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The Ubuntu Diaries
Part IV




Introduction

Adam wearing Lubuntu shirt

This is my account of using the Ubuntu and Lubuntu computer operating systems, as well as other free software.

On we acquired a used Dell PC to run the Linux-based Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. Because of the success in using Ubuntu, on we reformatted the remaining Windows XP computer and installed Ubuntu 8.04 LTS on it, going Windows-free.

I haven't missed Windows at all, in fact I have been far better off without it. Linux is free, works better, is more stable and doesn't run viruses or spyware. It does everything I want to do and has been a perfect solution for my computing needs.

Over the years I have used both Ubuntu and Lubuntu, as well as tested Ubuntu Unity, Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Puppy Linux. Reviews of those are all here, along with write-ups on applications and other software tested.

I do these write-ups primarily for myself, mostly so I can remember my own "how-to" instructions, as well as pros and cons found, but I post them here to help out anyone looking for information.

I also write for Full Circle magazine and my reviews can be found there. Each archived Full Circle article is also linked from the equivalent article here.

This is the fourth page of my Ubuntu Diaries:


Entries




Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS

By Adam Hunt

Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS was released on . This is the distribution's 12th release and the tenth as an official Ubuntu "flavour". As an LTS release it is supported for three years, until .

Installation

I downloaded the ISO file for Ubuntu Budgie from the official website via BitTorrent and carried out an SHA256 sum check on it from the command line to test integrity.

I ran Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS from a USB stick, equipped with Ventoy 1.0.74. Ventoy makes the job of testing out Linux distributions really easy: just cut and paste the ISO file onto the stick and Ventoy does the rest. It can even handle multiple ISO files and gives a choice at boot-up.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS are:

New

The Budgie interface is still undergoing regular development and this release uses Budgie desktop 10.6, which brings a large number of small refinements.

There was an Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 Wallpaper Contest held in February, which added a number of winning wallpapers to the choices available. Oddly, though, the default wallpaper hasn't changed for many releases and seems to be an Ubuntu Budgie fixture. There are 16 wallpapers provided and none feature jellyfish, which is an accomplishment.

This release does include Mesa 22, the 3D graphics layer that translates graphics requests to the graphics driver.

Settings

As I noted in my Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 review, Ubuntu Budgie's settings are spread over many places and take a while to figure out where they are all located. There is Budgie Themes and Layouts, Budgie Control Center (from Gnome), Budgie Desktop Settings, and Budgie Extras, where the desktop applets are hidden. There are 37 applets included, one more than last release. These add things like clocks and other functionality to the desktop. Once you find where all the settings are hidden away it is not too hard to customize your desktop, but there is a learning curve there. It is a weak point, but making notes might help.

Ubuntu Budgie gives users a range of choices for themes. This release includes eight themes, one more than last release. Most of the themes actually need to be installed from third party PPAs and take a while to download. The default theme remains Pocillo and I also tried out a few others. Each one comes with its own window theme, distinctive wallpaper and icon sets. Most of the available themes are quite dark and all of them are surprisingly similar to each other.

The Budgie dock, named Plank is small, unobtrusive and has extensive settings to control how it looks and works. When applications are maximized it hides automatically. It also shows which applications are open with dots under each icon, for each open instance.

The Budgie menu can be opened by clicking on the top left icon or by hitting the "super" key. Menus items can be selected by mouse, touchpad or by typing the name of the application you are looking for. The menu also has two display modes: a series of pages of tiles showing applications alphabetically or a categorized list. Overall it works well and is easy to figure out how to use.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu Budgie 21.10
** supplied as a snap, so version depends on the upstream package manager

Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS uses the Nemo file manager, instead of the standard Gnome file manager, Nautilus. Nemo works better in every regard, except that is is missing bulk file renaming, which will hopefully be added soon.

I noted in my Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 review that it seemed odd to include the Catfish file search utility from Xfce, since Nemo includes file searching, and with this release Catfish has been removed.

Like all the other Ubuntu flavours, the Ubuntu Budgie developers were faced with a decision about what to do about the Firefox web browser, since the .deb package has been replaced by a a snap package. It doesn't seem to have kept them awake at night, though, as the release notes glibly state, "for 22.04 the deb version of Firefox has been removed since only the snap is now available."

Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burner, although the repositories have a range of choices to install if needed.

The Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS includes the LibreOffice 7.3.1 office suite and is complete except for the LibreOffice Base database program, which can be installed if needed, of course.

The default text editor is gedit 41.0, which has syntax highlighting, with a choice of seven different highlight colour schemes, two of which are light themes and five are dark. As always, gedit includes spellchecking out-of-the-box (Shift+F7).

Conclusions

Ubuntu Budgie 22.04 LTS has an elegant, well-polished look to it, that works pretty much flawlessly. Its only drawbacks are the rather dispersed user settings and the focus on dark themes evident throughout. That is fine if you are a fan of dark themes, but if not then Ubuntu Budgie will take some effort to lighten it up.

Overall this is a solid release that will appeal to users looking for a Gnome-based desktop with an interface that is somewhat different from Ubuntu 22.04 LTS or Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS. Looking at Ubuntu Budgie as a whole package, it is not hard to see why it has attracted fans.


Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS is this distribution's fifth release and was out on .

This is an LTS release, supported for three years, until . This also completes this development cycle of three "standard" releases, leading up to this LTS release.

The last version of Ubuntu Unity Ubuntu Unity 21.10 had a few issues, but I am pleased to report they seem to have mostly been ironed out now with this new release.

Installation

I downloaded the Ubuntu Unity ISO file from the official fosstorrents website via BitTorrent and carried out an MD5 sum check on it from the command line, which is the only check sum provided and it tested fine.

I tested it from a USB stick, equipped with Ventoy 1.0.73. Ventoy makes the job of testing out Linux distributions very easy: just cut 'n paste the ISO files onto the stick and Ventoy does the rest.

System requirements

Ubuntu Unity does not specify any system requirements, but it is probably reasonable to assume that it is the same as Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, a minimum of:

New

This release includes flatpak, with the Flathub repository enabled by default. Also an identified issue with gtk3-nocsd has been fixed. There is only one download now, no longer different versions for BIOS and UEFI. Otherwise most of the changes are to the collection of default applications.

There is a new release wallpaper with a jellyfish design as this release is code named "Jammy Jellyfish". There are 23 wallpapers available, all found at Settings→ Appearance.

Ubuntu Unity moved to the snap version of the Firefox web browser in Ubuntu Unity 21.10, replacing the .deb package and making that move earlier than most of the other Ubuntu flavours, which waited for the LTS release. Earlier was probably smarter in this case, as it avoided any potential issues cropping up in the LTS.

One thing that was new and unwelcome was that this release does not include a screenshot tool by default. This makes reviewing the release much harder, especially when adding applications is also blocked. I did solve it in the end and was able to install and use gnome-screenshot.

The project announced in that it was moving its snap package repository to a new lol snap store, which it developed and will be on fosshost, as an alternative to the Canonical snap store. That website is still not operational and there is no news as to what is happening there, whether it is still in development or not. As I noted in my Ubuntu Unity 21.10 review going that route raises a lot of questions about who will maintain it and also about security.

Settings

The settings in Ubuntu Unity 21.10 had some issues. Since Ubuntu Unity 20.10, the distribution had included the Unity Tweak Tool to provide much better control of settings, including access to the full suite of installed themes. The 21.10 release omitted the tweak tool and when it was installed it wouldn't run, plus the release announcement offered no explanation. Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS once again has the Unity Tweak Tool and I am pleased to report that it works! That said, there is still a minor issue here. Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS release once again ships with the Yaru-unity-dark theme as default. The main Settings→ Appearance menu offers only the Adwaita and High Contrast themes and, if you select either one, then the Yaru-unity-dark theme cannot be re-selected from that menu. However the separate Unity Tweak Tool has two themes: the light Yaru-unity and the default Yaru-unity-dark. It is a bit confusing having two setting menus that offer different things, but overall it does work and between the two menus you can set or restore any of the four different themes provided. The Unity Tweak Tool also offers 36 icon sets and six cursor styles, so there is lots of choice here, it is just spread out a bit.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu Unity 21.10
** supplied as a snap, so version depends on the upstream package manager

Removed this release are:

* mentioned as removed in the release announcement

Added this release are:

* mentioned as added in the release announcement

Other than a few unannounced deletions, like GDebi and Synaptic, everything removed is from the Gnome desktop and everything added, except VLC, is from the MATE desktop, although each added application (Atril, Eye of MATE and Pluma) is a fork of their Gnome equivalent. Many of the deletions were not described in the release announcement, so it isn't clear what the point of all of these changes are, other than the ones mentioned to "fit in with Unity’s UI better". They do seem to be moving Ubuntu Unity away from Gnome and towards MATE. Of course if you would rather have the original Gnome versions they can easily be installed from the repositories.

LibreOffice 7.3.1 is once again supplied complete, lacking only the LibreOffice Base database application, which can also be installed from the Ubuntu repositories, if needed.

Conclusions

Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS is a good solid release, with no major issues. With the Ubuntu Tweak Tool once again installed and working this fixes the deficiencies identified in the 21.10 release.

Ubuntu Unity continues to to offer far more user setting choices than the mainstream Ubuntu does and also seems to be slowly moving away from Gnome applications towards the MATE forked equivalents over time. Since this release mostly swapped out applications, it will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next release cycle of three standard releases leading to Ubuntu Unity 24.04 LTS, which is due out in .


Kubuntu 22.04 LTS

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Kubuntu 22.04 LTS came out on . As a long term support release it is supported for three years, until . This LTS release completes this development cycle of three "standard" releases leading to this LTS version.

This is the distribution's 35th release and the 14th with the KDE project's Qt-based Plasma 5 desktop, so it is a mature project which has attacted a dedicated base of users.

Installation

I downloaded the ISO file via BitTorrent from the Kubuntu website and ran an SHA256 sum check from the command line on it for file integrity.

The last version, Kubuntu 21.10, was the biggest Ubuntu family download I had seen at 3.1 GB, for that ISO file, but Kubuntu 22.04 LTS is even bigger at 3.4 GB. This is a new level of bloat for an Ubuntu flavour, but at least it doesn't seem to have gained the full 500 MB that Ubuntu, Lubuntu and Xubuntu have done with their 22.04 LTS releases.

I used Ventoy 1.0.73 to put the ISO file onto a USB stick and tested it from there.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Kubuntu 22.04 LTS are the same as for Ubuntu:

New

Like every new Kubuntu release, this one has a new default wallpaper, Honeywave by Ken Vermette. There are also 31 alternative wallpapers provided, or you can use your own.

This release uses the Qt 5.15.3 toolkit and the updated KDE Plasma 5.24.4 desktop, which has a number of small refinements. Like all the versions since the 5.21 desktop, the menus in Plasma 5.24 are much smoother and work better than the earlier versions did.

While Ubuntu has been using Wayland by default since 21.04, the other Ubuntu flavours seem happy to continue with X11 and let Ubuntu work out the bugs. Like Kubuntu 21.04 and 21.10, 22.04 LTS includes a Plasma Wayland session, but it is not the default and has to be chosen at boot-up after installation, if you want to test it. The Kubuntu 22.04 LTS release notes warn that it "is not supported", however, so you are on your own in trying it out.

There are no changes to the list of default applications in this release, just updates to the existing ones to the KDE Gear 21.12.3 versions. In fact there are very minimal changes of any kind in Kubuntu 22.04 LTS. The Kubuntu developers really take the release pattern to heart and the few changes made were done early in this development cycle, leaving the last standard release and the LTS almost identical, except for the support period.

Settings

Kubuntu probably has the widest variety of settings of any Ubuntu-based distribution, allowing users to make Kubuntu look and work almost any way that they like. In Kubuntu 22.04 LTS there are four global themes, four application styles, six Plasma styles, five colours, two window decoration styles, eight icon sets and eight cursor styles and that is just the list of installed options. Most of the settings pages offer a one-button download and installation of many, many more options, right in the settings windows.

Kubuntu 22.04 LTS also offers 68 pre-installed desktop widgets, one more than in the last release. Widgets are small applications that can be added to your desktop to improve functionality. Hundreds more can be downloaded, as well.

As I have noted in the past, the Kubuntu project philosophy is to give users the largest possible range of choices as to how their installations look and work. This results in a true "embarrassment of riches" for user customization, especially compared to Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, which has much more limited user customization available.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Kubuntu 22.04 LTS are:

* indicates same application version as used in Kubuntu 21.10
** supplied as a snap, so version depends on the upstream package manager

As can be seen from the lack of asterisks, most of the applications included are updated application versions from KDE Gear 21.12.3.

As with many other Ubuntu flavours, the release of Kubuntu 22.04 LTS required the developers to make a decision about Firefox. Ubuntu 21.10 introduced the Firefox web browser as a a snap package in place of the previous .deb package. For that 21.10 release the .deb package was retained as well and Kubuntu 21.10 stuck with the .deb version. With the 22.04 LTS series of releases there is no more Firefox .deb package in the repositories, leaving the Kubuntu developers to make a decision whether to use the snap version or do something different. Unlike in the release notes for Xubuntu 22.04 LTS, which provide a complete rationale, the Kubuntu release notes just briefly state, "Firefox 99 is the default browser, using a snap from the Ubuntu archive", which settles that question, without inviting further debate.

As in past releases, Kubuntu 22.04 LTS does not include a webcam application, an image editor or video editor by default, although there are many options in the repositories, if needed. KDE's Qt-based Kdenlive would probably be the best choice in a video editor.

LibreOffice 7.3.1 is provided complete, lacking only LibreOffice Base, the office suite's database application. It is not widely used, but it can be added from the repositories, if required.

The 21.12.3 versions of the applications included have many small improvements and tweaks incorporated, but not a lot of major changes.

Conclusions

Kubuntu 22.04 LTS is a just about flawless release, with just a few minor changes incorporated throughout this development cycle. Kubuntu's dedicated fans will probably be quite happy with this new LTS release, as it continues the tradition of giving users wide customization options, but doesn't bring any major alterations to adapt to.

External links

Xubuntu 22.04 LTS

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Xubuntu 22.04 LTS was released on . This is the distribution's 33rd release and is a long term support (LTS) release, supported for three years, until .

This development cycle of three "standard" releases leading to this LTS release has only seen small changes from the last LTS. In fact Xubuntu 22.04 LTS has only some applications tweaks, welcome as they are.

Overall I think the lack of changes is a sign of good things. Xubuntu users like how it works and don't see a lot that needs fixing.

Installation

I did not install Xubuntu 22.04 LTS on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using Ventoy 1.0.73. Ventoy makes testing out Linux distributions very simple, just cut and paste the ISO file onto the stick and Ventoy takes care of the rest at boot-up, plus it can hold multiple ISO files and gives a choice of which one to boot to.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Xubuntu 22.04 LTS have not changed since 21.04 and remain:

These are probably realistic specs for descent performance and represent a computer about twelve years or more old.

New

Xubuntu 22.04 LTS uses the Xfce 4.16 desktop, with the GTK 3.24.33 toolkit. It also has a new blue wallpaper. There are also 20 other wallpapers provided, many of them from recent Xubuntu releases. Six of the new scenery wallpapers are from from the wallpaper competition held for Xubuntu 22.04 LTS. You can use your own wallpaper, too, of course.

Settings

This version of Xubuntu once again uses "Greybird" as the default window colour scheme. There are a total of six window themes provided: Adwaita, Adwaita-dark, Greybird, Greybird-dark, High Contrast and Numiux, as well as a choice of six icon themes.

Just like all Xubuntu releases since 14.04 LTS, this one employs the Whisker Menu as its menu system. Whisker is the main feature that makes Xubuntu distinctive from the other Ubuntu flavours, especially as Xubuntu adopts more and more applications from Gnome. The Whisker Menu is highly customizable and can even be resized, which remains unique among Linux menus.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Xubuntu 22.04 LTS are:

* indicates same application version as used in Xubuntu 21.10
** supplied as a snap, so version depends on the upstream package manager

As with recent Xubuntu releases, there is no default webcam or video editing application, although there are several in the repositories that can be installed.

Xubuntu 22.04 LTS includes LibreOffice 7.3.1, which is, as usual, lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application, which can easily be installed, if needed.

As with many other Ubuntu flavours, the release of Xubuntu 22.04 LTS represented a decision point for the Xubuntu developers. Ubuntu 21.10 introduced the Firefox web browser as a a snap package in place of the previous .deb package, although for 21.10 the .deb was retained and Xubuntu 21.10 used the .deb. With the 22.04 LTS releases there is no more Firefox .deb package, leaving the Xubuntu developers to either move to the snap version or do something else, such as compile Firefox themselves or switch browsers. The release of Xubuntu 22.04 LTS decided the course, as the Xubuntu developers went with the snap version, noting among the advantages, that Firefox is "sandboxed for improved security hardening for this critical app".

Other changes to the suite of default applications include that the Mousepad 0.5.8 text editor adds a session backup and restore feature, plugin support and finally adds spellchecking, too. This puts it in the same class as FeatherPad, gedit and jEdit.

In other application upgrades, the Ristretto 0.12.2 image viewer now has improved thumbnail support and performance improvements, and the Whisker Menu Plugin 2.7.1 adds new customization options with preferences and CSS classes, for people doing their own theme development.

Conclusions

Xubuntu 22.04 LTS is a solid and well-polished release, with very few changes incorporated during this development cycle. I think that the Xubuntu fans will be pleased with this LTS release, as most seem to like where Xubuntu is these days and don't see a need for anything more than careful tweaks.


Lubuntu 22.04 LTS

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Lubuntu 22.04 LTS was released on . This is the eighth LXQt release for Lubuntu and the 25th overall Lubuntu release. It is also the second LXQt LTS version and it now seems safe to say that the LXQt desktop has been well-accepted in the Linux world.

As an LTS release, Lubuntu 22.04 LTS is supported for three years, until April 2025. The next LTS should be Lubuntu 24.04, due out in April 2024, two years away.

Installation

Installation of Lubuntu 22.04 LTS on my two computers went fairly well, using a USB drive equipped with Ventoy 1.0.73. Once installed on a USB stick, Ventoy makes testing and installing Linux distros very easy, just copy and paste the ISO file onto the stick and Ventoy handles the unpacking at boot-up. It supports installation as well as testing.

Installation using the provided Calamares installer was very quick, under five minutes on my new System 76 Galago Pro and only about ten minutes on my old Gateway desktop. Calamares is not only fast, but a very user-friendly installer that even first time users should have no problem figuring out. The laptop installation initially showed some issues on boot-up, so I just did a second installation and that seemed to work fine.

Both my local printer and the network printer, along with scanning, set-up automatically, with no input required.

System requirements

The Lubuntu developers stopped recommending minimum system requirements, starting with the introduction of LXQt in Lubuntu 18.10. I can tell you that Lubuntu 22.04 LTS runs great on a computer with:

New

There is not much new in this release, which is a good thing. LTS releases are supposed to provide stability and that means not introducing a lot of new ideas that could jeopardize that goal. It also means there is not much for users to learn.

Other than a new Plymouth boot screen introduced with Lubuntu 20.10 and "tree view" in the Lubuntu Update Notifier in 21.04, it was mostly the default applications that were changed in this Lubuntu development cycle, starting with the LXQt Archiver replacing Ark in Lubuntu 21.04. In Lubuntu 22.04 LTS three applications were also deleted:

I have suggested for a while that it was time to match Ubuntu and Kubuntu and ditch the CD/DVD burning application, as it has been a decade since new computers came with optical drives and the inclusion was making Lubuntu look kind of dated. I am not sure why the email client was removed, but that suits me, as I have been using web mail since 2007, so it is one less application to remove.

As with the other Ubuntu flavours, Lubuntu has now moved to providing Firefox as a snap package. The release announcement simply states: "Mozilla Firefox will be shipped as a Snap package with version 98.0.2 and will receive updates throughout the support cycle of the release." It was actually version 99.0.1 by the time it shipped, but the rest applies.

The default Lubuntu 22.04 LTS Jammy Jellyfish wallpaper was designed by Danist Soh. There are seven other wallpapers included with the release, which can all be found at /usr/share/lubuntu/wallpapers. I found a better one there with no jellyfish.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Lubuntu 22.04 LTS are:

* Indicates the same version as used in Lubuntu 21.10
** supplied as a snap, so version depends on the upstream package manager

Like the earlier LXQt releases, Lubuntu 20.04 LTS does not come with a webcam application, photo editing or video editing software, although these can be easily added from the repositories, if desired.

My chosen applications from the repositories this time round were:

* Indicates the same version as available for Lubuntu 21.10
** Indicates GTK application that lacks desktop theme integration with Lubuntu

I installed the second scanner utility, Simple Scan, due to Skanlite 21.12.3's lack of multipage PDF support, although it will now make single-page PDFs.

I also installed four extensions for Firefox:

I like to remove any default applications that I don't use, just to save disk space, menu clutter and the need for updates. So I cut:

* Indicates the same version as available for Lubuntu 21.10

Firefox as a Snap package

As noted above, this release of Lubuntu shipped with the Firefox 99.0.1 web browser as a snap package in place of the previous .deb file. There has been some "forum hate" of course, particularly about opening times and colour themes. In testing it out it works fine, opening in about three seconds, which is the same as the old .deb version.

As far as themes go, even though Firefox is GTK-based, on one computer it took up the Qt theme and on the other the GTK theme for some reason. I was able to fix the dark GTK theme, which also affected the other GTK applications I installed at: Main menu→ Preferences→ LXQt Settings→ Appearance→ Set GTK themes→ GTK 2 and GTK 3 themes→ Arc-Lighter.

Initially the snap updated in the background, but later on it started producing notifications instead. One computer updated eventually, but the other one did not. I forced an update by closing Firefox and then running:

$ sudo snap refresh

and that worked.

Overall, in working with the Firefox snap I have no complaints. It works fine, adopts themes and my extensions all work.

Configuring

In configuring and testing the new installation of Lubuntu 22.04 LTS I did not find any serious issues. The LXQt configuration menus continue to be easy to navigate and easy to use use, making customizing Lubuntu LXQt actually an enjoyable experience.

Like all the previous LXQt versions, Lubuntu 22.04 LTS comes with a dark default theme, Lubuntu Arc, which is not my favourite. Instead I used Bear2 for my window colour scheme and the "Light" theme for the lxqt-panel, with the panel modified to a colour of #aaaaaa to render it a bit darker grey, to make the white icons, like the audio volume, visible. The Bear2 theme gives really good differentiation between active and inactive windows, with the active ones given blue tops and the inactive ones grey. Besides, it matches the blue wallpaper I used.

LibreOffice once again did not come with spellchecking, lacking any dictionaries, but it is easy enough to install "English Dictionaries" from the extensions list. Likewise FeatherPad requires Hunspell to be installed for its spellchecking to work.

The SD card port on my System76 Galago Pro laptop stopped working when I installed Lubuntu 22.04 LTS. I found an Ask Ubuntu question that suggested after a reboot or two it might just start working and that was the case for me too.

