New Ubuntu Linux release is easy, sexy

Wired's got a good, non-geek-friendly review of the latest version of Ubuntu Linux, Gutsy Gibbon, which ships today. Ubuntu is the Linux for the rest of us, an operating system packaged for maximum enjoyment with minimum tweaking under the hood. I've been a full-time Ubuntu user for over a year now (and yes, I know that means I'm REALLY late delivering my big Switching to Ubuntu post, life got busy), and I could not be happier — so much so that I just gave my last Powerbook (which I hadn't switched on in six months) away to a friend who needed a laptop, which means I no longer have anything except Linux machines in my office.

Gutsy carries a number of really smart looking enhancements that address my biggest pain-points with Ubuntu — primarily the difficulty of configuring multiple displays and printing PDFs. I'm still eagerly awaiting a connection-sharing tool that's as elegant as the one in OS X, but apart from that, Gutsy's looking like a great upgrade.

I'm holding off for a couple of days, though. I bought my last Ubuntu machine, a Lenovo ThinkPad X60 tablet, from Emperor Linux, who charge a small premium for selling pre-installed, supported Ubuntu machines, and they advise me that they're rolling up some changes that will let the Gutsy graphics stuff Just Work with the tablet functionality.

Other notable changes in Ubuntu 7.10 are the latest GNOME Desktop, which provides much improved drag-and-drop support to the user interface, and Compiz, the whiz-bang 3-D desktop effects package, which is enabled by default.

Ubuntu and the GNOME Desktop team have put considerable effort into improving the user experience for accessing many of Linux's under-the-hood options. A new graphical interface makes it much easier to make adjustments to monitor settings and set up a dual-monitor workstation — both of which previously required using the command line.

Beyond these key enhancements, Gutsy Gibbon incorporates some of Mac OS X's most useful desktop traits to improve the user experience. New to this release is fast user-switching, a mimic of the same feature in OS X for switching between user accounts without logging out. Another nod to Apple is the improved Spotlight-like applet designed to search the hard drive and act as an application launcher. Printing has also been overhauled, and each print dialog now features a default virtual "PDF printer" which allows any application to output PDF files, something Mac OS X users will recognize.