Ubuntu Linux Has What It Takes to Challenge Windows on the Desktop
The Ubuntu 14.04 release, dubbed the "Trusty Tahr," is now available, providing users with a Linux desktop that will be supported for the next five years. The new Linux distribution comes at a very opportune time, given Microsoft's recent end of life for support on Windows XP.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions in use today and is commercially backed by Canonical. The new Ubuntu 14.04 release is what is known as a Long Term Support (LTS) release and provides users with five years of support. In contrast, the Ubuntu 13.10 release was a non-LTS update and only carried nine months of support. Canonical issues new LTS releases every two years.
Ubuntu is a great alternative to replace Windows XP, according to Rick Spencer, vice president of Ubuntu Engineering at Canonical. Spencer told eWEEK that it is Canonical's expectation that Ubuntu 13.10 users will migrate to Ubuntu 14.04 LTS to continue to receive security support and bug fixes. Ubuntu 13.10 was released in October 2013. The Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will also be a key migration target for users of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, which was released in April 2012.
"The most important features for people upgrading from 12.04 LTS is that full disk encryption is now offered as part of the default installation and that AppArmor has much improved mediation of various forms of inter-process communication," Spencer said. AppArmor, which was first included by Canonical in the Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon" release in October 2007, is a mandatory access control (MAC) open-source security technology that is integrated with Ubuntu.
Unlike Microsoft's Windows operating system, where there is typically only one desktop user interface, with Linux there are multiple choices. For Ubuntu 14.04, Spencer expects the vast majority of users will be running the Unity 7 desktop that comes with it.
"Unity 7 is mature, fast and highly usable for all types of users," Spencer said.
The new Unity desktop in Ubuntu 14.04 provides a number user-facing improvements. The Unity application launcher now has improved sizing capabilities, and application windows are now making use of anti-aliased graphics to provide a more fluid look. Users now also have the option to have application menus shown within an application window's own title bar.
Canonical is no stranger to trying to attract Windows users to the Ubuntu Linux platform. Back in 2008 with the Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Herron" LTS, Canonical introduced a technology called "Wubi," which is a Windows-based installer for Ubuntu.
With the end of life for Windows XP support, Canonical does not have any new specific, targeted programs to help Windows users move to Ubuntu.
"We believe that Ubuntu has been a great alternative to Windows for years, so our focus is on making certain that Ubuntu 14.04 LTS runs on the latest hardware, including touch screens and high DPI [dot-per-inch] displays, while still supporting legacy hardware that users might have," Spencer said. "Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is certainly a great alternative for anyone looking to replace Windows XP."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.