Lubuntu now comes with the Bluedevil Bluetooth connector, but it does not include any way to turn Bluetooth off to prolong laptop battery life. It can be turned off from the command line, but that only lasts until a reboot and then must be turned off again each time. My workaround was to delete Bluedevil, as I am not using Bluetooth and that fixed the issue, but it was what I would term a "brute force" solution.

The Kdenlive 21.12.3 video editor would't fit within the 1368 X 768 pixel display I have been using on my laptop. Kdenlive cannot be resized either vertically or horizontally so that it works in both dimensions. I found a discussion about this, but the fix just turned it from a vertical space issue to a horizontal space issue. There is also Bug 447913 on this. I did switch to the Kdenlive PPA version which is currently 22.04.1, and it is a bit better, but still didn't solve it. The solution was to return my laptop to its native 1920 X 1080 pixel screen resolution and then adjust a number of operating system settings to make the system fonts and icons big enough to see comfortably. Here is what I changed:

This does leave a few residual items still fairly small, like the panel clock and some application icons, but it is livable, at least.

Outstanding Issues

The outstanding issues from Lubuntu 20.04 LTS were:

mtPaint file opening
The mtPaint 3.40 image editor still can't open image files from the PCManFM-Qt file browser, although it works fine if you open mtPaint and then open the image file from there. It's a minor inconvenience and most easily worked around by adding an mtPaint icon to the panel, so it can quickly be opened from there. I have tested this in other distros, including Puppy Linux's Rox file manager, Ubuntu's Nautilus or Nemo and Kubuntu's Dolphin file manager, so it seems to be a PCManFM-Qt-specific issue. Still not fixed.
LibreOffice printing
This issue was from Lubuntu 20.04 LTS: in LibreOffice fonts did not render when making PDF documents or when printing (as they use the same process). This meant that a PDF created, or a document printed, contained all formatting and pictures, but no text. This seemed to be caused by the fonts not embedding in the qt5 version of LibreOffice when using the default QPainter renderer. It is now fixed!
New Issues

None.

Conclusions

Lubuntu 22.04 LTS is the best Lubuntu release so far, with some small, but useful improvements over 20.04 LTS. Being an LTS version, I hope to be using it for two years, until Lubuntu 24.04 LTS is released.


Ubuntu 22.04 LTS

By Adam Hunt

Ubuntu 22.04 LTS was released today, on . This is Ubuntu's 36th release and the tenth since the switch from Unity to the current modified Gnome 3 desktop. This is a "long term support" (LTS) release, supported for five years, until .

Being a long term support release, 22.04 LTS marks the end of this development cycle, following the last three "standard" releases, which were essentially developmental versions for this LTS.

The next release following this one will be Ubuntu 22.10, due out in . It which will start a new development cycle leading to Ubuntu 24.04 LTS, scheduled out in .

This release includes very little that is new for desktop users, compared to Ubuntu 21.10, which is to be expected. At least in theory, you want all the new ideas to be implemented early in the developmental cycle, get the bugs ironed out and then issue an LTS version which is fully tested and rock solid, with no bad habits. Most Ubuntu users stick to the LTS releases for just those reasons and that makes getting the LTS right critical for the end users. That stated, however, there are a couple of pleasant, small surprises in 22.04 LTS.

This release is code named Jammy Jellyfish and, naturally enough, there is a jellyfish-themed default wallpaper, which will no doubt delight invertebrate aficionados. To be truly fair, the jellyfish artwork is pretty good.

This is actually the second Ubuntu release with a "J" code name, the previous one being Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope on . Jaunty Jackalope turned out to be a great release, and Jammy Jellyfish is a worthy successor!

Installation

I downloaded Ubuntu 22.04 LTS from the official sources using BitTorrent and carried out an SHA256 sum check to ensure that the ISO file download was good. This release is a significantly bigger download than Ubuntu 21.10 was, for some unstated reason. It has grown half a gigabyte from 2.9 GB to 3.4 GB, a 17% size increase. This also means it will probably not fit on a 4 GB USB stick when unpacked.

I did not install Ubuntu 22.04 LTS on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, using Ventoy 1.0.73, which works like a charm and allows the stick to hold multiple Linux distributions to boot to in sequence.

When running from a USB stick, Ubuntu 22.04 LTS runs very quickly and smoothly, just like it would do on an installed hard drive.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Ubuntu 22.04 LTS have not changed since 20.04 LTS and remain:

This means basically it should run well on hardware that used to run Windows 7 or later.

New

Ubuntu 22.04 LTS uses the Linux 5.17 kernel, which includes support for more new hardware. For devices that don't support the 5.17 kernel, the 5.15 HWE rolling kernel is automatically used instead. The Wayland protocol display server is the default user session now, at least for most hardware not using Nvidia graphics cards.

The supplied development tools have been upgraded, too. GCC is now at version 11.2.0, binutils at 2.38, glibc 2.35, python version 3.10.4, Perl version 5.34.0, LLVM version 14, golang version 1.18.x, ruby at 3.0 and rustc 1.58. In addition to OpenJDK 11, OpenJDK 18 is also now provided, although it is not not used for package builds.

The initialization system for Ubuntu 22.04 LTS is systemd 249.11. This release is the 16th one since systemd was introduced in Ubuntu 15.04, and despite the naysayers, it has worked out just fine.

The desktop is based on Gnome 41 and 42, but, as always, is modified from the stock Gnome experience, designed to look and work very similarly to the old Unity 7 interface. Gnome has some performance enhancements as well, that should make it faster. Several applications remain from Gnome 41, though, to provide "a more time-tested experience for the LTS desktop by mostly avoiding libadwaita", the developers state.

Settings

In Ubuntu 21.10 the number of window themes was reduced from three to two, Yaru light and dark, with the previous default Yaru "standard" theme dropped. This seemed like an odd move at the time, but makes some sense now, as there is a new option under Settings → Appearance that gives users a choice of the Yaru light or dark theme and then one of ten accent colours can be selected. These control the highlight colours and can give your desktop quite a different look, depending on the palette selected. I give the Ubuntu developers some credit for this move, as it is quite innovative in the realm of user choice.

The new default wallpaper is purple and orange and is, of course, jellyfish-themed. That said, the artwork is tasteful and well done. This release has 13 wallpapers provided, up from just four in Ubuntu 21.10. You can always use your own wallpaper, too, of course.

As in previous Ubuntu releases, the dock can be set to the left, right or at the bottom of the screen, but not at the top, as it would conflict with menus on the top bar display there. The dock's icon size can also be made smaller to free up some more lateral space or the icons made bigger for touchscreens. These can all be adjusted on the settings menu.

Since Ubuntu 21.10 the trash icon has been moved from the desktop to the dock. If icons are added to the desktop by default these are now automatically placed at the bottom-right of the screen, although there is a setting to change this in Settings → Appearance → Desktop Icons.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu 22.04 LTS are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu 21.10
** supplied as a snap, so version depends on the upstream package manager

As can be seen, the application collection includes a mix of software from Gnome 40 and 41. There are no changes in the suite of default applications provided, although almost all are updated versions.

The screenshot tool has been replaced with a new one with a simple and updated interface.

This release continues the biggest change from Ubuntu 21.10, switching Firefox to a snap package, in place of the previous .deb package. This change was actually requested by Mozilla to make their support for the whole Linux universe easier and Canonical was happy to oblige. As expected, the .deb package is now gone from the Ubuntu repositories, so if you want Firefox, then you have to live with the snap package or install your own from Mozilla's tarball.

The Firefox snap is a big package, as it contains all the dependencies in the one file and is 163.2 MB in size. One of the complaints about snaps is their slow opening time, but in my testing Firefox opened in about three seconds, which is not too bad. Snaps have also been noted as not following system themes accurately, but in Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, Firefox matches both the Yaru light and dark themes, takes up the accent colours and looks visually like it fits. I suspect some work was done to make sure that the issues were all addressed to improve user acceptance of snaps and this Firefox snap is hard to find fault with.

There is a very good tutorial by Bosko Marijan on how to use snaps from the command line on PhoenixNAP that is worth posting here again.

As has been the case since Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, the Ubuntu Software application installer for 22.04 LTS is once again just a snap-store, as it only installs snap packages.

Of note the Gnome 3.38 desktop used in this release is also a snap package and 260.8 MB is size, which may help explain why Ubuntu 22.04 LTS is a bigger download than 21.10 was.

As with recent releases, Ubuntu includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burner, photo editing or video editing software, although these can be easily added if needed. The included Shotwell photo organizer and can actually do some basic photo editing tasks, including crop, rotate, colour adjustment, straighten and enhance, although it is not a general purpose image editor.

As in past releases, the Ubuntu 22.04 LTS version of LibreOffice is lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application, but does include LibreOffice Math, the math formula writer, although I am not sure that it is often used by anyone.

Conclusions

Ubuntu 22.04 LTS is a solid Ubuntu desktop release, bringing some welcome incremental changes to complete this development cycle. This LTS release should keep Ubuntu fans and its enterprise users happy for the next few years, at least.

With this 36th release, this development cycle has seen only small and carefully thought out changes to Ubuntu. This is a good thing, as most users like Ubuntu, like its look and how it works these days and not much in the way of change is needed. Linux users who don't like where Ubuntu is these days are probably already using another distribution anyway. That is always the great strength of the Linux universe: lots of choices!

External links

Two Fedora Spins: LXQt & LXDE

By Adam Hunt

My recent review of Fedora 35 Gnome left me favourably impressed. Their flagship desktop release turned out to be very slick and elegantly done, with a stock Gnome desktop that really works. Fedora also offers a collection of other versions, each with a popular desktop, much like Ubuntu does. Aside from the default Gnome desktop, Fedora also has official releases, called "spins", which have KDE, Xfce, LXQt, LXDE, Cinnamon, Mate and i3 desktops. There are also several more specialist releases, too, for particular applications, like astronomy or robotics.

Given how impressive the Gnome version is, I was curious how some of the others stack up and so I downloaded two via bit torrent, LXQt and LXDE, both desktop environments I know well from using Lubuntu.

Downloads

I downloaded Fedora 35 LXQt and LXDE, plus Fedora 36 Beta LXQt from the torrents downloads page as ISO files, using Transmission-Qt. All three of the files were 1.3 GB in size and each came in a folder with a text file of SHA256 sum hashes. I ran an SHA256 sum check on each download to ensure that I had accurate files and all tested as being correct.

I used a USB stick with the Ventoy 1.0.73 ISO to USB writer on it to run each version in live sessions and it worked perfectly. I even did integrity tests at boot-up and confirmed that the files were written correctly and all was good.

System requirements

Fedora specifies only one set of recommended system requirements in the release notes, regardless of the desktop chosen:

and the minimum hardware is:

So this is not the distribution to run on old Windows XP hardware. I ran it on a nine year old desktop computer with a dual core 3.3 GHz processor and 6 GB of RAM and Fedora ran very smoothly from the USB drive.

Fedora LXQt

I tried out Fedora 36 Beta LXQt first and then 35 (stable) for comparison afterwards. Both are very similar and boot to very simple vanilla versions of the LXQt desktop.

They also both come with a very short list of default applications. Specifically Fedora 35 uses LXQt 0.17.0 and comes with:

A short list of applications is not a bad thing, as it allows the user to install applications as needed and not have to remove a bunch of unneeded stuff. That said, this list is very short indeed, lacking a word processor or even a PDF reader, especially since the Falkon web browser doesn't come with an integral PDF reader of its own.

The DNFDragora software manager and updater is disabled for live sessions in Fedora LXQT (the same as Gnome Software is in Fedora Gnome), so it is hard to tell how well it works or what is available in the repositories to flesh out the desktop, but I assume that Fedora has well-stocked cupboards in that respect and that everything Linux is available.

I quickly ran into two issues with Fedora LXQt. First, there is a rendering issue present in both 35 and 36 beta, that results in horizontal lines and lagging with every click on anything. This might be fixable with the Compton compositor installed and working, but it is hard to tell, since downloads are disabled and Compton isn't installed by default. The second issue is that the text editor, Enki, endless crashed. This might be solved by removing Enki and installing a better Qt-based text editor, like FeatherPad, but, again, downloads are disabled.

These two issues were the main reasons I went from the initial test of 36 Beta to 35 Stable, but both versions had the same issues. These sorts of problems may be solvable, but for the average user this is not going to impress them and rather than start problem-solving, they are more likely to quit and try something else.

#Fail.

Fedora LXDE

This spin boots up to a plain version of the venerable LXDE desktop. It does look a bit dated these days, but is simple and works very well. It also reacts quickly to inputs and feels light and fast.

Applications

Oddly, compared to Fedora LXQt, the LXDE spin has a fairly long and complete list of default applications. These include:

The emphasis in this Fedora spin seems to be on lightweight applications for older hardware, although the same Fedora system requirements apply, regardless. The fact that it comes with a CD/DVD burner does point to older hardware being the intention.

Midori is a bit of an odd choice in a web browser these days. While it is still developed, the latest version, Midori 9.0, was released on , which is almost three years ago now. It works, but that is about all you can say about it, as it lacks a lot of modern browser features, plus you have to wonder about the lack of security updates.

If these aren't the applications you want then you will need to add things like LibreOffice and Firefox, for instance and probably remove AbiWord, Midori and Gnumeric, etc, so some clean up is probably warranted on installation.

As with the LXQt spin, the DNFDragora software manager/updater is disabled in live sessions.

The Fedora LXDE spin works well and has a friendly feel, even if it looks a bit dated. People who like LXDE will like this take on it, as, like the Gnome desktop, the LXDE version is plain and unmodified.

Conclusions

Overall Fedora LXQt was a bust in both its 35 and 36 Beta versions. These days, with a mainstream desktop distribution aimed at new users it should just work flawlessly out-of-the-box and it doesn't. On the other hand, the Fedora LXDE spin does work nicely and is simple to use.

If I had to choose a Fedora version from the three that I have reviewed: Gnome, LXQt and LXDE, I would go with Fedora Gnome, as it is hard to do better than that.


NixOS 21.11

By Adam Hunt

NixOS is a completely unique Linux distribution, unlike any other. It is built around a custom package management system, the Nix package manager. This package manager is used to build the whole system, including the applications, system packages, configuration files and even the Linux kernel itself.

NixOS also has a completely new file system organization, with everything completely isolated from everything else, for enhanced reliability and security reasons. This is allows some unique features, like system reversion rollbacks, reliable upgrades and the ability to run different versions of the same application in parallel. NixOS is advertised as being able to create "reproducible, declarative and reliable systems".

The result is a dream for system administrators and security experts. In fact it seems to be used in those sorts of specialized enterprise environments and there is a list of at least a dozen companies that provide commercial support for NixOS.

As an independent distribution, NixOS is built from scratch using the Nix package manager and is not based on another "up-stream" distribution.

NixOS is a pretty big deal in the IT world. Not only is it run by a foundation, the NixOS Foundation, there are the usual help and developer forums, but also conferences (NixCon) and meet-ups for developers. The community has teams for security, infrastructure, convention, marketing, platform moderation and much more. The 21.11 release had 1,541 developers contribute to it. So the project is fairly big and well organized.

So knowing all this, my mission was to see if NixOS makes a useful desktop distribution for the average Linux user.

Background

Nix OS actually started from the Nix package manager, and in fact the Nix package manager can be installed on other Linux systems. The project started almost 20 years ago, in 2003, when Eelco Dolstra created it as a research project and it attracted attention and grew from there.

The first stable version of the operating system was released on and was numbered "13.10" for the year and month, in a similar fashion as Ubuntu. As the first release it was given the code name "Aardvark". Releases have continued at a pace of a couple per year, with the code names all single word animal names (no Ubuntu style adjectives, though). These have proceeded alphabetically to the most recent and 16th version, 21.11, out on and named "Porcupine". There are updated builds as well so that even though the current version is five months old, it arrives fully updated.

Because this operating system uses a completely different file system, where everything is isolated, the usual Linux file system is there, but only as an overlay to make things work, as it all redirects to the new, underlying file system. There is no APT or other package installer other than Nix, which is used from the command line. All the 80,000 packages in the repository are in Nixpkgs format.

There are official ISO file downloads available for Gnome and KDE desktop versions, but Xfce, LXDE, LXQt and other desktops can be installed. There is also a "minimal ISO image", which has no graphical interface. The developmental emphasis is on the package management and the file system, so the desktops tend to be vanilla, unmodified versions.

Installation

I downloaded the 2.1 GB file for the current NixOS 21.11 Gnome desktop version from the downloads page. All downloads are via https; there is no bit torrent version provided.

I ran a SHA256 sum check to confirm that I had a valid download and then used Ventoy 1.0.72 to produce a bootable USB stick, by directly copying the ISO file onto the USB stick. Ventoy worked perfectly, as it always has done so far.

I then used Ventoy to test NixOS in a series of live sessions.

System requirements

NixOS has a large amount of documentation, but there is no specified minimum hardware, although it does suggest 4 GB of RAM for certain processes. I tested it out on my nine-year-old Gateway desktop PC with 6 GB of RAM, with a dual core Intel Core i3 GHz processor and it ran fine.

Use

Booting up NixOS results in a stock, vanilla Gnome desktop, with a serious-looking grey NixOS logo wallpaper. The initialization system is systemd.

Because it is unmodified Gnome, this is another of those cases where if you like Gnome, you will love NixOS, because it is pure Gnome version 41. That has its good points, as Gnome these days is very simple and elegant. The desktop boots to a wallpaper and a minimal top panel that has the date and time, plus the network connection icon, shutdown and volume controls and one button marked "Activities" which launches the main menu. The menu can also be accessed via the "super" key (Windows key), too.

The menu has a launcher at the bottom for "favourite" applications, a desktop switcher for the two desktops, an application search function and a button that shows the menu of application icon tiles, spread out over two pages.

Being pure Gnome, it also has the current Gnome minimalist philosophy for window controls, with only a "close" button and no "minimize" or "maximize" buttons. There are similar functions, though, through a right click menu to "hide" or "maximize", which do work.

The biggest downside of NixOS is its unconventionality compared to other Linux distributions, which creates a distinct learning curve for users transitioning, even from other Gnome distributions. For instance all package management is via Nix, which has its own syntax, so your knowledge of APT won't help. There is no graphical interface for package management, either, so you do have to learn how to use Nix. As an example, to install LibreOffice the command is:

$ nix-env -iA nixos.libreoffice

which gives some taste of it. The good news is that the website package search page gives the cut 'n paste syntax, for each application found. You don't need to be root (sudo) to install packages and each package installed is for one user only.

Other website cautions include things like: "please note that NixOS at the moment lacks a nice, user-friendly graphical installer. Therefore this form of installation may not be suitable for novice Linux users." Consider yourself warned.

There are other oddities, too, such as when running a live session from a USB drive, even though the computer is connected to the internet and you can do a terminal ping check that confirms the connection, neither provided web browser will connect. This is apparently for some unexplained, opaque, live session, security reasons.

The official website provides a lot of documentation, but most of it is highly technical in nature and aimed at developers and not average users. Much of the basic how-to information you would expect is not there.

As far as user settings go NixOS offers minimal customization options. There are 14 wallpapers, but if you select another one, then the default Nix wallpaper disappears and can't be reloaded. There is still the option to use your own wallpaper, however. There is only one window theme, which is a light theme, although it can be switched to high contrast icons if needed. Users who like to customize their desktops won't like the skimpy options that NixOS offers on Gnome, although the KDE version may be better in that regard.

Overall, compared to other Linux distributions there is a lot new, a lot that is unusual and a lot to learn to get comfortable with NixOS.

Applications

NixOS comes with a modest set of default applications, almost all from Gnome.

These include:

Notably missing is an office suite or even a word processor, probably a clue that this distribution is aimed at developers, more than typical desktop users. As noted above, though, pretty much every application for Linux is available in the NixOS repository, so the latest version of LibreOffice can be installed if needed, along with anything else missing.

The Gnome settings manager is worth mentioning, as it combines all the settings into one place in a neat package.

Conclusions

Nix OS Gnome 21.11 impresses as clean, serious and elegant. It gives a pure Gnome experience, so if you like where Gnome is these days, then you will love this distribution's Gnome version.

That said, there is a lot to learn if you are moving to NixOS from a distribution with more conventional Linux package management and file systems. For most users you would need a good reason to spend the time learning how to use NixOS, such as for a high-security work environment or something similar. Most people just looking for a nice, clean Gnome distribution would probably find one like Fedora better meets their needs and with much less time investment required.


KaOS

By Adam Hunt

KaOS is an independent Linux distribution that focuses on one desktop, one toolkit and one hardware architecture. The project's website explains why: "to create the highest quality Distribution possible, there needs to be a focus to make sure the user gets the best possible for whatever choice they made. It simply is not possible to package any and all to work perfect for every Desktop Environment or Toolkit". So the desktop is KDE, the toolkit is Qt and the architecture is x86_64 (Intel/AMD 64-bit hardware).

This sharp focus is a quite different approach from that of Debian or Fedora, which have options for everything: toolkits, desktops and architecture. With this sharp aim you would expect the end result to be polished and it actually is, especially after nine years as a rolling release.

As an independent distribution, KaOS is built from scratch and not based on another "up-stream" distribution.

Background

KaOS was started in 2013 and was originally called KdeOS, for KDE Operating System. The name was changed in September 2013, to avoid confusing it with the KDE desktop.

As a rolling release, there are no point release versions of KaOS. Instead it just gets updates on a regular basis pushed out to users, including new application versions. For new users, a fresh download is made available every month or so which incorporates all the updates. Once installed there should be no need to ever install a new version, as it will stay up to date. The only downside to the rolling release model is that if you are using old hardware at some point support for it may disappear, due to an update to the kernel, firmware or other software.

Being a Linux distribution KaOS uses the Linux kernel, of course, but the developers hope to one day to move to the Unix Illumos kernel instead.

The distribution has its own limited repository of about 1500 packages, all of which it maintains on a custom basis. Despite the emphasis on the Qt toolkit, the developers admit that there are some GTK toolkit-based applications for which Qt has no equivalent, like the Inkscape vector graphics editor, for instance. The other Qt-poor area is web browsers. There are few Qt browsers and they are not as feature-complete as the current GTK-based browsers.

Installation

I downloaded the sole current version, KaOS-2022.02-x86_64.iso, which is a sizable 2.8 GB file. All downloads are via https from the downloads page which provides links to several mirrors. There is no bit torrent version provided.

I ran a SHA256 sum check to confirm that I had a valid download and then used Ventoy 1.0.72 to produce a bootable USB stick, by directly copying the ISO file onto the USB stick. Ventoy worked perfectly, as it always does. The KaOS website notes that neither UNetbootin, nor the Windows ISO writer, Rufus, will work with KaOS.

Using Ventoy I tested KaOS over a series of live sessions.

System requirements

KaOS has some well-written documentation, but there is no specified minimum hardware. I tested it on a nine-year-old desktop PC with 6 GB of RAM and a dual core Intel Core i3 3.30 GHz processor and it ran fine, however.

