntu version. This time it's the Jaunty Jackalope, officially Ubuntu 9.04, rolling off the line, and bringing with it a fresh new set of features users have been longing for.

Prime among the features being touted by the Ubuntu camp are improvements in speed, perhaps rather fitting for a release named for the jackalope. Boot speed is reportedly greatly improved, as low as twenty-five seconds in some cases. Hibernation and suspend/resume have been enhanced, including immediate availability post-hibernation. Those we spoke to noted an impressive improvement in boot speed, significant even for virtual machines, as well as dramatic speed improvements in finding and connecting to wireless networks.

Of course, the release incorporates the latest GNOME release, 2.26, which itself incorporates features including: a new disc burning application dubbed Brasero; improvements to the Empathy messenger client, which include enhanced VOIP support; better support for multiple monitors; integration of the volume control tool with PulseAudio; as well as improvements to Evolution, Epiphany, and file sharing. Not to forget that it all rests on the X.Org 1.6 server, likewise the latest release from that project. X.Org 1.6 promises free drivers for many video cards, as well as 2D/3D support for a range of ATI cards.

A new notification system has drawn quite a bit of attention, combining the various notification systems used by applications into one cohesive system, eliminating the mess of notification windows that the current system can become. Notifications are presented in a "simple, unobtrusive manner," and also included is a menu to set preferences for notification icons. Speaking of icons, there is new artwork and new icons for 9.04, though the much-and-ever-so-highly-vocally-bemoaned Human theme remains — yes, that's the brown.

The ext4 filesystem has been added for the 9.04 release, though the ext3 filesystem remains the default — developers say ext4 will be considered for the next release based on community feedback. The release also incorporates the 2.6.28 kernel, on which the 2.6.28-11.37 kernel used by 9.04 is based. Also, the apt package management system will now install all recommended packages when installing an application, in accordance with Debian policy. This change was introduced in Ubuntu 8.10, and continues in 9.04 — those updating from versions prior to 8.10 or installing for the first time may not be aware of this behavior. A full list of features and improvements is available in the Ubuntu 9.04 Technical Overview.

Potential issues with installation include a bug which causes incorrect information to be displayed when both the "Install them side by side" and "Use the largest continuous free space" options are selected. The display showing the disk's appearance after installation is inaccurate, but Ubuntu will be installed correctly. Additionally, if the automatic partitioner allocates a swap partition that is smaller than the amount of available RAM, the system may be unable to enter hibernation. Those intending to use the hibernate feature should ensure the swap partition is of appropriate size.

Those upgrading to 9.04 may face a number of issues as well. Users with D945 motherboards from Intel may experience timeouts leading to a "Gave up waiting for root device" error on boot and leaving the user at a shell prompt — slower-than-normal detection of SATA drives is responsible and a fix is available. Upgrading from either of the 9.04 alpha releases, or the beta release, may result in /etc/fstab utilizing LABEL= rather than the preferred UUID= syntax — as this could cause unexpected results should a filesystem with the same labels be introduced, developers recommend correcting to the preferred syntax.

Also affecting pre-RC versions of 9.04 is a Python bug which results in an import error, while eCryptfs users upgrading from alpha versions of 9.04 are being advised to re-encrypt any encrypted files due to an upstream kernel bug. Wacom tablets — which will now hotplug without the need for xorg.conf modifications — may also experience X server crashes if xorg.conf still contains manual entries for the device. Speaking of X.org, the default logout behavior of ctrl-alt-backspace has been disabled by default in 9.04 — it can be re-enabled either through xorg.conf or the dontzap --disable command.

A few networking-related issues may be encountered in Ubuntu 9.04. Users who in the past have required a kernel module option may find wireless completely nonfunctional due to the CRDA wireless regulatory framework enabled in 9.04 — removing the module option and utilizing the iw reg command should resolve the issue. Also, Kubuntu's Network Management is unable to connect to WPA2 and certain VPNs — switching to knetworkmanager or network-manager-gnome is suggested.

Ubuntu 9.04 users will also discover that update notifications have changed — rather than displaying an icon, as in the past, 9.04 updates will be announced by the update manager launching directly. Also, while security-related updates will continue with daily notifications, other updates will only prompt on a weekly basis. A number of additional issues have been identified and can be viewed in the full Ubuntu 9.04 release notes.

Overall, it would appear that despite some potential pitfalls and the usual long wait to download, Ubuntu 9.04 has lived up to its promised impressiveness. All that remains is to get down to using — and, of course, to developing 9.10.

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