The Ubuntu development community has announced that the fifth Ubuntu 8.04 prerelease is now available for testing. Ubuntu 8.04 alpha 5 adds additional polish and reliability as well as a few intriguing new features. The official release of Ubuntu 8.04, codenamed Hardy Heron, is scheduled for late April and feature freeze is already in effect.
Arstechnica tested alpha 5 to get a first look at the new features in action and to see how it compares to alpha 4, which we reviewed earlier this month. Ubuntu 8.04 includes a new sound server called PulseAudio, the new GIO and GVFS I/O abstraction layer and virtual filesystem mechanisms, the PolicyKit secure privilege escalation framework, improved support for virtualization, and a new VNC client. Integration of these features is moving forward steadily and GVFS has become a bit more robust.
One of the most significant new features added in alpha 5 is support for Wubi, a new installation mechanism that makes it easier for Ubuntu and Windows to coexist on the same computer. Wubi provides a complete Ubuntu installer that can be run in Windows from the Ubuntu Live CD. It installs Ubuntu into a folder on the Windows file system and sets up a boot menu so that users can choose between Windows and Ubuntu when the computer starts.
Unlike a regular dual-boot configuration, Wubi doesn't require users to create a partition on their hard drives for Ubuntu. When Ubuntu is installed with Wubi, it can be uninstalled directly from the Add/Remove Programs utility in Windows.