Ubuntu 16.04, re-tested six months later


Updated: October 10, 2016

It is time to re-test Xenial. Why? Because it's been a while since I did it the first time, and boy was I not pleased with the high and mighty promise of an LTS release. And because we now have 16.04.1 lined up, and that means a slew of improvements, supposedly, which ought to fix all them initial bugs. Finally, 16.10 is coming soon, so.

Anyhow, let me tell you a short story about how I feel now, roughly six months since I've first encountered and tested the disappointing Xenial Xerus release, which killed my hopes and dreams that Linux was actually slowly becoming a dominant desktop player. Now that I am a man without illusions (in French, homme sans illusiones), we shall submit Xerus to the tribunal one more time. After me.

Teaser

Bugs are very unnecessary

They can only hurt us. 270 MB worth of data and a single reboot later, I was now running the sum of all fixes for the issues that plagued us in April and May, and the kernel was reading 4.4, new and modern and whatnot. At a first glance, not much has changed, but then, most of my woes were deep, underlying problems with how the distro was built and tested.

Desktop, after update

Desktop, customized

Networking

The issues I had with Samba and such have largely been resolved. Well, to a point. We cannot ignore the security paranoia that has destroyed the essence of cross-platform file sharing, because we all know that enterprise-relevant issues always impact home users in a significant manner too. NOT. At least it works.

More importantly, Bluetooth. Progress! I was actually able to connect my Aquaris phone, and it even told me that it was transferring the speaker control to the Bluetooth utility. But I was not able to actually transfer files. Not yet. This still seems to affect both the distro and the phone, and while in 2016, very few people use Bluetooth for meaningful stuff, it's a disgrace that this is not a bloody given.

Phone connected

Bluetooth still wonky

Most importantly, the Realtek RTL8723BE driver. The bane of all distros. The issue that affects pretty much every Linux operating system I tested on the G50 box, and the more advanced the kernel, the buggier the stack. Trusty was sort of okay on this laptop, and CentOS is coping pretty well. But the recent family of Ubuntu was just awful.

Now, 16.04.1, have we solved it? Of course not. The stability is slightly better than before, but if you start even a single HTTP download, the latency will spike, the throughput will drop, and the connection eventually die.

I am confident this will be fixed one day, though. The day I replace the laptop, I will no longer be having issues with the Realtek driver, and then all the bugs and questions on the Web can safely be buried in an archive somewhere, to be repeated when another evil vendor releases an evil version of their driver that forces distro developers to actually test stuff.

Smartphone support

Do you know how 16.04.1 works around the MTP issues problems with iPhone? It does not. The latest news seems to be PTP only. The Apple gadget is available as a camera only, and it no longer shows in Rhythmbox. This is a disappointing defeat, especially since everything was perfectly fine in previous releases, and still is across many other distros out there. At least the errors are all gone, but I'm not happy.

Ubuntu Phone, connected

Software Center

More polished, easier to use. Good? Not as good as USC. And going back to my commercial question, where has the integration with Amazon, Ubuntu Store and other services gone? Yes, diehard users will forever be opposed to this idea, but they are stuck in 1999, and they will never ever spend any money on products. Whereas there are all these other people who might actually like an optional convenience of being able to buy stuff right there, right then, without having to wander about the Web. The same applies to software, music, videos, games, and everything else.

Software Center

Software Center, works better than before

Resource usage

Remains unchanged. Very high at 1.1 GB. However, while the actual memory usage does not make much difference when it comes to responsiveness, and the CPU is relatively quiet, Xenial Xerus is not the fastest distro. If I compare it to Fedora 24 Gnome, which I have been using quite extensively on this very laptop, the latter is a much nimbler, more responsive system. As simple as that. This also comes to bear when it comes to browser usage, with multiple tabs open, lots of streaming, and lots of Flash and videos. Fedora is just much more agile.

Resources

Other stuff

Tiny fixes here and there. No more whining about the Flash plugin. Some of the other niggles we saw are gone, and overall, the distro is more stable than before, but it's like saying you have to be wounded first in order to be healthy. The wrong way about it, fellas. The LTS could have been rock solid to start with. And this brings us to the cardinal failure of the Ubuntu series, which shall be revealed in the conclusion.

And now, the conclusion ...

Six months in between releases is just too short of a period for meaningful, well-tested releases. As soon as issues are polished in one edition with a cumulative fix edition, there's a new version of Ubuntu and the headless chicken race starts again. We will soon have 16.10, and it will most likely suck, because there will be a million little problems that could not have been fully checked in time, but schedule be schedule, release we must. Woe any delays!

Ubuntu 16.04.1 Xenial Xerus is a better release than the GA flop, but it is still not good enough to recommend. The networking stack sucks more than what Trusty does, and overall, it is slower, less responsive, less mature, less complete. It is also not as good as Fedora, and there are some big regressions slash sad neglect in the software stack that tells me the whole idea of the Linux desktop is slowly dying. People did not like the Amazon store and the payware options in USC, but it was a first sane step to offering a mature version of Ubuntu to serious people. Alas, zealots shot it down, because they value pride over progress. And now what is left is a semi-functional distro that is a pale shadow of its former self.

So yes, it works better than before. 6/10 or so. Not even remotely close to the glory of the Trusty release, which heaped accolade upon accolade, accomplishment after another. Trusty just did everything. It was and still is awesome. Xerus is just weak. And even the post-fiasco release is still somewhat lame. Not worth upgrading. Xenial is in denial. I shall now patiently wait to see what doom the Yakety Sax is going to bring us. Ought to happen very very soon, and the timing of this article couldn't have been any more perfect. Stay tuned.

Cheers.

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