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Ubuntu 14.04: Is Canonical taking on too much?

Tom Henderson | July 15, 2014
Some hits and some misses as Canonical tries to cover everything from the smartphone to the desktop to the cloud.

Ubuntu 14.04 Cloud images are available for trial, rent, or other agreement on public clouds including Microsoft's Azure, Rackspace, Amazon Web Services, Joyent, the HP Cloud, IBM's "Smart Cloud" and others.

Overall, Cloud and Server Trusty Tahr editions have been designed with LTS in mind, and claims of support for OpenStack for the full five years. We believe them.

Desktop Client
Most of the Ubuntu 14.04 desktop changes are under the hood, and little has changed with the Unity UI. Canonical released Ubuntu Desktop 14.04 without the graphics stack they've been hoping to employ, Mir.

This means that cross-device graphics are still currently in modest revision sync, and also means that if Ubuntu's usual LTS schedule holds, a five-year supported Mir won't emerge for perhaps two years, which is forever at the pace set by competition.

Graphics stacks weren't built in a day, and achieving the lofty goals of Mir--retiring an X-windows framework that goes back to the near-Dark Ages of computing (the greybeards will remember Motif and SmallTalk) isn't easy.

A lack of a finished Mir means that the next version of the Mir Ubuntu Unity user interface also lags, and so what we said about Ubuntu 13.10 still holds, with the same LTS implications.

And while this is the first LTS using the Dash search experience that we noted in Ubuntu 13.10, users won't have to worry about buying and storing media in the Ubuntu One Cloud. Canonical has announced it'll be closed at the end of May, with content evaporated into the ether by the end of July, ostensibly a victim of economics.

The Dash (dashboard) search functionality can still be switched off, to the cheers of organizational admins watching their traffic go berserk. Like the prior versions going to 12.04 LTS, Canonical makes itself the parser for search queries, and as prior editions, one can turn this NSA-like privacy abomination off.

Unity, however, has UI and windowing behavioral changes that we found odd, if consistent. There is a default Global windowing policy that spawns child windows that are subsidiary windows of the parent, but the child windows don't behave like the parent.

We found we could turn this behavior off just before we opened a window and threw the notebook through it. Foreground and background behavior cause a busy UI, and we feel that especially new users may have difficulty with the changes.

Underneath various Web apps is Ubuntu's own browser, one that's comparatively immature compared to Chromium or Firefox, whose engines were the tugboat under web apps in prior releases. We were able to bog it, especially under the load of heavy scrolled graphics pages. Firefox, Chrome, or other browsers are otherwise easily installed. We wonder if it's part of Mir that this change has been made, or if Canonical is eschewing perceived competition in this choice.


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