What are the negative aspects of Ubuntu

kofler.info

With Ubuntu 18.04, Ubuntu returns to the Linux mainstream in many ways: Canonical has shelved the dreams of Me and Unity. The desktop is based on Gnome with a few very useful extensions. The graphics system uses Xorg. (Wayland is a standard option.)

From my point of view, Ubuntu 18.04 is the best Ubuntu release in many years. Only the stability cannot be finally assessed. I've been using Ubuntu productively for over a month, both on the desktop and in server mode, and have not experienced any negative surprises so far.

(Updated: April 27, 2018, May 4, 2018)

New in Ubuntu 04/18

There are a lot of new features compared to Ubuntu 16.04. The most important points are:

  • The normal version of Ubuntu is only available for 64-bit systems. If you want to do a 32-bit installation, you have to switch to Ubuntu derivatives such as Ubuntu MATE or Xubuntu.
  • The Ubuntu desktop uses the Gnome Shell instead of the Canonical in-house development Unity. The window buttons are on the right again by default.

  • Ubuntu does not set up a swap partition in a standard installation, but uses a swap file.

  • The installation program has a new variant Minimal installationthat does without audio and video players, the Office suite and a few other programs. However, the space saving is small and only amounts to approx. 500 Mbytes. (A normal installation takes up approx. 5 GB, a minimum installation is approx. 4.5 GB.)

  • A new welcome wizard suggests activating live patches for the kernel. This is free for home users, but requires an Ubuntu One account. The security gain associated with live patches is limited because desktop systems (unlike servers) are usually restarted regularly.

  • Snap packages are ubiquitous. Some Gnome packages are already installed in the form of snap packages in the standard installation. In program Ubuntu software There are also a number of external programs to choose from in the form of snap packages, including the editor atom, the audio player Spotify or the messaging program Skype. Snap packages are still comparatively large (so they take up a lot of hard drive space), but the integration with Ubuntu is excellent.

  • Ubuntu supports the new graphics system Wayland, but only uses it for the login screen (GDM). In desktop sessions comes standard Xorg for use. If you want, you can easily activate Wayland when you log in.

  • Ubuntu no longer uses the file for network configuration, but its own files in the directory. Desktop users will not notice this technical change because the program continues to be on the surface NetworkManager takes care of the network configuration. The change is important for server installations.

Version numbers

For Firefox and Thunderbird, the version numbers will change as usual as part of the updates.

Different from the overall system, some Gnome components are in the older version 3.26. This applies in particular to the Nautilus file manager. The reason is that with version 3.28, Nautilus lost the function of displaying desktops on the icon. Ubuntu didn't want to do without that.

Java is a special case: in the Main-Package source are -Packages. In fact, these packages currently contain Java version 10. However, it is planned to switch to Java 11 in the fall and then stay with Ubuntu for the life of Ubuntu. (Java 11 will be an LTS version, while the current Java 10 will only be serviced until fall.)

There are also packages in the universe-Package source. If you use Java 8, you have to be aware that these packages are not officially maintained by Canonical and are not included in the 5-year update period.

Welcome assistant

After logging in to Ubuntu for the first time, a welcome wizard appears. In the first dialog, it summarizes the most important innovations on the desktop in image form.

The second dialog allows you to set up the Livepatch function for the kernel (details follow below). The third dialog of the wizard asks if you are ready to submit system information to the Ubuntu developers. This includes hardware information, the list of installed packages, and the geographic region in which you are located. With Show the first report you can take a look at the scope of the data right away. (In short: you don't have to have great privacy concerns.)

Finally, the fourth dialog indicates that you are familiar with the program Ubuntu software install loads of other programs. A click on the corresponding icon leads directly to the installation program.

