Ubuntu 8.04 is scheduled to be released April 2008, and the blueprint proposals will give a pretty accurate indication of where the distribution is headed. So below is the short version of what I see as note-worthy:
- Virtualization support. While VMWare, and Virtual Box (and I suppose Parallels) are current options, nothing is provided out-of-the-box (OOTB). At that, Virtual Box seems to be the only virtualization software that is painless to install and get running. There will be a push for KVM integration, and hopefully lightning fast, painless to install virtual machines as a result. I am not holding my breath…
- Windows domain support. Joining to a Windows domain has been an option in Linux for years, but because of the complexity of the process, few people ever do. This is one of my most missed features from the OpenSuSE distribution when I use Ubuntu. I will mention the Identity Management spec in combination with this because both aim for the same result (and will actually overlap in areas) . This is an attempt to integrate personal information from existing systems into programs. In other words, you shouldn’t have to tell Evolution, Pidgin, Ubuntu, games, etc all what your name is. You can just join to a domain, and discovery of such information is all automagic.
- Ubiquity installer improvements. Ubiquity is the live-CD installation program that allows users to install Ubuntu with a minimum of fuss. Its problem is that it doesn’t work that well. Massive stability improvements are coming, so hopefully I won’t have any more of that pre-diarrhea feeling when the partition editor stops responding in the middle of setting up the master boot record.
- Reduction in duplicate software. F-Spot, Eye of Gnome, and Gthumb all ship with Ubuntu by default. This is just the poster child for application confusion – there are many other similar cases. The idea is that by reducing the amount of application overlap, the easier usage and maintenance will become.
- Compiz improvements. Since Compiz has been known *on occasion* to perhaps crash, there will be a strong push for features such as hotplugging of displays, screen-rotations and resolution-changes to not result in a crash. Also, there will be continued integration into the desktop for a transparent WM.
- Theme redesign. I could care less about the window border theme, icon theme, or the desktop background. This specification includes these things, but much more as well. From the blueprint:
The biggest problem for new users is a near complete lack of name recognition.
Amarok plays music? F-Spot manages photos? GIMP edits them? If you say so.
There will also be a push for a more unified boot process, with the GRUB manager, splash screen, Gnome login screen, and desktop all looking nearly identical. OpenSuSE again is a great example of what a difference this makes.
- “About this Computer”. Have you used the Gnome device manager? Yeah, its kinda like reading a stack trace when an application misbehaves. This spec will introduce a summary of useful information to the user.
- Better hardware detection. This goes without saying in every release, but significant changes are scheduled to make this happen. udev, xorg, and power management sub-systems will be reconfigured to allow for more durable device detection and configuration.
- Prefetch. The results of a Google Summer of Code 2007 project, prefetch aims at replacing older systems such as readahead to address some limitations. This should result in a significant speed in booting an general performance.
- Power Management improvements. Does your Ubuntu computer suspend and resume? Pm-utils holds the most promise for making the answer to this question a ubiquitous “yes”. OpenSuSE has integrated this process to replace the aging acpi scripts directory. I personally submitted the Latitude D830 profile, so rejoice.