Use

On boot up KaOS presents a rather clean-looking KDE desktop. The Icons Only Task Manager bar is on the right side of the screen by default, with its menu button at the top, but the task bar can be moved to any edge of the screen. Personally, I found it looks best at the bottom, which puts the menu button at the bottom-left, but that is probably just my LXQt bias showing.

The download version I tested, 2022.02, from , already had over 1 GB of updates to download. The developers seem to post a new version for download every four to six weeks or so, to reduce the update burden on new installations.

This download came with KDE Plasma 5.24, Linux kernel 5.14.21 and uses a Wayland protocol display server by default. The initialization system is systemd version 250.3 and the command line package manager is Pacman.

Because it uses the KDE desktop, KaOS has a huge array of user choices for customization, including two themes (light and dark), five global themes, with Midna as the default, plus Breeze, Breeze Dark, Breeze Twilight and MidnaDark. There are also seven Plasma styles, 40 window border colour choices, six window decoration schemes, five icon themes, two different cursor schemes, three different boot up splash screens and 48 very tasteful wallpapers! Now you know why it is a 2.8 GB download!

KaOS offers lots of user choices so you can make it look and work pretty much how you want. The impression it gives is of being elegant and carefully thought-out.

Applications

Unlike SliTaz 5.0 and Void Linux, KaOS comes with a wide selection of default applications, including:

It seems a bit like overkill to include three default text editors, while oddly missing from this rather complete list is a bit torrent client, although Transmission-qt is available in the repositories.

Quite a few accommodations have had to be made to switch from the X display server to Wayland. Even so, when you open SimpleScreenRecorder it warns you that it doesn't support Wayland, only X.org.

While Croeso acts as a sort of software store, KaOS also comes with the Octopi software manager, which is similar to the GTK Synaptic manager.

The included default Falkon web browser had a new version, 3.2.0, released on after three years without a new release, which is a long time for web browser. Hopefully it will be kept more up to date now. Falkon is one of the few Qt-based web browsers available. It works fine, but has only a short list of extensions available, plus in my previous testing I found that it had a number of issues, including no spell-checking, user agent string problems and that it consumes a lot of RAM. Falkon has great potential, but needs more work to become a truly great browser. There are, however, several great, GTK-based browsers that can be installed. The repositories include Firefox, Chrome and Opera, plus the Qt-based Otter Browser.

This is one of the few distributions that I have looked at that includes the complete LibreOffice office suite, even including LibreOffice Base, the database application. Most other distributions omit that component, since few people use it, leaving it to users to install, if desired.

Conclusions

Overall KaOS achieves its goals of providing a refined and focused operating system with a single desktop, a single toolkit and for a single architecture. The result is sure to please KDE fans, as it presents the KDE desktop in the best possible light and without many compromises along the way.


Linux Distributions That Didn't Get Reviewed

By Adam Hunt

, updated

I was asked by Full Circle editor Ronnie Tucker to do reviews of some Linux distributions that are from outside the Debian/Ubuntu world, just as a change of pace for the magazine. He made some suggestions, but left it up to me to decide which ones to do. In our discussion we decided to do six, with one running in each issue from May to October along with the new Ubuntu 22.04 LTS family of reviews, as that seemed to make logical sense.

The task of just finding Linux distributions to review turned out to be harder than I thought it would be, even with some great, modern tools like the Ventoy ISO file to USB writer available to work with.

Here is my list of the six Linux distributions that worked and which I have reviews for this website and for Full Circle done:

  1. Puppy Linux Slacko 7.0
  2. Fedora 35
  3. SliTaz 5.0
  4. Void Linux 20210930 Xfce
  5. KaOS 2022.02
  6. NixOS 21.11

And here is the list of ones that didn't work and why:

Sabayon Linux 19.03
No downloads available. Despite being recommended in a 2020 article, it was actually discontinued in 2019 and the downloads deleted from the internet.
GoboLinux 017
Downloaded and booted to a live session fine. Screenshots worked, but there is no file manager installed and no package management to install one to retrieve the screenshots. High barriers to use. Not for beginners.
Zenwalk 15.0
No live session available, only a text based installer.
Slackware 15.0
No live session available, only a text based installer.
Alpine Linux 3.15.0
Has a bug that prevents a live session from working, only a text based installer.

So that took 11 tries to get six reviews!


Void Linux

By Adam Hunt

Void Linux is an independent Linux distribution that uses the Xfce desktop and is billed as "a general purpose operating system". Its website invites newcomers to "enter the void", which sounds ominous, but in fact it turns out to be quite a friendly experience. Being an "independent", it is not based on another upstream distribution, like Debian or Fedora.

Void Linux is only available as a 64-bit rolling release, with regular downloads that incorporate the latest updates. The current download version is Void Linux 20210930, which was released five months ago, on . So downloading that version requires a bunch of updates.

Background

Void Linux was started by Spaniard Juan Romero Pardines in . Pardines was a NetBSD developer who created the XBPS package manager (X Binary Package System) and wanted a test environment to work on it. He left the project in and since then Void Linux has been developed by the Void Linux community and claims more than 700 contributors, all made up of volunteers. The unique XBPS is now developed by the Void Linux team.

Void Linux is available only in 64-bit for i686, x86-64, ARMv6, ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures. It comes in two versions, "base" with no graphical interface and "Xfce" with the Xfce desktop environment. The initialization system is runit, rather than the more common systemd in use in many distributions today.

Since it is a rolling release there are no numbered versions and, instead, every few months a new download is provided that incorporates all the recent updates.

The Void Linux website is quite complete and well thought out. It includes the expected introductory and download pages, but also good documentation, including a user manual and a very useful searchable packages page where you can track down applications to install. Good documentation means that this distribution is friendly enough for beginners.

Installation

I downloaded the 64-bit Xfce desktop version void-live-x86_64-20210930-xfce.iso, a file of 871 MB, while the "base" version is 568 MB. All downloads are via https from the downloads mirror. There are no bit torrent versions.

I ran a SHA256 sum check, confirmed that I had a valid download and then used Ventoy 1.0.71 to produce a bootable USB stick, by just copying the ISO file to the USB stick, which worked perfectly, as usual. I tested Void Linux in a series of live sessions.

Permanent installation

Most Linux distributions have a nice, friendly desktop icon to start the process to permanently install it, something Void Linux lacks. Fortunately the good documentation explains that to install it, you do so from the command line with:

$ sudo void-installer

and that commences the installation process.

System requirements

The specified minimum hardware for the "base" system is a x86_64 64-bit processor, 96 MB of RAM and 700 MB of disk storage space, which is pretty low-spec. The Xfce graphical version will require more RAM than that, though.

An internet connection is not required for installation, but does preclude getting updates.

Use

On boot up Void Linux offers two modes, live and RAM. The live mode is quicker to load, but does not allow updating or installing packages. By default Void Linux has no screenshot tool, which I needed to do my review for Full Circle, so I booted into RAM mode, which loads the whole operating system into RAM. Not being a particularly lightweight distribution, this used up about 2.5 GB of RAM.

In RAM mode I was able to run the updates, which loaded fine. There is no graphical interface for the unique XBPS package manager, but the documentation helped me quickly figure out how to use it from the command line.

I ran:

$ sudo xbps-install -Su

for "system update" and it updated!

This used up another 1 GB of RAM, so if you are going to run a RAM session you will need lots of RAM, especially for updates. If you just plan to install Void Linux, then it may be quicker to install it from the live session and just update later.

Next was installing a screenshot tool. Since Void uses the Xfce desktop I installed the native xfce4-screenshooter package with:

$ sudo xbps-install xfce4-screenshooter

and that worked perfectly. The XBPS package manager is actually fairly easy to use after a bit of reading.

Booted up and working, Void Linux presents a very plain, vanilla Xfce desktop, using mostly Xfce 4.16. It has the standard, single Xfce menu and not the more modern Whisker menu used on Xubuntu's Xfce desktop, although xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin is available in the repositories.

In this plain implementation, the Xfce desktop is simple but functional. The Xfce panel (xfce4-panel 4.16.3) is at the top, with a second panel, configured as a Mac style launcher at the bottom. By default the launcher has: show desktop, terminal, file browser, web browser, application finder and file locations icons on it. The launcher is set so that it hides when a window touches it. Since it just duplicates some of the menu function and adds to screen clutter, the launcher is easy to remove, too, if desired.

Void Linux comes with four wallpapers, all of them standard Xfce "mouse-themed" and blue in colour. Oddly there is no Void Linux wallpaper, so I guess it is left to fans to make up their own, using the website logo. A quick internet search shows that many users have done just that, too. Other settings include three window themes: Adwaita, Adwaita dark and high contrast, plus a choice of three icons sets.

Unusual for a live session, the screenlocker actually locks after ten minutes and it is useful to know that the live user account "anon" password is "voidlinux", otherwise you won't get back into your live session!

Void Linux will have a lot of appeal for users who like a plain, unmodified Xfce desktop.

Applications

Like SliTaz 5.0, Void Linux does not come with a lot of default applications. The ones supplied by default in the 20210930 Xfce download include:

The updates I ran brought Firefox up to 91.6.0 ESR and Thunar up to 4.16.10, so it is kept up to date.

The short list of provided applications does not include a web cam, email client, office suite, word processor, or even a screenshot tool! As I have noted with other distributions, a short default application list is not necessary a bad thing, as it allows the user to pick the applications they want and not end up having to remove unwanted programs or put up with clogged menus.

The repositories have a good collection of applications, including popular applications like Chromium, LibreOffice, Kdenlive, Tesseract, FileZilla, gFTP, Thunderbird and so on. The command line XBPS package manager makes them quick to install, too, once you master the syntax.

Conclusions

Overall there is a lot to like in using Void Linux as a desktop distribution. It is obvious that the dedicated team of volunteer developers have created something that works well, despite its few unusual features, like the unique XBPS package manager.

For users looking for a very simple, vanilla Xfce desktop experience this might be a good choice.


SliTaz 5.0

By Adam Hunt

SliTaz GNU/Linux is a very lightweight, independent Linux distribution, with a focus on older hardware. The current version is SliTaz 5.0, which was released just over two years ago, on . This is a rolling release and gets updated weekly.

How lightweight is this? Well the downloads are about one quarter the size of Puppy Linux, itself a really lightweight operating system.

Background

SliTaz had its first release on and so is just coming up to its 13th birthday.

This independent project is not based on any other Linux distribution. It is developed by the SliTaz GNU/Linux Association, which is a non-profit entity, based in Switzerland. The developers come from all over the world, though.

The distribution gets its name from: Simple, Light, Incredible, Temporary Autonomous Zone. That is a reference to T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, a 1991 book by the anarchist writer and poet Hakim Bey, the pen name of Peter Lamborn Wilson. The book deals with the socio-political tactics in creating temporary spaces to elude the formal structures of control. That probably accounts for the SliTaz spider logo and its dark, post-apocalyptic-looking wallpaper selection.

There has been a number of different editions of SliTaz over time and the repository currently offers a selection of 32-bit and 64-bit core and desktop versions.

Installation

I downloaded the baseline 32-bit slitaz-rolling.iso file of 53.6 MB, via http from the basic downloads page, although the repository page offers other options. All downloads are by http, with no bit torrents or even https, so your browser will probably warn you about insecure downloads, as I saw on Firefox.

I ran an MD5 sum check to confirm the download was correct, as there is no SHA256 sum available.

I then used Ventoy 1.0.71 to produce a bootable USB stick, by just copying the ISO file to the USB stick, which worked perfectly. It has to be booted from a non-UEFI environment as it does not support UEFI.

System requirements

There are no release notes for SliTaz 5.0 or any specified minimum hardware, but SliTaz 4.0 recommended a minimum of 192 MB of RAM, although noted that the text mode version will run on 48 MB RAM.

So this is the distribution you really want for your old Windows XP hardware and that is really where it shines, on twenty-year old PCs. I ran it on a nine year old desktop computer with a dual core 3.3 GHz processor and 6 GB of RAM and SliTaz ran very fast from the USB drive.

Use

I have to admit I had pretty low expectations for SliTaz. After all what can you realistically expect from a desktop operating system that is a quarter the size of Puppy Linux to download? I admit that I was pleasantly surprised!

On boot up the first thing you notice is the post-apocalyptic look, including the project's spider logo. It all looks like Wednesday Addams' desktop. The second thing you notice is that the desktop is LXDE, with the LXpanel at the top and with PCManFM as the file manager. The LXpanel can be quickly moved to the bottom and then it starts to look and work like Lubuntu, back in its LXDE days, friendly and familiar.

Like Puppy Linux, SliTaz is normally run entirely loaded into RAM, but it can also be conventionally installed to a hard disk using the SliTaz Installer in the TazPanel application.

With LXDE you get the OpenBox 3.6.1 window manager and the usual setting choices. These include eight window colour schemes, most of which are custom ones for SliTaz. There are also 15 themes and three wallpapers provided.

To anyone who has used LXDE, this all feels like home, with lots of user customization available. For users new to LXDE, it is very logical and easy to use, with everything on one menu.

Unlike in Puppy Linux, the default user on boot-up in SliTaz is a limited user account called "Tux" (of course). Admin privileges are available in any application needed, like TazPanel, by opening a terminal and opening the application with sudo, such as:

$ sudo tazpanel

and then using the default root password of "root". In TazPanel this allows carrying out functions like a full installation, for instance. TazPanel also has a toggle button to sign in as root, too.

With is small footprint, all loaded into RAM, needless to say SliTaz is blazingly fast in use. There is no waiting around for applications to open, as everything happens right away, making SliTaz feel light and agile. Like in Puppy, when booted from a USB, all your work all gets saved at the end of the session, unless you save as you go to a drive.

Applications

With only a 53.6 MB, something has to give and SliTaz comes with only a very short list of default applications. These include:

There are also 18 games games included from the webgames package, plus nanochess and also ALSA sound.

A quick glance shows that SliTaz comes with no office suite or even word processor, no web cam, or even screenshot tool, let alone video editor or much else. The good news is that the TazPanel system and package manager serves up a wide range of applications that can be installed, including LibreOffice, Firefox and, yes, a selection of screenshot tools, too. It has an impressive list of 4967 packages which can be installed.

TazPanel itself is worth a mention. The developers have created a number of tools for SliTaz and TazPanel stands out as a good example. This not only allows installing and removing applications, but it also handles updates, boot logs, networking history and even some interface tweaks, all in one place. It is an impressive utility and shows how much care has been put into this distribution.

SliTaz 5.0 uses the BusyBox 1.31.1 packages of Unix utilities and is currently running Linux kernel 3.16.55. This is an older kernel released on , so don't expect SliTaz to run on new hardware.

For all its shortage of default applications, SliTaz comes with both Midori and the TazWeb lightweight web browsers. Both work well, although more fully-featured browsers, like Firefox, are available in the repositories.

The PCManFM 1.3.1 file manager is hard to fault. It has everything needed, although if you want a more Puppy Linux-like experience, the Rox file manager is available, too.

While the default list of included applications is short, I see this as a positive thing, as it keeps the download small and reduces menu clutter. The TazPanel makes it so easy to find packages that makes it quick work to equip your SliTaz installation with everything you need for work.

Conclusions

SliTaz is actually surprisingly good and a real delight to use. It lacks the oddities or quirks often found in lightweight distributions and really is much more like a normal Linux distribution than you would expect in such a tiny download. It shows a great deal of thought and care put into it by its development team. The result is a surprisingly functional and fast desktop, that can be quickly set up with everything needed. This really is the distribution to get that old computer back into service.


Fedora 35 Gnome

By Adam Hunt

Fedora 35 was released five months ago, on . This distribution is from the other side of the Linux world from Debian and Ubuntu, the Red Hat branch.

Background

Fedora actually springs from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), as the widely available version of that highly successful business and government Linux distribution. These days the roles are reversed and each new version of Fedora is used as the "upstream version" and results in a new version of RHEL. Fedora is intended as a "leading edge" distribution, where new technologies are tested out.

Fedora is developed by the Fedora Project which is sponsored by Red Hat, which is now owned by IBM. A new Fedora version is released every six months, just like Ubuntu.

Since Fedora 30 there are now five different Fedora editions:

Fedora has a very dedicated group of users, which includes Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel.

One of the biggest differences between Red Hat-based distributions and Debian-based distributions is package management. While Debian relies on .deb files and APT to manage them, Red Hat uses .rpm, with DNF to manage the RPM packages. It can also use Flatpak and Snap files, though, making these packages compatible across the Debian and Red Hat worlds.

Installation

I downloaded the baseline Fedora 35 Workstation ISO file via https from the basic downloads page, although the alternate downloads page offers many options, including bit torrents and images for net installations, alternative architectures and desktops. The default desktop is Gnome, using the Gnome Shell, but versions with the KDE Plasma, Xfce, LXQt, LXDE, MATE, Cinnamon and i3 desktops are all available, too. Since this was to be a general first look at Fedora, I went with the default Gnome desktop.

Since neither UNetbootin nor the command line program DD would write Fedora 35 to a USB drive for testing, I used Ventoy 1.0.71 and it worked perfectly.

System requirements

Fedora only comes in 64-bit these days. The release notes specify the recommended hardware for running Fedora 35 as:

and the minimum hardware as:

So this is not the distribution to run on old Windows XP hardware. I ran it on a nine year old desktop computer with a dual core 3.3 GHz processor and 6 GB of RAM and Fedora ran very smoothly from the USB drive.

Use

When you boot up Fedora 35 what you get is pure, vanilla Gnome Shell for an interface, without modifications. This contrasts with current versions of Ubuntu, which also run Gnome Shell, but have modified it to look and work much like the old Unity interface instead.

The implementation of Gnome as seen on Fedora has some good points. It certainly is simple and elegant. The desktop shows the wallpaper and a simple top panel with the Activities menu, date and time, sound and network icons and the on/off button and nothing else. It is very clean and very minimalist.

The Activities menu can be clicked to open or it can be opened from the "super key" (Windows key). It shows two selectable desktops and the tiles for the installed applications, with the most used ones on the bottom launcher. There is also a search function to save looking though the menus.

Beyond your choice of 19 tasteful wallpapers, there is not much in the way of customization available in the default installation.

That is the good part. The bad part is that in the vanilla Gnome 3 desktop, applications have no maximize or minimize buttons, just a close button and there is no "minimize all" feature, so things get cluttered fast with a few applications open. You can "hide" applications or maximize from the right click menu, but that is about it. For anyone coming from a distribution that has this basic desktop functionality Gnome Shell feels far too simplified. I am sure you can get used to it in time or find tools to add these features, but out of the box it feels quite crippled.

Of course if you want a different desktop experience you can install any of the Fedora alternative "official spins", like KDE Plasma, LXDE or LXQt, for instance.

Applications

For a fairly big, 1.9 GB ISO file, Fedora 35 comes with a fairly short list of default applications. These include:

The default web browser is Firefox, which is common on most Linux distributions these days and not the native Gnome web browser, Web (Epiphany), which is still deficient.

As has been the case for a while, the Files (Nautilus) 41.0 file browser lacks simple functionality that makes it hard to use, like an "up one level button". There are better alternatives, like Nemo, available, though.

LibreOffice 7.2.1.2 comes with all its components except LibreOffice Base, the database application. LibreOffice Math and Draw are included, but do not appear on the Gnome main menu, although they can be launched from LibreOffice itself.

The list of applications that come in the Fedora ISO by default is relatively short. This is not a bad thing, really, as it saves having to remove unwanted programs or have menus clogged with stuff you don't use. Of course any needed applications can be added using Gnome Software or from the command line.

Conclusions

Overall Fedora 35 with Gnome is simple and elegant. You get a truly vanilla Gnome experience and if you like that, then you will love Fedora 35 with Gnome. If not, then try one of the other desktop environments available and find one that will make you happy. Basically as long as you have relatively modern hardware then Fedora has an installation that will make any Linux user smile.

External links

Ventoy 1.0.71

By Adam Hunt

, updated

I have been meaning to try out Ventoy for a while, but it was only this week that I really needed to find a new ISO file to USB writer and gave it a try.

As part of trying out Linux distributions and writing about them I need to be able to download the ISO files and write them to a USB stick, boot to them and test them out.

There are many applications for doing this. I have used the Ubuntu Start-Up Disk Creator and it works well. Its advantage is that is comes with Ubuntu and Lubuntu by default, the main disadvantage is that it only works on a very limited number of distributions, like Ubuntu and its immediate derivatives. Even Ubuntu Unity doesn't work on it.

To test other distributions, like Puppy Linux and Ubuntu Unity, I used UNetbootin. It is easy to install and use, and works on a wider range of Linux distributions, but not all. This week, while trying to write Fedora 35 to a stick, I discovered that UNetbootin wouldn't create a bootable USB for that distribution, even though it is specifically listed as being supported. That motivated me to try out Ventoy and see if it works.

Concept

In the world of USB writers, Ventoy is a completely different concept and seems almost designed with the software reviewer in mind, or at least the distro-hopper.

Most USB writers, like Startup Disk Creator and UNetbootin, work from an application installed on your computer. You then download the ISO file, use the application to write to a USB stick, boot to the stick and the distribution loads. Ventoy is instead downloaded as a tar.gz file, extracted and then run to configure a USB stick for Ventoy on it. It only installs on the USB stick, not on your computer. In configuring the stick it creates two partitions, one in exFAT format for the ISO files and one in FAT16 for Ventoy. The exFAT partition is open so you can cut and paste ISO files into it using your file browser. Yes, that is plural: more than one, depending on the size of your USB stick. When you boot to it, a selection screen allows you to choose the one you want to try out. The ISO files are not unpacked or written to the stick, just stored there and opened by Ventoy on boot-up.

Ventoy even finds any ISO files that are on the USB stick, no matter if they are hidden in sub-folders or even in the trash folder. If it is there, Ventoy will find it and offer it up for booting.

Ventoy claims to support more than 830 operating systems and has been tested on 90% of the DistroWatch list. It can be installed on a USB stick, a local disk, SSD, NVMe or SD card and will boot ISO, WIM, IMG, VHD(x) and EFI files.

Ventoy sounds simple and a whole generation ahead of older USB writers and it really is. It works really well, once you get it installed. That is the only catch, it is easy to get and install, but the official documentation provided is positively labyrinthine and Byzantine. In the past I had started to try out Ventoy and gave up several times, as I just could not understand how to get it and make it work. This time I read it all the documentation several times and almost gave up and tried something else once again. Finally, I was able to figure it out, and, as a result, I will provide my own set of far simpler instructions here.

