Feeds

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS: Like it or not, this Linux grows on you

Happiness is HUD+Unity

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Review Ubuntu 12.04, the fourth major Long Term Support (LTS) release for Ubuntu, is serious stuff. LTS editions of Ubuntu are delivered every two years and have extended support from Canonical. They also set the look of the coming years' releases. And this LTS, codenamed Precise Pangolin, has had its support extended from three to five years by Canonical.

Why does all this matter? Because Ubuntu 12.04 will be the first time many of Ubuntu's more conservative customers – especially those in business – will face the controversial Unity interface that replaced the conventional GNOME. It re-oriented the interface for more touch and introduced a more 3D look and feel.

Also in the PC edition of this LTS is HUD: Head Up Display. The idea of the HUD interface is to dispense with the tried-and-tested drop-down menus setup, and instead to allow users to access features and invoke commands using search and natural-language autocomplete.

ubuntu_hud_gimp

HUD, HUD, HUD: Ubuntu's menu of the future in 12.04 LTS

Canonical has also introduced a "remix" dubbed Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix. Business Remix is aimed squarely at the corporate market and strips out features such as the Rhythmbox music player and the various games, all normally included in a standard Ubuntu package. Instead, Business Remix users will get VMWare View (which means there's an EULA), OpenJDK 6 and other business workflow software.

Naturally, the Business Remix isn't meant for the everyday Ubuntu user. And when he announced the remix, Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth was careful to say that Ubuntu isn't creating its own version of the RHEL/Fedora arrangement. Instead he emphasised that the Business Remix was just another example of Canonical doing more for its actual customers, presumably without also harming the community of users around it.

The emphasis on long-term stability, business-oriented remixes and corporate users doesn't mean there isn't anything new and interesting in Ubuntu 12.04 or that all the new features target the suits. Rank-and-file Ubuntu users itching for some more Unity pop do also have HUD, too.

Canonical calls HUD the "menu of the future". How does it rate?

Unlike the Unity interface, which, despite improving with every release, still doesn't quite feel as powerful as the GNOME 2.x interface that it replaced, the HUD is immediately useful and works just the way you'd expect it to. HUD is especially helpful in applications with menu items that go several layers deep, for instance, GIMP. Instead of mousing to the Filters menu, then selecting Sharpen, and then selecting Unsharp Mask, you can simply hit the alt key and type "uns" and the top hit is Unsharp Mask. Just hit return and the item opens.

HUD's the best

Of course GIMP is an app that lends itself to the mouse so switching to the keyboard to use the HUD isn't always faster. Where the HUD might really shine is in text-oriented apps like various parts of the LibreOffice suite. Sadly, as of Ubuntu 12.04, the HUD doesn't yet work with LibreOffice, though you might think it does. It's somewhat confusing because the HUD is a global menu. Hit alt anywhere in Ubuntu 12.04 and the menu will pop up and you can indeed search. However, you'll never see any results for LibreOffice menu items.

Despite that interface quirk – which will be less of a problem when there's more supported applications – HUD may well be the best part of Ubuntu 12.04 and the best idea to come out of Canonical's effort to rethink the user interface. Not only is it useful today, the HUD helps make Unity feel more (wait for it) unified. It moves searching to the top tier since it is no longer just something you do in the Unity Dashboard, but rather the go-to way to find anything on your PC.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Google opens Inbox – email for people too stupid to use email
Print this article out and give it to someone techy if you get stuck
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.