Last week, we had the pleasure of talking to Evan Dandrea, Software Engineer on the Foundations Team at Canonical, about the upcoming installer of the Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) operating system. Evan Dandrea is the creator of the Migration Assistant functionality in the Ubuntu installer (Ubiquity) and also co-maintainer of Ubiquity and maintainer of the USB Startup Disk Creator application.
Through this article, we would like to inform all current and future Ubuntu users that the next release, dubbed Maverick Meerkat, will have a completely revamped and accessible (by Linux beginners) installer. Even if it is not a complete rewrite, the Ubuntu installer will be intuitive and have an attractive interface. "While the visual changes form a large portion of the work, some major pieces infrastructure will be added or changed to support things like running installation tasks in parallel and the Geonames place name service."
- said Evan Dandrea.
Below we've listed a few screenshots (courtesy of Canonical) of the upcoming Ubuntu installer and the new features implemented in each step. But first, we would like to introduce the "paralleling tasks" functionally that will be implemented. This means the user will be able to do the following tasks while Ubuntu is installing: set up timezone, account information and keyboard layout, and even to download software updates. "This paralleling means that your computer won't have to sit idle while you fill in a series of forms. It speeds up the process of installing and means that you can very quickly enter some basic information, go for a cup of tea, and come back to the login prompt (or desktop if you selected automatic login) for your brand new copy of Ubuntu."
- stated Evan Dandrea in the interview with Softpedia.
The first step of the new Ubuntu installer is called "Preparing to Install Ubuntu," and will offer users the possibility of downloading software updates (if any) or/and installing proprietary drivers for wireless cards, support for MP3 files, Adobe Flash Player, Java and DVD playback support. However, the last may not be implemented in the Ubuntu 10.10 release!
The Hard Drive Partitioning page of the installer is now the first actual step, after the page you see above. Once the hard drive space has been allocated for the Ubuntu installation and the "Install Now" button pushed, the installer will automatically format and/or resize the drive and copy the necessary files, while the user can set up timezone, keyboard layout and account information. Once the user has finished with these subsequent pages, the installer's slideshow will appear, followed by an automatic reboot! "The partitioning page will be split across two pages, and the interface for installing Ubuntu alongside other operating systems or replacing the contents of an entire disk with Ubuntu will provide far greater clarity to the action the user is taking and the data their acting upon. Our goal is to make partitioning, arguably the most confusing and risky part of the installation, to be simple, clear, and reassuring."
- revealed Evan Dandrea.
No more region and city boxes in the timezone setup page! All you'll have to do on this page is to type the city you live in and the installer will automatically get the correct timezone. This new functionality is based on the amazing work done by the developers at GeoNames.org.
The keyboard layout page has pretty much the same functionally as the existing one. A new button has been implemented though, called "Figure out keyboard layout." Take a look at the screenshots below to see it in action...
Even if it looks pretty much the same as the existing one, the Account Setup page will have support for webcams, allowing the user to take a picture of himself/herself that can be associated with the account. The photo will appear on the login screen and on the locked screen dialog.
A Wireless Network Selection page will also be implemented in the new installer!
The Ubiquity developers recommend having an active Internet connection while installing Ubuntu, because you will be able to download software updates, install support for non-English languages and automatic timezone selection via an GeoIP location service present in the upcoming Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) operating system.
But this is not all, as the Ubiquity developers have even greater plans for the Ubuntu 11.04 operating system, due for release later in April 2011, so stay tuned for more news!
If you want a taste of the upcoming Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) OS, you should know that the Alpha 2 release is now available for download
(for testing purposes only). The final release of Ubuntu 10.10 will see the light of day on October 10th, 2010. It will be the 13th release of Ubuntu. Follow me on Twitter @MariusNestor