Instructions

To use Ventoy on any Ubuntu derivative:

  1. Download the linux.tar.gz file from GitHub to your home directory (current is ventoy-1.0.71-linux.tar.gz, an 18.5 MB download)
  2. Run a SHA256SUM check on the file to make sure it is a good download
  3. Right click on the file and select "open with" your file archiver (on Lubuntu that is currently Arc)
  4. Once the file archiver opens it, select "extract" and it will create a folder in that same directory with the title "Ventoy" plus the version number
  5. Plug in the USB stick you plan to use
  6. Open the Ventoy folder
  7. Double click on the script: VentoyGUI.x86_64
  8. Select "execute in terminal"
  9. Enter your system password and it will open the graphical user interface
  10. Select the USB device from the drop-down menu and click "install"

Once the installation on the stick is complete you can:

  1. Cut and paste the ISO files to the stick from your file browser
  2. Reboot, select the USB drive
  3. Select the distribution from the boot screen and it will load

Again it isn't well documented, but your Ventoy installation on the USB stick can be updated to a new version by:

  1. Download the new version of the Ventoy linux.tar.gz file
  2. Run a SHA256SUM check on the file to make sure it is a good download
  3. Right click on the file and select "open with" your file archiver
  4. Once the file archiver opens it, select "extract" and it will create a folder in that same directory with the title "Ventoy" plus the version number
  5. Plug in the USB stick you plan to use
  6. Double click on the script: VentoyGUI.x86_64
  7. Select "execute in terminal"
  8. Enter your system password and it will open the graphical user interface
  9. Select the USB device from the drop-down menu and click "update"

Note that this won't effect any ISO files that are on the stick.

Conclusions

Once you get it downloaded and installed Ventoy is actually a whole generation ahead of other ISO USB writers. It gives easy flexibility in testing out a series of Linux distributions, saves time and is perfect for the software reviewer or "distro-hopper". I rated it as 9/10 only because the documentation is so confusing. Once you have it installed it works great.


Puppy Linux FossaPup 64 9.5

By Adam Hunt

Since I have reviews of the other two current Puppy Linux releases, BionicPup and Slacko 7.0, I thought that I would complete the series and try out FossaPup 64 9.5, which was released eighteen months ago, on .

Installation

I downloaded the FossaPup 64 9.5 ISO file from the Puppy website via HTTP download. The ISO is 409 MB in size, which is bigger than the other current Puppies, but still small for a complete, modern operating system.

This Puppy branch is called FossaPup, because it uses some binaries from Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Focal Fossa.

Since Puppy Linux is not usually permanently installed, I used UNetbootin to write FossaPup 64 9.5 to a USB stick and booted from that. UNetbootin specifically supports Puppy and leaves the stick in FAT 32 format, which is handy for later use.

FossaPup 64 9.5 uses a newer version of the Linux kernel, version 5.4.53, so I did try booting it up on my 2021 model System76 Galago Pro laptop and, as was the case with Slacko 7.0, the boot loader wouldn't recognize the stick for booting, although it booted fine on my nine year-old desktop computer, which is where I tested it.

System requirements

The release notes specify the minimum hardware for running FossaPup 64 9.5 as:

So it should work on 15 year old computers from around 2007 vintage or newer, that once ran Windows Vista.

Use

Once FossaPup 64 9.5 is booted up it shows a desktop very similar to Bionic's. Unlike Slacko 7.0, there is a single menu, located in the bottom left corner. The panel is also at the bottom by default. There is no Mac-style launcher by default, either.

The desktop displays a realtime computer monitor, detailing CPU and RAM usage, among other parameters.

Like all Puppy releases, FossaPup 64 9.5 offers many user settings, so you can make it look and work almost anyway that you like. Colours, themes and locations are all highly customizable.

Like the other two current Puppy releases, FossaPup 64 9.5 makes a good, lightweight desktop distribution for running on old hardware and it also can be used as a rescue disk or for hardware testing.

Overall FossaPup is a polished release, like Bionic, only better. It stands out as much better than Slacko 7.0, but it has higher system requirements and doesn't come in 32-bit, making Slacko 7.0 useful for even older hardware.

Applications

For such a small, 409 MB ISO file, FossaPup 64 9.5 comes with an impressive suite of applications. These include:

Aside from those applications listed, you get nine games included as well.

Pale Moon is the default browser, but there are one button installations for Firefox, SeaMonkey, Vivaldi, Opera, Chrome, Tor or Chromium to be installed. While the AbiWord word processor and the Gnumeric spread are provided, LibreOffice is also available for quick installation, too.

Conclusions

FossaPup 64 9.5 is a good release, well-polished and that looks like a serious desktop distribution. There has been good attention to giving it a professional look, that would not look out of place in a modern office. The fact that it can be run on 15 year old hardware is just a bonus.


Puppy Linux Slacko 7.0

By Adam Hunt

It has been over two years since I have reviewed any Puppy Linux releases. The last one was 8.0 Bionic, which is still current. It has been almost ten years since I last reviewed one of the Slacko releases, Slacko 5.4, and so I thought it was time to have an updated look at Slacko 7.0, which was released fourteen months ago, on .

Background

The Puppy Linux world can be a bit daunting to navigate for the newcomer, even for people coming from other Linux distributions. It is put together by a wide community of developers, with no corporate sponsorship and, rather than argue and negotiate over what a final, single release should look like, people just put out their own version. This results in a range of current releases, plus a whole stable of old releases still available in the repositories.

Here in , there are three current releases of Puppy available for download. These are:

The first two make use of some Ubuntu binaries from Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa) and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) respectively, while Slacko 7.0 uses binaries from Slackware 14.2.

People always ask about the user case for Puppy. In general I find that it is useful for at least three things and perhaps more that I haven't yet encountered.

First, it is a totally viable, lightweight operating system that can be run on older computer hardware. Despite the tiny download (343 MB for the 64-bit Slacko 7.0 and 323 MB for 32-bit), it comes complete with a suite of applications and is ready to go to work right "out of the box", although additional applications can be added from the repositories, as needed.

Second, it is great as a data rescue disk. It can be booted up from a CD/DVD or USB stick and used to save files off a broken operating system.

The third role I have used it for is hardware testing, as, again, it is quick to boot up from external media and can be used to check that a computer's hardware is working correctly or not.

Installation

While Puppy Linux can be permanently installed like any other Linux distribution, it usually isn't. Instead it is most often run from external media, like a CD, DVD or a USB stick. Being quite small, it all loads into RAM and then the external media can be removed. This means it runs very fast, even on old hardware and also that it can be used on a computer with a broken or missing hard drive. Saving is done as you go or at the end of a session onto external media again. It all works.

In my case I used UNetbootin to write Slacko 7.0 to a USB stick and booted from that. UNetbootin specifically supports Puppy and leaves the stick in FAT 32 format, which is handy for later use.

From the USB stick I did try to boot up Slacko 7.0 on my 2021 model System76 Galago Pro laptop and the boot loader wouldn't even recognize the stick for booting, although it booted fine on my nine year-old desktop computer. I suspect what I ran into was as warned in the release announcement: "Some newer hardware may not work...." I should note that it runs a Linux 4 series kernel.

System requirements

The release announcement details the minimum hardware for running Slacko 7.0:

So, basically it should work on later computers that once ran Windows XP or early Vista boxes.

New

Compared to earlier versions of Slacko, this version's changes are mostly behind the scenes, with only minimal interface changes.

The most noticeable change is that the main menu is no longer in the bottom left corner. It has now been split into two menus, "applications" and "places" and moved up to the top left, along with the panel. This arrangement will look very familiar to users of Gnome 2, similar to early Ubuntu!

Otherwise Slacko remains much unchanged, with the default user as "root", although there remains the option of creating a distinct user account under it, if needed.

Settings

If anything, this version of Slacko includes more user configuration options that in the past. Just about everything can be changed and there is a wide assortment of themes, colours, window borders and wallpapers provided. The settings are a bit scattered around, which makes it a challenge to find them all. There is certainly a learning curve to Slacko for users coming from other operating systems, but it is not hard to figure out by going though the menus.

Updates are generally not a worry within Puppy releases, as you normally don't get any, just a new release instead, in time. This Puppy version does offer a list of some individual packages that can be updated one at a time, if desired, using the Puppy Package Manager.

Slacko 7.0 retains the general look and feel of Slacko 5.4. It is functional and works well, but looks like a basement operating system. The 8.0 Bionic Puppy release I reviewed before was certainly more polished and professional in feel, if that is what you are looking for.

Applications

For such a small ISO file, Slacko 7.0 comes with an impressive suite of applications. These include:

Aside from those applications listed, you get three games included, along with ALSA sound and CUPS printing.

Firefox is the default browser, but there are one button installations right in the menus for Brave, Vivaldi, Opera or Chromium to be installed. While the AbiWord word processor and the Gnumeric spread are provided, LibreOffice is also available for quick installation, too.

While not as extensive as the Ubuntu repositories, the Puppy list of applications is fairly complete and has a lot of the most popular applications ready for installation.

Conclusions

Slacko 7.0 is a good, solid release, with no bad points. It comes with an amazingly complete default assortment of applications, considering that the 64 bit version is a small 343 MB download and the 32-bit version is even smaller at 323 MB.

For use in hardware testing, or for a rescue system, Puppy is hard to beat. It is also useful for breathing life into older hardware or a computer with no hard drive, rendering it useful for daily work. I am not sure too many people with more modern hardware use Puppy for a daily desktop, though, as there are more full featured and more polished Linux distros out there.

External links

Ubuntu Budgie 21.10

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 was released on and is the distribution's 11th release and the ninth as an official Ubuntu "flavour". This is a "standard" release, supported for nine months, until .

The next release will be 22.04 LTS, due out on .

Background

Only five years since its first release, Ubuntu Budgie is a relative newcomer to the Ubuntu family of operating systems. Ubuntu Budgie is basically a Gnome-based Linux distribution with a redesigned desktop that uses a traditional menu, plus an application dock.

The Budgie desktop was originally intended as the desktop for the Evolve OS, later called Solus. Today it is developed by the Solus Project, with assistance from a number of different distributions, including Arch Linux, Manjaro, openSUSE Tumbleweed and Ubuntu Budgie.

Ubuntu Budgie emphasizes "simplicity and elegance" and aims to be easy to transition to for both Mac and Windows users. The Ubuntu Budgie development effort is headed by Ubuntu Budgie founder David Mohammed and includes an experienced team of developers.

Installation

I did not install Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which leaves the drive in FAT32 format.

System requirements

The minimum system requirements for Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 are:

The recommended system requirements for Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 are:

I tested it on new hardware with a quad-core 4.7 GHz processor and 32 GB of RAM, so it ran very quickly and smoothly.

New

Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 features the 10.5.3 version of the Budgie desktop, which has a large number of small refinements. This version even includes an optional interface that mimics Windows 11, to make the transition feel smoother for users.

Some of the changes incorporated in 21.10 include that the Window Shuffler Control has been completely redesigned, support for Gnome 40 is included, plus many small bug fixes and upgrades. There is also improved support for Raspberry Pi 4 computers.

Like all the 21.10 flavours derived from Ubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie uses the Linux kernel version 5.13.

Mainstream Ubuntu 21.10 and Ubuntu Unity 21.10 have both switched to using the snap version of the Firefox web browser, while Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 retains the .deb package version, as does Lubuntu 21.10, Xubuntu 21.10 and Kubuntu 21.10, at least for now. All indications are that the .deb version will disappear from the Ubuntu repositories when the next release is made in April. The Ubuntu Budgie developers have indicated that they will switch to the snap version with their 22.04 LTS release and have encouraged their users to install it, test it and submit bug reports as required.

There is also a very good tutorial by Bosko Marijan on how to use snaps from the command line on PhoenixNAP.

Settings

Ubuntu Budgie's settings are spread over many places, like the Budgie Desktop Settings, Budgie Extras and Settings (from Ubuntu). However, once you figure out where everything is, it is not too hard to get the desktop set up the way you want.

Ubuntu Budgie aims to give users a reasonable degree of user choices for themes. Version 21.10 includes seven themes that can be installed, mostly from third party PPAs. The default theme is Pocillo and I also tried the Material Design (Materia) theme. Each one comes with its own wallpaper and icons sets. Oddly most of the available themes are dark themes and all are very similar.

There are 36 desktop applets that can be installed to add functionality to the desktop, with options like a calendar, clock and clipboard applet.

The new 21.10 default wallpaper is pink and blue. There are a total of 14 wallpapers provided, or you can use your own, of course.

The Budgie dock is small and unobtrusive. When applications are maximized it hides automatically. It shows which applications are open with dots under each icon, one for each open instance.

The Budgie menu can be opened by clicking on the top left icon or by hitting the "super" key. Menus items can be selected by mouse, touchpad or by typing the name of the application you are looking for.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu Budgie 21.04.

As can be seen, the application collection includes a mix of software mostly from Gnome and other sources. Notable as not being from Gnome is the Catfish file search from Xfce.

Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 uses the Nemo file manager, instead of the standard Gnome file manager, Nautilus. Nemo is a better choice, as it restores several needed features that Nautilus deleted a few years ago, including the "up one level" arrow button.

I am not entirely sure why Catfish is included, as Nemo has a built-in file search that works very well.

Ubuntu Budgie includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burner.

The Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 version of LibreOffice 7.2.1 is lacking only LibreOffice Base database program.

PulseAudio 15 brings support for both Bluetooth LDAC and AptX codecs and adds HFP Bluetooth profiles, which provide improved audio quality.

The gedit 40.1 text editor has syntax highlighting, with a choice of seven different highlight colour schemes, only two of which are light themes. As always, gedit includes spellchecking by default (at Shift+F7). It requires no set-up and is ready to go, right out-of-the-box.

Conclusions

Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 is a solid release, bringing quite a number of incremental changes over the previous version and presents no serious new issues. It certainly has a polished and modern feel to it and will be an easy transition for users coming from Mac or Windows.

In many ways Budgie is pursuing the same user base as mainstream Ubuntu and Ubuntu Unity, as all offer similar collections of Gnome software, but with different user interfaces and differing degrees of user customization.

Ubuntu Budgie users must have an affinity for dark themes, as they are predominate on this operating system and Ubuntu Budgie is actually hard to customize to a lighter look.

Overall Ubuntu Budgie 21.10 will appeal to Gnome fans looking for a more traditional desktop than Ubuntu or Ubuntu Unity. This release bodes well for the upcoming long term support version, 22.04 LTS, which is due out on .

External links

Ubuntu Unity 21.10

By Adam Hunt

Ubuntu Unity 21.10 is this distribution's fourth release and was out on .

This is the third "standard" release in the this development cycle and, as such, is supported for nine months, until . This is also the last standard release before the next LTS release, Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS, due out on , which will complete this development cycle.

The last three releases of Ubuntu Unity have all built on increasing success, getting better with each release, but this version has some issues. Hopefully those will be sorted out before the LTS comes out.

System requirements

Ubuntu Unity does not specify any system requirements, but it is probably reasonable to assume that it is the same as Ubuntu 21.10, which is a minimum of a 2 GHz dual core processor and 4 GiB of RAM.

Installation

I did not install Ubuntu Unity 21.01 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which conveniently leaves the drive in FAT32 format.

When run from a USB stick the operating system runs quite quickly and smoothly.

New

This release includes a new version of Unity, moving from version 7.5.0 to 7.5.1. The changes are fairly minor and were released on , long before this new operating system version was completed. The Ubuntu Unity release announcement notes that this includes "updated indicators and the migration of the glib-2.0 schemas to gsettings-ubuntu-schemas".

Other changes in this Ubuntu Unity release are a new Plymouth splash screen and new release wallpaper, too. There are 13 wallpapers available, with seven "indri themed", all found at Settings→ Appearance.

Like Ubuntu 21.10, Ubuntu Unity 21.10 has moved to the snap version of the Firefox web browser, replacing the .deb package. This differentiates it from the other Ubuntu flavours, such as Lubuntu 21.10, Xubuntu 21.10 and Kubuntu 21.10, which are sticking with the .deb version for now. It is worth noting that since Canonical and Mozilla have indicated that the .deb version is not going to be supported for long, perhaps not past 21.10, Ubuntu Unity is at least ahead of the game in handling this switchover.

Aside from the actual release, the Ubuntu Unity project has also introduced a new logo, a new official website and the beginnings of a move of the project to GitLab, as a result of needing more bandwidth for increased traffic. All of that sounds like a good thing!

The project has also announced that it is moving its snap package repository to a new (and not yet completed) lol snap store, which it developed and will be on fosshost, as an alternative to the Canonical snap store. In theory that sounds okay, but what has not been addressed is who will maintain the snap applications there and what is being done to ensure that no malware creeps in? For instance Mozilla has committed to maintaining the Firefox snap on snapcraft.io, but who will do that on lolsnap.org? Will the snaps there just be copies from snapcraft.io? Hopefully those questions will be addressed before the lol snap repository goes operational.

Settings

The settings in Ubuntu Unity 21.10 have some issues. Since Ubuntu Unity 20.10, the distribution has included the Unity Tweak Tool to provide much better control of settings, including access to the full suite of installed themes. This release once again ships with the Yaru-unity-dark theme as default, but not the Unity Tweak Tool. Without it you only have access to four window themes at Settings→ Appearance→ Theme, none of which are the default theme. Upon discovering that the Unity Tweak Tool had been omitted, I thought, "no problem, I will just install it". It installed fine with APT, but it consistently crashed on start-up and would not run. I suspect that is why it is not shipped by default. So there is a bug, most likely an unmet dependency there, possibly related to the upgraded version of Unity used. With the Unity Tweak Tool not available, only limited themes can be selected and, if you like the default Yaru-unity-dark theme, you had better not change it, because you can't get it back. #Fail.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu Unity 21.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu Unity 21.04.

The Synaptic package manager, Remmina remote desktop client and the Startup Disk Creator USB ISO writer have all been added as new applications this time around. Remmina and the Startup Disk Creator were both previously included, but were deleted in Ubuntu Unity 21.04. The re-introduction of the Startup Disk Creator is really a bit odd as it can't be used to write Ubuntu Unity to a USB stick, so is of limited use in this distribution, unless you want to use it to switch to a different distribution instead.

Applications removed from this release include the CompizConfig Settings Manager desktop effects, the Kupfer application launcher and the Timeshift system restore utility. I think it is pretty easy to justify removing these as "not needed by the average home user". Personally, I will not miss them, but if anyone does then they can be installed easily from the repositories.

The default file manager remains Nemo 4.8.6, which is a good choice, as it integrates well with the Gnome desktop and offers better features than the usual Gnome file manager, Files (Nautilus), such as an "up one level" arrow button.

As in the past, 21.10 includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burning application, which makes sense, since it has been many years since new laptops or desktops came with optical drives for these.

LibreOffice 7.2.1 is once again supplied complete, lacking only the LibreOffice Base database application, which can also be installed from the Ubuntu repositories, if needed.

Both Gnome Software and Ubuntu Software are once again installed, which is odd, as they are both the same application with different badging. They continue to offer both snaps and deb files, where available, giving users a choice of packages.

Conclusions

Ubuntu Unity 21.10 is a release that is lacking and not as good as 21.04 was. The issues with the Unity Tweak Tool not being installed and not working if installed (and hence omitted) look like an insufficient amount of testing that has resulted in limited theme choices and the inability to revert to the default release theme once another one is selected. The lack of explanation for this in the release announcement leaves users wondering what happened. It is actually okay to hit an unsolvable developmental glitch, especially in a non-LTS release, but when that happens the developers need to be open with the users as to what is going on and how it will be fixed.

The dropping of applications in this development cycle and then reinstatement of them is also odd and seems a bit indecisive. I think this might have been justifiable, but again no rationale was given in the release announcement, which leaves it as a bit of a mystery.

The LTS release, Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS, is due out on . Will it "bounce back" from these setbacks and solve these deficiencies? I guess we will find out in April.

External links

Kubuntu 21.10

By Adam Hunt

Kubuntu 21.10, came out on . As a "standard" release it is supported for nine months, until . This is a the last release prior to next April's LTS release, which will complete this development cycle.

This is the distribution's 34th release and the 13th with the KDE project's Qt-based Plasma 5 desktop, so this is a very mature project and has a solid base of users and fans.

Download

I down loaded the .iso file by BitTorrent from the Kubuntu website and performed a command-line SHA256 check on it for integrity.

The first thing I noticed was that this version of Kubuntu is the biggest download so far at 3.1 GB, for the ISO file. It is bigger than any other Ubuntu family ISO, including Ubuntu 21.10 itself, at 2.9 GB, so be warned if you have a slow connection.

Kubuntu 21.10 was 3.2 GB when unpacked by UNetbootin and with whatever headroom was required, would not fit on a 4 GB USB stick, so I had to use a 15 GB stick instead.

This is a new level of bloat for an Ubuntu flavour.

Installation

I did not install Kubuntu 21.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which leaves the drive in FAT32 format. When run from a USB stick the operating system runs very quickly.

New

Like every new Kubuntu release, this one has a new default wallpaper, Altai, by Alesya Khoteeva. Like other recent Kubuntu wallpapers it has a geometrical look to it, this time with an abstract interpretation of the Altai mountain range of Asia. If you don't like it then there are 29 other wallpapers provided, or you can use your own, too.

Like all the other Ubuntu-based 21.10 releases, Kubuntu uses Linux kernel 5.13.

This release is based upon the Qt 5.15.2 toolkit, the same as Kubuntu 21.04 was, but uses the updated KDE Plasma 5.22 desktop, which has a number of refinements. Like the earlier 5.21 desktop, the menus in Plasma 5.22 are smoother and work better than earlier versions did.

While Ubuntu has been using Wayland by default since 21.04, the other Ubuntu flavours seem happy to continue with X11 and let Ubuntu work out the bugs. Like 21.04, Kubuntu 21.10 includes a Plasma Wayland session, but it is not the default and has to be chosen at boot-up after installation, if you want to try it out. At least the Wayland session no longer carries a warning that is it for test purposes only.

As far as application changes go, this release deletes the KsysGuard, which has been replaced by the new Plasma System Monitor. Also updated are KDE Frameworks 5.86 and KDE Gear 21.08, which is the collection of KDE utilities.

Settings

As I have noted in my previous reviews of Kubuntu, it probably has the widest variety of settings of any Ubuntu-based distribution. You can make Kubuntu look and work almost anyway that you like. Unchanged from 21.04, in Kubuntu 21.10 there are:

And that is just the list of installed options. Most of the setting pages offer one-button download and installation of many, many more options, right in the settings windows.

Kubuntu 21.10 also offers 67 re-installed desktop widgets. These are small applications that can be added to your desktop to improve functionality. Hundreds more can be downloaded, as well.

As I have noted in the past, the Kubuntu project philosophy is to give users the largest possible range of choices as to how their installations look and work. This results in a true "embarrassment of riches", especially compared to Ubuntu 21.10, which has very limited user customization available.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Kubuntu 21.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Kubuntu 21.04.

As can be seen from the lack of asterisks, most of the applications included are updated versions from KDE Applications 21.08, with no hold-overs from Kubuntu 20.12.

All the included applications are Qt-based, with the obvious exception of Firefox, which remains GTK-based. The Qt-based Falkon browser, an official KDE project, has not had a release in over two and a half years, making it abandonware now.

Like both Lubuntu 21.10 and Xubuntu 21.10, Kubuntu 21.10 retains the Firefox web browser as a .deb package and has not moved to using a snap package like Ubuntu 21.10 has done. As with Lubuntu and Xubuntu, it will be interesting to see what the Kubuntu developers do for future releases, as the .deb version is slated to disappear from the repositories, leaving only the snap version available.

