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Ubuntu 8.10 - All Hail new Network Manager

The good kind of UI theft

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The 'dark' theme

Other changes in 8.10 include a refined installer which offers some nice new graphics to show your drive space and setup. There's also a new option to turn on the automatic login features. It doesn't really square with the increased emphasis on security like the file encryption features, but if you like to bypass the login screen on startup, it no longer requires a trip to the login preferences.

At first glance, Ubuntu's theme appears unchanged, but there are in fact some subtle and very Mac OS X-like UI additions. To see Mac OS X's influence, you need look no further than the new eject buttons for plugged in drives and devices or the new live user switching menu which is now in the exact same place as its Mac equivalent. The shutdown/hibernate menu has also been redone to look a bit more professional, though in that case it actually looks less like the Mac version.

Of course, none of this should come as a huge surprise given that Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has publicly said one of the distro's goals is to mirror the UI design of Mac OS X. Lest you get the idea that Ubuntu is shamelessly stealing from Apple, it's worth pointing out that, while the placement and utility is Apple-esque, the look remains wholly unique to Ubuntu. And that's the good kind of UI theft - take what works and make it your own.

Ubuntu Dark Theme (small)

Ubuntu 8.10 'dark' theme (Click to enlarge)

Speaking of looks, Ubuntu has a new and ever-controversial "dark" theme available. Although by default your Ubuntu theme will look pretty much the same as recent releases, if you head into the themes panel, you can easily enable the new dark theme. This happens to fit well with the grunge-inspired desktop image in this version (which, yes, has the faint outline of an Ibex, though to our eyes it resembles a coffee stain more than anything else).

Overall, this is a strong update for Ubuntu, and as with all Ubuntu releases, there's a new version of Kubuntu and other derivatives as well.

The slew of upgraded apps and packages always makes new releases tempting, but for us it was NetworkManager and GNOME's tabbed browser windows that sealed the deal. Of course, if you're affected by the nVidia issues or hate the thought of losing the X.org config files, you might want to hold off on upgrading. Otherwise, grab your copy while it's hot. ®

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