It's been just about two months since the launch of the first alpha version of Ubuntu Linux 12.10 Quantal Quetzal, and that release was followed by two more alpha iterations over the course of the summer.
Late last week, however, the free and open source Linux distribution made its debut in beta form on the way to its final release, which is expected in October.
So what's new in this first beta release? Quite a bit, actually. Here's a quick rundown of some of the highlights.
1. Full-disk encryption
One of the most exciting changes evident in this new release from a business perspective, in particular, is that Ubuntu 12.10 now natively supports both the logical volume manager (LVM) and full disk encryption. For enterprise and government users with set security requirements to meet, this could be a very big deal.
2. A single, consolidated image
Whereas previous Ubuntu versions came in multiple images, the new Quantal Quetzal beta features a single, consolidated Ubuntu image instead. There is no longer a traditional CD sized image, DVD, or alternate image, but rather a single 800MB Ubuntu image that can be used from USB or DVD, the project team explained in the official announcement. Ubuntu Server, however, is still a traditional CD-sized image in this release.
3. No more Unity 2D
It used to be that users lacking hardware acceleration had to use the 2D version of Unity, but now the standard 3D Unity runs by default. For those without hardware acceleration, the operating system will automatically use the Mesa 3D LLVMpipe driver to perform 3D calculations using the CPU. Unity, meanwhile, has been updated to version 6.4, which includes support for dash previews and coverflow view.
4. A revamped Update Manager
What used to be called Update Manager has now been renamed Software Updater in this new beta version, and it checks for updates each time it is launched.
5. Updated packages
Last but not least, other updates in Ubuntu 12.10 Beta 1 include Linux kernel 3.5.3, a new X.org stack, Python 3, LibreOffice 3.6.1, and GNOME 3.5.90 for most components. Web app integration is apparently still in the works.
Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Lubuntu, and Ubuntu Studio have also now reached Beta 1 status, as has Ubuntu Server. Still to come is one more beta version later this month before the operating system's planned October 18 release.
Want to check out this new beta software? It's not intended for production purposes, of course, but you can find it as a free download on the Ubuntu site.