As in past releases, Kubuntu 21.10 does not include a webcam application, an image editor or video editor by default, although there are many options in the repositories, if needed. KDE's Qt-based Kdenlive would probably be the best choice in a video editor. Kubuntu also no longer comes with a default CD/DVD burning application installed. Optical drives are pretty much obsolete technology these days and new computers have not come with them for many years. If you do still have an optical drive that you use to burn CDs or DVDs on, then it is easy to install a burner application from the repositories. The KDE, Qt-based K3B application is the most obvious choice.

The Kubuntu 21.10 version of LibreOffice 7.2.1 is complete, lacking only LibreOffice Base, the office suite's database application.

The Kate 21.08.1 text editor has syntax highlighting and is highly customizable, with many highlight colour schemes. Kate also has spell-checking right out-of-the-box, which is a welcome feature, putting it in the same class as Gnome's gedit.

Conclusions

Kubuntu 21.10 is another solid release, with just a few refinements over 21.04. This development cycle seems to have concentrated on small changes that have added some polish to Kubuntu, but no serious alterations. I can only assume that the developers and users are both happy with generally how Kubuntu looks and works and no one wants to see any wholesale changes. I am not expecting to see many differences between this release and the LTS release, Kubuntu 22.04 LTS, which is due out next, on .

External links

Xubuntu 21.10

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Xubuntu 21.10 was released on . This is the distribution's 32nd release and is a "standard" release, supported for nine months, until .

So far in this development cycle Xubuntu 20.10 had no changes and 21.04 had just a few changes. This left me curious whether 21.10 would introduce just a few more minor tweaks or some bigger changes. It turns out that this release has some further minor changes and that points to an LTS version due out in April that will probably be not that different from the last LTS.

Installation

I did not install Xubuntu 21.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which leaves the drive in FAT32 format. When run from a USB stick the operating system runs quite quickly.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Xubuntu 21.10 have not changed since 21.04 and remain:

These are probably realistic specs for descent performance and represent a computer about ten years old.

New

Xubuntu 21.04 uses an updated point version of the last desktop, Xfce 4.16.2, with the GTK 3.24.30 toolkit. This version brings some small user interface tweaks as well, including improving the Greybird window theme to create more active/inactive window differentiation, something I have been looking for for many releases.

Xubuntu 21.04 has a new greenish wallpaper that is unlike other recent Xubuntu wallpapers. There are also 18 other wallpapers provided, many of them from recent Xubuntu releases, or you can use your own wallpaper, too.

The release adds some new applications, including the Gnome Disk Usage Analyzer, Gnome Disk Utility and the Rhythmbox music player. Also added is Pipewire which is described as "a server and user space API to deal with multimedia pipelines". It is intended to improve audio playback quality, especially when using Bluetooth audio.

The Pidgin IRC client has been removed as Hexchat is now included.

Settings

This version of Xubuntu once again uses "Greybird" as the default window colour scheme, but, as noted, the theme has been subtly changed to make it a bit more obvious which window is active. There are a total of six window themes provided, as well as six icon themes, with the default being Elementary Xfce Darker.

Just like all Xubuntu releases since 14.04 LTS, this one employs the Whisker Menu as its menu system. Whisker is the main feature that makes Xubuntu distinctive from the other Ubuntu flavours, especially as Xubuntu adopts more and more applications from Gnome. The Whisker Menu is highly customizable and can even be resized, which is unique among Linux menus.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Xubuntu 21.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Xubuntu 21.04.

As with recent Xubuntu releases, by default there is no webcam or video editing application, although there are several in the repositories that can be installed.

Xubuntu 21.10 includes LibreOffice 7.2.1, which is, as usual, lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application, which can easily be installed, if needed.

Like Lubuntu 21.10, Xubuntu 21.10 retains the Firefox web browser as a .deb package and has not moved to using a snap package like Ubuntu 21.10 has done. As with Lubuntu, it will be interesting to see what happens in future releases, as the .deb version is slated to disappear from the repositories over time.

Conclusions

Xubuntu 21.10 is a solid release, with just a few small changes made since 21.04 and most of them to the mix of applications provided. I think the message from the developers is that Xubuntu is pretty much where they want it to be and does not require any large-scale changes made. Overall I think that this philosophy will keep the user base happy and I am not expecting many changes when Xubuntu 22.04 LTS is released on .

External links

Lubuntu 21.10

By Adam Hunt

Lubuntu 21.10 was released on . This is the seventh release for Lubuntu with the LXQt desktop and the 24th overall Lubuntu release. This is the last "standard" release in this development cycle, as the next one will be a long term support version, 22.04 LTS, due out on .

As a standard release, Lubuntu 21.10 is supported for only nine months, until .

Installation

A usual, I did not install Lubuntu 21.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which conveniently leaves the drive in FAT32 format.

System requirements

The Lubuntu developers stopped recommending minimum system requirements, with the introduction of LXQt in Lubuntu 18.10.

New

There are only a few changes in 21.10 over Lubuntu 21.04, as this development cycle seems to feature just some small and incremental changes.

Lubuntu 21.10 introduces LXQt 0.17.0, based on Qt 5.15.2, an upgrade from the previous LXQt 0.16.0 used in Lubuntu 21.04. LXQt 0.17.0 does bring a long list of useful improvements, most of them "behind-the-scenes", although some are visible in the interface. One example is that the LXimage-Qt image viewer can now show thumbnails of all the images in a file, in a strip along the bottom and these can be user selected, saving arrow-keying though a whole file to find an image.

One new application added is the ImageMagick image editor. I have never found it easy or intuitive to use, however, since it is mostly command-line based image manipulation. Some distributions use it for in-operating-system-use, like creating thumbnails, but the release announcement has no information on why it was included.

The Lubuntu 21.10 default wallpaper, by Mahtamun Hoque Fahim, is a great improvement over the default Lubuntu 21.04 wallpaper, which was totally dreadful. There are also ten other included wallpapers to choose from, or you can use your own, of course.

One thing that is not new is that the Lubuntu developers decided to retain Firefox in this release as a .deb file, as in the past and not as a snap package, unlike Ubuntu 21.10. It will interesting to see where this will lead, as it looks right now like the Ubuntu and Mozilla maintainers of the package will only be supplying a snap version in the near future, like they already do with the Chromium browser. If distributions that are dependent on the Ubuntu repositories are going to want to keep offering a .deb version of Firefox then they will have to compile it from source themselves. Given the frequency of updates, that could be a pretty labour intensive proposition. So the question then becomes: when Lubuntu 22.04 LTS arrives will it have a .deb or snap version of Firefox?

Settings

Configuring Lubuntu 21.10 is exactly the same as all the previous LXQt releases of Lubuntu. The LXQt configuration menus continue to be easy to navigate and easy to use use, making customizing Lubuntu LXQt actually an enjoyable experience.

Lubuntu 21.10 comes with 19 window themes and 14 icons sets to choose from, among many other settings. Like all the previous LXQt versions of Lubuntu, 21.10 comes with a dark Lubuntu Arc theme as default.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Lubuntu 21.10 are:

* Indicates the same version as used in Lubuntu 21.04

The FeatherPad text editor remains at version 0.17.1, which, as of the Lubuntu 21.10 release date of , was four versions out of date. Version 1.01 is now the current FeatherPad version.

Like the earlier LXQt releases, Lubuntu 21.10 does not come with a webcam application, photo editor or video editor, although these can be easily added from the repositories, if needed. Even though computers have not come with CD/DVD drives for almost a decade now and it is pretty much an obsolete format, Lubuntu 21.10 still comes with the K3b CD/DVD burner application. Lubuntu is starting to look a bit anachronistic here in , as K3b is taken from Kubuntu's suite of KDE applications and the Kubuntu developers have omitted it for quite a number of releases now.

Conclusions

Lubuntu 21.10 continues with the small, careful and incremental changes we have seen in this release cycle and that all points to the upcoming spring LTS, being very similar to 21.10, without any big changes. This should keep the users happy, as Lubuntu is working very well these days and big changes are not needed.

The next release is the LTS, so I am interested to see what it will include.

External links

Ubuntu 21.10

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Ubuntu 21.10 was released on and is the distribution's 35th release and the ninth since the switch from Unity to the current modified Gnome 3 desktop. This is a "standard" release, supported for nine months, until .

This is the third release since the last long term support (LTS) release and so it marks the last standard release in the development cycle. Next will be the LTS release, Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, which is due out in .

This release includes a lot that is new, which is unusual in the development cycle, where normally changes are introduced in the first or second standard release and the last one is reserved for a "polishing".

This release is code named Impish Indri. An Indri is the largest member of the lemur family. It is found exclusively on the island of Madagascar and is currently listed as "critically endangered".

Installation

I did not install Ubuntu 21.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which leaves the drive in FAT32 format.

When running from a USB stick, Ubuntu 21.10 runs very quickly and smoothly, just like it would do on an installed hard drive.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Ubuntu 21.10 have not changed since 20.04 LTS and remain:

There are some indications that this release should run more smoothly and faster than in the past, due to the new kernel, developmental fixes and adjustments. That certainly seems to be the case, as it feels light and quick.

New

Ubuntu 21.10 uses the Linux 5.13 kernel, which includes support for new hardware, like future Intel and AMD chips, such as the Intel Alderlake S and AMD Adebaran. It also supports Microsoft Surface Laptops and tablets and introduces rudimentary support for the Apple M1, ARM-based chipsets. Ubuntu 21.10 will run NVIDIA graphic cards on Wayland now.

The desktop is modified from the stock Gnome 40 experience. As in the past, it designed to look and work very similarly to the old Unity 7 interface. It includes a horizontal application launcher (main menu) that makes better use of screen space and a horizontal workspace switcher, which allows dragging and dropping of windows between workspaces or using the application launcher top-displayed thumbnails. Workspaces can be moved horizontally by use of the mouse scroll wheel or the Page Up/Page Down keys. By default there are two workspaces.

Like Ubuntu 21.04, this release uses a Wayland protocol display server by default. This implementation of Wayland has scaled, multi-touch gestures enabled for the workspace switcher, opening the main menu and exiting. They move as you move: fast or slow.

The Ubuntu Dock now shows open applications at the bottom and pinned applications at the top, separated by a subtle divider line. Also the trash can has been moved from the desktop to the dock.

The backend for the firewall is now nftables, although it is not turned on by default. That can be accomplished from the command line with UFW or using the graphical GUFW.

There are many more small upgrades and tweaks incorporated, for instance the network connector now shows recently used wifi networks at the top and the settings "about" page shows additional hardware information, like the computer builder and model.

Settings

Ubuntu has never been known for its wide range of user settings compared to most Linux other distributions and 21.10 continues that trend. This release uses the Yaru light theme by default, but the choices have decreased from three themes to two, Yaru light and dark, as the previous default "standard" theme has been dropped. Yaru light is now the default. Ubuntu's unified settings menu remains perhaps the best control panel available in any operating system today, with everything in one place, making the limited customizations available easy to find, at least.

The new default wallpaper is purple and orange, predictably with an indri on it. This time there are only four wallpapers provided, down from five in Ubuntu 21.04, although you can always use your own wallpaper instead.

As in previous Ubuntu releases, the dock bar can be set to the left, right or at the bottom of the screen, but not at the top, as it would conflict with menus on the top bar display there. The dock's icon size can also be made smaller to free up some more lateral space or the icons made bigger for touchscreens. These can all be adjusted on the settings menu.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu 21.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu 21.04.

As can be seen, the application collection includes a mix of software from Gnome 3.38, 40 and 41.

Probably the most controversial application change is that Firefox is now a snap package by default, instead of the previous .deb package. This change was actually requested by Mozilla to make their support for Linux easier and Canonical was happy to oblige. For now the .deb package remains available in the repositories and it will receive updates for the life of Ubuntu 21.10, until July 2022. One of the complaints about snaps is their slow opening time, but in my testing Firefox opened initially in four seconds, with subsequent openings in one second. This compared to testing of the .deb version on a USB trial of Lubuntu 21.10 on the same hardware, where it opened in 2.5 seconds on initial opening and 0.5 seconds on subsequent openings. I don't think that the difference is significant. It is worth noting that snaps do not necessarily follow system themes accurately and that is the case in Ubuntu 21.10, as Firefox only semi-conforms to the chosen Yaru theme, although it does not look bad at all.

There is a very good tutorial by Bosko Marijan on how to use snaps from the command line on PhoenixNAP.

As with recent releases, Ubuntu includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burner, photo editing or video editing software, although these can be easily added if needed.

The Ubuntu 21.10 version of LibreOffice 7.2.1 is lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application. Like Ubuntu 21.04, this release does include LibreOffice Math, the math formula writer, although I am not sure what the user case is for including it.

Gnome calendar can now open and import .ics files, as used by applications like Google Calendar.

PulseAudio 15 brings support for both Bluetooth LDAC and AptX codecs and adds HFP Bluetooth profiles, which will give improved audio quality.

The latest version of the Gnome file manager, Nautilus, has new sorting capabilities and also the file transfer time progress bars have been improved for accuracy. Nautilus' location bar now has "auto-complete" and Nautilus can also open password-protected zip files.

The gedit 40.1 text editor has syntax highlighting, now with a choice of nine different highlight colour schemes, four of which are dark themes. It is notable that gedit includes spellchecking and correcting by default (at Shift+F7). The application requires no set-up for tasks, such as writing web pages; it is ready to go to work out-of-the-box.

As has been the case since Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, the Ubuntu Software application installer for 21.10 is once again just a snap-store, as it just installs Snaps. I'll again link to this Dave Mackay article, which provides a very good primer about what this is about. This article by Jatan Mehta has some much more serious concerns about how Snaps work and how they can or can not be avoided on Ubuntu. This article shows how to remove all snaps and disable them, which some users will want to do, at least in 21.10. In future some packages may only be available as snaps.

Conclusions

Ubuntu 21.10 is another solid Ubuntu desktop release, bringing quite a number of incremental changes to this development cycle. As would be expected in a 35th release, Ubuntu 21.10 is slick, polished, modern and feels very up to date.

With all three standard releases now out, next spring's LTS is shaping up to be a reasonable update over the last LTS, Ubuntu 20.04, without introducing any big changes. Overall that is a good thing as big changes in the past have often resulted in unhappy users, especially with Ubuntu, which has a large base of non-technical and enterprise users.

Most Ubuntu users these days stick to LTS releases, but this standard release seems to have enough new, including some performance enhancements, that it may lure some users away from the previous LTS release.

External links

The System76 Galago Pro Laptop

By Adam Hunt

, updated

In the summer of 2011 Ruth got a brand new System76 Pangolin Performance laptop and it is still running well for me today, even if it is a bit heavy, dated and showing some wear. With its dual core Intel i5-2410M 2.9 GHz CPU and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM it still runs Lubuntu 20.04 LTS without any issues. However some of the keys are getting a bit loose and it has been clear for a bit that, after ten years of solid service, it is time to replace it.

Options

I did give consideration to getting a Windows laptop from a local store and just putting Lubuntu on it, but the back-to-school specials seemed to all offer no better specs than my ten year old Pangolin Performance and with doubtful durability as well. Linux compatibility is always a question, although these days it will run on pretty much any computer without issues.

The high quality of the Pangolin Performance along with System76's great customer service had me taking a serious look at the System76 Galago Pro as a replacement. The baseline specs are reasonable at:

But I ran the System76 configuration webpage and came up with an upgraded one with:

And that looked pretty good, with the higher specs hopefully building in some "future-proofing" against software bloat.

In comparing the Galago Pro to similar quality Windows laptops, like from MSI, it was comparable or cheaper in price. In matching it to similar sized, but lower spec Macs, it was 35% cheaper. It stacks up as a pretty good value in a quality laptop.

Ordering
System76 Galago Pro

I went ahead and ordered one and, as usual, System76's service was excellent. They had the unit built and shipping in three business days.

The shipping via UPS was a mess, as usual, but it eventually got here, despite a lot of bad information provided by UPS. I suggested to System76 that they look at an alternative shipper for Canada and they said they would see what they could do about that.

Delivery

When it arrived I unpacked the reusable shipping box and booted it up, as it was shipped fully charged. Within a few seconds I had Ubuntu 20.04 LTS all running and checked out the hardware configuration, which proved to be "as ordered" and fully functional.

The hardware itself is very beautiful. It is light, slim and looks well designed. Compared to the old Pangolin Performance, it is much more portable and runs much cooler, as well. In using it I can see why the old netbook form factor has disappeared in laptops, as this full-sized laptop is pretty much as small and light, but with a bigger screen and keyboard.

Set-up

My next task was to install Lubuntu 20.04 LTS on it, which proved a bit harder than anticipated. It did not offer the usual "erase and use entire disk", and instead there was only "manual partition" available. Checking the Lubuntu manual suggested the issue might be hard drive swapping and that running:

$ sudo swapoff -a

should fix it, which it did.

From then on the installation ran very fast and was complete in about four minutes! That compares to 14 minutes for the same installation on my old laptop with its rotating drive.

Although it ran fine without it, I also installed the System76 hardware driver:

$ sudo apt-add-repository -y ppa:system76-dev/stable
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt install system76-driver

The rest of the installation consisted of setting up my own preferred configuration from my checklist and then reinstalling documents, which took about 35 minutes in total.

Fixes

The screen is a matte-finish 14.1" unit, with a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. That actually results in quite small text and icons, which I find kind of sub-optimal. A quick Menu→ Preferences→ LXQt settings→ Monitor settings selection of 1368 x 768 pixels fixed that, but only until Lubuntu 22.04 LTS came out on . The new Lubuntu version worked fine at 1368 x 768 pixels, until I installed the Kdenlive video editor. That application now has a minimum screen resolution bigger than 1368 X 768 pixels and just will not work at all at the resolution as the GUI is bigger than the screen. There have been discussions and Bug 447913 put in on it, but it doesn't look like it will be fixed. For this reason I set the screen back to its native 1920 X 1080 pixels and then made a whole series of system adjustments to make Lubuntu 22.04 LTS usable. Here is what I changed:

This does leave a few residual items still fairly small, like the clock and some application icons, but it is livable, at least.

With Lubuntu 20.04 LTS installed, I ran into a problem with "screen tearing", a situation where, during window rendering, you see horizontal interference lines on the screen for a second or two. This seems to be an issue with modern, integral Intel graphics, like the Galago's Intel Iris Xe. I found the solution on discourse.lubuntu.me, as Walter Lapchynski, a Lubuntu Council Member suggested just turning on Compton. I found an article on UbuntuBuzz that showed how to do this at Preferences→ LXQt Settings→ Session Settings→ LXQt Modules→ Compton→ select on, then log out and back in again. Fixed! It is worth noting that this issue did not reoccur in Lubuntu 22.04 LTS for some reason.

Features & Performance

In use the 4.7 GHz quad-core i7-1165G7 processor, combined with the solid state hard drive means this laptop is noticeably very fast.

Boot times with Lubuntu 20.04 LTS are pretty impressive at 16 seconds, compared to 1:45 on the old laptop. Coreboot, the installed free software firmware system, probably accounts for much of that performance. Even shutting down takes only two seconds. Idle RAM after a reboot is 515 MB.

The laptop includes a nice set of function keys along the top row of the keyboard that allows quick control of audio volume, muting, wifi on/off (airplane mode), screen on/off, switch displays and keyboard back-lighting. There are also dedicated buttons for page home, end, page up and down, and screen shots. The keyboard is actually very well laid out and functional.

The Pangolin lacked the back-lighted keys that the Galago has. I have to admit this is a very nice feature and extremely useful in low-light conditions.

The integral Intel wifi card offers dual 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band wifi, which is also of great benefit. The 2.4 GHz band has only 11 wifi channels available and I have had frequent issues with RF interference from my neighbours. The 5 GHz band gives faster speeds, more channels and wider bandwidth, which all adds up to no interference at all.

With Lubuntu, I found that the Galago Pro's Li-Ion 49 Wh battery gives about four hours of use before it needs to be charged. That is much better than the Pangolin Performance, which, even when new, gave barely two hours on battery.

Since I received it I have been using the laptop as my main computer. The overall combination of its small size, clear display, light weight, fast processor, fast hard drive and fast 5.0 GHz wifi add up to make it a real quantum leap beyond any computer I have used in the past. The longer battery life means I can work anywhere, too, untethered for many hours.

I am hoping that the Galago Pro proves to have the durability of the the Pangolin Performance. Time will tell.

External links

Pop!_OS 21.04

By Adam Hunt

Pop!_OS is a relatively new Linux distribution, developed by System76, a company that builds and sells Linux-specific computer hardware. For years they shipped laptops and desktops with Ubuntu, but since Ubuntu moved from the Unity interface to a modified Gnome interface, System76 decided to create their own distro, Pop!_OS.

Pop!_OS is based upon Ubuntu, but uses a modified Gnome interface. When buying one of System76's computers you get a choice of either Pop!_OS or Ubuntu preinstalled.

Pop!_OS uses the same version numbering system as Ubuntu. The operating system's first release was 17.10 and 21.04 is the eighth release, so it is fairly bug free and mature now. Pop!_OS is free software and, probably best of all, is available for public download, so that it can be installed on any computer, not just on System76 hardware.

With version 21.04, the Pop!_OS developers have introduced a new, even more modified interface that they call COSMIC (Computer Operating System Main Interface Components), a "suspected" backronym to fit their "space" themed marketing.

Given all the recent changes introduced I thought I would give Pop!_OS 21.04 a try out on my ten year old System76 Pangolin Performance laptop and see how it works.

Installation

I did not install Pop!_OS 21.04 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which conveniently leaves the drive in FAT32 format. When run from a USB stick the operating system runs quite quickly.

System Requirements

The company does not publish any minimum system requirements, but it is reasonable to assume that it is the same as Ubuntu 21.04, basically a 2 GHz dual core processor and 4 GiB of RAM.

My old System76 laptop with 4 GB was close to maxed out running Pop!_OS 21.04 and I would say at least 8 GB of RAM would be preferable. It is worth noting that 8 GB is the minimum amount of RAM that System76 offers on the computers they sell at the present.

New

The Mac-like dock is new on Pop!_OS 21.04. During operating system installation you can choose how it will look, but you can always change it later in the "settings" menu. Choices include full width dock, shortened to fit the icons or no dock at all. Icon size can be selected, which sets the corresponding dock width. It can also be set to auto-hide and can be moved from the default bottom location to the left or right sides or the screen, too. It can't be set at the top, though, as that it where the Gnome panel resides.

The top panel or "bar" now features a "Workspaces" button that allows you to see where all your open windows are and an "Applications" button, that opens the main full-screen applications menu. If desired these can both be moved or removed. The top bar also shows date, time and system status icons

In Pop!_OS 21.04 the "super key" opens the launcher, a "type anything to search for anything" box. It can locate applications, menu settings, web searches, calculations, run a command and open files. You can select a search result by mouse or keyboard shortcut, as each search result is labelled. The super key can also be changed so that it opens the Workspaces or Applications view

This version also allows mouse gestures on a laptop trackpad, such as, swipe four fingers right to open the Applications view, swipe four fingers left to open the Workspaces view, swipe four fingers up or down to switch to another workspace and swipe with three fingers to switch between open windows.