If necessary, the wizard can be run a second time later from a terminal window:

Gnome on Ubuntu

The Ubuntu developers have succeeded in adapting Gnome without major changes so that the desktop looks almost like it did before, but the Gnome functions work without restrictions as in other distributions:

  • Ubuntu uses its own Theme, which shows the window frames in the typical Ubuntu colors and buttons. Unlike in Gnome, all three window buttons are displayed by default, so Shut down, Minimize and Maximize. The window buttons are on the right as under Gnome; they can easily be moved to the left with the Gnome Tweaks program (must be installed first) if you are used to this from earlier Ubuntu versions or from macOS.
  • The program software called Ubuntu software and by default also shows snap packages in addition to the usual packages.

  • Instead of Nautilus 3.28, the older version 3.26 is used, which can still display icons on the desktop.

  • In Ubuntu, two extensions (Gnome Shell Extensions) are installed by default.

    • Ubuntu Dock ensures that the dock is always displayed. It is a simplified variant of Dash to Dock. Some properties of the dock can be configured in the system settings.
    • The Ubuntu AppIndicator ensures that external programs such as Dropbox are allowed to display status icons in the panel.

If you want to modify the look or feel of Gnome, you can do so on the one hand Gnome tweaks to help () and on the other hand activate additional Gnome Shell extensions. So that these extensions can be controlled via Firefox, you must first install another package (). Then visit extensions.gnome.org.

If you're not happy with the changes made to Gnome, just install the package. The next time you log in, select the entry in the gear menu Gnome under Xorg. Optionally, you can also install the package. This will install various Gnome packages that are not installed by default on Ubuntu.

Snap packages

Two package management systems work in parallel under Ubuntu 18.04. The foundation of Ubuntu continues to be the Debian package management system (,). In addition, various additional programs are available in the form of so-called snap packages. Users who run programs with Ubuntu software install, will often not even notice what kind of package it is.

Behind the scenes, snap packages are downloaded as images and integrated into the directory tree as file systems. Snap packages are larger than normal packages because they include all possible libraries that are often already installed. Although this redundancy wastes storage space, it has the advantage that Snap packages work regardless of the Ubuntu version number and even regardless of the distributions.

With the commands and you can find out which snap packages are currently installed, which mount directories they are using and how much space they take up:

With or you can also install snap packages in the command line. updates all installed snap packages. Ubuntu will take care of it automatically.

Canonical managed to put together a large range of software on https://snapcraft.io/store. If you still want to install packages in the competing Flatpak format, run the following commands:

After restarting the computer shows Ubuntu software now also offers Flatpak packages in the search results. (In the case of doppelgangers, you should check the detailed description to see what type of package it is. With snap packages, Ubuntu integration is currently better - so if in doubt, you should give preference to snap packages.)

Livepatch function for kernel updates

Livepatch is Canonical's preferred method to supply the kernel with security patches during runtime (i.e. without restarting). This is extremely practical, especially on servers that are often not restarted for months.

With Ubuntu 18.04, Canonical also offers live patches for desktop distributions. This is free for up to three computers, but requires setting up an Ubuntu One account. Live patches can either be activated when starting Ubuntu in the welcome wizard, or later in the program Applications and updates. In the dialog sheet Updates click the button Sign in. Registration for the Ubuntu One service takes place in the module Online accounts the system settings. You will also need to enter your default login password twice during login and live patch activation.

In a terminal window you can convince yourself that everything works with the command:

From my point of view, live patches are more of a gimmick for a desktop system. A desktop computer is normally switched on and off regularly; installed kernel updates are used quickly anyway. You are most likely to benefit from the live patches if you never switch a notebook off properly for weeks, but always only activate hibernation.

Technical details (wayland, swap files, network configuration)

The graphics systems Xorg and Wayland Installed. Wayland is used during login, Xorg for desktop sessions. In version 17.10, Ubuntu tried to switch to Wayland entirely; but that has not proven itself, as Will Cooke describes here. I recently summarized the restrictions associated with Wayland in Fedora 26 and Wayland. Many of the problems described there still apply. Regardless of this, you can easily try Wayland on Ubuntu 18.04 by logging in Ubuntu with Wayland choose. (The two Gnome entries in the following picture are only available if you have installed the package. This takes you to a desktop that largely corresponds to the original Gnome.)

