We don’t normally start tracking the Ubuntu releases until they hit about the Alpha 3 stage; after all the big software updates have made it in, any theme work is mostly done and the final release is starting to take shape. Well, that happened yesterday: Ubuntu 8.10 “Intrepid Ibex” Alpha 3 was released.
New Ubuntu 8.10 Theme
The first thing you notice looking at the Ubuntu desktop is the new theme… it’s trendy, dark, refined and overall a pretty different look for the desktop and just desktops in general; I would have expected this theme from something like XFCE but not a mainstream desktop.
It looks fine to me, but not great. When we started covering the new theme development almost 8 months ago, the trend towards a “dark desktop” had already started:
But then in January there were rumors that Hardy Heron (8.04) would get the new LTS theme and a new, much brighter, curvier theme called “Gelatin” was proposed:
I really liked the look of Gelatin just because I tend to be drawn towards lighter themes; they seem easier on my eyes and emotionally put me in a more chipper mood.
Oddly enough, on the Ubuntu 8.10 Art Team Theme page, I ran across a mockup for what I think was a refined Human theme that as far as I can tell was never used beyond the initial proposal, I think it’s named “Clear”:
It’s a bright theme, it uses muted colors (not too bold or in your face), and I liked the refinement to some of the core UI buttons like the back and forward buttons in the explorer. Still looks noticably “Human” in nature for sure, but I thought that theme did an excellent job and am not necessarily inlove with the new darker approach.
Lastly I ran across another proposed GTK theme by Kimmik for Intrepid Ibex that was essentially human, with a slightly lighter component coloring as well as a lot of gloss ontop of everything. I liked some of the aspects of this design, but thought overall it felt cramped:
I would be interested, looking at existing installs, how many people switched their Windows themes to the darker themes in Windows XP or if you even have that choice on Mac? Things seem generally pretty light on those operating systems.
Ubuntu is certainly trying to keep to it’s word that it will challenge Apple on the design front and try and find it’s own look and feel.
On the Ubuntu Art Team’s Intrepid Ibex Icon page there are a few suggestions and proposals on how the icons will be worked over to make things look… well, more Vista-ey from what I can see:
It doesn’t look bad, the art actually looks pretty cool. I’m probably just an old geezer in that I still think the original Icons (left) have some good life left in them. I think it’s just my appeal for symmetrical shapes.
Ubuntu 8.10 will include X.org 7.4 for whatever that is worth. From the looks of things online, X.org 7.4 seems to have very very few new features and a general cloud of concern around the quality of the X.org releases looms over that project. I’m not sure if the X.org team trimmed back 7.4 in order to deliver a more stable platform or if project atrophy did; either way let’s hope the Ubuntu 8.10 release team has time to stabalize the release if necessary.
Reading through the Ubuntu 8.10 Blueprint is a good way to get an idea of what else will be coming in this release. Here are the other highlights we thought were worth noting (NOTE: As Ubuntu 8.10 is currently only at the Alpha 3 release stage, don’t take this list as bible, things can still get cut/added as time progresses):
- Ubuntu VM Builder updates
- 3G Networking Support (Motivated by Ubuntu Mobile Edition?)
- Improved Flash Experience (Flash has 1st-class citizen status, make installing/using it dead-easy)
- Improve Login Performance
- Promote SpamAssassin and ClamAV to be easily integrated into mail servers
- Auto-Download of Printer Drivers from OpenPrinting’s website
- Font-Selector Front End to fontconfig
- Basic LDAP-based Identity Management
- Consolidate All Spell Check Libraries
- Support an Encrypted ~/Private Directory for Every User (Cool!)
- Update Compiz to 0.8 Stable, stay current from GIT repo as best as possible
- Enhanced Power Management (Again, I’m sure motivated from Mobile Edition)
Overall looking like a decent refresh release with nothing too epic in it. Lots of updates and refinements with an occasional new feature or new piece of software, but besides new theme, I don’t see a lot of people immediately seeing the difference with their 8.10 desktop once it’s installed.
Sometimes though, that can be a good thing and means the release will be on time, tightened up and plenty of polish in it. Good luck to the Ubuntu Team, you’ve always impressed us!