Bionic Beaver. That’s right. Canonical has chosen what might well be the greatest name for a desktop release in the history of technology. And, of course, with a name like Bionic Beaver, you’d expect great things to come from this borg-ian, nocturnal, semi-aquatic rodent. With a release date of April 21, 2018, there isn’t much time remaining to anticipate what’s to come.

Good thing you don’t have to wait to find out what new and improved features are on their way. However, is the wait worth it? For the longest time, Ubuntu releases were rather boring, offering next to nothing in the way of improvements. It wasn’t until Canonical made the switch from Unity to GNOME that releases were, once again, interesting. Nomenclature aside, Bionic Beaver should not disappoint users. The developers have done a masterful job of creating a release that brings a bit of excitement along for the ride.

Let’s take a look at what Bionic Beaver has in store.

GNOME 3.28

The latest iteration of GNOME will be found on Ubuntu 18.04 (aka Bionic Beaver). With this release of the desktop, comes the newest, shiniest features. Although there isn’t really any single deal maker or breaker to be found with GNOME 3.28, the polish really gleams. The bits and pieces that might pique your interest include:

  • Better on-screen keyboard
  • Much improved Photos app
  • Metered Bandwidth Toggle
  • Improved Support for USB, Bluetooth & Thunderbolt Devices
  • Flatpak Improvements
  • Weather forecast included in GNOME Calendar appointments (that include location)
  • UTC timezone option in Clocks
  • The Contacts application now allows sorting by either surname or first name
  • New version of Cantarell font has been included
  • Boxes now includes automatic OS downloads
  • Sort applications by rating or by name in Software
  • Wikipedia integration in Maps
  • To Do has an updated task view design
  • Videos is now able to play MJPEG files
  • In Music, it’s now possible to reorder playlists using drag and drop
  • All touchpads now use a gesture for secondary click

Check here for the full changelog for GNOME 3.28.

Faster booting (in theory)

Outside of Chrome OS, Ubuntu is already one of the fastest booting operating systems available. However with the help of systemd’s ability to do profiling, any issue that slows down the boot process can be addressed. So expect that already quick boot time to be shortened. This, of course, is in theory. As of the current daily build, the boot process isn’t showing any signs of improvement.

Minimal install

During the installation of Bionic Beaver, it will be possible to do a minimal installation (Figure A).

Figure A

This minimal option will install only the very basic tools needed (a web browser and a few utilities). This minimal installation takes less than five minutes to complete and might well be the best option for anyone looking to enjoy a user-friendly distribution completely free of bloat.

Improved PPA addition

Although this won’t matter to some, the process of installing software, by way of adding a new PPA, has been streamlined. The new process removes the need to run sudo apt update. Now the necessary commands are:

sudo add-apt-repository REPOSITORY
sudo apt install SOFTWARE

Where REPOSITORY is the repository to be added and SOFTWARE is the software title to be installed.

It’s not much of an improvement, but it does make the process a bit more efficient.

Back to Xorg

Wayland simply cannot catch a break. This is the on again, off again display manager for Ubuntu. However, with Wayland still suffering from some deal breaking issues (especially when run on a virtual machine), it makes sense for Ubuntu to head back to Xorg. It is uncertain if this switch is permanent or temporary. But considering the lack of reliability found with Wayland, and the fact that not all applications are able to run on this display server, Ubuntu really had no choice.

Collecting hardware information

You’ve probably heard that Canonical was getting into the business of collecting information. As of Bionic Beaver, this is true, but it only happens during the installation process. What information will they collect? Here is the list:

  • Which version of Ubuntu is being installed
  • Whether or not you have network connectivity
  • Hardware stats (such as CPU, RAM, GPU)
  • Device vendor
  • Your country
  • How long the installation took to complete
  • Whether auto login is enabled
  • Disk layout
  • If you chose to install third party codecs
  • If you chose to download updates during install

That’s it. Understand, this information can go a long way to helping the developers improve future releases, so it’s not a bad idea.

Daily build

Ubuntu 18.04 has a ways to go before it’s finalized (the daily build I used still includes the Artful Aardvark wallpaper). If you’re really antsy to get a glimpse at what the next release of Ubuntu will look and feel like, download the daily build and install. Although Bionic Beaver is pretty stable, I’d recommend testing this as a virtual machine, and not on a production system.