Ubuntu 21.10 brings a wide variety of improvements, most notably on the desktop side switching to GNOME Shell 40 and offering many improvements there including some theme refinements. There are also many underlying improvements to enjoy with Ubuntu 21.10, like what gets us excited about kernel and compiler upgrades along with other notable package version bumps. Adding Wayland support for NVIDIA drivers is a big improvement, as is the addition of PipeWire. There’s also a big regression in that Ubuntu has moved its Firefox package from deb to a Snap package, something I’d sure manually fix if I were an Ubuntu user.
Given that there is sufficient archive-wide support for zstd, Ubuntu is switching to zstd compressed packages in Ubuntu 21.10, the current development release. Please welcome hello/2.10-2ubuntu3, the first zstd-compressed Ubuntu package that will be followed by many other built with dpkg (>= 1.20.9ubuntu2), and enjoy the speed! Sometimes, it’s the obscure changes that can have a big impact. This change will speed up the installation of .deb packages.
With Canonical announcing Ubuntu support for so much new hardware, the announcement of Ubuntu ported to a new architecture can go unnoticed. But today, we have a big one. Working with the leading RISC-V core IP designer and development board manufacturer, SiFive, we are proud to announce the first Ubuntu release for two of the most prominent SiFive boards, Unmatched and Unleashed. This is great news for RISC-V and open source hardware in general. Of course, Linux on RISC-V moves forward with or without the support or major distributions, but having Ubuntu, probably the most popular Linux distribution in the world, on board is a major boon for the architecture.
Today, Canonical released Ubuntu 21.04 with native Microsoft Active Directory integration, Wayland graphics by default, and a Flutter application development SDK. Separately, Canonical and Microsoft announced performance optimization and joint support for Microsoft SQL Server on Ubuntu. Ubuntu 21.04 is an important release, if only because of the switch to Wayland, following in Fedora’s footsteps. Ubuntu did opt out of shipping GNOME 40, though, so it comes with 3.38 instead. The step to Wayland is surely going to cause problems for some people, but overall, I think it’s high time and Wayland is pretty much as ready as it’s ever going to be. Remember, Wayland is not X, as I said a few months ago: Wayland is not X.org. Let me repeat that. Wayland is not X.org. If you need the functionality that X.org delivers, then you shouldn’t be using Wayland. This is like buying a Mac and complaining your Windows applications don’t work. With NVIDIA finally seeming to get at least somewhat on board, and X.org development basically having dried up, the time for Wayland is now.
The key difference between regular Ubuntu and Ubuntu Core is the underlying architecture of the system. Traditional Linux distributions rely mostly on traditional package systems—deb, in Ubuntu’s case—while Ubuntu Core relies almost entirely on Canonical’s relatively new snap package format. Ubuntu Core also gets a full 10 years of support from Canonical rather than the five years traditional Ubuntu LTS releases get. But it’s a bit more difficult to get started with, since you need an Ubuntu SSO account to even log in to a new Ubuntu Core installation in the first place. Ars takes a look at this rather unusual Ubuntu variant.
Ubuntu is going to be trying to switch over to using Wayland by default for the current Ubuntu 21.04 cycle to allow sufficient time for widespread testing and evaluation ahead of next year’s Ubuntu 22.04 LTS release. Canonical engineer Sebastien Bacher announced today they will be trying again for Ubuntu 21.04 to enable Wayland by default, four years after they originally tried but reverted back to using GNOME on X.Org for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and since that point. Ubuntu with GNOME Shell on Wayland has been available as a non-default choice but the hope is now in 2021 they are ready to comfortably switch to Wayland. I try to use Wayland wherever possible, since the performance gains and battery life improvements are just too good to ignore. There’s still two major blockers, though – first, NVIDIA support is problematic, at best, so my main computer will remain on X until NVIDIA gets its act together. Second, my desktop environment of choice, Cinnamon, does not support Wayland and has no support coming in the pipeline, which is really disappointing. GNOME can be made usable with extensive use of extensions, and I’m seriously considering switching to it once the NVIDIA situation is sorted. My laptop already runs GNOME for this very reason.
Ubuntu 20.10 rides atop the Linux 5.8 kernel, includes the GNOME 3.38 release, has new wallpapers, Active Directory integration (for enterprise users) in the installer, and carries a clutch of updated software, tools, and libraries. Plus this is the first version of Ubuntu to offer desktop support for the Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB + 8GB models). Not a massive release, but welcome new versions of the core parts of the distribution nonetheless.
