Ubuntu 14.10 Desktop menu bar

I haven’t done a review of Ubuntu in a while, so the release of Ubuntu 14.10 last week game me a good excuse to do just that.

Code-named Utopic Unicorn, Ubuntu 14.10 is the last Ubuntu release this year. There are two releases per year and Ubuntu 14.04, code-named Trusty Tahr, was the first 2014 release of the popular desktop distribution that’s sponsored by Canonical. Ubuntu is, of course, not just a desktop distribution, but also features server, Cloud and Kylin editions. Ubuntu Kylin is an edition specifically designed for Chinese users. This review will be just about the desktop edition.

According to the Release Notes, Ubuntu 14.10 is not an LTS (Long-Term Support) edition, and so it will be supported for just nine months, that is until July 2015. Which brings up a question I’m sure has been tackled before: Why release a distribution that will be supported for just nine months? And why would any person bother upgrading to an OS that will be supported for just nine months. Even Microsoft doesn’t do that.

If I were Mark Shuttleworth, I’d scrap this LTS release thing and reduce the number of releases per year to just one. That development model is being used by Zentyal, a server distribution that’s actually based on Ubuntu. But I don’t see Mark listening to any thing like that, so I’ll let it go.

Other than “bug fixes and incremental quality improvements”, there’s not much that can be called “new features” in Ubuntu 14.10. At the kernel level, you do get Linux kernel 3.16, which, according to the Release Notes, brings the following improvements:

The Ubuntu 14.10 release delivers a v3.16 based kernel. This brings a significant number of bug fixes and new hardware support including expanded architecture support for Power 8 and arm64 platforms. It also includes support for Intel Cherryview, Haswell, Broadwell and Merrifield systems, and initial support for Nvidia GK20A and GK110B GPU’s. There is improved graphics performance on many Nvidia, Intel and ATI Radeon devices and also audio improvements with support for the Radeon .264 video encoder. Expanded platform support is enabled via support for 64 bit EFI boot on 32 bit EFI BIOS. This release also brings performance improvements in suspend/resume times.

That should make many users happy.

There’s no entry for the distribution’s installer in the Release Notes, but while attempting to dual-boot Ubuntu 14.10 and Windows 8 on a computer with UEFI firmware, I observed that it reported at the Installation type step that “This computer currently has Windows Boot Manager on it. What would you like to do?” That’s an improvement, because in previous editions, the installer tended to report “This computer currently has no detected operating system”, even when there’s one on the target hard drive. Sometimes that led to taking drastic solutions lie the one documented at Zap GPT data structures from a disk, while preserving existing MBR partitions. So yes, that’s an improvement. Other than that, I didn’t observe any other improvement in the installer.
Ubuntu 14.10 installation types

On the desktop, Ubuntu 14.10 looked very good. Actually, this edition is the first one I’ve ever used on a laptop with a display that’s more than 12-inches. And it looked very good, even better than the factory installed OS that shipped with the computer. That OS is Windows 8 and the laptop is a Toshiba Satellite C55-A. (See Dual-boot Ubuntu 14.10 and Window 8 on a Toshiba Satellite C55-A).

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This is a screenshot of the desktop. On a small screen, like a laptop with a display that’s 12-inches or less, that launcher kinda gets in the way. Luckily, it can be set to auto-hide.
Ubuntu 14.10 Desktop

On many levels, I find the default settings on Ubuntu 14.10 (and previous editions) very annoying. That’s why I don’t use it, aside from the fact that Unity is not my favorite desktop environment. The most annoying of those default settings is spelt out in the distribution’s Legal Notice, which I’ve reposted below:

Searching in the dash – Legal notice
This search function is provided to you by Canonical Group Limited (Canonical). This legal notice applies to searching in the dash and incorporates the terms of Canonical’s legal notice (and privacy policy).

Collection and use of data
When you enter a search term into the dash Ubuntu will search your Ubuntu computer and will record the search terms locally.

Unless you have opted out (see the “Online Search” section below), we will also send your keystrokes as a search term to productsearch.ubuntu.com and selected third parties so that we may complement your search results with online search results from such third parties including: Facebook, Twitter, BBC and Amazon. Canonical and these selected third parties will collect your search terms and use them to provide you with search results while using Ubuntu.

By searching in the dash you consent to:

  • the collection and use of your search terms and IP address in this way; and
  • the storage of your search terms and IP address by Canonical and such selected third parties (if applicable).

