Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 Release Notes Rewritten in Plain English

If you have been using Windows all your life, it’s no secret that switching to Linux is not an easy decision to make. Last September I was fed up with Windows Vista and decided to make the plunge.

It wasn’t easy. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. The day where I can recommend that my father use Linux (without the fear of him calling me on a daily basis to fix things) is the day I’ll proclaim the “year of the Linux desktop” has arrived.

I’ve spent hours upon hours trying to get things working, and as time goes on, those problems get easier to solve. One problem that I find runs rampant in the Linux community is over-using jargon, acronyms and sometimes even program names that people just assume you know what they’re talking about. It’s not intentional, but sometimes it’s difficult for me to wade through, even after using it exclusively for near 8 months.

Ubuntu, who has made tremendous progress towards making life in Linux easier has it’s own share of problems. One of those problems is highlighted in their release notes.

Ubuntu claims to be a “Linux for Human Beings,” and for the most part they actually do a good job of it. One place they fail miserably is in their release notes – they’re just too damn complicated for anyone who doesn’t know what all the different component names stand for.

I’ve set out to accomplish the simple task of converting the techno-jargon into readable english that anyone can understand, by using simple language and avoiding program names, acronyms and version numbers.

A fantastic example of getting the “Feature List” documented properly, while not overwhelming the end user is the absolutely gigantic 300+ New Features list for Mac OS X Leopard. I’m not kidding.

Just about every documented feature describes what value the change is for the user. This is what is important! Users don’t care about the latest version of Program X, they want to know what benefits they’ll see from the new version.

I’m targeting Ubuntu here, since it’s what I still use on my desktop. They also have a petition on their user-submitted idea website to stop including such technical information in the release notes so “mere mortals” can understand what is changing in the new versions.

With that out of the way, let’s get started. First, the name of the upcoming release, which is less than a month away is called “Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 LTS” Even the name needs to be explained for someone who is brand new:

Ubuntu is the name of the distribution.
Hardy Heron is the “Codename” of the release.
8.04 is the version, which designates that it is being released in 2008, in April (the fourth month).
LTS means software and security updates are provided for three years.

Now that we have the name, codename, version, and support defined, let’s go a little further into the rabbit hole.

New Features since the last release:

The latest version of Ubuntu includes upgraded core software which helps to save electricity for some of the newer 64-bit computers and laptops purchased in the last 5 years. This core upgrade also improves performance as well as new support for more hardware like printers, scanners, and other peripherals.

Enjoy a better first-time installation experience with our improved screen settings detection system. If problems arise with display settings, your computer should be able to recover gracefully.

There is a new utility to change your screen size, which is especially useful if you have two monitors. This also means that if you have a laptop and an external display (i.e. projector or 2nd monitor) you’ll be able to change things like screen size, and choose which monitor is your primary output easier in the latest version.

Hurray! The computer and file browser has been updated! This version has new features for pausing large file transfers, and also makes it possible to undo accidental file moves. If you try to send files to a folder you don’t have permissions for, you will be asked for the system password to complete the requested operation, instead of getting a nasty error message.

If you attempt to make changes to the computer that would normally require a system password to access, there is a new “Unlock” button on some dialogs to make it easier to understand what needs to be done to change the setting.

The new sound system is fantastic! Now you can play movies, music, and voice chat at the same time without running into problems.

We have upgraded to the newest version of the award winning internet browser, Firefox. It looks better and runs faster than before, while still remaining as secure as ever. We think you’ll like the improved experience.

Downloading large files has a new, more informative interface. You can easily see download speeds, percent completed and estimated time to completion.

The remote control application has been updated. You’ll be happy to know that accessing multiple computers is now easier than ever, and you can automatically find other computers to connect to on the same network.

Burning CDs and DVDs just got a whole lot easier with an easy to use wizard-based program.

Displaying Time and Weather in other time zones is simplified, thanks to our new World Clock program.

We added in a program for making posters, signs, family tree charts, and everything else that you might think about taking to a print shop. Now we can save those files in a format that your print shop technician can use.

If you have a “Windows-only network” at work, you’ll be able to login to the network easier if you take your computer into the office.

Many additional security issues have been resolved before they ever became a problem in our latest release, thanks to our development team who specializes in finding bugs – before they find you. We also updated our firewall software, just in case.

If you thought you needed help in the past to get Ubuntu on your computer that has Microsoft Windows on it right now, you’ll be happy to hear that we have integrated a new installer that works right in Windows. Just put in the CD and you will automatically see the Ubuntu Setup menu, just type in your desired username and password and press “Install” – it’s that easy to get started.