It has long been our vision for Flutter to power platforms. We’ve seen this manifest already at Google with products like the Assistant so now we’re thrilled to see others harnessing Flutter to power more platforms. Today we are happy to jointly announce the availability of the Linux alpha for Flutter alongside Canonical, the publisher of Ubuntu, the world’s most popular desktop Linux distribution. I welcome any additional investment in Linux or other operating systems that aren’t the macOS or Windows, but this one has a major downside: it’s all tied to Canonical’s snaps and Snap Store. In case you are unaware – snaps are quite controversial in the Linux world, and Linux Mint, one of the most popular Linux distributions, has taken a very proactive approach in removing them. Their reasoning makes it very clear why snap is so problematic: Applications in this store cannot be patched, or pinned. You can’t audit them, hold them, modify them or even point snap to a different store. You’ve as much empowerment with this as if you were using proprietary software, i.e. none. This is in effect similar to a commercial proprietary solution, but with two major differences: It runs as root, and it installs itself without asking you. On top of all this, the snap server is closed source. Snap is simply a no-go, and I’m saddened Google decided to opt for using it. Then again, Google has never shown any interest whatsoever in desktop Linux – preferring to simply take, but not give. None of their applications – other than Chrome – are available on Linux, and opting for snap further demonstrates Google doesn’t really seem to understand the Linux ecosystem at all. All they had to do was release a source tarball, and for a few extra brownie points, maybe a .deb and/or .rpm, but that isn’t even necessary. If your tool is good enough, it will be picked up by distributions and third parties who will make those packages for you. Google opting for snap instead indicates they have little faith in their own product being good and valuable enough to be embraced by the Linux distribution community. And if they don’t have any faith, why should I?
Ubuntu Touch is the privacy and freedom respecting mobile operating system by UBports. Today we are happy to announce the release of Ubuntu Touch OTA-12! OTA-12 is immediately available for many supported Ubuntu Touch devices. It is easily our largest release ever, featuring a number of new features while saying goodbye to some old friends. There’s quite a few changes, but device support is still a bit of a problem. I’d love to test this out though, and I happen to own two of the better supported devices.
We’ve already talked about snaps on Ubuntu, but it turns out it’s actually way worse than I initially thought. On the latest Ubuntu, if you try to download the .deb version of Chromium using either the Software Store or command line, it acts as an alias to installing the snap version! Essentially, Chromium snap is shoved down your throat even if you explicitly asked for the .deb version. This is not cool Ubuntu – just because Chromium may be easier to maintain as a snap app doesn’t justify this forced behavior. Snap applications auto-update and that’s fine if Ubuntu wants to keep systems secure. But it can’t even be turned off manually. Auto-updating of snaps can only be deferred at best, until at some point, like Windows, it auto-updates anyway. Even on metered connections, snaps auto-update anyway after some time. I only use Ubuntu on my laptop right now – my workstation and main PC run my distribution of choice, Linux Mint with Cinnamon – because the latest version of Ubuntu supports it better than the current Linux Mint release does. As soon as the next version of Mint is out, which will be based on the current Ubuntu version, I’m ditching Ubuntu right away. I don’t like snaps, FlatPaks, AppImage, or any of that other nonsense that do nothing but make a clean .deb/APT-based system more complicated than it needs to be. Debian’s package management system is incredibly robust and easy to fix in the unlikely event something does go wrong, so I simply do not have a need for additional application installation methods that I can’t control through APT. Ubuntu only barely just recovered from the Unity debacle, only for the project to now go down yet another route nobody is asking for.
By default, Ubuntu ships with a bunch of snap packages. If, like me, you don’t like snap and Flatpak infecting your clean deb/apt-based system, here’s how to remove them. Now this all sounds great, and it is in some ways (especially for app developers), but it comes at a cost: and that is generally performance and annoyances with application theming, access to user folders, and the like. I personally find that if I want to run a sandboxed application I lean more toward Flatpak as it is more performant and seems a bit more mature than Canonical’s snap system. In any event, I usually disable snaps entirely on a fresh install of Ubuntu, and I’ll show you how to do that in the new Ubuntu 20.04 release.
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS on the desktop is shipping with GNOME 3.36 and its plethora of improvements, improved OpenZFS support as an experimental option, the Linux 5.4 LTS kernel and the many improvements the new kernel brings, WireGuard VPN support, and a wealth of other package updates. I’ve been running it on my laptop since the beta, upgraded from 19.10, and it’s been smooth sailing.
