Oct. 17 marks the official release of version 13.10 of Ubuntu Linux, Canonical's open source operating system for the desktop, server and cloud. And while there may not be quite as much new stuff for desktop users as there has been in previous Ubuntu versions, it's still worth taking stock of what Canonical has changed.

On servers and the cloud, Ubuntu 13.10—or "Saucy Salamander," as Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth dubbed the release last spring—brings a fair deal of crucial new stuff to the table, especially in the realms of OpenStack, virtualization and cloud orchestration.

The changes are not as momentous for the desktop. That was to be expected, however, since Canonical has now adopted a "rolling release" schedule for Ubuntu that aims to introduce new features on a gradual and continuous basis, rather than pushing them all out with the twice-yearly Ubuntu version upgrades.

Still, 13.10 distinguishes itself even on the desktop in a couple of notable ways. They include:

  • Enhancements to AppArmor, a system that adds an extra layer of security to Ubuntu to help prevent and contain malware threats. Ordinary desktop users might be unlikely to notice the AppArmor updates, but by hardening Ubuntu yet further against attack, the added features promise to improve the desktop experience overall.
  • A more streamlined implementation of CUPS, the service that manages printers on Ubuntu. From an end-user perspective, CUPS in Ubuntu 13.10 should work pretty much the same as it did previously, but the code is now both less awkward and better equipped to handle network printers by using a new and improved detection system, which should provide a smoother printing experience overall.

And that's about it, actually. The other changes affecting desktop users that are highlighted in the official Ubuntu 13.10 release notes, which include a minor bump up in the Linux kernel version and more work in the way of deprecating old versions of Python, are not really significant at all, unless you're a geek.

So for Ubuntu desktop users, this Thursday may present less occasion for partying than have the third Thursdays of October in years past (or April, the traditional date of the other biannual Ubuntu release). Still, the operating system is evolving, and I might even take a moment to raise a toast to it later this week—especially if I can make my way to the aptly named Saucy Salamander café, which happens to be in my own back yard.