DESPITE its name and impending release this week, there isn’t a whole lot being written or said about Ubuntu 16.10, otherwise known as Yakkety Yak. The latest upgrade to the popular Linux distribution is set to be released Oct. 13, and a final beta has been available for downloading since late last month, but the new release is hardly generating any interest.
The lack of excitement can be traced to what Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has left out of this version—the long-promised new default interface, Unity 8, and a new graphics engine, Mir.
For a while, both were supposed to make their debut in Yakkety Yak—but Canonical scrubbed the plan in May, making it the seventh release in a row that the two technologies were deemed not ready for prime time.
Unity 8 was supposed to be the common interface that would be tie together desktop PCs, laptops, mobile phones and tablets running Ubuntu, and was built on the Mir graphics system—a major departure from the X Window system.
At the Ubuntu Online Summit in May, Canonical boss Mark Shuttleworth said he would not make the same mistake of migrating everyone to a new interface (Unity 7, at the time) before they were ready for it, as they did with Ubuntu 11.04.
“I have said publicly that I’d like the community to tell us that Unity 8 is ready to be the default Ubuntu experience,” Shuttleworth said during a Q&A at the summit. “I think I made a mistake, because I was so convinced in the convergence story, moving Unity 7 into position before it was ready in 11.04. So, lessons learned. And I think the right way to deal with that is to make a great Unity 8 desktop, use it ourselves, and then let people vote, essentially, and signal that this is what we want as the default Unity for Ubuntu.”
Writing in TechRepublic, Jack Wallen said this was the right way to go.
“Canonical is making the wise decision to mildly disappoint instead of categorically enrage,” he said.
Although Unity 8 will not be the default interface in Yakkety Yak, it is included for testing purposes; anyone who wants to kick the tires on it can choose to try it from the log-in screen without installing any extra software.
Be forewarned, though—there’s a good reason Unity 8 isn’t the default desktop environment. Scott Bouvier, writing in the OMG! Ubuntu! Website, puts it succinctly: “Let’s not lie: Unity 8 needs serious work.”
“If Unity 8 is to have any hope of replacing Unity 7 as the default computing experience on millions of Ubuntu desktops worldwide it has to be better,” he wrote. “Fanboy hand-waving and over enthusiastic Google+ posts will not balm the sting of criticism—only raw code and bug report band aids can do that.”
Ubuntu 16.10 will include updated packages, including Linux kernel 4.8, and the newest versions of LibreOffice (5.2), GNOME applications, and the Nautilus file browser.
“The most welcome improvements in the default applications come in the new Ubuntu Software app, which made its debut with this spring’s Ubuntu 16.04 release,” writes Scott Gilbertson in The Register.
Anyone who has used the software manager in previous versions will appreciate the faster loading and listing of applications.
The new Software manager also improves support for Snap packages, and will now track and install non-GUI applications, libraries and fonts and multimedia codecs alongside regular applications.
Reviewers of the final beta release also note that the installation disk is considerably larger than it was on 16.04 (1.4GB). The increased size doesn’t come from the addition of more applications, but language packs that take up more space.
Should 16.04 users upgrade to Yakkety Yak? Given that 16.04 is a a long-term support (LTS) version (it will be supported until 2021), it’s awfully tempting to save yourself the hassle of an OS upgrade and stick with what you’ve got—for now. Chin Wong
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