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5 reasons to be excited about Ubuntu 12.04

by Rob Zwetsloot

Ubuntu 12.04 is released on 26th April, and Canonical’s Precise Pangolin will be the biggest Ubuntu yet. Here are five reasons why…

The release of Ubuntu 12.04 on Thursday 26th April is a big one, as this latest LTS version is not only going to be supported for some time, but it’s also bringing with it improvements and new features. While the Wendy Windows and McZee’s of this world might have their own problems, here are five great reasons to look out for the impending release.

Unity Improvements

“[The work on the Dash] is all building out from the original Dash specification, and we’ve now added in the ability to filter by specific content sources.” said Neil Patel, Technical Lead on Unity, when we asked him about the upcoming Unity changes, “If you don’t want to see a specific content source it will remember it. If you don’t want to see applications that are available for download, you just deselect the software centre from the list.”

Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin Unity
You can now turn off sources for the Dash, for example you can remove results from the software centre while searching for a specific program

Users who experienced problems with keyboard controls for the Dash have had their worries answered, as full keyboard control has returned. Where as before you may not have been able to start typing straight into the search box or navigate with the arrow keys to the desired application, in Precise these bugs have been fixed.

With the popularity of programs such as MyUnity, allowing you direct control over some of the more advanced Unity settings in a graphical interface, Canonical have decided that now is the time to give users an “official” way to tweak the environment. Available in the Appearance settings are now options for the size of the icons in the side launcher, and advanced settings for the behaviour of the side bar. Intellihide has been removed this release as well due to inconsistencies in the way it worked.


Probably the biggest new feature though that did make its way into Precise is the HUD, Canonical’s take on how the standard desktop UI menu system would be designed in modern times. Neil Patel, Technical Lead on Unity, again gave us a bit of background on its development:

Ubuntu 12.04 Unity
Pressing the alt key brings up the HUD, a text field to enter your desired action. It connects directly to the global menu

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a very long time, just over 3 years. We’ve been thinking about it and discussing it and doing some initial work. But this is the first actual implementation. It’s an additional way to interact with applications. The idea is it’s an intent driven interface, that you type what you want, and we find it, and we supply that option. You don’t have to think so much, you don’t have to think about how you would rotate a circle and make it blue, you just rotate it and make it blue”

HUD learns from your actions, deploying a weighting system for menu options based on your usage history. Patel specifically said that there’s a 30 day expiration period for menu options you’ve only used once, resetting their weighting. There are no HUD “profiles” as such, so your settings and preferred search terms won’t sync over, say, Ubuntu One between machines.

HUD doesn’t get rid of the current keyboard commands, nor does it affect your normal work flow, so the added ability to search for commands that you don’t know the shortcut for can be used well here.


With the recent announcement of Ubuntu for Android and its subsequent demos at Mobile World Congress, getting the full Ubuntu OS running on ARM has been a priority. Dave Walker, Technical Lead for Ubuntu Server, gave us some insight on its development over the past 6 months:

5 reasons to be excited about Ubuntu 12.04
Ubuntu for Android is made possible from the increased ARM support

“We’ve got very good relationships with the key players, having at least weekly communication with them. We basically trying to pre-empt what’s going to hit the market….some work went into it at the end of last cycle, and there’s been a focus on it in this cycle. It’s a totally different instruction set in the ARM processor, and we found that some work loads that aren’t directly compatible. We’ve had to spend some time fixing these problems, and there’s been a number of people who have been tasked with that”

The continued work on ARM isn’t just for the benefit of Mobiles. Ubuntu TV is also being optimised for ARM processors, as a lot of set top boxes and smart TVs tend to use the smaller chipsets. There’s even benefits for the server side, with ARM Servers supposedly gaining steam with the recent advancements in the technology according to Walker:

“It’s because of the amount of computing power you can get into a small area, the significantly lower power consumption, and because of all that it’s much cooler. So [in terms of server rooms] the noise isn’t attached to it…at least 50% of power in a data centre is used for cooling, so there’s massive power savings there as well. It’s even better priced commercially. People who want to process a lot of data will be attracted to ARM in the near future”

Server Upgrades

Ubuntu Server is extremely popular among enterprise users and administrators, with a recent survey finding that is was one of the most pervasive server operating systems. As an LTS release, the new server edition is going to be desirable for a lot of sysadmins.

