Ubuntu 9.10 is the latest release of Canonical's Ubuntu Linux, made available in final release form on October 29, 2009. The release is codenamed "Karmic Koala" and is the eleventh release of the popular open source operating system.
Karmic (as I will hereafter refer to Ubuntu 9.10) continues the progress of continual improvement that has characterized Ubuntu development since the project began in 2004.
Improved boot times
For Karmic (and the forthcoming Lucid Lynx 10.04 release), one of the main goals has been to make Ubuntu boot much faster than it used to. For the average desktop user, this feature is not really all that significant. I myself have gotten absolutely nothing out of it, because Ubuntu now beats my modem to starting up, so I still have to wait before getting on. However, this feature is really meant to shine on laptops and netbooks. Cutting down boot time saves a lot of battery power, and reduces the amount that the 'book heats up. I do have to admit that, even for a desktop user, it does make the system feel more responsive and useful.
New login manager
This is probably the only feature in Karmic that I truly have a strong opinion about. Unfortunately, that opinion is, "This was a terrible design choice." The brand new Gnome login manager is now thoroughly uncustomizable, striking a blow to the hacker philosophy of the open source movement as a whole. The supposed reason for this change is to create "a more integrated login experience", but really integration of the experience should never supercede the ability to tinker with the experience until it is totally unintelligible. That's just the way it's done.
With Karmic, the Ubuntu team has jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon. All Ubuntu users have the ability to load their files into a free 2GB storage account, which can be synced across the Internet to any other similarly-configured Ubuntu installation. I personally have no use for Ubuntu One, seeing as I only have one computer, but I can certainly anticipate it being useful next year when I'm lugging a laptop from class to class and want to be able to access some files from anywhere.
Ubuntu Software Center
Ubuntu's friendly frontend to Synaptic Package Manager, the friendly frontend to apt-get, the friendly synthesis of wget and dpkg, has had a makeover in the transition from Jaunty to Karmic, and now spots a much more simplified interface. It certainly looks like this is the best option for the average user to install his packages, as it is much easier to understand than Synaptic and the old version, "Add/Remove Software". My needs to install packages are generally met by apt-get most of the time, but I may cruise through Ubuntu Software Center at some point if I am looking for a certain type of application, a task which apt-get doesn't pretend to help you with and Synaptic utterly fails to achieve.
There are a plethora of other, technical upgrades that have occurred within the system, but I have kept my description just to the changes that the average user is going to be able to appreciate. A full list of changes is posted on the Ubuntu Wiki.
Despite my substantial ire over the violence that has been perpetrated upon the Gnome login manager, I believe that Karmic is a good release for Ubuntu and am very satisfied with the changes made. Many of the annoying nuisances that I encountered back when I began my Linux experience back in 2007 (such as poor WiFi support, poor graphics support, and lackluster Flash implementations) have disappeared as Ubuntu evolved, and the overall effect that Canonical's presence has had on the FOSS community at large has been stunning, wonderful, and a little intimidating (we're all still leery of the next Microsoft, of course).
Great job to the Ubuntu Devs, and I'll be looking forward to the next batch of major upgrades as they are rolled out in six months.