Canonical has made available the Release Candidate of its latest Linux-based operating system, Ubuntu 9.10, on the same day Microsoft launched the long-awaited Windows 7.
The upcoming Canonical release, which is code-named Karmic Koala, is the latest version of the popular flavour of the Linux OS. The development release on Thursday pushed the OS one step closer to final release, which is due on 29 October, according to the company's release schedule web page.
An image of the OS is available for download on Ubuntu's website. Test versions of Karmic Koala RC available for download include the server, desktop and netbook versions. The desktop version can also be installed on standard laptops. In testing by IDG News Service, attempts to download the installation file stalled, possibly because of traffic to the server.
Linux could be making headway against Windows in netbooks, which are low-cost mobile devices designed for those who rely on the web for computing. Canonical has seen some traction in the netbook market, with companies such as Dell offering devices with a customised version of the netbook OS, which is called Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Ubuntu is also competing in the standard PC space with Microsoft's Windows, which goes on more than 90 percent of computers worldwide.
Beyond Microsoft, Canonical has to battle other Linux distributions such as Intel's Moblin, which is vying for a place in netbooks and PCs, and Google's Chrome OS, a netbook OS due for release in the second half of 2010. Many PC makers plan to test Chrome OS with their systems.
Ubuntu 9.10 RC is an upgrade from the previous version, Ubuntu 9.04, which carried the code name Jaunty Jackalope. Built on the latest Linux 126.96.36.199 kernel, Ubuntu 9.10 offers faster boot times, an improved user interface and programming tools for easier software development, according to Canonical.
The company is offering different versions of the OS with a variety of graphical desktop environments. The environments integrate everyday applications including instant-messaging software, web browser, document viewers and multimedia software.
Canonical is offering versions of the OS with a variety of desktop environments, including Gnome, KDE and XFCE. These environments, built on top of the Linux kernel, have unique graphical user interfaces and integrated software.
Karmic Koala includes a new "Ubuntu Software Center" from which users can easily add or remove programs, similar to a feature available in Windows. It improves on an earlier feature for adding and removing programs. The OS also fixes many bugs from previous Ubuntu editions and builds in driver support for more hardware.
Canonical is also offering its online storage and file-sharing service, called Ubuntu One, by default in Ubuntu 9.10. Users can back up, share or sync data with others through the Ubuntu One website. The service gives 2GB of online storage free to Ubuntu users, with an additional 50GB costing US$10 a month.
Earlier development of Ubuntu 9.10 releases -- including the most recent beta edition -- have received mixed reviews on the web. Some cautioned users to wait until beta testers work out the kinks before installing the OS. Some complained of applications not working, while other disagreed with user interface changes. But some were thrilled by the OS improvements.
"What I have is a remarkably fast and powerful machine built using some inexpensive software and hardware," wrote a poster going by the name of Liberty in response to a blog entry. Using a test release of Karmic Koala, the poster said setting up an Internet connection on an Intel dual-core Atom system was a breeze. Networking an all-in-one printer was a "piece of cake," Liberty wrote.