Ubuntu now uses a by default Swap file instead of the formerly common swap partition. This simplifies the setup and offers more flexibility if the size should be changed later. Instructions can be found here. (You will also receive a swap partition if you choose an LVM variant with or without encryption during installation.)

The new network configuration framework was already introduced in Ubuntu 17.10 Netplan implemented. It is an intermediate layer that does not play a major role on desktop installations because the NetworkManager takes care of all network connections there. The situation is different with server installations, where a static configuration may be required. I have briefly summarized what the corresponding configuration files can look like here. The Netplan website and especially its sample page provide much more information.

Ubuntu server

Two installation images are now available for Ubuntu Server. The default image uses the new installer Subiquity. It still runs in text mode, but it's much easier to use than the traditional Debian-based installer. The visual design is also more appealing.

Unfortunately, Subiquity comes with significant limitations:

  • LVM and RAID are not supported.
  • In general, there is little flexibility in partitioning. Existing partitions cannot be used. In this respect, Subiquity is primarily suitable for initial or new installations on a computer or in a virtual machine. (In the simplest case, a few times is enough return to press.)

For these reasons, the previous installation program (Alternative installer) are still available for experts who want to implement specific special requests. (Whereby LVM and RAID are actually not »special requests« for a server, but rather a matter of course.)

Update June 21, 2019: I repeated my tests with new installation media for Ubuntu 18.04.2. RAID and LVM are now supported, but the installer is still not practical. For example, it must not be in a RAID 1 device. Conventional installation images are hidden here:

http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/releases/18.04.2/release/

Limitations and Deficiencies

With the move from Unity back to Gnome, some things have been lost. What bothers me most about my 13-inch notebook is that Gnome is so wasteful of space. Under Unity, I had two lines more space for programs in full screen mode. Some users may also miss the HUD menus or the start menu.

The support for HiDPI monitors (Retina, 4k) is worse than under Ubuntu 16.04 (and even there it was not particularly good). This is due to Gnome, which can still only scale the desktop scaling in whole numbers. A scaling by a factor of 2 overshoots the target in many cases. Often a factor between 1.5 and 1.75 would be ideal. This option is missing in the Gnome settings. In Gnome tweaks the font scaling can at least be set freely - but then other elements (window buttons, icons) are displayed too small.

The representation of packages from different sources in Ubuntu software. It's confusing enough that packages can appear there multiple times (e.g. Firefox); it should at least be clear at first glance whether a program comes from Ubuntu's own package sources or whether it is a snap package.

The release notes provide a substantial list of known bugs and problems. The list sounds worse than the real impact, however.

http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/releases/18.04.2/release/

Conclusion

Ubuntu 18.04 makes a good impression. I didn't notice any really serious problems in my rather technically oriented work environment.

The return to Gnome is, in my opinion, a great benefit for both Ubuntu users and the Gnome community. It may be that some Ubuntu-specific functions have been lost. On the plus side there is a huge range of extensions on extensions.gnome.org. Gnome also offers much greater flexibility in the configuration of the desktop. The return to the Gnome settings program also gives a much larger selection of online and cloud services that can be integrated into the desktop.

In combination with five years of updates, Ubuntu remains the most attractive desktop distribution. There are few reasons for Linux beginners to look for alternatives. In the corporate environment, RHEL / CentOS may come into question, for private users maybe also Mint or openSUSE. The widespread use and the correspondingly large range of information on the web, e.g. on ubuntuusers.de, speak in favor of Ubuntu. Even when buying a computer, the chances are comparatively good that there are preconfigured models with Ubuntu (e.g. from Dell).

Snap packages will be with us for the foreseeable future. They facilitate the installation of additional programs that do not come directly from the Linux environment (e.g. Spotify). While Snap packages in Ubuntu 16.04 left a completely half-baked impression, the integration into the desktop is now excellent. Compared to Flatpaks (Fedora & Co.), snap packages have the advantage that they are a little more space-saving. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether Canonical will have more luck this time with its in-house development than with similar projects in the past (Upstart, Mir, Unity etc.).

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GnomeKernel updatesSnap packagesUbuntuUbuntu 04/18