This version of Pop!_OS also addresses an inherent limitation of modern Gnome distributions: no minimize or maximize window buttons. Minimize is enabled by default and maximize can be turned on in the settings menu.

Settings

The Pop!_OS settings manager is top notch, with all settings in one place, which makes it easy to configure your system.

The biggest oddity in Pop!_OS 21.04 is that for some things there are tons of settings and for others there aren't. As noted above the dock can be configured almost in any way a user could desire, while there are only two window themes, light and dark. Both themes use black window tops and neither give good active/inactive window differentiation. It feels a bit like a "work in progress", so perhaps over time the range of choices will be expanded?

I found that the Mac-style dock located at the bottom takes up too much vertical screen space, especially when combined with the top bar. It works better on the side, like Unity, but I also found that it really isn't needed at all. With the top bar "Applications" and "Workspaces" buttons, plus the launcher to find things, the dock can be turned off to free up more screen real estate. I am sure Mac fans would disagree, though.

The Pop!_Shop software store handles software updates, installing and removing applications. There is a pretty good applications repository that includes Chromium, Ungoogled Chromium, Midori, Falkon and Gnome Web for browsers, along with such favourites as gFTP, FileZilla and FeatherPad, with many applications available as a choice of Flatpack or Deb files. If graphical interfaces are not your style then applications may also be installed from command line via apt, too.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Pop!_OS 21.04 are:

Pop!_OS 21.04 does not include a webcam application, image editor or video editor, although these can be easily installed from the repositories if required.

LibreOffice 7.1.5.2 is supplied complete, lacking only the little-used LibreOffice Base database application, which can also be installed from the Ubuntu repositories, if required.

In looking though the repositories from the command line, I found that they are not quite as complete as Ubuntu's and that they lack some applications that I regularly use, like the Tesseract optical character reader.

Conclusions

Pop!_OS 21.04 is good release with some nice new user interface features. It runs well and is pretty much flawless in use. The new COSMIC interface gives quite a lot of user configuration choices in some areas, like the dock, while being skimpy in user choices in other areas, like window themes. The application repositories may be a bit incomplete for some users, too, lacking that one application you really need.

Overall Pop!_OS works well and may be a good alternative for a Gnome-based distribution, whether running on System76 hardware or your own existing computer.

External links

Firefox 89 and the Proton Interface

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Firefox 89.0 arrived on and brought the new "Proton" user interface redesign that was promised back in February.

Mozilla says they have "redesigned and modernized the core experience to be cleaner, more inviting, and easier to use." And it really is. More to the point it looks more modern and less old and out-of-date.

The interface changes include simplified controls (I had already simplified these in my installation), reorganized menus without icons, new dialogue boxes, new prompts and messages, reduced alerts, lighter coloured icons, plus "floating tabs", which actually more resemble "buttons". There is also a new colour pallet, but on Linux, using the default system theme you won't see that. The unpopular "megabar", which got reduced over time, is now gone too, which is a bonus!

There are also some behind-the-scenes changes, too, including "Total Cookie Protection, which confines cookies to the site where they were created, preventing companies from using cookies to track your browsing across sites." This is borrowed from "strict mode".

Despite all the changes the good news is that my add-ons all still work!

I actually like these changes, as it makes Firefox actually look elegant, instead of clunky. But then I liked the Australis interface in 2014, with its much more graceful rounded tabs. Many other users hated Australis, of course (or any changes at all to Firefox) and eventually, after a lot of user bitching, Mozilla did a redo in 2017 called Photon and changed everything back, including reinstating the 1990s-looking square tabs.

With the interface changes the comments (at least on OMG! Ubuntu!) can best be described as "mixed". Some users like it, some don't care and, of course, a bunch hate it. My only hope is that this time Mozilla doesn't back down and reverse it again!

I should note that the sole reason that I rate Firefox as 9/10 is that its spellchecking is still not working very well and never has done. On short forms it generally works okay, most of the time, but on longer pages it just stops spellchecking at a point on the page and gives up, which is really sub-optimal. If Mozilla got this working I would upgrade it to 10/10, as otherwise it is a great browser.

External links

Ubuntu Unity 21.04

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Ubuntu Unity 21.04 is the third release of this new operating system, out on . This is a "standard" release, supported for nine months, until .

With three releases now and a solid group of core developers working on it, it looks like Ubuntu Unity is here for the long haul and is not just a "flash-in-the-pan". That is good news, as this is a really worthwhile distribution, that I have been hoping would survive.

After the last release introduced quite a number of changes, this one has just a few, really very minor refinements. So, with just one more standard release before the next LTS version, we probably have a pretty good idea what the LTS will look like.

System requirements

Ubuntu Unity does not specify any system requirements, but it is reasonable to assume that it is the same as Ubuntu 21.04, basically a 2 GHz dual core processor and 4 GiB of RAM.

Installation

I did not install Ubuntu Unity 21.04 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which conveniently leaves the drive in FAT32 format. When run from a USB stick the operating system runs quite quickly.

New

As noted, this release has very few changes. What is new is a custom set of Yaru themes, including the default Yaru-unity-dark theme. There is a new transparent Unity launcher icon, new wallpapers and a new Plymouth boot-up theme, plus some key bug fixes over the last version.

Along with all the other Ubuntu flavours this one also uses the Linux 5.11 kernel and brings many application version upgrades.

Settings

The default wallpaper and theme produce an interesting effect. By default you get all-black application windows, with black buttons, black window borders and black trim on a pretty-much black wallpaper. My first thought on seeing this was that it was a parody of the current trend in dark themes, as everything is so black that it is pretty much unusable.

I have to admit that the default combination of the black wallpaper and the Yaru-unity-dark theme was enough to cure me of any interest I may have had in dark themes.

Parody or not, the good news is that there are 16 themes included in the Unity Tweak Tool (but only four are accessible at Settings→ appearance→ theme), 12 wallpapers (all but two are Hippo themed, though), plus 31 icon themes, so there is a lot of scope to lighten things up a bit and customize the look of Ubuntu Unity to anything you may want.

The choice of 12 wallpapers is a drop from the record-setting 54 wallpapers in the last release! That was probably overdoing it last time.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu Unity 21.04 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu Unity 20.10.

** Launchpad indicates the latest version available as 0.9.5.92 for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin), so I am not certain where this version comes from.

Ubuntu Unity 21.04 continues to use the venerable Unity 7.5.0 interface. Unity works very well, with its characteristic application launcher and wide variety of desktop shortcuts for efficient workflows. While there is work on a new Unity version underway, Unity 7 does not in any way feel dated.

Two applications have been removed from this release, the Startup Disk Creator (usb-creator-gtk) USB ISO writer and the Remmina remote desktop client. Neither were mentioned in the release announcement, so I am not sure what the rationale for dropping these was. In the case of the Startup Disk Creator it probably makes sense to remove it, since it does not work for writing USBs with Ubuntu Unity anyway.

As in the past, 21.04 includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burning application, image editor and video editor, although these can be easily installed from the repositories if required.

LibreOffice 7.1.2 is supplied complete, lacking only the LibreOffice Base database application, which can also be installed from the Ubuntu repositories, if needed.

Both Gnome Software and Ubuntu Software seem to be installed, which is odd, as they are both the same application with different badging. They continue to offer both snaps and deb files, where available, giving users a choice of packages.

Conclusions

Ubuntu Unity 21.04 is another strong release. It runs smooth and fast and is pretty much flawless in use. The Unity 7 interface remains a great choice for efficient keyboard-based workflows, with pleasing aesthetics. The development within this distribution seems to be focused on giving users a wide range of customization choices, differentiating Ubuntu Unity from the mainline Ubuntu distribution, which has very limited choices.

Ubuntu Unity 21.04 has enough new to offer users that it may be worth switching to it, rather than sticking with either of the earlier releases, despite the shorter nine-month support period.

The number of changes in this release are far fewer than in the last one, perhaps indicating that the configuration is getting close to optimal for Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS, due out in . Between now and then we should have one more release, Ubuntu Unity 21.10 for any last pre-LTS refinements.

External links

Kubuntu 21.04

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Kubuntu 21.04, came out on and, being a "standard" release is supported for nine months, until .

This is the distribution's 33rd release and the 12th one with the KDE project's Qt-based Plasma 5 desktop, so this is a very mature project with a lot of dedicated users, too.

Installation

I did not install Kubuntu 21.04 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which leaves the drive in FAT32 format. When run from a USB stick the operating system runs quite quickly.

When booting up 21.04 it does not run an overt file system checker, unlike recent versions. Rik Mills, a Kubuntu and Ubuntu developer says that "it now runs silently in the background so it does not delay the boot." I have to assume that, because I did not see any notifications, all the files were good.

System requirements

I was not able to locate any listed system requirements for Kubuntu 21.04, but I can report that it ran fine on on my 2011 vintage System76 Pangolin Performance laptop with:

New

The first thing you notice on boot-up is a new default wallpaper, Milky Way, by ruvkr. Like other recent Kubuntu wallpapers it has a geometrical look to it, but unlike other recent offerings it is quite dark and looks like it was designed to fit dark desktop themes. If this is not to your taste, then there are 28 other wallpapers provided, including many from recent Kubuntu releases.

Like all the other Ubuntu-based 21.04 releases, Kubuntu uses Linux kernel 5.11.

This release is based upon the Qt 5.15.2 toolkit and uses the KDE Plasma 5.21 desktop, which incorporates a large number of small refinements. Overall it seem to be smoother, more functional and better laid out, especially the menus.

While Ubuntu 21.04 is now using Wayland by default, the other Ubuntu flavours seem happy to continue with X11 and let Ubuntu deal with the bugs for a bit. Kubuntu 21.04 includes a test Plasma Wayland session, but it is not the default and has to be chosen at boot-up if you want to try it out. The release notes say, "the Wayland session is provided for testing and evaluation only, and is not supported", so you have been warned.

As far as application changes go, this release adds the new Plasma System Monitor, but also retains the older KsysGuard system monitor, as well.

Settings

As I have noted in my previous reviews of Kubuntu, it probably has the widest variety of settings of any Ubuntu-based distribution. You can make Kubuntu look and work almost anyway that you like. For example, in Kubuntu 21.04 there are:

And that is just the list of installed options. Most of the setting pages offer one-button download and installation of many, many more options, right in the settings windows.

Kubuntu 21.04 also offers 68 re-installed desktop widgets, two more than the last release. These are small applications that can be added to your desktop to improve functionality. Some of the widgets I tested were the analog clock, simple menu and the application launcher. The latter is a full-screen application menu similar to Gnome's. All of these worked well and, if you don't find what you are looking for in the pre-installed ones, hundreds more widgets can be downloaded, as well.

The Kubuntu main menu has seen improvements over the last few releases and now works very smoothly. In the past I thought the provision of desktop widgets, like the simple menu and the application launcher were needed to make up for the main menu's deficiencies, but in 21.04 I am not sure that many users will opt for them, as long as they give the main menu a spin first.

As I have noted in the past, the Kubuntu project philosophy is to give users the largest possible range of choices as to how their installations look and work. The biggest challenge is that the number of settings is truly daunting and duplicating your favourite set-up in a fresh installation would take a good checklist.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Kubuntu 21.04 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Kubuntu 20.10.

As can be seen from the lack of asterisks, most of the applications included are updated versions from KDE Applications 20.12, with very few hold-overs from Kubuntu 20.10.

All the included applications are Qt-based, with the obvious exception of Firefox, which is GTK-based. The Qt-based Falkon browser, an official KDE project, has not had a release in over two years, which is ridiculous for a web browser and seems to indicate that it can now be classed as abandonware.

As in past releases, Kubuntu 21.04 does not include a webcam application, an image editor or video editor by default, although there are many options in the repositories, if needed. KDE's Qt-based Kdenlive would probably be the best choice in a video editor. Kubuntu also no longer comes with a default CD/DVD burning application installed. Optical drives are pretty much obsolete technology these days and new computers have not come with them for many years. If you do still have an optical drive that you use to burn CDs or DVDs on, then it is easy to install a burner application from the repositories. The KDE, Qt-based K3B application is the most obvious choice.

The Kubuntu 21.04 version of LibreOffice 7.1.2 is complete, lacking only LibreOffice Base, the office suite's database application. If needed it can easily be installed, though.

The Kate 20.12.3 text editor has syntax highlighting and is highly customizable, with many highlight colour schemes. Kate 20.12.3 also has spell-checking right out-of-the-box, which is a welcome feature, putting it in the same class as Gnome's gedit.

Conclusions

Kubuntu 21.04 is another solid release, with just a few incremental improvements over 20.10. This development cycle seems to be just bringing small refinements, leading to the next LTS release, Kubuntu 22.04 LTS, due out in April, 2022.

With its improvements, including much better menu, Kubuntu 21.04 may just offer enough to seduce Kubuntu users to upgrade from Kubuntu 20.04 LTS, even with the shorter, nine month support period.

External links

Xubuntu 21.04

By Adam Hunt

Xubuntu 21.04 was released on and is the distribution's 31st release. It is a "standard" release and is supported for nine months, until .

Ever since the release of Xubuntu 20.10, which had no changes made to it at all over the previous release, I was curious to see which direction Xubuntu 21.04 would go. Would the developers make some changes or just "stand pat" right to the next LTS version? Well the mystery has been solved, some changes have been made in this release, although not big ones!

Installation

I did not install Xubuntu 21.04 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which leaves the drive in FAT32 format. When run from a USB stick the operating system runs quite quickly.

When booting up 21.04 it does not run an overt file system checker, unlike recent versions. Rik Mills, a Kubuntu and Ubuntu developer says that "it now runs silently in the background so it does not delay the boot." I have to assume that, because I did not see any notification, the files were all good.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Xubuntu 21.04 have been bumped up again and are now higher than were specified for 20.10. They are now:

These are probably more realistic specs and represent a computer about ten years old.

New

Xubuntu 21.04 uses a new desktop version, Xfce 4.16, all using GTK3, which replaces Xfce 4.14. This also brings some minor user interface tweaks as well, including to the menus, desktop and the file manager, Thunar. There is also now the option of a Xubuntu minimal installation, too.

Xubuntu 21.04 has a new wallpaper that is oddly modernist in design and reminiscent of past wallpapers, like the one used in Xubuntu 19.10.

The release also adds the Synaptic package manager, as a more technical supplement to Gnome Software, which is retained as a more user-friendly "software store". Oddly Gnome Software is not found on any of the menus, except the "all applications" menu, which is probably an oversight.

The Hexchat IRC client is also added. Hexchat is recommended by the Xubuntu developers over the previously-supplied Pidgin IRC client. Although Pidgin is still included with this release as well, I suspect it will be gone by the time the LTS comes around, though.

It is not mentioned in the release notes, but Startup Disk Creator the USB ISO writer, seem to have been omitted from this release. There are probably easier alternatives available these days, anyway.

Settings

This version of Xubuntu once again uses "Greybird" as the default window colour scheme, as the last few releases have done. I still don't like it, as it is very hard to differentiate "active" and "inactive" windows, as they are both grey. There are a total of six window themes included, with Numix probably the best one offered, but none of them provide very good differentiation between active and inactive windows. This is a continuing failing with Xubuntu.

Just like all Xubuntu releases since 14.04 LTS, this one employs the Whisker Menu as its menu system. Whisker is the main feature that makes Xubuntu distinctive from the other Ubuntu flavours. It is highly customizable and can even be resized, which is unique among Linux menus.

As with every version of Xubuntu since 19.10, I had a repeat issue with my laptop touchpad not working right. With the last two releases I could not get it working at all and had to plug in a USB mouse, instead. I assume that this is just an issue with the old touch pad on my 2011 vintage laptop, but it is odd that it works fine with all the other Ubuntu flavours.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Xubuntu 21.04 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Xubuntu 20.10.

As with recent Xubuntu releases, by default there is no webcam or video editing application, although there are several in the repositories that can be installed, if needed.

Xubuntu 21.04 LTS includes LibreOffice 7.1.2, as usual lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application, which can easily be installed, if needed.

Conclusions

Xubuntu 21.04 seems like a good solid release, with a few small incremental changes made to it, to start the development cycle rolling. It will be interesting to see if the 21.10 release has more changes or just refines things before the spring LTS release comes out.

Given that most users stick with the LTS releases these days and that there is not much compelling in this release, I can't see many Xubuntu users giving up longer support for this one's nine months of updates. Most will probably treat it as a "beta" for the 22.04 LTS and wait for that release to upgrade from 20.04 LTS.

External links

Lubuntu 21.04

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Lubuntu 21.04 was released on . This is the sixth LXQt release for Lubuntu and the 23rd overall Lubuntu release. This is a "standard" release, the middle of three standard releases before the development cycle culminates results in the next long term support version, 22.04 LTS, in .

As a standard release, Lubuntu 21.04 is supported for only nine months, until .

Installation

I did not install Lubuntu 21.04 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which conveniently leaves the drive in FAT32 format.

When booting up 21.04 it does not run an overt file system checker, unlike recent versions. Rik Mills, a Kubuntu and Ubuntu developer says that "it now runs silently in the background so it does not delay the boot." I have to assume that, because I did not see any notification, the files were all good.

System requirements

The Lubuntu developers stopped recommending minimum system requirements, with the introduction of LXQt in Lubuntu 18.10, but I can report that Lubuntu 21.04 ran fine on on my 2011 vintage System76 Pangolin Performance laptop with:

New

There are only a few changes in 21.04 over 20.10 and this development cycle is shaping up to be "just a few small tweaks", which I count as a good thing. The LXQt version of Lubuntu is working very well these days and really does not need much in the way of changes.

Lubuntu 21.04 uses LXQt 0.16.0, which is based on the Qt 5.15.2 toolkit and is an upgrade from the previously used LXQt 0.15.0. LXQt 0.16.0 does bring some minor changes in the desktop colours and the way individual themes work.

One thing that is new is that the Ark archive manager, that has been used in every LXQt version of Lubuntu up until this one, has been replaced by the LXQt Archiver. LXQt Archiver is not entirely all new, though, as it is based upon Engrampa, the archive manager from the MATE desktop.

The Lubuntu Update Notifier also received an update itself, with improvements to its tree view to give users at least a bit more information on updates to be installed.

The MPV video player that was previously included has now been removed. This was an alternative to VLC and wasn't really needed, as VLC handles pretty much every video or audio file and has better controls and settings.

The Lubuntu 21.04 default wallpaper, by Alan Diggs, was the winner of the Lubuntu 21.04 wallpaper design competition. Overall I have to say that this is easily the worst wallpaper in Lubuntu's history. Most of the past ones have been simple and elegant, but this one is distracting, cacophonic and truly dreadful. If I installed Lubuntu 21.04, the first thing I would do is change the wallpaper. Fortunately there are ten other wallpapers provided or you can use your own.

Settings

Configuring Lubuntu 21.04 is exactly the same as all the previous LXQt releases of Lubuntu. The LXQt configuration menus continue to be easy to navigate and easy to use use, making customizing Lubuntu LXQt actually an enjoyable experience.

Lubuntu 21.04 comes with 19 window themes and 13 icons sets to choose from, among many other settings. Like all the previous LXQt versions of Lubuntu, 21.04 comes with a dark default theme, Lubuntu Arc.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Lubuntu 21.04 are:

* Indicates the same version as used in Lubuntu 20.10

The FeatherPad text editor did finally get updated to 0.17.1. This version includes the ability to customize the syntax highlighting. As of the Lubuntu 21.04 release on , FeatherPad was now only two releases out of date. Version 0.18.0, released on , is the current version and it could have easily been included, but for some reason was not.

Like the earlier LXQt releases, Lubuntu 21.04 does not come with a webcam application, photo editing or video editing software, although these can be easily added from the repositories, if needed.

Conclusions

Lubuntu 21.04 introduces just some small and incremental changes over 20.10. I think this slow and cautious development route is the right way to proceed. At this point in time Lubuntu is working very well, large scale changes are not needed and would only alienate the user base.

The next release will be the last one prior to the LTS release and is usually used as a "refinement" release to get everything right, so we will see what it includes. I am hoping for better wallpaper, at least!

External links

Ubuntu 21.04

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Ubuntu 21.04 was released on . This is the distribution's 34th release and the eighth with the Gnome 3 desktop. This is a "standard" release, supported for nine months, until .

This is the second release since the last long term support (LTS) release and so it marks the middle of the development cycle of three standard releases leading to the next LTS release, which will be Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, due out in . This means that by this release we should have a pretty good idea what is going to be included in this development cycle, since there is only one more "standard" release to get it all right before the next LTS is out.

Installation

I did not install Ubuntu 21.04 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using UNetbootin, which leaves the drive in FAT32 format.

When booting up 21.04 it does not run an overt file system checker, unlike recent versions. Rik Mills, a Kubuntu and Ubuntu developer says that "it now runs silently in the background so it does not delay the boot." I have to assume that, because I did not see any notification, the files were all good.

When up and running from a USB stick, Ubuntu 21.04 runs very quickly, just like it would do on an installed hard drive.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Ubuntu 21.04 have not changed since 20.04 LTS and remain:

New

Other than new wallpaper, this version of Ubuntu does not introduce many new user interface changes. It instead focuses on hardware support through a new version of the Linux kernel, version 5.11. Linux 5.11 includes support for Intel Rocketlake and DG1 graphics, as well as AMD Vangogh, Green Sardine, and Dimgrey Cavefish graphics, along with many other enhancements. It is worth noting that Ubuntu Server 21.04 has lots that is new and that seems to be where the development work is these days, although out of scope of this review.

Ubuntu 21.04 does not include the Gnome 40 desktop, but sticks with Gnome 3.38, as there were developer concerns about a range of issues, including the stability of the GTK4 toolkit, a Gnome interface redesign and the potential impact on Gnome extensions and the Ubuntu default theme, Yaru GTK. A few of the included default applications have been upgraded to the Gnome 40 versions, however.

Ubuntu 21.04 has updated developer tools, too, including GCC 10.3.0, binutils 2.36.1, glibc 2.33, Python 3.9.4, Perl 5.32.1, LLVM 12, golang 1.16, rustc 1.50, Ruby 2.7.2 and OpenJDK 11, with OpenJDK 16 provided, but not used for package builds. These are all features that most desktop users will not notice much in daily use.

There are some desktop interface changes, however, like drag-and-drop now works again between the Nautilus file manager and the desktop. This functionality was removed by the Gnome developers in version 3.28, as I guess they didn't like people cluttering up their desktop. Users complained, though and now it is back, so clutter away.

Probably the biggest news in this release is that the Wayland display server is now enabled by default, replacing X11 on all hardware, except those running Nvidia graphics cards. Nvidia-equipped machines should automatically default back to X11 instead. In theory Wayland should give more performance on the desktop.