Canonical will only use your search terms and IP address in accordance with this legal notice and our privacy policy. Please see our privacy policy for further information about how Canonical protects your personal information. For information on how our selected third parties may use your information, please see their privacy policies.

Online Search
You may restrict your dash so that we don’t send searches to third parties and you don’t receive online search results. To do this go to the Privacy panel and toggle the ‘Include online search results’ option to off. The Privacy panel can be found in your System Settings or via a dash search. For a current list of our selected third parties, please see www.ubuntu.com/privacypolicy/thirdparties.

Although most changes are likely to be minor, Canonical may change this legal notice from time to time, and at Canonical’s sole discretion. Please check this page from time to time for any changes to this legal notice as we will not be able to notify you directly.

How to contact us
Please submit any questions or comments about searching in the dash or this legal notice by contacting us at the following address: Canonical Group Ltd, 5th Floor, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London, England, SE1 0SU.

So unless you opt out, any search string you enter in the Dash, along with your IP address, will be sent to Canonical and its partners. Those “partners” include Facebook, Twitter, BBC, Amazon and… It’s not bad enough that Facebook can mess with your emotions from your Facebook account, but they could also do it right from the Ubuntu Dash. Because what stops those guys from using the search terms you type in the Dash to play with your emotions? Nothing, really!

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Thankfully, opting out of online search takes just four (4) mouse clicks. So if this means anything to you, as it does to me, the first thing you probably want to do, right after installing Ubuntu 14.10, is disable online search. Aside from making sure that my search terms are not sent to some remote server, I’d also rather see a result like this.
Ubuntu 14.10 Dash online search

Instead of this. There was a time when I subscribed to the idea of searching online from my distribution’s menu, but that was before it was revealed that everything I searched for will be sent to “partners” like Facebook.
Ubuntu 14.10 Dash

Another aspect of the default desktop setting that’s not very user-friendly, is the position of window menus. By default, it’s on the desktop’s menu bar instead of the application’s title bar where it really belongs.
Ubuntu 14.10 Desktop menu bar

Yet another part of the default desktop that’s not kosher, is the scrollbar. It’s not just that it can get in the way, but its behavior is not even consistent. It can be outside or inside an application’s window. This screenshot shows it inside an application’s window.
Ubuntu 14.10 Scrollbar inside

This one shows it outside.
Ubuntu 14.10 Scrollbar outside

As is this one. This is backwards innovation.
Ubuntu 14.10 Scrollbar

The saving grace of the Ubuntu Desktop is that those annoying default settings can be modified or changed from the Appearances and Security & Privacy modules of System Settings. Getting rid of the scrollbar requires removing a couple of packages.
Ubuntu 14.10 System Settings

While a couple of modules in the System Settings can be used to modify a few default settings, the Unity Tweak Tool does a whole lot more. It’s the best graphical application to use for tweaking desktop settings. Though it’s not installed out of the box, it can be installed from the command line of from the Software Center.

One feature that I’d love to see integrated into System Settings, is firewall/system security configurations. KDE has it (part of it anyway) and the latest preview release of Elementary OS also features part of it (see elementary OS Freya beta review). Considering that most of the settings in the Security & Privacy module of Ubuntu’s System Settings concern search and reporting, I think it should be renamed to Search & Privacy, and a new Firewall & Security module created under the System section.

I think that suggestion has a far better chance of being implemented than the one that calls for killing the LTS release model. But, you never know…

If you’re reading this paragraph, you’d already have figured out that Ubuntu Desktop is not my favorite desktop distribution. But that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that it is a very good desktop distribution and I highly recommend it for new users. Just be sure, if you’re a new convert, to install Install Unity Tweak Tool on Ubuntu 14.10 and tweak it to your heart’s content. Make disabling online search the first item on your list – unless you don’t mind your search strings being delivered to Canonical and Co.

To download an ISO installation image of Ubuntu 14.10 for your platform, click here. You may read the Release Notes.


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23 Responses

  1. Finid:

    Nice tutorial you have here ! I’ll pass it on to others.

    Hey, I’m enjoying Mint9 on both my ancient desktop (’02) and my new compaq cq61 laptop – both using the Windows installer option.

    I’m updating the desktop machine, and as part of the installing the software updates it asks if I want to “configure Grub-PC”, which I’m not sure of the answer to. (Isn’t it already installed ? – or not necessary due to the Windows installer usage ?)