Ubuntu 12.04 Server Popularity
Results from a recent server survey show predominantly x86 architecture, but Canonical believe that will change

Since the last LTS release, the Linux Kernel has gone through some major changes, and even a version upgrade, and according to Dave Walker, Server Technical Lead, this is a great thing:

“Two years ago, at this point in the cycle, I was personally experiencing kernel issues myself, and I’ll be posting about my problems. Now what I’m seeing is that it’s pretty faultless. We’re looking at enabling more features rather than fixing issues, which is a position we’d like to be in.”

There have also been a lot of development in the cloud, something the team have made sure to keep on top of as Walker explains:

“[OpenStack] have tied their release schedule to ours, so Essex’s release is the same as our release. We put some work into OpenStack ourselves, such as testing, so when someone commits code upstream we run a series of tests on a 12 node cluster which basically puts it through its paces…we’ve been able to support an issue other distros don’t notice, something native to Ubuntu. We’ve been making this part of our drive for precision.

“One of the other really exciting things is nested virtualisation. What that allows you to do is have a virtual machine inside a virtual machine. Particularly with the cloud being available, it’s easy to start a machine and then run a machine within that machine and get near host performance. [Using] Bare Metal, you could very easily have a cloud within a cloud. That’s very experimental, but it’s quite exciting.”


Due to its LTS promise, the development cycle has focused more on improving the core experience and fixing bugs, as well as a fit-and-finish approach to UI elements.

Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin Unity
Unity’s Dash has been upgraded to give users more control

“The schedule for an LTS is actually different from normal procedures,” explains John Lea of the Ubuntu Design team, “We apply a higher bar to new features entering, we generally focus the whole cycle along more on quality and stability. It’s really a shift in focus, and this goes into the selection of the applications. We’re looking very much at how things will be supported over the next five years, and what the best choices are that we can make given that we’ve tied ourselves into 5 years of support”

This stable approach is also being applied to the server side, explains Ubuntu Server Technical Lead, Dave Walker:

“Really it’s just been a progression to build upon what’s been in previous releases. This is our LTS release so there’s been a strong focus on stability, precision…[as well as] being conservative, but also pushing the boundaries where we can. Part of my job that has been quite tricky is balancing this aspect. We really have an amazing and enthusiastic team here, and we’ve managed to do a lot”

Ubuntu 12.04 will be out on the 26th April 2012. You can read more about the release of Precise, Ubuntu for Android, and Ubuntu TV in Linux User & Developer 112, currently on sale.

Related Ubuntu articles

Ubuntu 12.04 – Jane Silber talks Unity, community and ‘continuous computing’

Five problems with Ubuntu 12.04 – part 1

Five problems with Ubuntu 12.04 – part 2

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    • istok

      … only five? cmon, boi, you can do better!

    • Carling

      You don’t have to think so much,?

      I thought the idea of using Linux was to get the users brain into first gear and to progress to better understanding of how computers and software works together, Not to step into another software manufactures comfort zone, that stops their brain functioning,

      Canonical are no better than Apple or MS for trying to control the users, Stopping them from thinking so they don’t get away, keep them on a leash so they can’t move to another system, Make them buy their apps from Canonical Seen it, don’t it, been there, never again. The reason I moved to Linux was so my brain would function, and it has

      Ubuntu is a brainless mans trap,

    • Just installed Ubuntu last night(4/25/12) after trying all the other mayor linux distros. I can say that Canonical hit it out of the park with this 1, what a beauty of an OS!!! everything works, and you can tell they focus even in the smallest details, after trying linux for almost a decade, I can say with confidence that linux is ready for the desktop, yes you can compare Canonical to Apple for “controlling” the user, but I see the positive side, never has any other Linux company put so much effort into any distro, if you are hardcore and don’t like things the easy way, then find the distro that suits your need. Me, I’m happy for myself and all the other users that can use a top of the line OS for free(without having to steal it xD). No more viruses and malware, and no more headaches trying to make it all work, Thank you Canonical!!!!

    • moimoi

      Arch Linux is better!

    • Vic

      I dunno, same ol bull…sound stopped working, internet took a lot of fiddlin to get to work, LAN still doesn’t work…typical upgrade so far.

