New Ubuntu version hits today!

If it's April, it must be time for a new version of the Ubuntu operating system; a great, free, easy-to-use, highly polished version of GNU/Linux. Ubuntu does two releases a year — October and April — and the new release, Raring Ringtail (AKA 13.04) is a consolidation release that adds a lot more polish, performance and stability to the system. I'm happy about this: Ubuntu has been slowly transitioning to Unity, a new graphical interface over some years, and while I've come to really like Unity's featureset, I've also been noticing that it's getting a bit creaky under the hood. A stability and performance release is very welcome.

Ubuntu is my operating system of choice, and has been since 2006 or so. I run it on rock-solid, amazing, lightweight and fast ThinkPad laptops (currently the X230) and I find it to be exactly what I need from an OS: fast, easy, easy-to-maintain, and super stable. Switching to Ubuntu (which runs on pretty much any computer) was a little like remodeling the kitchen: for a couple weeks I kept looking in the wrong place for the menuitem I was seeking (just like I kept looking in the wrong place for the cutlery drawer), then, one day, everything was where I expected it. I don't even notice my OS anymore, in the same way that I don't notice my doorknobs or coathooks anymore. It just works.

And when something goes wrong, it goes wrong very well. I spilled a cup of coffee into my last laptop, an X220, while on tour in February, just as I was leaving my DC hotel for a plane to Boston. I rushed straight to a Micro Center in Cambridge — where I met not one, but two knowledgeable, helpful and skilled sales clerks! Seriously! — and bought the X230 I'm working on right now. I then commandeered a pallet of blank CDRs as a worksurface, removed the single screw that holds the drive, and smacked it into the new laptop and pressed the power button. Ubuntu figured out that it was in an all new computer, churned for about 30 seconds, and has worked great ever since.

Now I fear that I've got a problem with my hard-drive (a big SDD that threw a couple rare and suspicious crashes last week during big file-writes) so I'm about to switch to a new drive that should be arriving in the post today. All I need to do to effect this drive-swap is pop the drive in the machine, install Ubuntu on it (it's free to download and you can easily make a bootable USB-stick installer), and feed it a tiny text-file listing all the apps ("packages") I've used Ubuntu to install. It will auto-download the right apps for the new version of the OS, auto-configure them, and auto-install them. Then I copy over my user data and bamf, it's ready to rock. No re-keying serial numbers. No searching out the original install disks. No worrying about whether I have the right version for this OS.

I love living in Linuxland. The operating systems are so boringly useful and undramatic. They work great, and fail better.

Ubuntu 13.04 available Thursday, brings a streamlined footprint to the forefront