Updated: November 2, 2016
Benny Hill's music makes everything better. Fact. Now, I most strongly recommend that you hit Yakety Sax on Youtube, and let it play for the duration of this review. Your reading experience may be improved. Anyhow, it is time to test Ubuntu again. It's only been six month since the rather underwhelming Xerus LTS, and only a few days since I tested it the second time around, with only marginal improvements.
I am really angry, because I feel that the Linux desktop is dying, and Canonical is slowly spearheading this effort, the same way it once led Linux out of the basement and into the mainstream awareness. But let's see what gives. Maybe Yakkety Yak is a good release. Maybe it will behave nicely on my G50 box. Let us.
Loaded just fine, with the familiar look & feel. It's also fairly snappy for something running from a thumb drive. I did not have any problems getting started, and this includes connecting to my Wireless access point. Whether the network connectivity will hold remains to be seen. Realtek FTW.
Ah yes. So, Wireless, check. What about Samba sharing? I had to authenticate, of course, because Samba people are paranoid, and they keep insisting on adding enterprise level security in the desktop arena. Just nonsense. I had to fight timeouts for a while before I was able to connect to my Windows shares. I am sure someone will choose to pin this down on me rather than proclaim it yet another regression in the Linux world.
Samba printing - even worse. Previously, as little back as Xerus, you could actually install the missing packages needed for Samba printing. Why show the option if you need extra packages, especially if you can't have them in the live session? Beforehand, say Trusty and friends, this little 40Kb dependency was part of the image build. So this is also a regression. A symbol of everything that is unholy and wrong with Linux. Also, the wizard froze and had to be hard-killed. Files was also sluggish until it tried to figure out the Samba piece. Pathetic.
Then, notice the graphical artifacts. Rolling the mouse over different options in the print wizard completely jumbles it. Again, we did not have this in the past. Ever. So please, when you reddit this, make sure you point out how I'm a Windows fanboy, and how all these fresh new problems are somehow everyone else's fault. If I had a company and released a product like this, I'd cut off my arms so I'd never code again.
Well, music wouldn't play, and again, no prompt to grab codecs. Another regression. Files comes with no option to create files in the right-click context menu. This is moronity ported straight from Gnome. All it takes is 10 seconds to create a few template files so that your product does not look like a rabbit mangled by a DU Sabot round. Regressions are the theme of this release, it seems, and this will affect EVERY CLONE AND PORT out there without any QA done. I bet you a shilling. And the Linux will slip another rung down the relevance ladder, and it will become less important, less viable as an alternative for Windows users, and we will be that much nearer death.
The media player just sat there; it didn't even bother searching for codecs.
The Dash or whatever it's called - is also broken. Even though I let it search online, it found nothing. I had copied several music files, but it still wasn't able to find them. What's the point? Why did you even bother releasing this to the market? To meet a deadline?
The wizard is slower than ever before. It took an age launching, another era to scan the partitions, and then it waited for about five minutes re-scanning disks after I've made my choices. All this used to be a quick and easy job in the past. Snappy. Delightful. ZFS is still not an option, even though it was promised a long time ago.
After I started the installation, the wizard hit another glitch. I chose the time zone and clicked the button to Continue, but it stayed frozen. I literally had to hit Enter to get the installer to move on to the next step. It also auto-resized when it reached the slideshow. At least it finished without any errors, and I was able to login into the desktop and try to complete my review and undo some of the monumental nonsense that I've seen so far.
Once the hairy bison was installed, I set about doing all the other things that I normally do, and that also includes re-running some of the earlier steps. For example, printing to Samba. We didn't have the deps, and the mechanism finally worked.
I specifically checked the right boxes during the installation, and yet, as soon as I launched an MP3 song, Ubuntu complained. Now, the prompt makes as much sense as any other nerdy popup you've seen in the last 15 years of Linux, and it's a sign of yet more regressions. I don't care what Gstreamer is. Just let me play my music.
Eventually we had our needed support. Of course, Videos is the default music player for some reason, even though it does not have any system area integration, even though Rhythmbox is installed. Just pathetic.