One more thing.., we made also changed to the way your computer works with hard drives and other memory so that it runs faster. How nice of us!

Need to know more? Check out our detailed release notes.

Think this is a good idea? Make your vote count, it takes less than 30 seconds to register and vote.

This message was paid for by The Linux Isn’t Just For Geek Types Anymore Campaign.

  • md5

    “We have upgraded to the newest version of the internet”

    BWAHAHAHAHA….but, alas, well said given the target audience.

    ..still made me laugh myself into muscle spasms.

  • anon

    “We have upgraded to the newest version of the internet. It looks better and runs faster than before, while still remaining as secure as ever.”

    OK, now this is just plain stupid. People know what a web browser is. Saying something like “upgraded to the newest version of the internet” is just going to confuse them.

  • Richard Chapman

    If Canonical doesn’t hire you as their new communication officer, they’re nuts. You understand how to share information to the general user without speaking geek. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thing in relation to anything regarding a Linux distribution.

  • Joey

    Great job.

  • Wokm4n

    This even made some things clear to me! :) Cool thx

  • http://team.centrologic.com night

    Fantastic! You indeed understand how to explain it in simple words. Hovewer I would resign from that “newest Internet” part. Change it to “newest Internet browser” because it’s to much simplificated for 95% of peolpe. Yhey might think that You treat them as idiots.

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    The bit about the newest internet was indeed tounge-in-cheek. Thanks for the suggestions and correcting my “talking down” to everyone – regular readers might “get” the sense of humor, but not everyone else. :)

    “We have upgraded to the newest version of the award winning internet browser, Firefox. It looks better and runs faster than before, while still remaining as secure as ever. We think you’ll like the improved experience.”

  • Dirk

    We added in a program for making posters, signs,….

    At least mention the name of the program. This is really stupid. Or are you changing the menu’s in ubuntu as well. So instead of inkscape i’ll see “Program for making posters, signs, ….”.
    You may have a point that the release notes are TOO technical for regular users but what you are doing is the other end of the spectrum. I would not read your notes.

  • Tim Leary

    I don’t think you dumbed it down enough for the normal Ubuntu user.

  • danielG

    This is a great idea. I think the name of the programs should be included in the release notes so that people know what to look for when they want to try the new features.

    Acually, not the program’s real name, just what it is called in the menus. Eg.: Change Screen Resolution, not XRandR GUI or whatever it is called.

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  • http://fromtheold.com esvl

    That was worth the read. Great stuff.

    I am a “normal” Ubuntu user.

    I am glad they fixed the setting for permissions when moving files, I only work from the livecd so that becomes annoying sometimes.

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  • Andrew

    “Downloading large files has a new, more informative interface. You can easily see download speeds, percent completed and estimated time to completion.”

    This seems to be too simplistic, and even a bit misleading. You need to at least mention that the “new, more informative interface” only applies to BitTorrent downloads, not large files in general.

  • http://mattkantor.com Matt

    Very nice. I voted up that brainstorm awhile ago, but I’m glad its still seeing some attention.

    One tip: make sure you don’t sacrifice accuracy for the sake of simplicity. “Downloading large files”, does not necessarily mean “torrents” to those who know what torrents are, and does not tell those who don’t why the “large” files they get through firefox still look the same as always. Even “downloading large files (torrents)” might be a bit better. Torrent is becoming more and more of a household word these days anyways.

    On another note, one of the great things about this approach means that the “detailed release notes” can be even geekier!

  • http://jorgenmodin.net jorgen

    In the beginning you explain the code name Hardy Heron and the version number. What if Ubuntu always labeled those things in that way? On all documentation instead of writing:

    Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 LTS

    Write in header of the document:

    Ubuntu Linux
    Codename of this release: Hardy Heron
    Version 8.04 (April 2008)
    LTS – This is a Long Term Support release

  • Paul

    Do yourself and your father a favor and install PCLinuxOS.


  • codlike

    Great post. Sex up those release notes now !

  • JW

    “The day where I can recommend that my father use Linux (without the fear of him calling me on a daily basis to fix things) is the day I’ll proclaim the “year of the Linux desktop” has arrived.”

    Why? I’ve been “the computer guy” in my family and having to solve computer issues since the early 90s, on every version of Windows since 3.1. There were a lot more issues to solve then than there are now.

    I’ve been using Ubuntu as my exclusive operating system since May 2005, and I installed it on my parents’ (who are computer illiterate) computer in early 2006. Other than a few minor printer-related issues, it’s been smooth sailing. No virus problems, no defragging chores. I just have to remind them to click that orange button in the corner to get their updates.

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  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    JW: My father is a researcher and author. The apple sure doesn’t fall too far from the tree, right?

