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Review: Ubuntu 9.04 Takes A Swipe At Microsoft

The CRN Test Center reviews Ubuntu 9.04, hailed by some for its new features and its ease of data center integration.

server operating system

Ubuntu 9.04's client and server editions are being hailed for both their new features and as being data-center-friendly, particularly in their new integration with cloud computing. The CRN Test Center recently took a look at Ubuntu 9.04 to see if it lives up to the hype.

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Slide Show: Test Driving The Jaunty Jackalope -- Ubuntu 9.04

Ubuntu's 9.04 Server Edition comes bundled with a technology called Eucalyptus -- an acronym for Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs to Useful Systems.

In other words, Eucalyptus is an open-source, cloud-computing technology. Included in the Ubuntu Server Edition, it allows for the deployment of servers in a private cloud. Users can set up virtual machines, configure clustering and set up storage options.

Canonical has joined forces with Amazon. With Amazon's Web Services, users can deploy a single server or hundreds of servers. The servers are free of charge, however there are rates associated with using Amazon's Web Services.

We took a hands-on look at Ubuntu 9.04's desktop edition. We ran a live session off an .iso image, using Sun Microsystem's VirtualBox and then installed during the live session. The installation process took less than 2 minutes and was very smooth.

The virtual session of Ubuntu 9.04 ran well with only 384 MB of allocated base memory. To get a true feel for this operating system's performance, we also benchmarked it on a native install. We installed it on a PC built with AMD's quad-core Phenom 9550, with 4 GB of RAM and Nvdia's GeForce 6100. Ubuntu 9.04 Desktop scored 3,586 on Primate Labs' Geekbench 2.1 testing software. That's on par, or slightly below, Geekbench testing done on the same hardware running Windows Vista and Windows XP.

The Desktop Edition in 9.04 comes with the latest version of the GNOME 2.26 desktop environment. There are a few enhancements in GNOME, like a souped-up CD/DVD burner application that replaces the rather utilitarian one in the previous version, Brasero. Using Brasero, we were able to burn a 2.2-GB DVD iso image of Solaris 10 in about 5 minutes using a fairly dated DVD/RW drive with a 4x speed. Some other new features in Brasero include audio track preview, track splitting and a Cover Editor.

One highly anticipated feature left us rather baffled. The release notes make mention of the fact that in this version of Ubuntu, the installed e-mail and calendaring client, Evolution, now supports the import of .pst files from Microsoft's Outlook. When we attempted to do an import form Outlook 2003, there was no option in Evolution for .pst files. Just to note, we did test this on the beta version of 9.04, but all available documentation makes mention of this ability. Canonical did not return our request for further information on this matter. We did find some forum postings about the same issue and found that the problem pointed to a necessary upgrade of the libpst file to the latest version. Evolution also supports MAPI for connecting to Microsoft's Exchange server.

Integrating with Exchange and Outlook is a big boon for Ubuntu; it allows for better integration of Ubuntu into a typical corporate network since Exchange is the most widely used corporate e-mail platform.

Hopefully, the issue with the .pst file import is resolved with the final release. If this feature requires an updated libpst package, then that update should be included in the install files.

The 9.04 desktop comes loaded with preinstalled applications. A full version of OpenOffice.org is installed, as well as a number of Graphics utilities, such as F-Spot Photo Manager, GIMP Image Editor and the Xsane Image scanning program. The Totem movie player and the RhythmBox music player are also installed.

Significant improvements have been made in the boot performance, noticeable even when running Ubuntu as a Virtual Machine. It took 45 seconds to fully load from the Ubuntu splash screen to the desktop (with login prompts.) Other improvements to support high-end graphics cards have been made.

With Linux's continued evolution of more user-friendly GUI environments; its reputation for both stability and security; and with Ubuntu Server 9.04's embrace of cloud computing, it is in an even better position for more widespread adoption by home users and IT professionals. Considering Ubuntu's unbeatable cost (free) and its greater resilience to the security threats that have become so commonplace with Windows (and are starting to infiltrate Macs as well), Ubuntu could be the forerunner in that adoption.

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