Open Source

Ubuntu 15.04: Minor improvements, major controversy

Ubuntu 15.04 has arrived, but not without a bit of controversy. Jack Wallen highlights what you can expect from the latest iteration from Canonical by way of drama and improvements.

Vervet

It's the fourth month of an odd-numbered year. You know what that means, right? You got it, the .04 release of a non-Long Term Support (LTS) Ubuntu. This time around, it's 15.04—Vivid Vervet. Unlike the last release, 14.10, this particular iteration of Canonical's platform is mired in a bit of controversy. In particular, I'm talking about the switch to systemd.

This is a change that will have old-school admins pulling out their graying hair by the handfuls. You see, systemd is replacing the aging UNIX sysvinit startup system (which had already been replaced in Ubuntu by a system called upstart). There have been plenty of criticisms of systemd—mainly that it attempts to take control of too many systems.

Linux has always been an ecosystem free from monoliths, and many assume systemd to fall into that category. It's actually not. In fact, when systemd is built with all configuration options enabled, it creates 69 binaries—each of which handle a different task. There's so much more to be said about this controversy, but the only thing desktop users need to understand is that systemd should provide faster startup times on Ubuntu Linux.

Of course, this isn't about systemd. This is about the latest iteration of the Ubuntu desktop.

Oh wait, there's another, smaller, controversy... Unity 8 and the convergent desktop. Guess what? It's still not happening. In fact, it might not be until 15.10 or even 16.04 before we see any signs of the more mobile-, convergent-friendly Unity 8.

But this isn't about the convergent desktop. This is about the latest iteration of the Ubuntu desktop.

Hold on... there's yet another (albeit even smaller) controversy. Ubuntu has backpedaled on its Global Menus. This happens to be a feature I really, really liked. With the Global Menus, all application menus are located in the top panel instead of the app title bar. Now, menus default to Locally Integrated Menus (LIM), which are local app menus. This is Ubuntu saying "uncle" to the pressure put on them to revert to the old ways. Thankfully, they saw to it to retain both menu types, and going back to the cleaner Global Menus requires just a few steps:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Click Appearance
  3. Click on the Behavior tab
  4. Select In the menu bar (Figure A)

Figure A

Figure A

Switching back to LIM.

The good news is that the Head Up Display (HUD) works with either configuration. So, even if you have your app menus parked in the app or the panel, you can still hit Alt and then search through the menu hierarchy for the option you want. The good news about the LIMs is that they do autohide. You only see the menu when you hover over the active window titlebar.

With all of that said, what can you look forward to with Ubuntu 15.04? Plenty, yet not a whole lot. However, even with the controversy surrounding systemd, you'll see much improved startup and shutdown times on desktop machines. Even on older hardware, I noticed a faster boot up time (when compared to Ubuntu 14.10) and an incredibly fast shutdown time (speeds that could compare to a Chromebook).

Other improvements include:

  • Upgrade to LibreOffice 4.4 (which has an enormous amount of improvements, like a better status bar, contextual menus for toolbar icons, track changes, and more
  • Ubuntu Developer Tools is now Ubuntu Make and offers more tools for mobile and web apps
  • Kernel 3.19 (Ubuntu shied away from releasing with the new 4.0 kernel)
  • The long-awaited move from the default orange wallpaper (Ubuntu now offers a much more royal purple color)

There would normally be much more ballyhoo to be had with a major Ubuntu release. This time, however, the updates are mostly under the hood. As with every recent update to the Linux distribution from Canonical, major improvements are still shackled by Unity 8/Mir/Convergence. I sincerely hope that when Ubuntu is no longer under the shadow of convergence, major updates will finally (and actually) be major.

All of this is not to say that Ubuntu 15.04 isn't worth your time. If you're not one who holds tight to the LTS releases, you should make the upgrade from 14.10 to 15.04. The faster bootup times, the improved LibreOffice, the newer kernel, and all that purple should be enough to satisfy you. If, however, minor upgrades (or the shift to systemd) aren't enough for you, hold off to see if the big announcement of convergence comes with 15.10 or 16.04. Either way, it's still Ubuntu, which means it's a rock solid platform ready to help you get your work done.

Download Ubuntu 15.04 from the official Ubuntu site starting April 23, 2015. If you find the new release not yet listed, check back later in the day.

Are you planning on upgrading to the latest iteration of Ubuntu—or do you plan on waiting until they finally make good on their promise of a convergent desktop? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

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About Jack Wallen

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.

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