    The main problems would be primarily how to convert from using Microsoft Word to “something else” since he does formatting, layout and pretty much everything else before it goes straight to the printer to avoid additional costs and fees of having someone do it for him.

    He’s written entire volumes in Word. 1000ish page books (all three of them) are in .doc format. It’s a nightmare to say the least – Word isn’t designed for gigantic documents. He’s wrapped every last bit of juice from Word and figured out how to do what he needs.

    If anything, I think he would not be opposed to switching to a Mac. Many, many, many well known content creators generally gravitate to Macintosh, and for good reason – because they don’t want to worry about things.

    Linux right now is simply not an option. I live 25 miles away and he’s not always at home connected to the internet for me to remote in and fix things.

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    I’m gonna be updating this as a static page for the rest of the night to avoid massive CPU usage on my server.

    New comments posted should appear in the morning. :)

  • Murat

    There’s no mention whatsoever in this article that the release notes in question are for the for the release of _the beta_, not the final release. The beta is aimed at a more technical audience than the final release, and it’s safe to assume that beta testers are mostly capable of understanding the language in the release notes.

  • Bob/Paul

    Neat idea, but fatally flawed. You talk of “a new utility” and “a new program” but you never say what the program or utility is. I updated to Hardy over a week ago, and this is the first I heard of a printshop design program.

    Does this refer to a part of OpenOffice, the Gimp, or something new? I can’t find anything…

    [Inkscape is referenced in the release notes -Wayne]

  • regular linux user

    This is stupid, people need to know specifics, names of programs, version numbers, the release notes are SUUPPOSED to be technical, for people who want to know what has changed (kernel , programs, features etc) from the last release (7.10) If you want a really dumbed down explanation go buy “Ubuntu for Dummies” or something, it’s already the easiest distro to use, when you first start using linux you don’t have to know every program or feature, you learn gradually as you go, people praising this [idiotic blog obvisously just trying to get “dug” up] Either get PClinuxos, “Linux for Dummies” or just stick to windows because you are not interested in Linux, if you do not care to learn anything about it, why use it?

  • pazuzuzu

    “Hours upon hours to get things working”?

    I’ve never had an Ubuntu install require more than pressing “ok” a few times. Did you have the same problems on the stable release (Gutsy Gibbon) or are you running bizarre hardware?

    [If you think a Sony HD Handycam, Bluetooth adapter, HP printer, and touchscreen are “bizarre” -Wayne]

  • dave
  • Someone

    I personally feel the problem with this is that Ubuntu wouldn’t be giving the projects they’re using fair credit. If I were a contributer of one of the many programs included, and I spent a long time updating it only to see that Ubuntu used the update but didn’t even mention the project name I would likely be pretty offended.

  • http://cedargroveview.blogspot.com/2007/09/how-to-disguise-what-council-sees-or-is.html Lin M. Hall

    In your para “If you have a “Windows-only network” at work, you’ll be able to login to the network easier if you take your computer into the office.” the “into” should be “in to” and in “thanks to our development team who specializes in finding bugs – before they find you.” you should have “that” instead of “who”.

    Can we see a version upgrade before next release please?


  • http://wijnha01.nl jermain

    I alsways got a new version thinking, “so much geek talk, i’m sure its better” i was right, but now at least i know WHY.

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  • Urbano


    I also agree with your thoughts. And definitely think Ubuntu people should release their release notes as you purpose.

    But I think that the only reason, they don’t do the release notes as you purpose, is because the people involved in the Marketing Team are all volunteers and probably no one of them have formation is this area. I follow the marketing list, and I’m sure they do their best, they are a very little team, with a lot of work, so in my opinion it’s comprehensible that they can’t be good in everything.

    My suggestion is: Join the marketing team! Even only to do the release notes.

    I’m sure they will be delighted, to have a new member in the team with your abilities.

    Me personally as a Ubuntu user, that want to see Ubuntu, reach more and more people will be VERY, VERY, VERY thankful.

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Just updated the static page with the latest comments… I’ll figure out how to better manage the onslaught of visitors when I upgrade to WordPress 2.5.


  • Just Another Penguin

    Paul wrote:

    “Do yourself and your father a favor and install PCLinuxOS. http://www.pclinuxos.com/

    By stating the above, you are implying PCLinuxOS is way better than Ubuntu. This is the kind of attitude that gets Linux a bad name. Please respect the blog owner and readers here, who are mainly Ubuntu users.

    I have no intention to start a war here, I am both Ubuntu & PCLinuxOS user.

