Ubuntu 13.10: 5 things we love, 5 things we hate

Ubuntu is taking on everybody from Microsoft to Red Hat to Apple and Google. But is it delivering on this ambitious promise?

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is moving into the rarified class of operating systems that cover x86/x64 clients and servers, ARM-based tablets/smartphones, and commodity cloud instances. Meaning that it’s taking on everybody from Microsoft to Red Hat to Apple and Google. But are they delivering on this ambitious promise? Here are 5 things we like and 5 things we don’t like about Canonical’s latest distro. (Read the story version.)

Ubuntu
Compatibility with OpenStack APIs

Canonical is serious about making Ubuntu a default choice for cloud deployments. Canonical has announced compatibility with OpenStack APIs for both internal, Ubuntu-hosted or external clouds.

Ubuntu
Unity GUI moves beyond the desktop

With this release, Ubuntu’s Unity GUI starts to go places where Ubuntu-derivative/associated distros like Linux Mint cannot: onto smartphones and tablets. It took pains for us to obtain a smartphone that would run Ubuntu 13.10, but the Nexus 4 we used is essentially identical in functionality to installations we put on notebooks and virtual machines.

Ubuntu
Dashboard upgrade

The Ubuntu Dash dashboard has been upgraded to allow searches through the Ubuntu One cloud storage service. Queries sent when opted-in are sent to Ubuntu One, and Canonical serves as a proxy information broker among the current 50+ third-party providers, sending the results back to the user. Call it: Answers-As-A-Service, or AaaS.

Ubuntu
Good Juju

Part of the Ubuntu Server 13.10 mirth is the ability to use Juju to spawn app instances into Linux Containers/LXC. It's possible to use a Juju charm to deploy applications into containers that are similar to Oracle/Sun's original idea of a container.The LXC components start with a shared bridge, and several other adaptations that define kernel name space, and kernel addressing -- but not those found in full bare-metal hypervisors, rather, the kind championed by Parallels in their Virtuozzo kernel-sharing scheme.

Ubuntu
Smoother GUI

Ubuntu 13.10, dubbed Saucy Salamander, has changed very little from the previous version, but the client GUI is definitely smoother.

Ubuntu
No Mir

Canonical still hasn’t transitioned its Unity interface from its X.org underpinnings to the windowing/GUI system Mir and its X.org-Mir translator.

Ubuntu
No MariaDB

Through installation, we saw no real server changes on the surface. We could choose to install Open SSH, DNS, LAMP, Mail, Print, SAMBA, Tomcat, and/or virtual machine hosts or add a Postgre database. Or our own manual package selection from the installation menu. We tried various combinations in several instances. Oddly, Canonical still packages MySQL as its default LAMP database, where many in the industry have gone to MariaDB, a fork of MySQL.

Ubuntu
Landscape management tool is primitive

We tried Canonical's optional Landscape service, which can be hosted internally or by Canonical. It reports conditions of covered Ubuntu instances. It can inform an administrator if instances need updates, has failed in a number of ways, when administrative approval is needed, when certain types of jobs are completed, and when upgrades are available and applied. It's a bit primitive compared to other third-party packages, and those that are largely OS-specific, like Microsoft System Center. It's possible to watch administrative jobs like cloud populating, as well as dreary desktop instance monitoring.

Ubuntu
Only two supported phones

The Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 are the only phones that support Ubuntu 13.10, and only a shell and core apps are available. We used a T-Mobile SIM to make a call. The call worked. The steps in between using an Android 4.2+ phone and running Ubuntu are many. The phone has to be reflashed, via a USB cable connection. Then, our Nexus had to be unlocked, via the factory OEM unlocking method, all described on the Ubuntu website. Once back into Android Jelly Bean 4.1, we downloaded the image needed, which is a one-way step. This is the step that requires the most patience, as it takes much longer than we expected. We were ready to restart the process when magically, the phone restarted.

Ubuntu
LXC is still beta

The Juju/LXC combination shows a lot of potential, but LXC isn't due to go to production (a 1.0 version) until February.