Canonical released its the Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail” Linux distribution earlier this week. The updated operating system incorporates a new Linux kernel, newer pre-installed applications, and a tweaked Unity desktop environment. Enterprise and server users also have updated server software stacks to look forward to, including the latest juju and OpenStack (Grizzly) releases.
Ubuntu 13.04 continues in the direction of convergence set in motion by Canonical and its founder Mark Shuttleworth. It is the first step towards Ubuntu running on many types of devices (including mobile) as it includes an updated Unity interface. The 13.04 release still uses the X window system, but Canonical has made tweaks to Unity and is offering up an optional download of the new Mir display backend that users can install. Mir is the display server that Ubuntu will be switching to with its next LTS release and that will reportedly enable a cross-platform Ubuntu/Unity experience. The Unity tweaks include disabling Workspaces and the “show desktop” button on the desktop (though they can be re-enabled in settings). There have also been tweaks to Ubuntu’s Dash UI, including a typo-tolerant search function and new result sorting options. It will not be until the next release that users will really start to see Ubuntu’s plans of convergence come together (heh), but even with the small changes present in 13.04, the traditional desktop OS is making considerations for mobile devices.
While the visual changes are minimal on Ubuntu 13.04 compared to 12.10, the new release does update a lot of the underlying software.At least on the outside, Ubuntu 13.04 has not changed much from its 12.10 predecessor. Ubuntu 13.04 is based on the upstream 3.8.8 Linux kernel, and incorporates a number of updates to the pre-installed applications and core software. The updates include Unity 7, LibreOffice 4, and Python 3.3 (future versions of Ubuntu will remove Python 2 completely, though it will still be available as a downloadable package). Gwibber has also been replaced with a new service called “Friends” that takes all of your social networking accounts and combines them under your Ubuntu Online account.
Additionally, Ubuntu 13.04 also no longer includes the Wubi installer, which allowed users to install Ubuntu as a program within Windows and got around the need to mess with partitioning. Although there was a bit of overhead in doing the install this way, it was noticeably easier for new users than other methods. Canonical suggests that users interested in trying out the new operating system should simply use the live media, but installing it in a VM such as VirtualBox or VMWare may be more appropriate as some of the functionality is missing from the Live DVD environment in my experience (at least if you also want to try out functionality or other Linux software that would require a restart). Canonical has also cut the support time in half for Ubuntu 13.04 (and all future interim releases) from 18 months to 9 months. Hopefully the development team puts the reduced support workload to good use by investing the time in quick and stable releases.
So far, Ubuntu 13.04 has been getting positive reviews, though some users have run into issues running the operating system on their particular hardware (a bit of instability is expected with a new release, however).
If you are interested in Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail,” you can read more about the changes in the official release notes and grab a download of the OS from the Ubuntu website or the updater if you are currently running Ubuntu 12.10.