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Ubuntu 10.10: date with destiny missed

Cosmetic polish ignores partition pain

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Purists beware

Free software purists may decry the move, but Canonical clearly doesn't care and is ultimately more interested in a free desktop that allows the users to install any kind of software applications they'd like than it is in satisfying the militantly free crowd.

The new Software Center purchasing interface isn't the only thing that finally worked correctly. The online file storage and sync service Ubuntu One has been vastly improved and - for the first time since it was launched - actually worked without issue for me.

Ubuntu 10.10 sound panel

Name that tune: playing tracks now identified

And that's welcome news because Ubuntu One has some big changes coming with the release of Ubuntu 10.10 including the new Ubuntu One Mobile. Ubuntu One Mobile will handle a number of tasks, like syncing contacts to your phone, but the most interesting is the new music streaming service. Ubuntu One Mobile, which cost $3.99 USD a month (or $39.99 USD a year), will allow you to stream any music you've stored in Ubuntu One to your Android or iPhone. Applications for both platforms are still in the works (and in the iPhone's case subject to Apple's notorious approval process) but the service certainly sounds promising.

Ubuntu One has updated its pricing plans too, with a new tiered structure that allows you to add gigabytes of storage in 20GB increments for $2.99 (USD) per month or $29.99 (USD) per year.

Verison 10.10 brings the usual slew of GNOME software updates with the Evolution mail client being the most noticeably different - it's quite a bit snappier than the version that shipped with previous release. Also, Shotwell replaces F-Spot as the default photo editor. Shotwell is nearly on par with F-Spot these days, though if you're serious about photography take a look at our Linux photo apps roundup for some other choices.

Another small, but nice new feature is support for multi-touch gestures on supported trackpads. In the beta versions of Ubuntu 10.10 that meant Dell's XT2 laptop with support for Apple's Magic Trackpad to arrive later. In the version I tested, multi-touch wasn't pre-installed, though the app Utouch was available in the repos. Unfortunately, I was unable to get it working with the Apple Trackpad. If you happen to have an XT2 then the gesture support reportedly works well. If not, well, perhaps 11.04 will bring some improvements.

All of the various Ubuntu spin-offs will also see updates this weekend, including Kubuntu, which will move to KDE 4.5.1 and merges the Desktop and Netbook images into a single image that will boot into either the Plasma Desktop or Plasma Netbook workspace based on your hardware (the setting can be manually set as well).

Netbook look

The Ubuntu Netbook derivative sees the arrival of the new Unity interface, which is adapted to fit smaller netbook screens. The global menu has been redone to optimize vertical space on small screens and applications are automatically maximized by default.

Other welcome changes include a date and time indicator with a real calendar widget and a tweaked version of Evolution that actually fits on a netbook screen.

Although a regular Ubuntu install on a netbook works just fine - at least on my EeePC - the netbook edition does offer screen size advantages, and now that the Unity interface has more or less reached feature parity with its desktop sibling, there's really no reason not to use it.

Overall Ubuntu 10.10 is a worthy, if somewhat boring, update that polishes and refines some of the big changes that arrived with 10.04 earlier this year. The interface has been improved with some welcome attention to the small things, but if you're looking for major new features this release may well disappoint you. ®

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