Feeds

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

Happiness is HUD+Unity

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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.

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.