Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 5 released

February 25, 2008 // 3:59 p.m.

Tags: #alpha #hardy-heron #ubuntu

The latest alpha release of Ubuntu Linux, 8.04 “Hardy Heron”, was made available for download this weekend and it's looking mighty fine.

This latest alpha – version 5 – comes ahead of the official release of the new version of the popular desktop Linux distribution due in April this year, and has some luscious new features.

In the background, the new build has switched to the latest 2.6.24 Linux kernel for improved compatibility with newer hardware and now ships with Xorg 7.3 to drive the GUI, promising better autoconfiguration with a simpler configuration file. The audio system has been switched to PulseAudio which offers the user the ability to perform advanced operations on the audio output of any application that is configured to use PulseAudio as an output.

Things have had a shakeup on the desktop side of things, too. The web browser has been updated to Firefox 3 Beta 3, presumably demonstrating a plan to include the finished version of Firefox 3 with Ubuntu 8.04. The old Gnome BitTorrent client has been ditched, too – file sharers will now be treated to the rather more up-to-date Transmission client. Additionally, CD/DVD burning has been switched to Brasero for a more polished interface.

Remote desktop users will be pleased to see the rather simplistic xvnc4viewer switched out for Vinagre – an advanced VNC viewer which includes the ability to connect to multiple machines from a single instance and has the ability to auto-discover available VNC servers on connected networks.

Performance enhancements have been added to this latest version of the OS, with GVFS replacing GnomeVFS as the filesystem abstraction layer. This new virtual filesystem driver promises a significant boost to the speed of file access from all drives, no matter what the host format.

Perhaps the most important change for users wanting to make the move from Microsoft Windows comes in the integration with Wubi: the Live CD now allows you to install Ubuntu within Windows without any partitioning or potential risk to your host operating system. Aimed at users who want to experiment with desktop Linux but need better performance when trialling things out than is available from a live CD boot, the Wubi installer allows Ubuntu to run as a virtualised OS within Windows without any technical jiggery-pokery on your part.

Things aren't all plain sailing with this latest build, however – hey, it is an alpha release. Known issues with 8.04 Alpha 5 include an inability to access certain models of CD-ROM drive, graphical issues with older ATi Radeon graphics cards, the Network Places menu item failing due to the switch to GVFS (fix coming soon, apparently), a broken Firefox icon on the desktop, and no printing from within Firefox. Oh, and 64-bit users might want to steer clear of the Wubi installer – or at least plump for the 32-bit version for now.

Still, if you can't wait until April for the finished release a few bugs are a small price to pay for a sneak-peak at the future of the popular desktop Linux OS.

Tempted to try an in-Windows install via Wubi to see how the other half live, or do you try to steer clear of alpha versions of critical programs like operating systems? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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