Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ubuntu 13.10 launches today. Is it the best Ubuntu Release Yet?

Every six months, Canonical releases a new version of the Ubuntu Linux operating system to hoards of waiting fans. Today, October 17th, is that day for Ubuntu 13.10
and the media and user hype around the release has risen to a near fever pitch. But with so much competition and so many things happening in the Linux world these day, does Ubuntu 13.10 warrant all of the excitement it's getting?

As most of you know, I'm not Ubuntu's biggest fan. While I use an Ubuntu derivative (Xubuntu) as my primary operating system at both work and home, I feel there's some things with Ubuntu proper that rub me the wrong way. For example, I simply can't stand Unity and I don't like the way the company has installed a shopping lens that is, essentially, spyware. But, all that aside, I was pleasantly surprised when I installed 13.10 day before yesterday to check out for myself what all the slovering from the fanboys and girls was about.

It was amazing.

13.10 is one of those rare operating systems releases that get it right. It's obvious that Canonical has put enormous amounts of work into making this release the crowning jewel of everything they've been working on for the last six months. It's fast, responsive, stable, and usable for just about anyone. With 13.10, Canonical has finally delivered what Linux has promised for years: making a distro that grandma can use without many problem.

Considering that 13.10 is the last release before the next LTS, a lot was riding on the company to get things right. If they screwed up this release, the LTS six months from now would likely have been a complete disaster. Had they done something silly, like include the Mir display server when it wasn't quite ready for prime time, both this release and the 14.04 LTS would have been garbage. Thankfully, they over promised with 13.10 but then backed that up by over delivering too.

If you're a fan of the Unity desktop, there's a lot to love in this release. Unity runs faster now than it ever has before with the lowest resource use I've ever seen. Sure, it's going to take more memory than your old GNOME or today's XFCE, but, then again, it's supposed to. The entire reason you're probably using Unity instead of one of the other desktops is because you want the glitz and bang that a nice, compositing, desktop offers, and Ubuntu 13.10 doesn't disappoint.

Another exciting thing, though easy to overlook, is the addition of Smart Scopes. Smart Scopes make finding things from the Dash a lot  easier and more intuitive. It also means that you're going to get a lot less garbage returned when you search and your searchers will, as a result, return a lot faster. Things are also categorized a lot more sensibly in this release and it looks like someone paid a lot of attention to both functionality and usefulness.

The new Mir display server isn't included in this release which was sort of disappointing and logical to me at the same time. I don't think Mir is ready for everyday desktop use yet but I really want to play around it without having to install it myself and risk breaking things. But Canonical made the right decision to hold off on the new server as there are some major performance issues that really need to be addressed before it's let loose on the world. One day very soon, possibly by the next release, Mir is going to be amazing. It's amazing now. It's just not quite ready and Canonical obviously knows that.

Lastly, the newest 3.11 kernel, just released in September, ships with this release and it brings some solid performance improvements to power consumption and memory use as well as a whole bunch of other things. Not much to review here but it's definitely worth noting.

Overall, there's very little not to like about 13.10. The only real complaint I could come up with was that the shopping lens is still on by default and, as Matt Hartley from The Linux Action Show says, default rules the world. It's a major privacy issue that Canonical has shown itself fairly unwilling to address in any meaningful way. Additionally, the results brought up through the lens are, in many cases, completely irrelevant.  The first thing most users will do when they install the new OS is to disable the lens or completely remove it (which would be my option).

Should you upgrade to 13.10? If you're sitting happy on 12.04 and don't have a compelling need for the new stuff 13.04 offers, no, you shouldn't. Wait for the LTS to come early next year and grab that. But if you're someone who wants new hotness now, 13.10 is an absolute no-brainer. Canonical has hit one out of the park with 13.10. I hope this is the start of something amazing.

Ubuntu 13.10 releases later today and can be downloaded for just about any system on the planet by going to


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