Ubuntu / Linux news and application reviews.

Ubuntu 14.10 is now available for download. This release doesn't ship with any new Unity features and it includes mostly bug fixes. Still, there are some under the hood changes and of course, updated applications.

Unity 7

Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots

As you probably already know if you've been following WebUpd8 or basically any Ubuntu-related blogs, Ubuntu 14.10 ships with almost no noticeable visual changes: there are no new Unity (Unity 7) features, the default applications, even though some were updated, look the same and so on. There's not even a new default wallpaper.

Even though there are no new Unity features, the default Ubuntu desktop shell did receive various improvements, especially on the HiDPI front: the lockscreen, Dash filters and previews and other bits were updated with proper UI scaling based on current monitor scaling:

Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots

Also, Unity can now suspend, shutdown, hibernate or start the screensaver when the screen is locked, using the Suspend, Sleep, Hibernate and PowerOff hardware keys.

And of course, Unity also received quite a few bug fixes - see THIS page for a complete changelog.

systemd status in Ubuntu 14.10

Back in February, Mark Shuttleworth announced that Ubuntu will be switching to systemd (a system management daemon for Linux). Mark's blog article on Ubuntu switching to systemd, called "losing graciously", denotes that he wasn't very happy with this, and systemd will made it in Ubuntu mostly because Debian switched to it.

With this release, systemd is available in the repositories and Ubuntu can boot with systemd. However, systemd is not used by default in Ubuntu 14.10 because the transition from upstart is a pretty tedious task: many packages only have upstart jobs and they need to be updated to provide corresponding systemd units. That's why it's not yet known when Ubuntu will switch to systemd by default.

Linux Kernel changes

Ubuntu 14.10 uses the Ubuntu Kernel 3.16.0-23, based on the upstream 3.16.4 Linux Kernel. Here are the major changes since Linux Kernel 3.13, which is used in the previous Ubuntu release (14.04):

  • zram is considered stable with Linux 3.14; zram received LZ4 compression support;
  • stable support for Intel Broadwell CPU graphics (3.14);
  • the SCHED_DEADLINE scheduling class was added to the Linux scheduler in version 3.14 of the Linux kernel mainline;
  • faster resume from suspend;
  • EFI mixed mode support: 64-bit kernels can be booted from 32-bit firmware (with Linux 3.15);
  • various Nouveau improvements, including initial NVIDIA Maxwell GPU support, initial GK20A and GK110B GPU support as well as support for allowing to change the frequency of the GPU from the BIOS predefined values for nv40, nvaa, and nve0 clock types;
  • Radeon performance improvements through improved APU power management have been enabled in some APUs;
  • Intel Cherryview graphics support;
  • NVIDIA Tegra PRIME support;
  • Broadwell support for the Intel P-State driver (3.16);
  • various other improvements to audio and sound, btrfs and ext4 improvements, better support for newer laptops and much more.

You can read more about all the important Linux kernel changes here: Linux 3.14 | Linux 3.15 | Linux 3.16

Applications / packages

Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots

Ubuntu 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn) ships with Firefox 33, Thunderbird 31.2.0, LibreOffice 4.3.2, Nautilus 3.10.1, Totem 3.10.1, Gedit 3.10.4, Brasero 3.10.0, Eye of GNOME 3.12.2, Empathy 3.8.6, Rhythmbox 3.0.3, Transmission 2.84 and Shotwell 0.20.1. Also, Ubuntu 14.10 includes Mesa 10.3.0 and Xorg server 1.16.0.

Also, since the final Ubuntu 14.10 beta, GTK was updated from version 3.10 to 3.12 (3.12.2).

Why GTK 3.12 and not the latest 3.14? Well, that's because GNOME 3.14 was released after Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn had its feature freeze. As for the GNOME applications like Nautilus, Totem and Gedit, they are still at version 3.10 because they need to be patched to properly support Unity and with the work required to get Ubuntu for Phones ready, the developers didn't have time to update them for this release.

Other changes

Other notable changes in Ubuntu 14.10 include:
  • Improved hybrid graphics support:
    • nvidia-prime and gpu-manager now support GDM (these changes were backported to older Ubuntu versions, but without the GDM patch that allows this);
    • added support for "gpumanager_uxa" and "gpumanager_modesetting" boot parameters, so that there is an option to force NVIDIA Optimus systems (that don't work well with Intel/SNA) to use either Intel/UXA or modesetting);
    • allow RandR offloading even without bbswitch;
  • Netflix now works without any extra plugins in Ubuntu 14.10 (the changes were backported to Ubuntu 14.04), the only requirement being Google Chrome;
  • Pidgin comes with Unity support thanks to a new Unity integration plugin (can be enabled from the Pidgin Plugins > Unity Integration) - this includes (both are optional) Messaging Menu integration and Unity Launcher unread messages/conversations
  • Applications using client side decorations (header bars) look better under Unity with Ubuntu 14.10, but they are still not fully supported: for instance, CSD applications have no shadow, but at least the header bar looks as it should now and the windows can be resized.
Ubuntu 14.10 screenshots
Client side decoration apps (not installed by default) under Unity in Ubuntu 14.10

Also, with Ubuntu 14.10, an Unity 8 ISO called Ubuntu Desktop Next is available a preview for "the adventurous and curious [who] want to get a preview of what's coming on their desktops soon". Unfortunately, I couldn't get Ubuntu Desktop Next 14.10 to work and I've tried it on two different computers - there's a bug with the password but that's easily fixable as explained on the Ubuntu wiki however, upon logging in, the desktop didn't load in my test.

If you want to give Ubuntu Desktop Next a try, you can download it from HERE.

Download Ubuntu 14.10

Overall, Ubuntu 14.10 looks (and on a side note, it's also basically just as stable) pretty much the same as Ubuntu 14.04 LTS so if you only care about that, there's no reason to upgrade. 

Ubuntu 14.10 is for you only if you want to take advantage of the latest under-the-hood improvements and/or you can't live without the latest version of your favorite applications (non-GNOME core apps - because most of those are still not the latest version, though some were updated) and you don't want to use PPAs.

However, keep in mind that Ubuntu 14.10 is only supported for 9 months and after it reaches end of life, you'll have to upgrade to Ubuntu 15.04.

Download Ubuntu 14.10 (includes the official release notes - make sure you read them before installing -, and download links for all Ubuntu flavors)

Are you using Ubuntu 14.10 already (what's your experience with it so far?) or do you plan to upgrade?

Also check out our article on the latest Xubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Lubuntu and Kubuntu 14.10.