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Review: Ubuntu GNOME 15.10 is what vanilla Ubuntu should be

Reviewing Ubuntu GNOME 15.10, the most impressive release since Ubuntu made the switch to Unity.

Review Ubuntu GNOME 15.10 Linux
Credit: Ubuntu

I reviewed Ubuntu 15.10 (along with openSUSE Leap 42.1 and Fedora 23) a little over a week ago.

And, you know what? It is really solid. I'd go so far as to say it is the most excellent release of Ubuntu since they made the switch to the Unity desktop environment many years back.

But… that's a bit of a problem. Since Ubuntu is so laser-sight focused on their in-house developed Unity environment, other environments simply don't work as well. I experienced multiple problems trying to run GNOME on vanilla Ubuntu 15.10 – and had similar issues with KDE Plasma.

This, right there, stops me from recommending Ubuntu to anyone who isn't madly in love with Unity. Which I am absolutely not. 

But there are multiple off-shoots of Ubuntu focused on various desktop environments – including GNOME, KDE, and Mate. So it seems unfair of me to lump every Ubuntu flavor into the same "Vanilla Ubuntu Bucket."

Thus I wiped Ubuntu 15.10 off my testing machine and installed Ubuntu GNOME 15.10.

Let me cut right to the chase: This is what Ubuntu should be. This is an absolutely fantastic system that I could easily recommend to a wide range of people. 

The underpinnings are, straight up, Ubuntu. The full Ubuntu repository is there, filled with the same packages you get with vanilla Ubuntu. So there's no software compatibility issue between the two flavors. (Though, really, there shouldn't be compatibility issues anyway… but it's worth noting that there definitely aren't.)

The system, overall, feels snappier. (Pun intended.) I didn't do any specific benchmarks – and I don't have detailed memory or CPU usage information to compare the flavors (because I just didn't think of it when I was reviewing vanilla 15.10) – but the environment simply feels faster and more responsive. Hitting the super-key, for example, responds noticeably quicker in Ubuntu GNOME than Ubuntu.

Bugs that I experienced in vanilla Ubuntu are… gone. In the days that I have been using Ubuntu GNOME I have not experienced one single problem. No multiple error messages after logging in. No failure to fully boot. It feels solid and dependable.

Now, when it comes to look and feel… that's pretty subjective. I know many people enjoy the look, feel, and workflow that Unity provides. They want to stick with Unity, and I say, hey, more power to them. But, as someone who was a huge fan and supporter of Ubuntu in the pre-Unity days, let me just say this:

Ubuntu GNOME is what Ubuntu should be.

It's good looking. It's logically laid out and easy to use. And fast. This is the spiritual successor to what Ubuntu was in "the good old days." Some of the best, most polished Free and Open Source software packaged together in a way that is approachable and enjoyable for a broad range of people – including those new to Linux. 

The only downside to Ubuntu GNOME 15.10, that I see, is the inclusion of the Ubuntu Software Center. Compared to other application stores and visual package managers, it is simply too slow, clunky, and lacking far too many features to want to use it. (In fact, I'd say Ubuntu GNOME is so good that it almost makes me want to start using an Ubuntu variant as my primary system again. Almost. But not quite.)

The arguments about Canonical and Ubuntu opting to not work with the GNOME project and, instead, go their own way by developing Unity... is an argument we've had plenty of times before. That horse was beaten and left for dead years ago. So I'm not going to start it back up again here.

But. Seriously.

Canonical… you screwed up with Unity. This, Ubuntu GNOME, is where you should have been (could have been) years ago. It is most triumphant.

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