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Ubuntu 13.10: The good, the bad and the ugly

New Touch operating system for mobile devices is still a work in progress

By Maria Korolov, Network World
December 09, 2013 06:43 AM ET

Network World - The newest release of Ubuntu, dubbed Saucy Salamander, doesn't offer much in the way of new features – except for the introduction of Ubuntu Touch for mobile platforms.

So, if you’re currently running Ubuntu 13.04, you should definitely upgrade to 13.10 in order to get the latest bug fixes, stability improvements and security patches. But if you're looking for a reason to switch from another operating system, 13.10 doesn't offer anything special. And we found that Ubuntu Touch isn't quite ready for prime time.

We loaded Ubuntu 13.10 on three computers: an old Acer laptop, with around 1GB of RAM and a 2.13-GHz Intel Celeron processor; a desktop with 5.6GB of RAM and an AMD Athlon II x2 processor running at 2.80 GHz; and another desktop computer with 3.9GB of RAM and an Intel Core i3-2120 processor running at 3.30 GHz.  Saucy Salamander ran pretty slow on the Acer, but that's only to be expected.

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The good

With this release, Ubuntu backer Canonical continues its reliable-as-clockwork delivery of a new distribution every six months. The vendor's predictable release schedule makes it a good long-term bet. In addition, Ubuntu's future development has a kind of guarantee, in the form of a $10 million Ubuntu Foundation that will continue Ubuntu development work even if something happens to Canonical.

For users of previous versions of Ubuntu, the upgrade process was simple and seamless via the built-in Upgrade Manager utility. Although downloading and installing the new system, at around 900MB, can take some time, we were able to continue working while it loaded in the background.

We noticed a very slight improvement in performance after installation, upgrades to pre-installed software such as LibreOffice and Firefox, and a more comprehensive search functionality, but little else had changed.

We saw no driver issues on any of the machines we installed it on. Everything worked right away, including videos and wireless networking.

As with previous versions of Unity, you might want to download the Tweak Unity Tool in order to customize the behavior of windows and move window controls to the top right instead of the top left.

The bad

As with Ubuntu 13.04, Ubuntu 13.10 will only be supported for nine months. Prior to this year, non-long-term releases were supported for 18 months.

The next long term support release will be out next spring (Ubuntu 14.04) and will receive five years of support.

There are also a few known bugs with this release, though we didn't encounter any of them on our systems. They include problems when there are many partitions on a disk, freezing the install and requiring a restart. Upgrading encrypted volumes also requires a work-around, which is explained in the release notes.

Originally, this release was supposed to use Mir, a new display server that is supposed to work on both traditional and mobile desktops. Currently, Ubuntu uses X window since Mir doesn't yet fully support multiple monitors. Ubuntu is expected to complete the switch to Mir next year, a controversial move which puts Ubuntu at odds with some other versions of Linux. For example, Intel and Red Hat support the competing Wayland display server.

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