It's not that different to the previous version, but the cloud integration is neat and Ubuntu remains a viable alternative to Windows.
With the latest version of Ubuntu, 10.10, Canonical is focussing on making Linux operate better within the cloud and make it a more appealing platform for consumers and developers with the introduction of paid-for apps. It has also completely revamped its Netbook Edition, which we’ve reviewed by itself.
If you’ve used any of the recent versions of Ubuntu, there’s not that much different, on a first glance with 10.10. Minor upgrades have been made to the installation, so that the software can now download updates as it installs. This should help improve hardware compatibility and make sure that you don’t have to perform a massive update once the OS has installed. It’s pretty successful and our desktop PC (Core 2 Quad Q6700, 3GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 9800 graphics) was working flawlessly by the completion of the installation.
Although the desktop wallpaper has been updated, the user interface on the Desktop Edition remains very similar to previous versions of Ubuntu. A Taskbar at the bottom lets you switch between applications and Workspaces (virtual desktops), while the Menu bar at the top gives you quick access to Applications, Places and System settings. You can also put your favourite shortcuts at the top, so that you can quick-launch apps.
The main addition to this version of Ubuntu is the default inclusion of the Ubuntu One cloud service. This tool comes with 2GB of free online storage, but you can add 20GB more storage for $2.99 (around £1.90) a month, or $30 (around £19) a year.
Ubuntu One isn’t just simple online storage, though. It’s designed so that you can synchronise your data with the cloud, giving you online backup and access to it from everywhere in a similar way to Microsoft’s Windows Live Mesh. Using the Nautilus file manager, you can select any folder for automatic synchronisation with the cloud. A Windows version of the software is also available, so you can share documents automatically with your Microsoft-based desktop.
The automatic synchronisation is a great way to protect your important files. Should you need to, you can also access files directly from the website, and even upload new ones. Dropbox is the closest program currently available, although it has wider support with versions for Android, iPhone, Mac, Windows and Linux. However, without automatic folder synchronisation (you have to copy files to a set folder), it won’t automatically protect your documents. As such, Dropbox probably has a place alongside Ubuntu One for copying ad-hoc files between multiple systems.
Using the Ubuntu One preferences panel, you can also synchronise your contacts and Firefox bookmarks, too. There are also free Android and iPhone apps that synchronise contacts from your mobile to the cloud. That said, these phones will already synchronise your contacts with a Gmail account, which you can use in Ubuntu, so you may not need this feature.