Ubuntu 19.10 is unusual for an October Ubuntu release in that I would call it a must-have upgrade. While it retains some of the experimental elements Ubuntu’s fall releases have always been known for, the speed boosts to GNOME alone make this release well worth your time. If you prefer to stick with more stable releases, most of what’s new in 19.10 will eventually be backported to 19.04 and possibly even the last LTS release, 18.04. Still, unless you’re unflinchingly committed to the stability of LTS releases, I see no reason not to upgrade. As I said at the start, Ubuntu 19.10 is quite possibly the best release of Ubuntu Canonical has ever delivered. It’s well worth upgrading if you’re already an Ubuntu user, and it’s well worth trying even if you’re not. The speed improvements to GNOME are incredibly enticing. I’m a Mint/Cinnamon user, but this is definitely intriguing me.
I’ve been using Ubuntu as my workstation OS for several months now. Ubuntu Server with the i3 window manager to be specific. I love it, and I’ve had to change my workflow a lot to make it work for me. But now that I’ve made the switch to it from Mac and Windows, I’m very happy with it. I’ll be honest, there’s not a ton of hard evidence that working on a Linux distro is objectively better than working on Windows or Mac. I have almost equal amounts of time spent working on each of these platforms, and I think each one excels at something different. With that in mind, I think Ubuntu just feels right for the priorities I have now. So what have I gained, what have I lost, and what did I learn along the way? While switching platforms is not always an easy task to accomplish – especially for people with very specific platform-specific software needs like, say, Xcode – I am convinced people convince themselves it’s harder than it really is. You can learn a lot from switching platforms, and test runs can teach you where your dependencies lie and how to overcome them, which is a wise thing to do, especially when you’re relying on proprietary tools that have turned into single points of failure beyond your control.
The new Ubuntu release is now available. The Ubuntu kernel has been updated to the 5.3 based Linux kernel, and our default toolchain has moved to gcc 9.2 with glibc 2.30. Additionally, the Raspberry Pi images now support the new Pi 4 as well as 2 and 3. Ubuntu Desktop 19.10 introduces GNOME 3.34 the fastest release yet with significant performance improvements delivering a more responsive experience. App organisation is easier with the ability to drag and drop icons into categorised folders and users can select light or dark Yaru theme variants. The Ubuntu Desktop installer also introduces installing to ZFS as a root filesystem as an experimental feature. Ubuntu Server 19.10 integrates recent innovations from key open infrastructure projects like OpenStack Train, Kubernetes, and Ceph with advanced life-cycle management for multi-cloud and on-prem operations, from bare metal, VMware and OpenStack to every major public cloud. While you may not be using the default Ubuntu, lots of people are using Ubuntu-based distributions like Mint, so a new Ubuntu release always affects quite a few people far beyond just Ubuntu users.
Yesterday brought exciting news on the ZFS and Ubuntu fronts—experimental ZFS root support in the installer for Ubuntu’s upcoming interim release, Eoan Ermine. The feature appeared in the 2019-10-09 daily build of Eoan—it’s not in the regular beta release and, in fact, wasn’t even in the “current daily” when we first went to download it. It’s that new! (Readers wanting to play with the new functionality can find it in today’s daily build, available here.) Ars takes a look at this feature that’s clearly in still in alpha.
Thanks to the huge amount of feedback this weekend from gamers, Ubuntu Studio, and the WINE community, we will change our plan and build selected 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS. We will put in place a community process to determine which 32-bit packages are needed to support legacy software, and can add to that list post-release if we miss something that is needed. Good move.
The second major casualty of Ubuntu’s announced removalof 32 bit compatibility from 19.10 and up? It’s Valve’s Steam, as announced by Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais: Ubuntu 19.10 and future releases will not be officially supported by Steam or recommended to our users. We will evaluate ways to minimize breakage for existing users, but will also switch our focus to a different distribution, currently TBD. That’s a pretty serious blow to Ubuntu – and derivatives – users.
The news that Ubuntu will drop support for the 32-bit x86 architecture was discussed recently by the Wine developers, on the Wine-devel mailing list. The Wine developers are concerned with this news because many 64-bit Windows applications still use a 32-bit installer, or some 32-bit components. That’s an interesting side-effect of going 64 bit-only that I hadn’t even considered. This can be a serious blow to Ubuntu users who use Wine, but I do wonder just how popular Wine really is.