  • NicolasStouff

    Well this is very Apple-like… But truly interesting!
    I believe any “normal”, non geeky user, would be able to understand what the major changes are, and what he can expect to find in the new release.
    I particularly find amazing the transcription of kernel into Core Software. I searched for a term like this for months, trying to explain my old parents what a “kernel” was. Finally, I converted them to Ubuntu anyway, but it would probbbaaaaaaaaaaaably interest them more to do the updates/upgrades themselves if they could read something like this (in French of course, but I would translate it)

  • http://haha.com haha

    LTS = 18 Months of Support for desktop only,
    please check your facts

  • http://askabouttech.com Tyler

    Just like you I switch from Vista to Linux and now I cant and wont go back to Windows. It can be frustrating getting stuff to work though.

  • Rev. Spaminator

    Release notes for the non-technical folks is fine and dandy, but we also need away to reference the details. Sometimes you’ve gone out of your way to configure something that is a little trickier than the basic Ubuntu interface can handle. A new release could change the behavior of that program and knowing what exactly changed, in full geek-speak, can be very helpful in troubleshooting your recently upgraded server.

  • manny

    i love all the tech jargon after a year using it, but they gotta release separate release notes.

    They gotta dumb things down to non tech lvls

    anyway that’s what i like about linuxmint

    they make ubuntu in many aspects even easier, but ubuntu seems to be catching up in a few stuff

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne
  • Fabricio

    ‘Release notes’ are for tech people.

    What is needed is a help system for people to start with. A ‘Getting Started’ guide(GSG), really aimed to normal non-tech user. And a Reference Guide, with information in very detail.

    That GSG should include normal things like “Where my programs are”, “How to install a new program”, “How to install a printer”, and so on. The thing you are proposing would go in a “What’s New” chapter.

    And the main components (like Change Screen Resolution) shoud have a “What’s This? ” context help ( you know, that one you click on the ‘?’ button and click on a field or control on program window and a descriptive hint appear on screen).

  • http://mikelward.com Mikel Ward

    “We added in a program for making posters, signs, family tree charts, and everything else that you might think about taking to a print shop. Now we can save those files in a format that your print shop technician can use.”

    You’re talking about Inkscape, which was not newly added, just upgraded to a version that includes better PDF support.

  • Tonsil Romancer

    “By using [name of ridiculous tech term here], you can share photos with loved ones! Thanks to [hyperjargonic discombobulator], Ubuntu can support more peripherals such as printers, wifi cards…”

  • Grant

    Good writing! I was able to read and understand all of it without having to put on my “geek hat”. You should consider doing this kind of writing full time.

    I would like to have seen you explain what “LTS” means by stating that it stands for Long Term Support, and then continue on with your statement that it’s support for three years.

    I do agree with the other folks here about the “We have upgraded to the newest version of the internet.” statement. I think most people today understand what an Internet browser is.

    Other than that, great tech writing!

  • panzerfaust

    Tim Leary is a normal Ubuntu user.

  • http://ibeentoubuntu.com Daeng Bo

    I put together a video overview of all the apps and especially the new features in Hardy.

  • nasrullah

    It is very nice for all users of Ubuntu to get it easy……UBuntu is freedom for the all world…..

  • Vadim P.
  • Doug Glass

    I’ve been struggling with Ubuntu since 2006 with one or another of the iterations of version 6. For a long term, very long tern, Windows user I can truthfully say no Linux distro will ever be adopted by the “common” Windows PC user. I know there are those who think that’s a crock. No matter, time will tell.

    I can for sure tell you my circle of Windows using friends laugh at me and Ubuntu. They find it impossible to understand, have no interest in fixing what in their opinion ain’t broke, and think I’ve simply got too much time on my hands. I’m retired now and my circle spans personal friends and the IT department of one of the largest US utilities.

    It’s refreshing to see at least an attempt to explain to the Linux world how they must be effective marketers. Linux will never be sold to the vast unwashed by saying it’s technically superior, safer, and etc. Validation? Check the latest data on which OS dominates in the PC desktop world.

    Those [of us] pushing Linux must learn to deal with their potential users on those user’s level. Unfamiliar jargon, might I say even threatening jargon, simply turns them off. This will be a hard lesson to learn and frankly it’s one I think will never be learned. Resistance within the Linux community is obviously too high or it would have already happened. If desktop Linux were a worthy product being sold by a major corporate player, it’s dismal sales performance would have long ago resulted in either the product line being canceled for lack of demand or all the VPs and board members fired….or both.

    Think I’m wrong? Well, time will tell and I’m willing to be wrong. Me being wrong means I get a wonderful desktop OS. Me being right means Linux goes into a hole and stays.

    Make me wrong guys…..make me wrong.