Ubuntu 23.04 not only brings many new features to the table for enterprise users, it also has plenty of features to please its home-user base as well.
Canonical today announced the release of Ubuntu 23.04, code-named “Lunar Lobster. Nothing to get too excited about, it’s a minor point release, but still, a new release of Ubuntu is always noteworthy, not only because it’s one of the most used Linux distributions, but also because of the large number of downstream distros that are based on it.
Besides, there are plenty of new or improved features in this release, which isn’t surprising considering where it sets in Ubuntu’s release cycle. It’s the second version released since Jammy Jellyfish, the last long-term release, came out last April, and typically, Canonical adds features during the first couple of releases after an LTS version ships. For the next release, due in October, expect developers to concentrate on improving the integration of features added since Jammy Jellyfish in preparation for the next LTS release in April.
For the most part, the additions made to this release seem to be aimed at making it easier for enterprise users to adopt Ubuntu to run their workstations. This also isn’t surprising. With most of Canonical’s income coming from enterprise users paying for support subscriptions for Ubuntu Server running in data centers or in public cloud deployments, Canonical’s CEO Mark Shuttleworth would likely like to convince some of them to start buying subscriptions for Ubuntu’s desktop as well.
“This Ubuntu milestone release demonstrates our progress in raising the bar for the enterprise developer desktops, thanks to our best-in-class Linux integration with Active Directory Domain Services and now Azure Active Directory,” Shuttleworth said in a statement announcing this release. “Our expanded investment in Ubuntu gaming means your downtime is just as satisfying.”
Ubuntu Desktop and the Enterprise
According to Canonical, Ubuntu Desktop 23.04 is the first and so far only Linux distro providing native user authentication with Azure Active Directory. While this isn’t going to help Ubuntu make any friends in free-software circles, it’s important for the enterprise because it lets users of Microsoft 365 Enterprise authenticate Ubuntu Desktops with the same credentials they use for M365 or Azure. The company is so sure that this will be a hit with enterprise users that it has plans to backport the feature later this year to Ubuntu 22.04, the latest and greatest LTS release.
Ubuntu says that ADsys, the Active Directory client it introduced in 22.04, now supports Samba winbind domain services in addition to SSSD, which extends compatibility to Amazon Workspaces, as well as to older Active Directory configurations. It also simplifies life for admins, since it allows them to manage mixed Ubuntu and Windows fleets using the same workflows.
For those wanting to kick the tires and take ADsys for test drive, Ubuntu makes the client free to use on up to five machines (50 for official Ubuntu Community members) for personal purposes.
Making life easy for IT teams is carried a step further with Ubuntu’s new installer, which as been developed with enterprise deployment and customization at scale in mind. Ubuntu’s unified server and desktop installation engine, Subiquity, supports the same autoinstall configuration workflows for both desktops and servers.
Ubuntu 23.04 as a Developer’s Desktop
The new Ubuntu release ships with tools necessary to make it ready be put into service out-of-the-box for DevOps teams.
It comes with the latest toolchains and runtimes for Python, Java, Go, C, C++, Rust and .Net, and with QEMU developers can emulate their applications on multiple architectures, since it includes new hardware support for a range of armhf, arm64, Risc-V, and s390x devices to ensure that local development environments match the target deployment architecture.
The latest versions of Docker and Containerd deliver improved container security and lifecycle management. LXD environments are also easier to deploy thanks to pre-seeding in cloud-init and network hotplug support. Also, `debuginfod` now supports private PPAs. This service provides the required debug symbols on-the-fly over HTTPS to make debugging Ubuntu packages easier, quicker, and less error-prone.
Lunar Lobster for the Everyday Linux User
Because this is Ubuntu, which is not only one of the most popular desktop Linux distros around, but also serves as the base for many other popular Linux distros, this release isn’t entirely focused on enterprise users. There’s plenty for home users to like about this release as well.
For example, Ubuntu 23.04 ships with GNOME 44, which delivers usability improvements with a focus on quick settings options for bluetooth device management as well as a new dark mode.
As expected, Snaps, which helps software vendors by taking much of the pain out of distributing their software for Linux, continue to take an increasing role in this release. Snaps now have a refresh awareness capability, and updates for snaps that are open and running download in the background to be applied automatically when the app is closed. If you don’t want Snap apps updating on their own, don’t worry. Users and administrators can now pause automatic updates of specific Snaps for as long as desired.
The Firefox Snap also benefits from significant performance gains on the Raspberry Pi, with hardware-accelerated rendering.
Something for gamers (and also on the Snap front), the Steam Snap, which has seen over 150,000 downloads as an early access beta, has now been promoted to the stable channel. The Steam snap bundles key dependencies to run both new and older titles without the need to enable and manage additional PPAs. This includes 32-bit libraries and cutting edge Mesa drivers.
Oh yes, and as with any new Ubuntu release, Lunar Lobster comes loaded with new version-specific wallpaper. The image at the top of this article is an example.
Want to take Ubuntu 23.04 for a test drive? You can download it now from the Ubuntu website.
Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux