I certainly understand Scott Gilbertson’s complaints about Ubuntu 14.04 LTS missing out on lots of the goodies that are in the works for Ubuntu, but I just can’t get at all worked up about the “missing” bells and whistles of this workhorse of an operating system.
Canonical pushed out Ubuntu 14.04 last week. This release is the first Ubuntu Long Term Support release in two years and will be supported for the next five years.
It feels like, for Canonical at least, this Long Term Support release couldn’t have come at a worse time. The company is caught in a transitional phase as it moves from a desktop operating system to a platform that spans devices.
The problem for Canonical is that it’s only about 90 percent of the way to a platform-spanning OS, but it just so happens that the company’s schedule calls for a Long Term Support release now.
Long Term Support releases are typically more conservative and focus on stability and long-term maintenance rather than experimental or flashy new features. Things that are 90 percent done don’t make it into LTS releases. And, unfortunately for Canonical, most of its foundation-shaking changes to Ubuntu are currently only about 90 percent done and thus not part of this release.
The two biggest changes on the horizon are the Mir graphics stack and Unity 8, neither of which are part of 14.04.
I think my lack of concern stems from the way I see the semiannual releases of Ubuntu as very different from the Long Term Support versions rolled out biennially. The regular releases that come out every six months are for the competent Linux user who is interested in staying on top of the latest and greatest advancements in the OS. But for someone like me, who is pretty good at getting non-Linux users to give Ubuntu a whirl, the LTS versions are wonderful.
When I help someone new to Linux get started with Ubuntu I make a point to set them up with an LTS version. I want them to have the option of at least a few years of stability without major changes to the the Desktop UI and packages I install for them. This transitional time is akin to running an OS with the training wheels attached. If the user adapts quickly and wants to change they can switch over to the more frequent releases, but if they just want to get stuff done, they are all set for three to five years without needing to adapt to changes in how they use their computer.
The Gilbertson does a great job of pointing out the positive changes in 14.04 LTS:
- Linux kernel 3.13 – This kernel update will bring much better hardware support for high end video cards and SSD-based machines will see better performance. This kernel also brings support for nftables. The nftables system will eventually replace the iptables firewall tool. Nftables is a complete reworking of the way the kernel handles packet filtering.
- Python 3.4 – Ubuntu is working hard to convert all tools and scripting systems to use Python 3. This release continues that effort. If you need Python 2 you can install it from the repositories quite easily.
- Libreoffice – The Libreoffice office suite has been updated to the latest and greatest verision, 4.2.3.
- Laptop Battery Life Improvements – Laptop users will benefit from recent kernel updates related to power management that have dramatically improved battery life. These are included in Ubuntu 14.04.
- (Server) Apache 2.4 – Ubuntu 14.04 LTS includes Apache 2.4; this is a major version upgrade from Apache 2.2.
- (Server) PHP 5.5 – In 14.04 LTS PHP has been updated to 5.5, which is a major upgrade from the 5.3 version in 12.04 LTS.
- More at TrustyTahr/Release Notes at the Ubuntu Wiki.