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Ubuntu 12.04 precise pangolin alpha 2 screenshot

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin alpha 2 is available for download, we'll do a recap of all the changes since the previous milestone (alpha 1).

Let's start with an Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin alpha 2 video:

Video link

Unity improvements

The latest Unity, available in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin alpha 2 feels very smooth and is actually quite stable for an alpha. Besides many bug fixes, there were also many tweaks and changes designed to make Ubuntu 12.04 "pixel perfect" and while we'll obviously not cover all of them, you can read about the most important changes below.

The Ubuntu button ("BFB") now has quicklists let you quickly access any available lenses:

bfb quicklists

The Dash / Launcher color can now be changed:

ubuntu 12.04 precise pangolin screenshot

In Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin alpha 2, when launching an application, the menu is initially displayed on the top bar and is only hidden after an amount of time which can be modified (along with the fade duration) through CCSM. 

Until now, the menu would always be hidden and only show up on mouse over, but this behavior made the menu hard to discover for new users, so with this change, the Unity developers hope to make the menu easier to find. And in case you were wondering: no, you can't set this to a huge value to basically disable autohiding the menu - the maximum value is 10:

ubuntu 12.04 precise pangolin screenshot

In the screenshot above, you can also see the new "Show desktop" button (yeah, Unity didn't have this until now) which can be enabled from the CompizConfig Settings Manager. In the same screenshot you'll also notice that CCSM no longer uses sliders - they were removed because users could accidentally change various settings by just trying to scroll through the CCSM interface. This is just a first attempt to improve CompizConfig Settings Manager, more changes should follow to make sure users can't break Unity by just changing some settings.

With Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin alpha 2, work has started to integrate Unity settings with the System Settings (GNOME Control Center), under "User Interface". For now, the available options include: setting the launcher icon size, enable/disable launcher autohide and autohide reveal spot:

ubuntu 12.04 precise pangolin screenshot

ubuntu 12.04 precise pangolin alpha 2 screenshot

The new Unity settings integrated into System Settings work with both Unity 3D and Unity 2D, however, since not all settings work with both Unity versions (for instance, you can't change the launcher icon size for Unity 2D), only those supported will be displayed for each Unity version.

As for Unity 2D, besides the new Unity settings integration mentioned above, there only one change worth mentioning: the top panel has finally got buttons to close maximize/restore Dash:

ubuntu 12.04 precise pangolin alpha 2 screenshot

Other changes

LightDM received an update too and in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin alpha 2, the login screen uses the background you set for the desktop. This works for multiple users too - in this case, the LightDM login screen background changes depending on which user is selected, using a nice effect - you can see it in action at the end of the video in the beginning of this post.

By default, Ubuntu Software Center adds newly installed applications to the launcher. This can, be disabled by unckecking "New Applications in Launcher" from the Ubuntu Software Center View menu:

ubuntu 12.04 precise pangolin alpha 2 screenshot

Also, Ubuntu Software Center now automatically installs language support packages so there's no need to open "Language Support" after installing new applications.

There are some more Unity features already available in the Unity PPA and the Unity Staging PPA which have not landed in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin yet:
  • New shortcuts hints overlay - a list of Unity keyboard shortcuts which is displayed when pressing and holding the SUPER key
  • Launcher switcher which you can use to switch between applications via the Unity Launcher using SUPER + TAB
  • A new "home" lens for Dash which displays recently used applications, files and so on, replacing the old shortcuts
  • Multi monitor support

And of course, there's also HUD, Ubuntu`s new smart menu which has its own PPA, and might land in Ubuntu 12.04 later on.

Default applications

ubuntu 12.04 precise screenshot

The default application selection in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin alpha 2 includes: Firefox 10, Thunderbird 10, Nautilus 3.3.4, Rhythmbox 2.95, Gedit 3.3.2, LibreOffice 3.5.0 beta 2, Totem 3.0.1, Empathy 3.3.4, Shotwell 0.11.91, Gwibber 3.3.3, Transmission Bittorrent Client 2.42, Deja Dup Backup Tool 21.2. Also, Precise alpha 2 uses Linux Kernel 3.2.0-12.21 based on the 3.2.2 upstream stable kernel and Xorg server 1.11.3.

While Rhythmbox (which by the way, doesn't include an Ubuntu One Music Store plugin yet) is the default music player in Ubuntu 12.04 alpha 2, Banshee may make it back as default: the Banshee GTK3 port and stability on ARM will be reviewed around Precise beta 1 and it will then be discussed if Ubuntu Precise will stay with Rhythmbox or switch back to Banshee.

PAE kernel is now default for 32bit

Starting with alpha 2, Ubuntu Precise uses the PAE kernel by default. The PAE kernel allows addressing more than 4GB of system memory, which isn't available for a non-PAE kernel (more about PAE, here). The non-PAE kernel is, however, still available for installation.

How stable is Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin alpha 2?

This is probably the most stable Ubuntu alpha release I've used so far: Unity feel very smooth and snappy, there are almost no crashes and well, everything seems to work. Even using the Unity Staging PPA, which contains the latest builds generated from trunk, seems pretty stable.

But even so, this is an alpha so there are many things that could go wrong, therefore I strongly recommend you do not use it on a production machine!

If you want to test Precise alpha 2, the best way to do it is using VirtualBox. There is an issue though: in my test, the mouse didn't work until I've installed the VirtualBox guest additions (see how to install the Guest Additions HERE) so if this occurs for you too, you'll have to use the keyboard to install it. Update: you can also fix this by disabling mouse integration in VirtualBox (bottom right: right click to the left of "Ctrl right" and select "Disable mouse integration"). Thanks to Justin Anderson for the tip!

Up next:
  • March 1st - Beta 1
  • March 29th - Beta 2
  • April 26th - final Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin

If you've installed Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin alpha 1 (or a daily build) and kept upgrading (as usual, using the Update Manager or "sudo apt-get upgrade"), you're already running alpha 2.

Download Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin Alpha 2