    • Sol

      All I can say is that Unity (and Gnome 3) sucks! The point of an interface is to increase-improve work-flow, and this interface just does the opposite, it decreases work-flow and on top of that it adds unnecessary eye-candy visuals that just decrease the performance of the system. Unity is designed for kids and clueless noobs… Why in the world I would type in the search box to find and start my application?? If I want to type sh!t to start sh!t I might as well go back to DOS! The interface is suppose to be fast, clean (not cluttered with BS), and intuitive. They should of got some inspiration from Maya (before autodesk took over). 10.04 was my last Ubuntu distro, in few days I’ll probably install debian-linux mint with Xfce. Unity and Gnome 3 -change for the sake of change is just plain stupid.

    • Drscorps

      Downloaded 12.04 beta 2 , its working great since last 3 weeks .. Yeah had a few glitches but no major problems at all even with the beta 2 except when a compiz update screwd things up a bit , but now that’s also fixed, more or less stable, but i guess that’s why it is still in beta. The final is going to be released today .. Waiting for it eagerly !!!

    • Paul

      I have to disagree with Sol. Ubuntu 12.04, which I have been using since beta1, is easily the best operating system I’ve ever used. Unity 1. gets out of my way 2. is beautiful 3. IMPROVES my workflow when I want it to (I take advantage of the keyboard as I’m a power user) and 4. is super, super fast.

      No other Linux desktop can compete with Ubuntu anymore, simple as that. Game over done. Ubuntu’s main competition these days is Apple. Think about that statement.

    • thanks alot for this detailed explanation of features. but i really think that linux Mint is going to become the number one linux distribution. ubuntu is using alot of high graphical user interface details and doesnt work well on old computers.

    • I’ll stick with Linux Mint. Clement fixes the issues that canonical can’t be bothered fixing, and replace that godawful apology for a desktop with something more usable. So I’m waiting for Linux Mint 13.

    • Paul

      Mike – Of course, there are graceful fallbacks in 3D (I’m writing this review on a 6 year old Lenovo t60) and there is always Unity-2d. So, no, that really isn’t true.

      What is true is that there would be old machines that can’t get the fanciest graphics, but that is to be expected of ANY release of ANY operating system.

      So, the facts appear to say otherwise. You should give it a shot.

      Tracyanne – opinions are opinions. You are welcome to yours. I’m sticking with Ubuntu. Why? Canonical vs clem. A whole company behind and entire release vs one/a few. And, without Ubuntu, there would be no Mint.

    • tibi

      i returned to windows 7 after trying ubuntu for almost 8 months.. its not that i`m stuck in the past, but dear Mark Arrogant Shuttleworth, call me when you let me:

      -move the unity launch bar wherever i want.. you might consider yourself a design-god, but you are just stupid;

      -move notifications in whatever corner i want, not just upper right or center-right.. again, this is my choice, not yours;

      – minimize apps by clicking their icon.. this can be obtain through hacks, but you know what? good bye, i`ve had enough.

      etc etc

      i have seen far bigger companies than this pathetic canonical being wiped out from the market because of their arrogance..all those design choices “use your computer the wa we want or get off” are responsible for the rapid decline of ubuntu popularity in the past year or so.

      so thanks but no thanks.

    • Abu Azam

      To me unity or GNOME3 is not a problem as I can easily install and use any other DE like Xoffice, KDE, LXDE or even openbox on ubuntu. DE is like clothes. Somebody chooses t-shirts, somebody shirts while someothers Jackets.

    • syncdram

      Wake up and smell the coffee, 5 year release cycle is because Mark Arrogant Shuttleworth does not want or need to be bothered with the desktop any longer. Out of sight out of mind. His arrogants relies heavily on the open source community that give Canonical and Ubuntu its tag. Within itself, “they” contribute nothing.

      If there will be change then developers have to wake up and say NO to this dictatorship duo. There banking on a free ride into the corporate world, a blind chimp can see whats going on. They have pushed its users aside and me right to Vector Linux.

    • oshirowanen

      Will be downloading this in a couple of days to replace Ubuntu 10.04.

      After which I will be:

      1. sudo aptitude install xfce

      Yes, I can download xubuntu 12.04, but I don’t think they will be doing the 5 year support.

    • MightyMoo

      Looking forward to updating my Xubuntu laptop today to the new LTS. All the goodness of Ubuntu without the Unity. You could also Kubuntu if you want KDE.

