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Ubuntu 14.10 ships, but not yet with convergence

Oct 23, 2014 — by Eric Brown — 2,977 views

Ubuntu 14.10 moves to Linux 3.16, and offers performance and stability improvements, Netflix on Chrome support, and an easier loading process for the Android SDK.

After recently celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Canonical’s Ubuntu project released a modest 14.10 (“Utopic Unicorn”) update with most of the enhancements happening on the server and cloud versions. For example, support for LXC (Linux Containers) virtualization and the OpenStack cloud computing platform has been improved.

Canonical used a large share of its announcement not on Ubuntu 14.10, but rather to announce that over 30 million computers pre-installed with Ubuntu have shipped globally over the last two years. South East Asia has shown particularly strong growth in the consumer market, while EMEA has shown “strong steady volumes,” says Canonical. The Ubuntu Kylin Chinese derivative, meanwhile, has recorded seven million downloads since 2012.

Ubuntu 14.10, looking much like Ubuntu 14.04
(click image to enlarge)

The main mobile news in Ubuntu 14.10 is not about Ubuntu Phone, but is instead related to Android. With the new Ubuntu Developer Tools Centre, Android developers working on Ubuntu can now more easily load the Android SDK, along with its dependencies and related tools with a single command. The Developer Tools Centre will add support for platforms such as Go and Dart in the future, says Canonical.

On the desktop, the most noticeable feature for non-techies is the ability to watch Netflix on the Chrome browser. There’s also a new “IPP Everywhere” feature that is said to “automatically identify and connect to networked and USB printers without any configuration or special software.”

Under the hood, performance improvements and bugfixes are said to be evident, but there’s not much in the way of major features. The Linux 3.16 kernel enables support for Power8 and 64-bit ARMv8 architectures, as well as the latest Nvidia and AMD graphics chips. The updated kernel also makes it easier to support Intel’s Haswell, Broadwell, Merrifield, and upcoming Cherryview processors, says Canonical. Thanks to the kernel, Ubuntu users can expect faster suspend/resume times, and audio support has improved on the Radeon H.264 video encoder, says the company.

Updated apps in Ubuntu 14.10 include:

  • Evince 3.14
  • Firefox 33
  • LibreOffice
  • Nautilus 3.10
  • Rhythmbox 3.0.3
  • Thunderbird 33

While we thought last April’s Ubuntu 14.04 (“Trusty Tahr”) was relatively uneventful, aside from some new Ubuntu Touch code, it looks like a crazy train compared with Ubuntu 14.10. Even the generally boosterish OMG!Ubuntu had a take that was more like “oh my gosh, Ubuntu.”

Still, as OMG!Ubuntu! noted, these less eventful releases are actually a good thing, showing that after 10 years, Ubuntu is finally settling into maturity. According to the publication, the release is the most “dependable” Ubuntu release it has encountered. As Chris Hoffman notes on PCWorld, with the LTS versions now being aimed at desktop users as well as the enterprise, Ubuntu users are no longer forced to update every six months, “and that’s awesome.”

Unity 8 and Mir still not ready for desktop

The Unity desktop environment has been updated to 7.3.1, but the long-awaited “convergence” version of Unity will apparently wait for the April 2015 release. PCWorld’s Hoffman recently tried out some of the experimental Ubuntu Desktop Next images, and says that while they are highly unstable, they are quite interesting, as they point to the coming convergence release.

The new Mir (Xmir) windowing interface, which is replacing X and has been slowing down the convergence transition, is still not fully integrated. So while Ubuntu Phone should arrive with the Mir-enabled Unity 8 in the coming months on the upcoming Ubuntu version of the Meizu MX4 Pro phone, you still won’t be able to write an app once for phone, tablet, and desktop platforms and have it adapt flawlessly to each form-factor. Nor will consumers be able to enjoy the other seamless interactions between various Ubuntu devices that were originally promised by Canonical.

Mir has been controversial in the Ubuntu community in large part because just about everyone else is Linuxland is switching from X to Wayland. The experimental images also reveal the first implementations of the systemd system management daemon. Earlier this year, Canonical found itself in the midst of another controversy when it was promoting its own homegrown Upstart init while the rest of the Linux world was following Debian’s lead in going with systemd. In this case, however, Canonical gave in to public pressure and settled on systemd.

Meizu MX4 Pro image posted by CNMO

As for that Meizu MX4 Pro, some more images of Ubuntu running on the high-end Android smartphone popped up two weeks ago on China’s CNMO, as reported by PhoneArena. However, one of the images looks to be identical to the images that Meizu Italia floated back in September. Still, it seems Meizu is still planning to offer a model with Ubuntu by year’s end.

Meanwhile, owners of several Android Nexus devices have been able to load Ubuntu Touch images for a year now, and the builds have become increasingly stable. There’s no recent word about the BQ-built “Aquaris” Ubuntu phone tipped by Canonical back in February.

Further information

Ubuntu 14.10 is available now for download. More information and links to downloads may be found in the Ubuntu 14.10 release notes.

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