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What's New And What's Changed

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS: Lucid Lynx Benchmarked And Reviewed
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New Panel Indicators

One of the more gradual changes to Ubuntu over the past two years has happened to the right-hand side of the upper panel. This is known as the panel indicator area in GNOME, or the notification area in Windows. This time around, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS sports integrated access to 'broadcast accounts,' along with the familiar email client and not-so-old instant messenger. The online status tool is now completely separate from the user switcher and log out functions. It seems as though the gradual changes to this area of the upper panel have come to a head in 10.04 LTS, producing the most logical layout since before all of this functionality appeared.

Can F-Spot Replace The GIMP?

The GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP, is no longer bundled with Ubuntu. Instead, Canonical has decided that F-Spot, the default photo album, has enough basic editing tools for the average end-user. While that remains to be seen, I completely agree with the removal of the GIMP. I love the GIMP; I couldn't get by without it. But it is way too much for the casual user. Fortunately, the GIMP is still only a few clicks away via the Ubuntu Software Center.

So, the GIMP is gone, but can F-Spot fill its shoes? Doubtful. First off, F-Spot is for photo management, not image manipulation. There is a major emphasis on photos taken by the user, not images created by the user or even images found online. While you can choose to import a folder or a single file, F-Spot wants to look for attached cameras first.

F-Spot has been the default photo manager in Ubuntu for quite some time and it performs well in the role, but right now I'm concerned with F-Spot as an image editor. So, let's begin with the editing features: F-Spot can crop, remove red-eye, rotate, adjust brightness, color, and focus. The zoom is weak, and you can forget about pixel-level editing or effects. But the real killer for F-Spot as an image editor is its lack of an undo function. Didn't mean to crop that much? Tough. Do it over again.

If you only need to perform the simplest of edits to photos that you, yourself, have personally taken, F-Spot is a totally passable default app. If you need to create, or 'shop anything, download the GIMP.

Nautilus Gets Split Panes

Coming from Kubuntu 9.10 to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, I can say that the Dolphin file manager is so far superior to GNOME's Nautilus that it's almost sad. But with Lucid Lynx, Nautilus finally gets one of Dolphin's killer features, which KDE4 users have enjoyed for a few years: a split-paned file manager.

While Nautilus is still no Dolphin, at least you don't have to open several file manager windows to drag and drop files from one folder to another. To be honest, if this feature were not present, I would probably still have KDE on my personal machine. Now, if Nautilus were to get the ability to customize toolbars (a la Dolphin and Firefox), I would be much happier with GNOME in general.

Gwibber

Gwibber is arguably one of the most notable new applications to come bundled with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. This “microblogging” client brings some of the most popular social networks together in a single title. The integration of Gwibber into the indicator applet in the upper-right panel finally makes social networking a ubiquitous part of the OS, much like chat and email clients have been for years. Right now, Gwibber includes support for Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Digg, FriendFeed, Quaiku, Indenti.ca, and StatusNet.

Unlike most social networking Web sites, Gwibber is easy to use, easy to setup, and easy on the eyes. As a quick test case, I set up both my Facebook and my Twitter accounts. A slim left-hand toolbar provides functions to sort feeds by social network, sent messages, replies, private messages, and other functions more suited to the individual social networks. You can further organize how your social network feeds are viewed by opening a new stream from the file menu. This essentially adds panes to the interface. You can set each pane to display different information, such as replies in one pane and private messages in another, or Twitter in one and Facebook in another. A box at the bottom of the screen has an area to compose tweets/status updates (and it comes with a handy character counter that starts ticking down at 140).

Icons for the different networks are also present. They allow you to add a status update to all of your social networks at once; simply click on the icons of the social networks on which you want the update to appear.

Honestly, the addition of Gwibber was one of the primary reasons I switched my production and personal machines over to Lucid Lynx so rapidly. While I'm not exactly a social networking butterfly, or a card-carrying member of the twitterati, I for one would be happy to never have to go to the actual Facebook or Twitter Web sites ever again.

The Ubuntu One Music Store

Rhythmbox has been the default music manager for GNOME and Ubuntu for several years already. Now, it's being used to launch the Ubuntu One Music Store, Canonical's new online music store similar to Apple's iTunes. The Ubuntu One Music Store differs from iTunes in the bundling. iTunes (the store) is an online music purchasing service and the software player needed to interact with the store.

The Ubuntu One Music Store, on the other hand, is currently a built-in feature of Rhythmbox. Canonical is keeping Rhythmbox (the app) as a separate entity from the Ubuntu One Music Store. They even advertise a special plug-in for Banshee that adds the Ubuntu One Music Store to that player as well. This is a good move, since it opens up the possibility of this music store becoming cross-platform at some point. Unlike Apple, Canonical didn't secure the music themselves. Instead, they partnered with 7Digital (an established online music retailer in Europe) to provide the music offered in the Ubuntu One Music Store. Though its selection probably isn't comparable to iTunes, I was surprised by the number of tier-one acts advertised on the main page.

Finally, A Video Editor

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS comes with a video editor pre-installed--a widely perceived weak point in desktop Linux distributions. PiTiVi is probably the best choice to bundle with Ubuntu. It is one of the easiest-to-use video editors out there, yet still robust enough to keep most users from seeking an upgrade. Throw in the best GTK conformity, and PiTiVi is the obvious choice for Ubuntu. With a minimalist interface and a focus on drag-and-drop interaction, this app finally brings Linux users a video editor that can seriously compete with Windows Movie Maker for user-friendliness.

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