Ubuntu is an increasingly popular version of Linux today, and it seems easier for new users to sink their teeth into this free operating system with each new release. The latest was made available for download last Thursday (www.ubuntu.com).

One of new features of the latest version, Ubuntu 9.10, which might appeal to an average user, is the ease with which the software can be added and removed. Some users might have found this process difficult about Linux distributions generally. Ubuntu has been making improvements on this front over the years.

Various options

Still, with the previous version, one had different options for adding and removing software like the ‘Add/Remove Applications’ feature and the ‘Synaptic Package Manager.’ Removing already installed software and handling certain types of packages also meant the use of different options.

The latest version, Karmic Koala, comes with the new Ubuntu Software Center, which makes software handling a breeze. Users without any knowledge of software installation in Linux — those who do not know what a repository or package is all about or what’s special about a .deb file — should find the going easy. All they need to do is navigate through the lists of software packages available and select and install these with a click or two (users need to be connected to the Internet to download the packages). And what await them are lists of hundreds of free software programmes in a number of categories.

It is this focus on the ease-of-use factor that has contributed to Ubuntu’s popularity. Prakash Advani, partner manager, Central Asia at Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, said a survey conducted last year revealed that India accounted for the largest number of Ubuntu server users among the various countries surveyed. This trend should be valid for the desktop version too, he explained, when The Hindu asked him about the number of Ubuntu users India had.

Those who download Ubuntu need to know how to burn the downloaded ‘image’ file on to a CD or DVD. Once this is done, the operating system can be tried out without an installation on the computer’s hard drive. But if the installation option is chosen, basic precautions like backing up key files have to be taken.

Ubuntu comes packaged with the software that is needed for most everyday computer tasks and more. For instance, the operating system comes pre-loaded with the free OpenOffice suite, which means the user has the programmes needed for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The default browser is Firefox. For handling email it offers Evolution, which also has a calendar integrated into it. Again, it comes with various options for playing music and video, but for licensing reasons additional downloads may be involved to get these working with different kinds of media.

“Generally it works with all hardware, especially lower end hardware; drivers for just about all peripherals are available on the installation DVD/CD. As it relies on the free software platform, there is no threat of action for copying and distributing the DVD/CDs,” said Jay Jacob, founder-member, Indian Libre Users Group, Kochi Chapter.

More In: Technology | Sci-Tech