Settings

Ubuntu has never been known for its wide range of user settings compared to some Linux other distributions, like Kubuntu, and 21.04 is no exception. As in the past, though, I have to single out Ubuntu's unified settings menu, as perhaps the best control panel available in any operating system today. It has everything in one place and is actually easy to use, to make your Ubuntu installation look and work the way you want.

The new default wallpaper predictably is dark purple with a hairy hippopotamus, the latest in a long line of release codename-themed wallpapers. This time around there are only five wallpapers provided, all of which are hippopotamus-themed graphical or photo designs. Feel free to substitute your own wallpaper instead.

As in the past seven releases, Ubuntu 21.04 uses a modified version of the Gnome Shell that looks and works generally similarly to the old Unity interface. It includes the window control buttons, too, so that Gnome's "close only" button is supplemented by the traditional minimize and maximize buttons. There is also a top bar with the date and time, plus key controls. These are all useful design choices, as Unity was quite a good interface, although it does show up the shortcomings of the current Gnome Shell, in that there is so much that needs fixing.

The application launcher bar can be set to the left, right or at the bottom of the screen for a "Mac-like" look. As in past releases, it cannot be set at the top, as it would conflict with menus there. The icon size can also be made smaller to free up some more lateral space or the icons made bigger for touchscreens.

Again in this release, there are only three window colour themes to choose from: light, standard and dark. As before, the "dark" and "standard" themes don't provide much active/inactive window differentiation, but the "light" theme, is fairly good in that regard, with the active window tops in a medium grey and the inactive ones almost white, which is enough to show which window is active. It is worth noting that the dark theme is really, really dark and when combined with the dark wallpaper, makes Ubuntu 21.04 with this theme almost black. I guess some users will like that.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu 21.04 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu 20.10.

As can be seen from the lack of asterisks, most of the applications included are fresh versions, although most are just point version, minor upgrades.

As with recent releases, Ubuntu includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burning application.

The Ubuntu 21.04 version of LibreOffice is lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application. Unlike Ubuntu 20.10, this release does include LibreOffice Math, the math formula writer, but I doubt most users will notice the application or make any use of it.

Nautilus is still lacking as a file manager. It was the victim of an oversimplification drive at Gnome some years ago that removed basic functionality, like the "up one level" arrow to move higher in the file system. Nautilus remains Ubuntu's weakest point these days, but there are better file managers, like Nemo, that can be installed and which integrate nicely with the Ubuntu desktop.

As in recent releases, the gedit 3.38.1 text editor has syntax highlighting, now with a choice of nine different highlight colour schemes (up from seven in Ubuntu 20.10), three of which are dark themes. It is notable that gedit includes spellchecking and correcting by default (at Shift+F7) and is perhaps the only Linux text editor to do so. It actually requires no set-up at all for tasks such as writing web pages; it is ready to go out-of-the-box.

As in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and 20.10, the Ubuntu Software application installer for 21.04 is once again just a snap-store, as it just installs Snaps. I'll again link to this Dave Mackay article, which provides a very good primer about what this is about. This article by Jatan Mehta has some much more serious concerns about how Snaps work and how they can or can not be avoided on Ubuntu. This article shows how to remove all snaps and disable them, which some users will want to do.

Conclusions

Ubuntu 21.04 is another solid Ubuntu desktop release, with few new features introduced for this development cycle, at least for desktop users. Overall Ubuntu 21.04 looks and feels very slick, polished, modern and up to date.

Now that we have two releases out of three in this development cycle out, it looks like the next LTS is unlikely to introduce much that is new, just some small incremental refinements. In many ways this is the sign of a mature operating system. It is also a good thing, as any big changes, or desktop paradigm alterations will incur a large user learning curve and generally make the users unhappy. As we have seen in the past, in the software world change just for sake of change is not a good thing. Small incremental enhancements are really the way to go with mature distributions, especially with Ubuntu, which has a large base of non-technical users.

Most Ubuntu users these days stick to LTS releases and this standard release has little to entice anyone to switch, especially with only nine months of support, expiring in . Most Ubuntu users will probably treat it as a mid-phase developmental curiosity and stay with 20.04 LTS until the next LTS is out in .

External links

Firefox 87

By Adam Hunt

Firefox 87.0 came out two weeks ago, on . On its own this release is not a huge advance of any kind. In fact it only introduced a few new features. But overall Firefox has been on a steady run of incremental improvements for the last couple of years.

For instance this release includes an indication in the "page find - highlight all" feature that shows tick marks on the scroll bar indicating where each instance of the search item is found. A small, but good improvement.

On the down side, the new "cookie jar" feature of Total Cookie Protection in "Strict" mode introduced in Firefox 86 rendered my Cookie Auto Delete extension (CAD) ineffective at removing cookies and I now actually get better protection from cookies in "Standard" mode with CAD than in "Strict" mode without it working right.

Overall, though Firefox is getting better and I am happier and happier with it. In fact, for the first time since I started using web browsers I am actually not engaged in looking for a better one. Firefox is actually good enough and getting better. How good? Good enough that last November I made a donation to Mozilla to encourage them to continue on.

There are some bigger changes to Firefox coming too, as once again, Mozilla is going to try a UI update. The last one, Australis, didn't last long, as some users didn't like it and complained loudly. I actually thought it was an improvement, but it was undone in a IU remake called Photon. This upcoming UI is going to be called Proton and is expected to arrive in a couple of months, in Firefox 89. When it comes out I will review it.

In the meantime I am quite happy with Firefox. It has at least ended my browser shopping.

External links

Ubuntu Web 20.04.1

By Adam Hunt

Rudra Saraswat must be the busiest developer in the Ubuntu world these days. Not content to have started Ubuntu Unity, UbuntuEd and the server-focused Krob Linux, on he released the first version of a new Ubuntu-based distribution, Ubuntu Web, a project he had announced as started on .

Ubuntu Web is aimed directly at the market currently occupied by Google's Chrome OS, as it is a web-focused operating system that runs most functions from its browser, in this case Firefox.

Google's Chrome OS is the operating system that powers Chromebooks. It runs the Google Chrome browser and provides most features via Google's suite of cloud services. It is worth noting that 30 million Chromebooks were sold last year, driven by the need to get laptops into school kids' hands during the COVID-19 pandemic, so they can learn at home.

So what is the motivation for creating a competitor to the Linux-based Chrome OS? Saraswat explains that the main objections to Chrome OS are that it features the non-free software Chrome browser and that, because everything is cloud-based and uses Google's services, like Google docs, Google Drive and Gmail, that you are dependant on Google and subject to any privacy issues there.

There has only been one release of Ubuntu Web so far, version 20.04.1.

Installation

Right now there is no website for Ubuntu Web, just two hosted download locations:

The Ubuntu Web 20.04.1 download is 2.6 GB, which is oddly the same size as Ubuntu 20.04.1 is!

Once the bit torrent download was complete I ran the md5sum (the only sum checker provided) and that confirmed that I had a flawless download.

I used UNetbootin to write the ISO file to a 4 GB USB stick and booted it up on my ten year old System 76 Pangolin Performance laptop. Choosing "Ubuntu Web" from the boot menu loaded it up nicely and I ran a series of "live sessions" to test it out.

Testing

When Ubuntu Web boots up it presents a very attractive desktop, that looks more than just a little bit Mac-like, with a dock along the bottom. It uses Wayland by default instead of X11 and that seems to work fine. The default wallpaper is a seductive starry night sky over a sand dune, with the Ubuntu Web logo, but there are 36 other wallpapers to choose from if you don't like that one. Ubuntu Web uses the Adapta GTK theme and the Papirus icon theme.

Ubuntu Web is supposed to work in a similar manner to Chrome OS, so most work is going to be browser-based. The browser has to be free software, so the choice is Firefox. It launches from the bottom dock and opens as it normally would. Firefox gives you mostly expected functionality. The only glitches I found were in trying to play videos on websites. YouTube and DTube work, right on the webpage, but videos on other websites, like CNN and CBC wouldn't play. That looked like missing codecs to me and a command line check showed that Gstreamer and other codecs are indeed missing.

The launcher features a number of default "web apps" in wapp format. These are supposed to look and work like cell phone "apps", but are actually just Firefox windows that open without chrome and the URL bar, etc. There is a default web app installed for the peer-to-peer DTube video service. There are also web apps for webmail, a calculator, notes and file storage, all provided by /e/ cloud services. You need an account on /e/ or else these are not going to work. Saraswat is planning better integration with /e/ services in the future, but that is still a work in progress.

There is also a launcher icon for the Open Web Store. This allows installing a few basic apps in cell phone fashion, including ones for YouTube, DTube, Google Drive and Opendesktop. Saraswat explains, "to install a wapp from the Open Web Store, download it to your system. Then search for 'Run a file' in the application launcher, select the downloaded file and click 'OK'. After authentication, the app will be successfully installed."

There is also an ability to install Android apps using Anbox, although Saraswat notes it is "experimental" and "may not work properly in the LiveCD or a virtual machine, but should work fine in the installed system".

Clicking on the main menu icon at the bottom left of the screen brings up an Ubuntu-like menu. This shows that there are some actual, local applications installed, including Gnome Files (Nautilus), Gparted, Gnome Calculator, Document Scanner (Simple Scan), Gnome archive manager (File Roller), Run A File and the Gnome Screenshot tool. The presence of Gnome Files means you can save and manage files locally, which is a good feature. Using any of these local applications adds them to the "frequent" menu.

There is no word processor or spreadsheet program included with Ubuntu Web. Of course with Chrome OS you would use Google Docs for those functions and that is an option here, but it kind of defeats the attempt to shed Google's cloud services. There is also no way to edit photos or videos and no web cam application, either. There is no installed package manager, like Gnome Software or Synaptic, with which to install packages.

What is not shown on any menu is a terminal window, but it is installed by default and can be called up with ctrl+alt+T. This allows installing packages from the command line with apt, as I successfully installed Gnome Web (epiphany-browser). With apt you can install any programs you like from the Ubuntu repositories, including LibreOffice or GIMP, making Ubuntu Web into a full-featured operating system that will work just like Ubuntu ... but that kind of defeats the whole point. If you want a fully-featured operating system, then just install Ubuntu instead.

I did a command line apt policy test to see which normal default Ubuntu applications are actually installed and discovered that the Gnome Text Editor (gedit) is there, along with the Gnome Videos (Totem) and the Gnome Image Viewer (Eye Of Gnome). I opened them all up from the command line as they do not turn up in the main menu search results and do not get added to the "frequent" menu, even when they have been recently used, as they seem to be shut out from it. They can also be opened from Nautilus, by clicking on a file that calls them up, like a .txt file for gedit or a .jpg for Eye Of Gnome.

Overall, using Ubuntu Web over a few days I found it is basically "beta" software, good enough for user testing, but not ready for daily use yet. Perhaps future versions will be better.

The user case

Through my test sessions with Ubuntu Web the thought that I had constantly is, "who would use this?"

Certainly this is not the operating system for most Linux desktop or laptop users who want to be able to write word processing documents, make spreadsheets, edit movies or even edit photographs. They would want a fully-featured distribution, like Ubuntu, instead. I think that it Ubuntu Web has to be aimed at the same users who are the target buyers of Chromebooks:

Chromebooks have been very popular with schools and employers and particularly with the IT departments that have to procure and support them, because they are inexpensive, very secure, resistant to malware, have automatic updates and are hard for users to break the software. Also, because all documents are in the cloud, usually Google Docs, if you destroy or lose the hardware, you don't lose any data, you just get a new computer and carry on.

Users like Chromebooks because they are simple, easy to learn, have long battery life and very fast boot up times.

Unlike Chromebooks, which come with Chrome OS pre-installed, there are no computers that come with Ubuntu Web pre-installed. That means that someone is going to have to get a computer and install it. Given the three user profiles above, it would probably not be the students, employees or low-skill individuals who would do that, it would fall to the school or company IT department in the first two cases and the "tech-savvy" relative in the third case. I think it is pretty unlikely that any school or company IT department will buy a bunch of laptops and then install Ubuntu Web on them. It would take time and will not give any advantages over Chromebooks, unless the IT people were dedicated to free software and wanted to ditch Google services, or had a bunch of cheap, used laptops. Most probably wouldn't. As far as users go, Ubuntu Web is not going to give long battery life or a quick boot up, although Saraswat did note a two second boot up time on his test box.

The third use case, though, might make some sense. If you are a Linux user and wanted to get your grandmother a cheap, used laptop to surf the web, use social media and email, with good malware resistance and fairly unbreakable software, then Ubuntu Web might be a good way to do that. I do think that is a pretty small potential population user case, though.

Conclusions

Overall Ubuntu Web 20.04.1 is a good, "beta-level", start at creating a Chrome OS competitor. There is work to do to give it better cloud services through /e/ or some other service, better apps, including word processing and spreadsheets and also the ability to properly play videos outside YouTube and DTube. It will be interesting to see if future releases are forthcoming and if they solve the shortcomings noted.

It will be also interesting to see if there is any real user market for Ubuntu Web. I can't think that the Linux user looking to supply a used laptop to a low-tech relative is going to account for a large number of installations. Will other, as yet uncontemplated, user cases arise? If this distribution has some longevity, then perhaps we will see.

External links

Ranking the Ubuntu Flavours

By Adam Hunt

, updated

Over the last two weeks since the 20.10 crop of Ubuntu flavours were released on , I have had the opportunity to thoroughly test and do written reviews of five of them. My reviews here, on this website, were essentially "warm-ups" for my reviews for Full Circle magazine. Aside from going over what is new in each one and how they are evolving (or not), this process has given me a chance to assess how each one would make it as an operating system for my own personal use.

As I spent time working with each distribution, exploring the settings, working with it for daily tasks and writing about it right from the desktop I was evaluating, using its own default text editor for that task, I couldn't help but rank them in my own mind as to which I liked best and why, at least for my own use. I didn't put any of that into my reviews, trying to stay a bit more neutral there, but now that I have finished the five reviews, I thought I would write up what I found in comparing them.

The big picture

In presenting a ranking of my own favourites, I think that a number of points need to be kept in mind:

5. Xubuntu

Xubuntu generally works well and has a flexible menu system in the Whisker menu. In the Xubuntu 20.10 release I found that it breaks my laptop touchpad and can only be used with an actual mouse. I have no idea why that is, but it is unusable on my vintage laptop.

Otherwise Xubuntu is very solid, does everything well enough. I can't really decide if, in putting out the 20.10 release with "no changes", the developers were being arrogant or if Xubuntu really has reached a state of perfection where it really doesn't need any improvements. In my review I assumed the latter. Better touchpad adjustments would be good, though.

I have to state that Xubuntu really doesn't light a fire for me and never has done. In general it works well enough, but the design seems bland and generic. It doesn't do anything badly, but it doesn't do anything really well, either.

Because of the touchpad issues Xubuntu is at the bottom of my list right now. Perhaps if I had a new laptop it would be ranked more highly.

4. Kubuntu

Kubuntu 20.10 is impressive if for all its user configuration options. To be honest I found working with the settings a bit daunting, just because there are so many choices. You could spend months tweaking it. You can make it look and work like almost anything, it is that chameleon-like. I think I could find a look and set-up that I liked and could happily work with, using a bit of trial and error. I might even be able to write down my settings and duplicate them next installation as well.

Still, I find that there is something oddly mediocre about Kubuntu each time I have tested it out. It works well, is highly customizable, but feels oddly ponderous in use, mostly due to the menu system. Of course there are options to simplify the menu and even replace it with the Application Dashboard widget, which is more "Ubuntu-like".

I would rate Kubuntu as my fourth choice for an operating system.

3. Ubuntu

Every time I booted up Ubuntu 20.10 to work on my review, I could see its appeal. It is well-designed, well-integrated, highly polished and slick.

The highly modified Gnome 3 desktop works well enough, almost as well as Unity 7. The packaging priority given to snaps over debs is annoying and it has very limited settings and user customization available. These days Ubuntu feels more like an enterprise desktop, serious and aimed at business use. It is good overall and I could use it happily, but it has a bit of an antiseptic sting to it.

I would rank Ubuntu these days as my third choice.

2. Ubuntu Unity

Ubuntu Unity continues to surprise me each time I boot it up and work with it. As a distribution it is still new, only on its second release, but then, as a combination of Ubuntu and Unity 7, it isn't really new at all.

The first release on , Ubuntu Unity 20.04 LTS, was quite good. It was nothing like a usual first try at building a new distribution and was ready for production use on day one. But then this wasn't really a surprise, as we already knew that Ubuntu+Unity worked from , and it still works.

The latest release, Ubuntu Unity 20.10 is demonstrably better than 20.04 LTS, with more user configuration choices and a sharper focus, by settling on Nemo as the file manager and Thunderbird as the email client and just dropping Nautilus and Geary altogether. It feels more refined now, more of a user-focused distribution and less of an enterprise one, unlike Ubuntu.

Unity 7 remains a great interface, fast and efficient with all the keyboard shortcuts. The menu system makes it so easy to launch applications without taking your hands off the keyboard, that it is tempting to set the launcher to "hide" and just use the keyboard instead. As a desktop, it is elegant, efficient and beautiful to look at.

Perhaps it was my own time using Ubuntu with Unity from Ubuntu 12.04 LTS through to Ubuntu 14.10 that has left me both familiar and comfortable enough with Unity to rate it as my second choice.

1. Lubuntu

In working through my reviews the one thing that really struck me was how much I enjoy using Lubuntu these days, especially the new LXQt versions, like the latest release, Lubuntu 20.10, even though it is minimally changed from 20.04 LTS.

The first version of Lubuntu I ever used was the second one released, Lubuntu 10.10, which was not bad on its release day and quickly got better with updates. I tried to use Lubuntu 11.04 and 11.10 but their lack of stability led me to try out many other solutions (including Puppy and Debian) before settling on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS with the Unity desktop and I liked it a lot. I probably would have stayed with Ubuntu, but the constant crashes in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and 14.10, particularly of gedit, Nautilus and Unity itself, made both versions unusable. I switched to Lubuntu 14.10 when it came out, skipped the whole switch to Gnome 3 in Ubuntu 17.10 and haven't looked back since.

For me Lubuntu is light on RAM, elegant in design and simple to use. It also has the best suite of default applications, from FeatherPad to VLC. With the addition of a couple of my "most used" applications to the panel, the workflows are fast and efficient. Lubuntu's menu system is simple and fast and the distribution is quite customizable, allowing me to create a personal desktop that is both useful and ergonomically friendly.

I find Lubuntu 20.04 LTS the best operating system I have ever used and that is across 42 years of computing. At this point in time I can't see switching away from Lubuntu unless the developers find a way of breaking it, like they last did with Lubuntu 11.04.

I am sure that familiarity was a driver, but every time I booted out of the distribution I was evaluating and back to Lubuntu, I felt a sigh of relief and so Lubuntu remains my first choice.


Ubuntu Unity 20.10

By Adam Hunt

, updated

For those are not familiar with Ubuntu Unity, it is a new flavour of Ubuntu, using the old Unity 7 interface, just like Ubuntu did between 2011-17, along with a default suite of mostly Gnome applications. It had its first release, Ubuntu Unity 20.04 LTS on . Ubuntu Unity 20.10 is the second release.

Developer Rudra Saraswat released Ubuntu Unity 20.10 on the same day as all the other Ubuntu flavours came out, . This move puts it into sequence with the other Ubuntu flavours, after the first Ubuntu Unity release came out two weeks later than the rest of the pack.

That there is a second release at all shows that the previous Ubuntu Unity 20.04 LTS was not just a "one-off" release and that this distribution has some staying power.

Not content to just repackage Ubuntu with the Unity 7 interface, this release brings some notable improvements.

Being a "standard" release, Ubuntu Unity 20.10 is supported for nine months, until . There should be two more standard releases, 21.04 and 21.10, before the next long term support version, which will be Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS.

System requirements

Ubuntu Unity does not specify any system requirements, but it is reasonable to assume that it is the same as Ubuntu 20.10, basically a 2 GHz dual core processor and 4 GiB of RAM.

Installation

I did not install Ubuntu Unity 20.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it in a series of live sessions from a USB stick.

Getting it onto the USB stick was another matter. The previous release of Ubuntu Unity, 20.04 LTS worked fine with the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator, as did an early alpha of 20.10 I had tested, but Startup Disk Creator would not recognize the release version of 20.10 at all. I tried using dd from the command line and that did write it to the USB stick, but it would not boot. My next attempt involved installing an old favourite of mine, UNetbootin, from a Launchpad PPA. UNetbootin did the trick quite nicely and actually gave me the chance to become reacquainted with how well it works for writing bootable ISO files.

It is worth noting that Saraswat does not recommend doing an upgrade from 20.04 LTS to 20.10, but instead doing a fresh installation, due to some issues with the upgrade process.

New

Unlike some of the other 20.10 flavours (ie Xubuntu), Ubuntu Unity development is proceeding apace and this release introduces a number of improvements, mostly in the "look and feel" department.

In more substantive changes, Ubuntu Unity 20.10 now uses GRUB for both BIOS and UEFI booting. This release also includes the CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM), (package name: compizconfig-settings-manager), which enables a selection of Compiz plugins and desktop effects. Like all the 20.10 flavours, Ubuntu Unity 20.10 uses Linux kernel 5.8, which brings support for newer hardware.

At least one reviewer, who tested the early 20.10 alpha, found it was notably faster than 20.04 LTS. My testing from the USB showed it works well, with no hesitation and good speed opening applications.

Settings

There is a new Groovy Gorilla wallpaper that was designed by Allan Carvalho especially for Ubuntu Unity 20.10, plus many more new wallpapers included. In fact there is a total of 54 wallpaper choices, which may be a record for an Ubuntu derivative.

The default window theme is now Arc-darker. The Ubuntu settings manager offers up only four themes: Adwaita, Ambiance, Radiance and High Contrast, while the included Unity Tweak Tool has a total of 14, including Arc-darker. The tweak tool also has seven cursor themes and 27 icon themes!

Mainline Ubuntu itself offers very few user choices for look and feel and it seems that Ubuntu Unity is moving to compete with Ubuntu by giving users a lot of choice in that area. Ubuntu Unity is really on its way to competing with Kubuntu for user configurability choices.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu Unity 20.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu Unity 20.04 LTS.
** Launchpad indicates the latest version available as 0.9.5.92 for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin).

Ubuntu Unity 20.10 continues to use the Unity 7.5.0 interface and it works very well, with its characteristic application launcher and wide variety of desktop shortcuts for efficient workflows.

As in the case of Ubuntu Unity 20.04 LTS, 20.10 includes the Cheese webcam application and omits a default CD/DVD burning application. This seems sensible, as CDs and DVDs are pretty much obsolete and computers have not come with optical drives for a decade now. As always, there are several choices of CD/DVD burning applications in the repositories, if needed

The Ubuntu Unity 20.10 packaging of LibreOffice 7.0.2 is complete, lacking only the LibreOffice Base database application. It can be installed from the Ubuntu repositories, if needed.

The Gnome software store continues to offer both snaps and deb files, where available, giving users a choice of packages.