    It does have a checkbox for ‘continue without installing Grub-PC’ – what do you advise ?

    Many thanks,

    David Alan
    Windows Refugee, now enjoying Linux (& preaching it far & wide…)

    1. I’ve not had to deal with your particular situation. My guess is chose “No,” leaving GRUB as is. Usually when you get options like the one you are presented, it’s best to “Continue without ..” especially if you are not sure what the correct answer might be.

    1. If Mint 9 does not auto-configure your laptops NIC, then it must be a driver issue. Can you see an output for eth0 when you type ifconfig -a in a terminal?

  2. finally. i have it now. i dont know the faults but i kept on trying. i realized that my previous installer is isadora is KDE. i tried to download the gnome 32 bit and it worked. haha. i dont know why but anyway i am learning. maybe soon i will get used to linux mint.. thanks for some pages that helps. and also osgui helps me a lot. i think you all guys are working on linux. truly i can count on you anytime.. now im going to explore linux. maybe if i have question ill post it here again. hehe thanks a lot.

  3. i’ve already downloaded linux mint 9 kde 32 bit and burned it in dvd but i cant install it. can you help me?

    ( i’ve also downloaded linux mint 8 )

    will it work in my macbook?
    thanks for help

      1. Never mind, that happens to me too. Just fixed it . In the future, a space between the digit and the closing parenthesis takes care of that.

    1. Sure can. If the DVD burn was successful, that is, no errors, all you need to do is place it in your computer’s optical drive, and reboot or restart. If it does not reboot into Linux Mint, then you will have to go into the BIOS setup and change the boot device from HDD to CD/DVD. Once that’s done, then you should be able to reboot into Linux Mint.

      I’m not exactly sure if it will work on your Macbook.

      1. yep, thats what i usually do in installing new OS on my PC but when i had my macbook, i’m having trouble with that. haha. now i’m viewing some website about installing linux in macbook. haha, the procedure is kinda different. i’ll post here what will happen, hehehe. it might help some macbook owner who wants to try or use linux..

        thanks for help. God bless

      2. Finally, I’ve already installed Linux mint 9 kde 32 bit on my macbook. but i cant use my wireless LAN. can you help me with this.. thanks and God bless

      3. i did’nt noticed. my drivers were not installed. i am expecting it just like when you install win7 that all drivers were automatically installed using only the OS installation disc. hehehe. where can i download drivers for macbook compatible with linux? thanks

        1. Ordinarily, it should work out of the box, if the drivers for it are in the kernel. Since I have no experience with Macs (this former mac addict jumped ship after Mac OS 8.1), the only thing I can tell you is try installing the ndiswrapper package. Search for it in the Software Center, or using Synaptic. ndiswrapper is used to make Windows-only drivers work in Linux. It could help with your Mac, too.

          Keep me posted on your progress. I’ll like to know the outcome.

          Btw, if you have a wireless USB card lying around somewhere, see if it works. From my experience, any of the wireless USB cards are automatically detected and configured.

      4. atlast it worked on my macbook.. but i had a lot of struggles. hahaha. i wanted to use linux mint 9 but the drivers wont work. i tried helena and it worked. i dont know why, is there a wide difference between them? i like wine doors because i can install windows application with it but not really as good as in windows OS. as of now i’m reformat and do it all over again because some problem occurs in my mac. i think its in the disk because i installed linux repeatedly 3 times that causes a lot of partition. hahaha.. i’ll post more in my progress.. God bless

      5. just an update. im using linux mint 9 isadora 64-bit gnome now and it is working perfectly. though i’m still exploring it and studying some application. it is great. im using it with my white macbook. i used rEFIt so that i can choose mac os x or linux mint. (im free from windows now. haha)

        i also tried it on sony vios laptop but the effects doesnt work. also in hp mini. i wonder why? i tried it it my desktop and its been great.. soon im going to try it on a pentium 3 desktop. i hope it works. hahaha..

        maybe some advices and recomendations are great. nice to see this page. thanks and God bless…

        (it might encourage somebody to read this thats why i post this.)

  4. just a little thing – iirc the ubuntu/mint installer allows one of the things you missed even though it is only the smallest one: grub password protection. I think it’s hidden behind some “options” or “advanced” button somewhere wchich lets you choose where to install grub and st a pw if you like…..

    1. Actually, the “Advanced” button, which is on step 7 of the installation process, brings up a window that allows you to chose where to install GRUB. It has no facility for setting a GRUB password.

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