You know the drill. Over the last couple of years, each major and minor Ubuntu upgrade has been, well, boring. There's been little to report on, save for the constant droning of "When will we finally see Unity 8?" In fact, I can't remember the last time Ubuntu had an exciting upgrade to roll out. That, in and of itself, says a lot about where we are as consumers and technologists. We live very much in a show me something exciting state. When a company or platform has nothing exciting to offer in an upgrade, the product loses its appeal.
Such has been the case with Ubuntu. Even though the current state of the desktop has been polished to a high gleam, it's lost a fair amount of popularity. Part of the reason for that is the last four+ upgrades have been rather meh.
There is, however, a rather huge upside to all those boring releases. It means the distribution is stable, and that's exactly what Ubuntu has been over the last few years—one of the most stable distributions on the planet.
That's about to change, for both good and bad. Well, after one final boring upgrade... Ubuntu 15.10.
To be fair, the next upgrade from Canonical won't be quite as boring as the last four or six. In fact, there are actually some pretty cool features coming to Wily Werewolf. Of course, those nifty features will all be obfuscated by a very clear lack of change in the UI. However, once you peel back that trusty UI, the features start to appear. Let's take a look.
It's about time an official Ubuntu release joined the 4.x kernel world. Unfortunately, the release will come too soon for a 4.3 release. Even still, the improvements from the 3.x kernel to the 4.x kernel are significant for the desktop. Those of you who use a trackpad will see a marked improvement at how Linux works with the hardware. Beyond the obvious improvements, the 4.2 kernel also includes an AMD GPU driver, F2FS per-file encryption, NCQ TRIM handling, queue spinlocks, and much more.
Ubuntu 15.10 will ship with the latest stable release of the OpenStack cloud software. The amount of new and updated features for Liberty is impressive (to say the least). To get a full listing, take a gander at the official release notes.
Stateless persistent network interface names
How long have Linux internet interface names been in the form of eth0? For as long as I can remember. However, with the release of 15.10, that all changes. The new names for interfaces will be more comprehensive (and thus more descriptive). This new feature will be handled by udev 220-6ubuntu2 and should cause a bit of confusion at first (especially for those that have been using eth0, eth1, wlan0 for such a long time).
Change happens. Get used to it.
The GNOME stack
As of 15.10, the Ubuntu GNOME stack will finally be upgraded to an almost up-to-date 3.16.x release. This has been long overdue, because so much of the GNOME stack has greatly improved, and Ubuntu remaining behind this curve has caused the shipped GNOME packages to be missing major improvements. As a bonus, a much newer (and improved) GTK will be shipped with Wily.
You'll be surprised to find one actual visible change in the 15.10 release. The scrollbars in Unity are finally shifting to those developed by the GNOME team. This is a much-needed improvement, since the Unity scrollbars have always seemed a bit of a design mistake.
That's about it for the major changes for 15.10, which is the last boring upgrade for Ubuntu. Beyond that, things will start getting really interesting, as the Unity 8/Mir combination finally comes to fruition. At that point, all bets are off. When 16.04 is released, the desktop will drastically change, and all of that amazing stability we've enjoyed for years might well be chucked out the window... at least for a while.
Want to install the daily build for Wily Werewolf? If so, download the ISO image from here.
If you fear change, Ubuntu 15.10 might well be the last upgrade to the world's most popular Linux distribution that doesn't send your heart into apoplectic fits. Of course, this is all speculation... as we all know, the shift to Unity 8/Mir has been pushed back time and time again. But if everything goes as planned, 16.04 will finally be that "magic" number.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Tell us about your experience with Ubuntu 15.10. Are you concerned with Canonicals shift to Unity 8/Mir? If so, why?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.