In some ways Ubuntu Unity 20.10 is actually notable for what it does not include in the way of applications. The last release, 20.04 LTS, included two file managers, Nautilus and Nemo, while 20.10 omits Nautilus. Even though Nautilus is the default Gnome desktop file manager, it lacks needed features and Nemo, which is a fork of Nautilus, is the better choice, rendering the need for Nautilus moot.

The 20.04 LTS release also included two email clients, Geary and Thunderbird, while 20.10 drops Geary.

These cuts have all helped shrink Ubuntu Unity's previous 3.1 GiB download size to 2.4 GiB, making it smaller than Ubuntu 20.10, which is now 2.7 GiB.

Conclusions

Ubuntu Unity 20.10 has to be rated as a very successful release. It is smooth, fast and basically flawless. The Unity 7 interface remains a great choice for efficient workflows and pleasing aesthetics. Development seems to be focused on giving users a wide range of window themes, icon sets, wallpapers and other user choices in "look and feel", which alone differentiates it from mainstream Ubuntu.

Ubuntu Unity 20.10 has enough new to offer users that it may be worth switching to it, rather than sticking with 20.04 LTS, despite the shorter nine-month support period.

I am hopeful that by the time this development cycle ends with Ubuntu Unity 22.04 LTS, it will have grown into a distribution that makes up for many of Ubuntu's user choice shortcomings. By then it may even be accepted as an official Ubuntu flavour.

External links

UNetbootin

By Adam Hunt

, updated

I first used UNetbootin ten years ago, to install Lubuntu on an Acer Aspire netbook. Netbooks were a class of mini-laptops that all came without CD/DVD optical drives, which was something unusual back then. At that time the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator could not make a Lubuntu USB stick, although it can do so now. Back then UNetbootin solved that problem and allowed a fast and smooth installation.

UNetbootin is short for Universal Netboot Installer. It is a small utility for making bootable USB drives from Linux operating system ISO files, which allows running live sessions to test out or install new Linux or BSD distributions.

UNetbootin is just a 224 kB download, although it has the following dependencies: libc6, libgcc-s1, libqt4-network, libqtcore4, libqtgui4, libstdc++6, mtools, p7zip-full, syslinux, syslinux-common and udev. It is free software, under a GPL v2+ licence.

The first question many people would ask is, "why would you want to use UNetbootin instead of Startup Disk Creator, which already comes with all the Ubuntu flavours by default?" There are two reasons. First is that Startup Disk Creator only works with certain Ubuntu-based distribution ISO files. For instance, it works fine with Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu and Kubuntu. It also worked fine with Ubuntu Unity 20.04 LTS, but not with Ubuntu Unity 20.10, for unknown reasons. The second reason to use UNetbootin is that, unlike Startup Disk Creator, it leaves the USB stick in FAT32 format, meaning that there is no need to reformat the USB stick after using it for an installation.

Getting UNetbootin

The bad news is that UNetbootin used to be available in the Ubuntu repositories, but the last upload there was version 608-1, five years ago, in 2015, when it was available for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Xenial Xerus. Since then, the Ubuntu package maintainer, Laszlo Boszormenyi, has not uploaded any new versions.

The good news is that the main UNetbootin developer, Geza Kovacs, keeps an Ubuntu PPA on Launchpad and so the PPA can easily be added to any Ubuntu flavour and then the application installed from a terminal window, with:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gezakovacs/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unetbootin

Linux binaries are also available, as are packages for several other major distributions, such as Arch Linux, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo and SUSE Linux. The source code files are also available for compiling.

UNetbootin is also available as a .dmg file for Mac and as an .exe file for Windows., making it truly cross-platform.

Using UNetbootin

Once it is installed, UNetbootin can be just opened from the system tools menu in any Ubuntu flavour. The graphical interface looks like something from Windows 98, but actually using it is extremely simple. All you need to do is indicate which distribution it should download and install, plus the target USB device, which should be formatted in FAT32 format. Alternatively you can point it to a local ISO file (Diskimage) that you have on your computer. Then you just click "OK" and it does the rest automatically, producing a USB stick ready to boot to.

Once booted up, the USB stick acts normally, allowing running a live session or installing the operating system.

Conclusions

Overall UNetbootin could not be a better application, it is easy to install, it does one thing and does it really well: writing bootable Linux or BSD distributions to USB sticks that the Startup Disk Creator can't.

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Update -

There is a kind of a "reviewer's curse", whereby, due to a weird coincidence, as soon as you criticize any application, a new version immediately gets released that addresses the exact item criticized. Or it is possible that the developer read my post here and immediately fixed it. I might have that kind of "reach".

In this case, I noted above that the UNetbootin interface looked "like something from Windows 98" and it did, with its native colouring. Then today a new version came out, UNetbootin 700-1 and suddenly it adopts the system colour scheme, integrates very nicely and looks like it belongs on the Lubuntu 20.04 LTS desktop. I presume it looks as nice on any other distribution now, too.

So all I can say is "thank you" to developer Geza Kovacs. UNetbootin 700-1 looks better than ever!

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Kubuntu 20.10

By Adam Hunt

Kubuntu's latest "standard" release, Kubuntu 20.10, came out on and is supported for nine months, until .

This is the distribution's 32nd release and the 11th one with the KDE project's Qt-based Plasma 5 desktop, so you expect the result to be very refined and, indeed, it is.

This release was accompanied by the usual release announcement, but the release notes were "not available due to wiki login problems", so the usually available technical details about the release were missing-in-action.

Installation

I did not install Kubuntu 20.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it in a series of live sessions from a USB stick, written using the Startup Disk Creator.

As usual I let the new automatic ISO image checking program run on boot-up to ensure that the stick had been correctly written. Once booted up, Kubuntu runs very quickly and smoothly from the USB stick.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Kubuntu 20.10 have not changed and remain the same as for Ubuntu:

New

Typically the first standard release in a new development cycle after the last LTS introduces the direction that the developers have in mind. If so, then this cycle, leading to Kubuntu 22.04 LTS, means we can expect incremental refinements.

This version of Kubuntu is being promoted as "Cloud Ready" and includes "access to cloud and container technologies". The release also includes a new default hexagon-themed wallpaper, by Sandra Smukaste, named Flow.

This release uses the Plasma 5.19.5 desktop and includes Applications 20.08. While not the very latest versions, these two suites include a lot of incremental improvements that add up to make a good desktop even better. Most of the changes are hidden away in the menus, but some, like global menus no longer being the default, are obvious on boot-up.

Kubuntu's main menu system seems to run much more smoothly in 20.10 than it did in 20.04 LTS. There is also a conversion to a "simple menu" and also the Application Dashboard widget, which supplements the main menu with a full screen application menu, much like Ubuntu's, with the touch of one desktop button.

Very obvious in this release is the fact that the Kubuntu community is actually making changes and not just putting out at release with no changes, unlike Xubuntu 20.10.

Settings

As I noted in my review of Kubuntu 20.04 LTS, Kubuntu probably has the widest range of settings of any Ubuntu-based distribution. There are so many setting parameters available, that you can make Kubuntu look and work almost anyway that you like. For example there are:

And that is just the installed options. Most of those setting pages offer one-button download and installation of many, many more, right in the settings window itself.

Kubuntu 20.10 also offers 66 desktop widgets, small applications that can be added to your desktop to improve functionality, like the Application Dashboard widget, which provides a large, full screen application menu or an analog clock. Oh, and 66 is the number of pre-installed widgets; hundreds more can be downloaded, of course.

The Kubuntu philosophy for its users is clearly the diametric opposite to that of Ubuntu 20.10, which offers very limited user customization options. I think the biggest danger with all these options is that users could spend a lot of time tweaking the themes and appearance, and unless you make good notes, may never be able to duplicate it again in a fresh installation.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Kubuntu 20.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Kubuntu 20.04 LTS.

As can be seen from the lack of asterisks, most of the applications included are updated versions from Applications 20.08, with very few hold-overs from Kubuntu 20.04 LTS.

All the included applications are Qt-based, with the obvious exception of Firefox, which is GTK-based. The Qt-based Falkon browser, an official KDE project, is still not ready for prime time, yet.

Like both Lubuntu and Xubuntu, Kubuntu does not include a webcam application by default, as there does not seem to be any Qt-based ones available. There are several GTK-based one, such as Cheese in the repositories, however.

I should note that mixing Qt and GTK applications works fine, although they may not integrate into the desktop smoothly, which mostly affects window decorations, icons and theme colours.

Like Ubuntu, Kubuntu no longer comes with a default CD/DVD burning application installed. Basically optical drives are obsolete technology and computers have not come with them for many years. If you do still have an optical drive that you use to burn CDs or DVDs on, then it is easy to install a burner application from the repositories. The KDE, Qt-based K3B application is the most obvious choice.

Kubuntu also does not come with an image editor or video editor. There is no obvious Qt-based image editor (GIMP and mtPaint are both GTK-based), but the excellent Kdenlive video editor is Qt-based.

The Kubuntu 20.10 version of LibreOffice 7.0.2 is complete, lacking only LibreOffice Base, the office suite's database application. If needed it can easily be installed, though.

The Kate text editor has syntax highlighting and, this being Kubuntu, it is highly customizable, with many highlight colour schemes. Kate's spell-checking automatically underlines spelling errors, but it does not offer corrections, so remains of limited use, compared to better text editors like gedit or FeatherPad.

KDE Applications 20.08 brings some changes to the core KDE applications. For example the Dolphin file manager includes new previews, creating thumbnails for more types of files. Dolphin also re-opens showing the same folder it was closed from.

Conclusions

Kubuntu 20.10 is a very solid release, with incremental improvements over 20.04 LTS. This bodes well for development during this cycle as we can expect a stream of steady refinements in the Plasma desktop, all destined for the next LTS release, Kubuntu 22.04 LTS, due out in April, 2022.

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Xubuntu 20.10

By Adam Hunt

Xubuntu 20.10 was released on and is the distribution's 30th release. It is a "standard" release and is supported for nine months, until .

As with Lubuntu 20.10 and Ubuntu 20.10, I was curious to see which direction the development team has decided on for Xubuntu, as this first release in the new cycle that will lead to Xubuntu 22.04 LTS. The initial release after a long term support (LTS) release usually shows the developers' priorities in the cycle, with the biggest changes introduced in the first release after the last LTS, which then get refined in the next two releases before the next LTS.

Installation

I did not install Xubuntu 20.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it as a live session on a USB stick, written using the Startup Disk Creator.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Xubuntu 20.10 are higher than were specified for 20.04 LTS and are now:

When run from a USB stick the operating system runs quite quickly.

New

This is something I have not seen before in a release of Xubuntu, or any other distribution: according to the official release notes there are no changes introduced in Xubuntu 20.10. The notes explain that the developers have been moving their file system from Launchpad to GitHub and, as a result, didn't change anything in this release, not even the wallpaper.

To be fair, though this release is not identical to 20.04 LTS, as the Ubuntu back end provides a new Linux kernel, version 5.8, with the wider hardware support that brings and the repositories have been updated with new versions of some of the default applications.

Settings

This version of Xubuntu still uses "Greybird" as the default window colour scheme, as the last few releases have done. I still don't like it, as it is very hard to differentiate "active" and "inactive" windows, as they are both grey. This release also has the recently introduced dark theme, "Greybird-dark" but it suffers from the same issue as regular Greybird: poor active/inactive window differentiation. It is actually worse than Greybird, as the window titles are almost unreadable, due to being dark grey on grey and shadowed. As in Xubuntu 20.04 LTS, there are four other window themes included, but none of them provide very good differentiation between active and inactive windows. This is a continuing failing with Xubuntu.

Just like all Xubuntu releases since 14.04 LTS, this one employs the Whisker Menu as its menu system. Whisker is the main feature that makes Xubuntu distinctive from the other Ubuntu flavours. It is highly customizable and can even be resized, which is unique among Linux menus. Most users will usually pick applications right from the "favourites" list, which is the first menu shown, although the other menus, like "Graphics", "Internet" and "Office" make it quick to find needed applications. Whisker also has the shutdown controls, a configuration button, screen locking and an application search box, so everything is in one place. The only thing it lacks is a button to minimize all open windows at once, although there is a keyboard shortcut for this: "Super+D", while "Super+L" locks the screen.

As with every version of Xubuntu since 19.10, I had a repeat issue with the touchpad not working right. In the past I was able to at least make adjustments to it in the settings and make it usable, but this time I could not get it working at all and had to plug in a USB mouse and it worked fine then. I assume that this is just an issue with the old touch pad on my 2011 vintage laptop, but it is odd that it works fine in all the other Ubuntu flavours.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Xubuntu 20.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Xubuntu 20.04 LTS.

As with recent Xubuntu releases, by default there is no webcam or video editing application, although there are several in the repositories that can be installed, if needed.

The default inclusion of Xfburn, a CD/DVD burning application, is really starting to feel like a bit of an anachronism, since laptops haven't come with optical drives for a decade and desktops for almost that long, now.

Xubuntu 20.04 LTS includes LibreOffice 7.0.2, lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application. If needed it can easily be installed, though.

Conclusions

Xubuntu 20.10 seems like a solid, mature release. Maybe the developers think that it has reached perfection now and needs no changes at all, but this is the first time I have seen an Ubuntu-based distribution put out a release with no changes. I guess there is no need for anyone to ask if I recommend upgrading to 20.10 from 20.04 LTS.

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Lubuntu 20.10

By Adam Hunt

Lubuntu 20.10 was released on . This is the fifth LXQt release for Lubuntu and the 22nd overall Lubuntu release. This is a "standard" release, the first of three standard releases before the develpment cycle culminates with the release of the next long term support version, 22.04 LTS, in April 2022.

As a standard release, Lubuntu 20.10 is supported for nine months, until .

Installation

I did not intend to to switch from using Lubuntu 20.04 LTS, so I did my testing of Lubuntu 20.10 in live sessions, from a USB drive that I made up using the Startup Disk Creator.

System requirements

The Lubuntu developers stopped recommending minimum system requirements, with the introduction of LXQt in Lubuntu 18.10, but Lubuntu 20.10 ran fine on on my 2011 vintage System76 Pangolin Performance laptop with:

New

There is surprisingly little new in this release. The first standard release after an LTS is usually where new features are introduced, tested and then perfected before the next LTS release. If the changes incorporated in Lubuntu 20.10 are any indication of the developers' direction then it seems that this development cycle will only include some small tweaks and no big changes. Overall I see that as a good thing. Lubuntu 20.04 LTS is the best operating system I have ever used and any big changes would probably not be improvements, but would make it worse. No one wants to go through the Gnome 3 debacle again, where a great interface, Gnome 2, was replaced by a bad one, just because the developers want to "try something new".

The two changes in Lubuntu 20.10 are a new Plymouth boot-up splash screen, which does look nice and the addition of a "tree format" list of updates for the lubuntu-update-notifier, so you can see in advance what you are updating. These are, however, very minor changes.

Even the Lubuntu 20.10 default wallpaper is not new, but is recycled from the Lubuntu 20.04 LTS wallpaper design competition and was included as an alternate 20.04 wallpaper. The other included wallpapers are the same ones from 20.04 LTS, too. That is not to criticize those offerings, as they are all quite nice.

Settings

Configuring Lubuntu 20.10 is exactly the same as 20.04 LTS. The LXQt configuration menus continue to be easy to navigate and easy to use use, making customizing Lubuntu LXQt actually an enjoyable experience.

Like all the previous LXQt versions of Lubuntu, 20.10 comes with a dark default theme, Lubuntu Arc, which I am not a big fan of. The good news is that it is easily changed and Lubuntu 20.10 has the same wide range of colour schemes and window themes available as past versions, so most users should be able to quickly find a happy colour scheme.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Lubuntu 20.10 are:

* Indicates the same version as used in Lubuntu 20.04 LTS

It is a bit odd that the FeatherPad text editor has not been updated from the previous version of 0.12.1. As of the Lubuntu 20.10 release on it was four releases out of date. Version 0.15.0, released on , is the current version and it could have easily been included.

Like the earlier LXQt releases, Lubuntu 20.10 does not come with a webcam application, photo editing or video editing software, although these can be easily added from the repositories, if needed.

Conclusions

Lubuntu 20.10 introduces very minimal changes over 20.04 LTS. I actually think this is a good sign, as 20.04 LTS is a superb operating system. If this all leads to the next LTS, 22.04, having just a few minor tweaks over 20.04, then I will be very happy with it. An updated version of FeatherPad would be nice, however.

External links

Ubuntu 20.10

By Adam Hunt

Ubuntu 20.10 was released on . This is the distribution's 33rd release and the seventh with the Gnome 3 desktop. This is a "standard" release, supported for nine months, until .

Being the first release since the last long term support (LTS) release, Ubuntu 20.10 begins the development cycle of three standard releases leading to the next LTS release, which will be Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, due out in .

Often the first post-LTS release is where new features are added, which are then refined over the next two releases, before the final product, the next LTS. For this reason there is often quite a bit of interest in the first post-LTS release, to see what new priorities are included.

Installation

I did not install Ubuntu 20.10 on my hard drive, but instead tested it from a USB stick, written using the Startup Disk Creator.

When run from a USB Ubuntu 20.10 runs very quickly, just like it would do on an installed hard drive, nothing like a DVD live session, which can be quite slow.

The only disadvantage of the USB live session is that Startup Disk Creator writes the USB partition in ISO format and thus, when you are done with it, you need to use Gparted to erase the stick it and return the partition to FAT32 for regular use again. I have come up with a solution for this: I use one 4 GB USB drive that I have as a permanent "ISO test USB" and just overwrite it with new ISO files with the Startup Disk Creator each time I test a new Linux distribution, thus negating the need to return it to FAT32 at all.

System requirements

The recommended minimum system requirements for Ubuntu 20.10 have not changed since 20.04 LTS and remain:

New

Other than new wallpaper, this version of Ubuntu does not introduce many new user interface changes. It instead focuses on hardware support through a new version of the Linux kernel, version 5.8.

Linux 5.8 includes support for USB 4 (Thunderbolt 3), AMD Zen 3 CPUs, Intel Ice Lake and Tiger Lake graphics, and initial support for POWER10 processors. There are also desktop images for the Raspberry Pi 4, 4 GB and 8 GB versions.

Ubuntu 20.10 includes Gnome 3.38, which has an enhanced Activities Overview, some small menu tweaks and provides better performance over earlier Gnome versions as well. This version of Gnome brings improvements to the applications menu (grid) that eliminates the use of two menus, for "all" or "frequent" applications, replacing them with one menu that allows more customization, including manually rearranging or even stacking icons, so they don't have to be just in alphabetical order. Frequently used applications can be placed at the top of the menu, for instance. Application folders can also be created and managed. Overall this is an improvement.

Most applications in the repositories have been updated and there is also a new firewall backend, as nftables replaces iptables. Support for fingerprint login has also been improved.

Ubuntu 20.10 has updated developer tools, too, including glibc 2.32, OpenJDK 11, rustc 1.41, GCC 10, LLVM 11, Python 3.8.6, ruby 2.7.0, php 7.4.9, perl 5.30 and golang 1.13. Of note, the ZFS file system installation option is no long marked "experimental" in 20.10.

Overall these are all features that most users will not notice much in daily desktop use.

Settings

Ubuntu is not known for its wide range of user settings compared to some Linux other distributions, like Kubuntu, and 20.10 is no exception. However Ubuntu's singular settings menu is perhaps the best control panel available in any operating system today. It has everything in one place and that makes setting up your Ubuntu installation really quick and simple.

The new default wallpaper predictably is dark purple with a gorilla wearing sunglasses on it, the latest in a long line of release codename-themed wallpapers. There are a total of seven wallpapers provided, all new designs.

Ubuntu continues to use a modified version of the Gnome Shell that looks and works generally similarly to the old Unity interface. They have also restored the window control buttons, so that Gnome's "close only" button is supplemented by the traditional minimize and maximize buttons. There is also a top bar with the date and time, plus key controls. These are all useful design choices, as Unity was quite a good interface. The tweaked "Unity-like" Gnome Shell used in Ubuntu these days is better than the stock Gnome Shell, at least. The application launcher can be set to the left, right or at the bottom of the screen for a real "Mac-like" feel. As in past releases, it cannot be set at the top, as it would conflict with menus there.The icon size can also be adjusted.

There are only three window colour themes to choose from: light, standard and dark, since every distribution has to have a dark theme available these days. The "dark" and "standard" themes don't provide much active/inactive window differentiation, but the "light" theme, is fairly good in that regard. It renders the active window tops in a medium grey and the inactive ones a much lighter grey, almost white, which does the trick.

Applications

Some of the applications included with Ubuntu 20.10 are:

* indicates same application version as used in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.

As can be seen from the lack of asterisks, most of the applications included are fresh versions, with very few hold-overs from Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.

Unlike both Lubuntu and Xubuntu, Ubuntu includes a webcam application, in this case Cheese. This makes sense since most modern laptops and desktops come with a built-in camera.

Also unlike both Lubuntu and Xubuntu, Ubuntu omits a default CD/DVD burning application. This actually makes sense, too, as laptops have not included optical drives for a decade now and desktops for almost that long. If you do have an optical drive, still have any CDs or DVDs left and plan to do some burning, then it is easy to install one from the Ubuntu repositories, Gnome's Brasero being the obvious choice, although K3b and Xfburn are good, too.

The inclusion of a webcam application and the omission of a CD/DVD burner makes Ubuntu feel more up-to-date and intended for modern hardware.

The Ubuntu 20.10 version of LibreOffice is lacking only LibreOffice Base, the database application and Math, the math formula writer, both of which are rarely used by most users. If needed they can easily be installed, though.

The Nautilus file manager does have some useful features, but since the interface was simplified a few years ago it has really been lacking overall. It is missing basic functionality, like the "up one level" arrow to move higher in the file system. Nautilus is probably Ubuntu's weakest point these days. The good news that there are better file managers, like Nemo, that can be installed and which integrate nicely with the Ubuntu desktop.

As in recent releases, the gedit 3.38.0 text editor has syntax highlighting, with a choice of seven different highlight colour schemes, three of which are the obligatory dark themes. Of note gedit includes spellchecking and correction by default (at Shift+F7), perhaps the only Linux text editor to do so. It actually requires no set-up at all for tasks such as writing web pages.

As in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, the Ubuntu Software application installer for 20.10 is really the snap-store, as it just installs Snaps. This Dave Mackay article provides a very good primer about what is going on here, while this article by Jatan Mehta has some much more serious concerns about how Snaps work and how they can or can not be avoided on Ubuntu. This article shows how to remove all snaps and disable them.

Conclusions

Ubuntu 20.10 is a really solid release, with surprisingly few new features introduced for this development cycle. In many ways this is probably a good sign. After 33 releases over 16 years, Ubuntu a very mature distribution and does pretty much everything right. There really isn't a lot that needs changing, beyond updating hardware support for the next generation of computers and updating applications, both of which this release offers.

Most Ubuntu users these days stick to LTS releases and this standard release has little to entice anyone to switch, especially since it offers only nine months of support. Most Ubuntu users will probably treat it as an early developmental release and stick with 20.04 LTS until the next LTS is out in .

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