Canonical updates Linux-based netbook OS with new interface, apps

Canonical's says Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 will make it easier for users to access and take advantage of Web content

Canonical on Thursday updated its Linux distribution for netbooks, simplifying the interface and adding new programs that the company says will make it easier for users to access and use Web content.

The Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix is designed to run basic Web and office applications typically used on netbooks. Netbooks are cheap, lightweight laptops characterized by limited computing resources and small screen sizes.

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The OS, code-named Karmic Koala, centralizes applications and bookmarks under a single interface to quickly access programs and Web sites. The new version has a "newer, simpler, more beautiful interface" and is easy to install on the popular netbook models, Canonical said in a statement.

The simple interface includes a left frame that lists program categories, which include favorites, Internet, office, games, and sound and video. Clicking on a category brings up a list of related programs in a window on the right. The Netbook Remix OS differs from standard Ubuntu Linux distributions for desktops and servers, which have powerful interfaces that gives users more flexibility in using the OS.

The OS is an upgrade from Canonical's first netbook OS version, Ubuntu Linux 9.04 Netbook Remix, which was released in April. The OS also updates software tools like Firefox Web browser and tools for voice, video, and text communication.

After the release of the original Netbook Remix, Canonical said it would focus on improving battery life and boot times in the OS. The company wasn't available to comment on those topics.

Canonical for the first time is also offering its online storage and file-sharing service called Ubuntu One by default in the OS. Users can back up, share or sync data with other One users through the Ubuntu One Web site. The service gives 2GB of online storage free, with an additional 50GB costing $10 a month.

Netbooks became a hit after their original release in 2007 for their low prices and portability. A number of companies are designing operating systems for the devices, including Intel, Google, and Microsoft. Microsoft recently released a version of the Windows 7 OS for netbooks, while Google is developing the netbook-specific Chrome OS, which is based on Linux and is due to appear in netbooks next year. Intel is a big driver behind the development of Moblin, another Linux-based OS designed for portable devices.

Canonical also released final versions of Karmic Koala for desktops and servers on Thursday. Built on the latest Linux 2.6.31.1 kernel, Ubuntu 9.10 offers faster boot times, an improved user interface, and programming tools for easier software development, according to the company. The OS by default has shifted to a new filesystem that supports more data storage.

Karmic Koala also includes an updated "Ubuntu Software Center" from which users can easily add or remove programs. In addition to an improved interface, the repository offers more tools to find related program for systems.

Canonical is offering versions of the OS with a variety of desktop environments, including Gnome, KDE, and XFCE. These environments, built on top of the Linux kernel, have unique graphical user interfaces and integrated software.

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