Yawn: That's how I reacted when I heard that Ubuntu 9.04, aka "Jaunty Jackalope," had reached the release candidate stage. It was sort of like hearing about President Obama making another policy speech. There was a time when everything he said was new and exciting. But now it all sounds like another rehash of the previous week's press conference.
Ubuntu has fallen into this same sort of repetitive rut. Every six months, Canonical dutifully releases a new, whimsically code-named version. And each time, the IT illuminati nod approvingly, while struggling to stifle their collective yawns. After all, it's tough to get excited about a bunch of minor kernel tweaks and incremental bundling revisions. Simply put, there hasn't been a lot of meat on the bone with the most recent releases, and "Jaunty" does nothing to disrupt this trend.
Of course, it wasn't always this way. Back when "Feisty" (7.04) and "Gutsy" (7.10) were brand-new, Ubuntu was all the rage with the IT "it" crowd. Each release seemed chock-full of groundbreaking (for Linux) features and technologies. You felt as if Ubuntu was the distro that could really go the distance, the open source David that would ultimately slay the evil, proprietary Goliath called Microsoft.
But a funny thing happened: People started trying out Ubuntu. And they found that despite the exterior polish and whiz-bang media coverage, it was still Linux at heart. And that meant lots of headaches for new users as they tried to navigate the myriad Linux hardware/software compatibility issues and to make sense of the arrogant, "pass the buck" mentality of the vaunted Linux support community.
Ultimately, the great Ubuntu ascendancy never materialized, and Canonical -- perhaps sensing that its David would be squashed in any head-to-head confrontation -- scaled back its desktop plans to focus on the emerging netbook segment. As a result, some high-profile features, like a promised new UI theme, fell off the radar. In fact, there has been little in the way of true innovation since "Hardy Heron" (8.04) hit the wires a year ago.