The new version of the world's most popular free (and open-source) PC operating system, Ubuntu, is now available as a free download from Ubuntu.com. Ubuntu 13.04 "Raring Ringtail" largely contains under-the-hood improvements that most people won't notice, but does contain a few new user-facing features ... such as a more visible notice about how its Unity search feature logs your keystrokes and sends them to websites like Amazon.
What's in a name?
You have to dig to find the link buried in ubuntu.com's footer, but its "About Ubuntu" page explains that the Ubuntu name comes from "an ancient African word meaning "humanity to others." Ubuntu uses a large amount of volunteer labor, as people around the world work unpaid to improve what Canonical -- the startup founded by Ubuntu's "Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life," billionaire Mark Shuttleworth -- provides commercial support and services for.
Raring Ringtail continues a tradition of "alphabet animal" themed names, and 13.04 means that it is the April 2013 release. A new version of Ubuntu is released every six months.
Throwing away goodwill
Ubuntu 13.04 is remarkable for having been released at all. Earlier this year there was a contentious debate in which Canonical proposed abandoning the half-yearly release schedule altogether. It also announced that it had been spending the last few months creating a replacement for a vital graphics software component, one on which volunteers had been working during that time without knowing that it'd be replaced.
Shuttleworth took to his blog to criticize the "unwarranted melodrama" of volunteers expressing their hurt feelings on their own blogs. Several long-time members of the Ubuntu volunteer community announced publicly that they were leaving it.
What about new features?
The search built into the Unity Dash -- basically equivalent to a Windows PC's Start menu search or a Mac's Spotlight search -- now searches more websites, including the BBC's. There is also now a notice in the search field that it searches websites and not just your computer, and a legal disclaimer that explains that Ubuntu allows Canonical and third-party companies to log your search keystrokes. These were not included when the feature debuted, at which time it also allowed people to accidentally search for underwear sales and pornography.
Joey Elijah-Sneddon of the popular OMG! Ubuntu! enthusiast blog has put together a video explaining Ubuntu 13.04's other new features.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics