If you're a fan of Ubuntu Linux, there's a good chance you're among the many who have been wondering in the last day or so what, precisely, a pangolin is.
That, of course, is because Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth just declared Precise Pangolin the nickname for the next Ubuntu. I'm betting there's been a sudden surge in Google searches on the term since the announcement was made.
Keeping up with the Dr. Seussian name choices for Ubuntu mascots is never easy, so to make matters more clear for all of us, here's a brief history with pictures of all the mascots Ubuntu has had so far. The only question now is, what will it be for Ubuntu 12.10: Quirky Quail, Quahog, Quarterhorse or Queen Bee?
1. Warty Warthog (4.10)
The warthog is a wild member of the pig family native in grassland, savanna and woodland regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Weighing between 100 and 200 pounds, each warty creature has two pairs of tusks and lives in groups called sounders. It's reportedly not uncommon for warthogs to allow banded mongooses to do their grooming for them.
As for the Ubuntu release, it's most notable for being the first Ubuntu ever. Launched in October 2004, “it aimed to be a functional if not pretty snapshot of Debian Unstable, with a few specific feature goals,” according to the Ubuntu wiki, with more integration, polish and documentation coming in later releases.
2. Hoary Hedgehog (5.04)
There are 17 species of hedgehogs in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand; none are native to Australia or North America. These primarily nocturnal mammals tend to be insectivores and are perhaps best known for their ability to roll into a tight ball when threatened. Other names for the hedgehog include urchin, hedgepig, and furze-pig, according to Wikipedia.
Hoary Hedgehog, meanwhile, was released in April 2005 and added features including an update manager and APT authentication; and suspend, hibernate,") and standby support.
3. Breezy Badger (5.10)
Part of the weasel family, badgers are short-legged omnivores with a powerful jaw that can grab prey with a virtually unbreakable grip. Found all over the world, badgers live in underground burrows and can be fierce opponents. They've also been known to hunt cooperatively with coyotes.
The Breezy Badger Ubuntu release of October 2005, on the other hand, added a graphical bootloader, an Add/Remove Applications tool, a menu editor, and Launchpad integration.
4. Dapper Drake (6.06 LTS)
"Drake" is simply the term for a male duck, so it actually includes numerous species of the bird. Ducks can be found on both fresh and sea water, and they tend to eat grasses and aquatic plants as well as worms and small amphibians. Though some say duck quacks don't echo, that's apparently just an urban legend.
As for Dapper Drake? Released in June 2006, it was the operating system's first Long Term Support release, and it arrived two months behind schedule. The software's theme switched to an orange color scheme instead of brown.
5. Edgy Eft (6.10)
What's an eft? Glad you asked. It's essentially a newt in its terrestrial juvenile phase--the teenager of newts, if you will. Bright colors in these lizard-like creatures often warn of toxins secreted by their skin.
Edgy Eft, on the other hand, was the fifth Ubuntu release, launched in October 2006. It featured automated crash reports and the F-Spot photo manager.
6. Feisty Fawn (7.04)
If you've ever seen Bambi, you're of course already well-acquainted with the baby deer, known also as the fawn. Deer--and fawns--can be found all over the world, and are excellent runners, jumpers and swimmers.
Feisty Fawn, meanwhile--which debuted April 2007--was the first to add a migration assistant aimed at helping Microsoft Windows users make the transition to Linux. Also included were a number of driver tools, Compiz desktop effects and a disk usage analyzer. Absent from this release, on the other hand, was support for the PowerPC architecture.
7. Gutsy Gibbon (7.10)
Found in tropical and subtropical rainforests, Gibbons are apes in the family Hylobatidae. They're also cute, and they bond in pairs just like we do. Swinging from branch to branch at speeds as high as 35 miles per hour, they are reportedly the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals, according to Wikipedia.
And what of Gutsy Gibbon? Well, released in October 2007, it's perhaps best known for adding AppArmor for security, fast desktop search and a graphical configuration tool for X.Org. Compiz Fusion was also enabled by default.
8. Hardy Heron (8.04 LTS)
Herons are majestic, long-legged freshwater and coastal birds that have a distinctive silhouette when flying because they keep their necks retracted. There are many different kinds of herons, including the Great Blue Heron and the distinctive Snowy Egret.
Hardy Heron, on the other hand, was released in April 2008 and is particularly notable for being the second Long Term Support release. Ubuntu 8.04 was also the first version to include the Wubi installer on its Live CD.
9. Intrepid Ibex (8.10)
The ibex is a type of wild goat in which males often sport incredibly long, curved horns. Ibex motifs can be found on a variety of ancient artifacts, and it's believed that the horns of the ibex were once used as a childbearing charm.
Intrepid Ibex, meanwhile, was released October 2008 and added several improvements geared toward mobile computing and desktop scalability.
10. Jaunty Jackalope (9.04)
Ah, the jackalope. This mythical animal from North American folklore is said to be a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope and generally a terrifying creature. What more is there to say?
Jaunty Jackalope, of course, is no myth but rather the Ubuntu version released in April 2009. Faster boot time was one of its hallmarks, along with integration of web applications and services into the desktop interface.
11. Karmic Koala (9.10)
Everyone knows the adorable-looking koala, of course, native to coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia. Contrary to popular belief, koalas are not actually bears; they're also reportedly a lot more aggressive than they look.
Then there's Karmic Koala, the Ubuntu release from October 2009. Wouldn't you know, it focused on improvements in cloud computing using Eucalyptus. Pidgin was replaced by Empathy Instant Messenger, meanwhile, and the Ubuntu Software Center made its debut.
12. Lucid Lynx (10.04 LTS)
There are four lynx species of medium-sized wildcats, and they're distinctive for the tufts of black hair atop their ears. Lynxes also sport a ruff under the neck with black bars that resemble a bow tie.
Are lynxes lucid? Well Ubuntu 10.04 certainly was when it debuted in April 2010. Representing the third Long Term Support release, Lucid Lynx switched to the new “Light” theme and improved driver support. This version of Ubuntu is still supported, and will be through April 2013 for desktop users.
13. Maverick Meerkat (10.10)
Who can keep a straight face while watching Meerkat Manor and the antics of the many meerkat families in the Kalahari Desert? These little creatures are intensely social animals. In some parts of Africa, it's believed that the meerkat--known as the “sun angel”--protects villages from the “moon devil,” or werewolf.
14. Natty Narwhal (11.04)
The narwhal is a medium-sized whale that lives year-round in the Arctic. Weighing up to 3500 pounds, the males of the species are distinguished by a long, straight tusk.
As for Natty Narwhal, well, readers of these pages are probably familiar with it already, if nothing else then by word of mouth. This version, after all, is the one where Unity became the default interface in the desktop version of the software--to the delight of some and the chagrin of others.
15. Oneiric Ocelot (11.10)
Only slightly larger than the domestic cat, the ocelot is a wild cousin commonly found in South and Central America and Mexico, but also occasionally seen in Texas and Arizona. Ocelots are nocturnal creatures and very territorial.
The world is now counting down to Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, which is due to debut next week. What will it look like? Notable in the first beta version were a smaller DVD image, improved 32-bit compatibility and GNOME 3, among many other improvements.
16. Precise Pangolin (12.04)
Last but certainly not least we have the pangolin, particularly notable for being the only mammal whose skin is covered by keratin scales. Found in tropical regions of Asia and Africa, these tough creatures are like the hedgehog in their natural tendency to curl up into a ball.
As for Precise Pangolin? Not due for release until April, it's still just a twinkle in Canonical's proverbial eye. We can only guess how it will ultimately take after its namesake, but here's what Shuttleworth had to say:
"I’ve recently spent a few hours tracking a pangolin through the Kalahari. I can vouch for their precision--there wasn’t an ant hill in the valley that he missed. Their scales are a wonder of detail and quite the fashion statement. I can also vouch for their toughness; pangolin’s regularly survive encounters with lions. All in all, a perfect fit. There’s no sassier character, and no more cheerful digger, anywhere in those desert plains. If you want a plucky partner, the pangolin’s your match."