Monday, January 08, 2007

Ubuntu: Headed in the Right Direction

Nothing like good news to ring in the new year. Someone on Digg recently noticed that there's a new meta-package in Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn, that allows users to easily install Macromedia Flash, Sun's Java, MP3 playback support in GStreamer apps (eg. Banshee, Rhythmbox), and Microsoft's core TrueType fonts. There's probably a few other big multimedia codecs that I'm missing that are enabled by this as well.

That's a nifty chunk of the common customizations that Ubuntu users perform, hopefully making the distribution that much easier to use. (Although, hopefully there'll be an obvious way for a new user to install this meta-package, without a priori knowledge.)

I've been noticeably lacking on the Ubuntu news lately, and it's certainly not for a lack of news. Ubuntu's made several steps in the right direction towards making the OS more and more usable:

  • Let's start off with the common customizations that are already in the works. These types of tweaks have the potential to made EasyUbuntu and Automatix a thing of the past.
  • Among those common customizations, a big one is enabling the "universe" and "multiverse" repositories by default. This feature will almost definitely make it into Feisty, if it isn't already. Enabling these repositories by default unlocks a huge amount of software to new users, without them having to mess around with the "Software Sources" interface. (Again, prior knowledge is currently needed.)
  • Feisty Fawn will now use hardware acceleration for it's X server out-of-the-box. This will allow Feisty to run Compiz or Beryl out-of-the-box too. However, the biggest boon for users will be the fact that the official NVIDIA and ATI drivers that enable this acceleration will be installed by default. This saves new users from scrambling to figure out why their beloved OpenGL games all run so slowly.
  • Lastly, the Ubuntu developers are now acknowledging the importance of a so called "bullet proof X server". This means not only providing a useful fall-back for when the X server dies, but also giving the user an easy to use interface for fixing their X server.

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