    • Ben

      People seem to forget that nobody is forcing you to use Ubuntu or Unity. There are other distributions and other operating systems. Use whatever you like. If that’s the thing that works for you that’s great. Stop calling something stupid just because you don’t like it. Personally I like the workflow in Unity. It’s fast and I prefer keyboard shortcuts to work with OS and this was improved tremendously in this release.
      On the other side, my friend can’t stand Unity and he’s using OpenSUSE because that works for him. All those people saying Canonical is forcing you do them something seem to be missing the point that you don’t have to use Ubuntu or Unity but at the same time you are trying to force your world view on everybody else. Each product has it’s target group and as long as there’s a choice I really don’t see where the issue is. Use Windows 7 if that makes you happy and productive but stop telling me that I should do it to since then you’re imposing your choice on me and we don’t necessarily think alike.

    • DC

      A virtual machine inside a virtual machine? Sounds like Inception, a dream within a dream. Let’s go up to 5 levels of nested VM’s. :-)

    • SciFiDude79

      “Unity Improvements.” That’s rich. It’s still fugly and not any good for multitasking, right? And it still looks dreadful on a large monitor. Plus, it’s still on top of Gnome 3, which is a poor successor to Gnome 2, IMO. (and I’m talking about the inner workings, not the stupid interface) However, I’m running Precise, just with a better interface, because I’m running Kubuntu. ;)

    • NGuy

      Installed 12.04 last night!

      If you don’t want unity… just install gnome2 or any of the other interfaces.
      I did, and got both the latest from ubuntu and a desktop I’m comfortable with.

      Ubuntu is still Linux. It is easy to costumize things the way you want it.
      Who cares what stuff is running out of the box??!

      Are your linux skills so poor, that you can’t even open the software center? :-p

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    • Open_Source

      ‘Write’ on NGuy you’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s what Linux is all about (freedom and choice) and what Microsoft and Apple isn’t (entrapment and restriction).

      With Linux you choose the distro and desktop which suits you and in most cases have the ability to customize that even further – try doing that with Windows or iOS.

      Apple the the real bad one in the bunch – not only are you stuck with its OS you also have to buy their hardware (albeit good quality so I’m told) – hows that for freedom of choice – NOT!

      So you miserable moaners out there – stop moaning, get off your soap box and do what NGuy said choose the distro desktop you want – even better do some Linux development and produce your own distro.

      Oh and one other small point that hasn’t been mentioned yet – LINUX IS FREE! – remember that when your sitting infront of iOS/Windows you ungrateful bunch!

      A big thank you from me to all Linux Developers out there – your work is much appreciated..

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    • Colin C

      I have used Ubuntu for 4 or 5 years. Unity was a suprise initally, though I like it, it works for me, a desktop user. I have played with other Linux distros but Ubuntu’s simplicity of instillation and comparatively bug-free OS suit my needs well. In response to earlier comments, I think the OS appears stylish and it works fine on a large monitor.

      I am doing a PhD. I have Ubuntu at university and at home.I sync via Ubuntu One, use LibreOffice, Zotero, R, FreeMind, GIMP and for a small data collection web site used NetBeans and MySQL for development. I admit I use MS Access at uni because I am very familiar with it to organise data, when I have time to develop sufficient skill I will likely move over to LO Base.

      Virtually everything I need is in one great package. Even my MS supporting supervisor had lost the idea that open source/Linux is flawed.

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    • Zia


      I find Unity much better on Ubuntu 12.04, but if you need an interface like Gnome Panels or Windows XP, then you need the Xfce interface.

      How to steps:

      1 – install xfce4 and xfce4-goodies packages.
      2 – at Ubuntu logon screen, select the Xfce session.
      3 – you will have a Windows XP like interface with all the apps from a standard Ubuntu install and no doubles.

      It works like on Windows 8 where you can choose the Metro interface or the Classic Windows XP interface.

    • Les

      Install ClassicMenu Indicator . Then install Ubuntu Tweak and autohide Unity launcher. All the ugliness is gone, and, yes, the launcher is damn ugly on a large monitor even with the icon size set to its smallest.

      I simply can’t understand why a “unified” interface across all platforms is necessary, I’d wouldn’t fly if a 747 cockpit used exactly the same layout and controls as a VW Beetle, so why does my desktop have to look and work like a phone??

    • I’m from the UK,can i get them over here?

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