Ubuntu 19.04 Makes Linux a Snap
Canonical announced the release of the open-source Ubuntu 19.04 Linux distribution on April 18, with new versions for cloud, server and desktop users.
The Ubuntu 19.04 update is code-named the "Disco Dingo" and is a standard release, which means Canonical will support it for nine months. The 19.04 update is largely an evolutionary step forward, extending features that Ubuntu has been building on for the last several releases. Among the most noteworthy aspects of Ubuntu 19.04's evolutionary path is the use of "snaps," an approach for packaging, delivering and updating software in a highly agile manner.
In a video interview with eWEEK, Ubuntu and Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth outlines the growing importance of snaps in the Ubuntu 19.04 update.
Ubuntu 19.04 is the first major milestone update for Ubuntu in 2019 and follows the 18.10 "Cosmic Cuttlefish" update that was released in October 2018.
According to Canonical, more than 2,000 software publishers now distribute applications as snaps, which is a 30% increase over October 2018.
"For me, what's really exciting about snaps is they are essentially a binary interface to GitHub," Shuttleworth said.
GitHub is a widely used site where developers build and publish source code, often at a rapid pace. Shuttleworth said that snaps provide a way to deliver source code that is built on GitHub to users in a binary, executable form, at a speed that can keep up with what GitHub produces.
Another key innovation that snaps provide is the ability for a full Linux distribution, like Ubuntu 19.04, to rapidly iterate and update certain software dependencies. In the non-snaps model, it's often very difficult to update certain software libraries after a release has shipped, according to Shuttleworth. With a snap, a software developer can simultaneously publish multiple versions that can be made available for different versions of Ubuntu and even other Linux distributions. Shuttleworth explained that snaps also make it easier for users to choose which version or release train of a given software application that they want to use.
"With each version of Ubuntu, we are making it easier to build and publish snaps, and they are more deeply integrated into the system, so that more core functionality of the platform can be expressed as a snap," Shuttleworth said.
On the desktop, the Ubuntu 19.04 release uses the GNOME 3.32 desktop environment, which provides smoother animation capabilities, higher frame rates and faster icon load times, among other enhancements.
Ubuntu 19.04 is the third milestone release to use GNOME after the Linux distribution shifted away from its own Unity desktop. Ubuntu 18.04—which was code-named the "Bionic Beaver" and is a Long Term Support (LTS) release, meaning it will be supported for five years—was the first to get the GNOME desktop in April 2018. With 19.04, some elements of the Unity workflow are making their way back into how Ubuntu implement GNOME.
"Our community is used to Unity, so they like that workflow, I wouldn't describe it as more elegant than vanilla GNOME, but there is a lot of demand for that set of experiences," Shuttleworth said. "19.04 does reintroduce some of those ways of working for people who like it that way."
Watch the full video interview with Shuttleworth above.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.