Ubuntu's Intrepid Ibex: Usability is Hard to Do: Page 2

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Those who chose to install only free software may also be surprised that Mono-based apps like Tomboy and F-Spot are included. However, Shuttleworth has stated publicly that he is unconcerned about rumors of patent problems with Mono, which probably explains why such apps aren't excluded when you choose the free software option.

Behind the scenes, x.org 7.5 improves the desktop experience by offering an X Window System with more support for tablets, as well as the hot-swapping of peripherals. Yet, against these improvements, users will need to weigh the lack of support for some proprietary drivers, and the loss of /etc/X11/xorg.conf as a configuration file. Details of all these changes are given in the release notes.

On the desktop, the changes in productivity apps are slight. One noticeable feature is a link to free BBC content available from the Playlist in Totem's sidebar, an arrangement apparently exclusive to Ubuntu.

Those who move between computers might also appreciate the self-explanatory Make USB Startup Disk utility in the System -> Administration menu. The utility's window steps you easily through the steps of choosing a CD or disk image, selecting a USB drive, and setting the amount of storage space -- if any – for your files on the USB drive. The only other thing you might want to know is that, although the instructions in the window talk only about making an Ubuntu live USB drive, you can choose a disk image from another distribution to use as well.

Administration Tools and Security

The Intrepid release is especially rich in new administration and security tools. One of the first you are likely to come across is the Network Connections tool. Not only does it automatically detect networks present at boot time or added later, but it is divided by tabs into Wired, Wireless, Mobile Broadband, VPN and DSL, which makes individual connections easier to track.

Another welcome addition is encryptfs-setup, a tool that you can download to create an encrypted folder called Private in your home directory. To create the Private folder, all you need to do is enter your account password, and a password for mounting the folder to use it. Although users might prefer the ability to encrypt any folder, you can easily transfer all your files into the Private folder if you want to protect them.

A somewhat more questionable new feature is the creation of a Guest account. This feature is available from the Presence Manager on the right side of the panel, and is intended to allow you to demonstrate Ubuntu's features without violating your own privacy or creating a new user. Alternatively, another user might want to use something like a web browser without logging in.

Guest accounts are severely limited in what they can do. You cannot run sudo from one, nor view configuration files or other users'. Nor can you save permanently to a hard disk. But you can mount a USB device and write to it --the system warning to the contrary -- and system administrators might be happier if the temporary home directory for a guest account was deleted from /tmp as soon as you switch back to the original user, instead of lingering until the original user logs out. For that matter, the ability to disable guest accounts might also be a good idea. While guest accounts seem relatively and properly isolated, the security-minded might suspect that they are more of a potential problem than their minor convenience would justify.

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Tags: Linux, security, Firefox, software, Ubuntu

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