Speaking of Rhythmbox, it has no support for smartphones anymore, the way it used to have in the last, less than a year ago. This little player has also regressed, like everything else in the wider Linux world. However, at least the system was able to recognize and mount my various devices. This time around, I used an iPhone 5 rather than iPhone 6, as my newer model was undergoing a repair - shattered screen. Even so, it was mounted only using PTP rather than MTP. At the very least, the Ubuntu Phone was properly utilized, and I was even able to play songs off of it. Still, it's a sad state of affairs.
But that's not all. The new file manager is just useless. If you change its size, it will not resize all its elements proportionally. At some point, it will start cropping the stuff on the right side in a most ugly and unprofessional fashion. This is a new stupidity introduced into Ubuntu, yet another improvement that has converted an okay file manager into proper diarrhea. I guess this is Gnome stuff all over again, just as I started somewhat warming up to it through my Fedora 24 escapades. The way I see it, Gnome 3, PulseAudio and Systemd will eventually be the death of the Linux desktop. The dumbing down of the user interface paired up with the horrible architecture of some of the core components in the background will destroy any last vestiges of quality still left in the desktop. In the end, no one will use Linux, because it will be less stable than some of the more exciting nuclear isotopes. The French have a phrase for this. It's called cretinism digitale.
Now, things are getting worse and worse. The network died. Okay. We've seen this problem before. Nothing new here. G50 and its Realtek driver aren't exactly the most popular combo for distro testing. Right? Well, wrong. This time, the recovery from the failed network event was much more complex than before.
In the past, modprobing the RTL8723BE driver out and into the memory was enough to fix the issue. In Yakkety Yak, you also have to HUP the DNS and DHCP services, as these remained borked, and I had no name resolution after the network failure. So let's do a little exercise, shall we? If you recall my reviews of the Ubuntu family in the last two years, then this is what we have:
Ubuntu 14.04 - Realtek problems, solvable using a little modprobe hack.
Ubuntu 15.04 & 15.10 - more frequent crashes, still solvable fine.
Ubuntu 16.04 - more frequent crashes, network dies after waking from suspend and an even more rigorous hack is required to resolve the network driver issues.
Ubuntu 16.10 - even more frequent crashes, plus you also need to HUP services in addition to re-inserting the module into the memory.
This is still the SAME G50 laptop, the same network card - and the same reviewer. As you can see, the problem lies squarely with Ubuntu. It's just getting worse and worse. More and more regressions. And my life force is bleeding away. Oh, the suspend & resume network issue? Still here! Six months later, this crap still has not been fixed!
The default collection is reasonable. Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Rhythmbox, Transmission. An odd utility or three, but not much more beyond that really. Still, adequate.
The application set would not be a problem if the package management piece was working properly, which it wasn't. The new Software is pure shit. There's no other word. Yes, it looks a little better than before, but it is still infinitely worse than USC. Inferior. Buggy. Remember my Steam search problem in the Xerus review, where the software was not showing up through the graphical utility, but it was on the command line using apt-get? Well, it was briefly fixed in 16.04.1, and now it's back. If you search using Software, you will not find some of the important programs you may want. You need to use the terminal to get accurate results. Oh man. This whole thing needs to be nuked. I just want to pretend that Xerus and Yak never happened. They ruined my happiness. They ruined Linux. They killed the desktop and any hope at redemption. Bloody amateurs.
Quite high. About 1.4 GB memory usage without any great fussing. The CPU is also fairly nervous, at about 5%, which isn't really something to be proud of. That said, this did not impact the performance or responsiveness too much. But there's a lot to be done to make things smoother, though.
I told you how the network died after waking up. This has not been rectified.
Decent, I guess. Apart from the graphics card artifacts side of things, the network support side of things, the printing side of things, and the smartphone side of things. At least the Bluetooth stack works a little better than before, and the ugliness is somewhat removed from the equation.
Not bad, all considered. With full brightness and then 50% value, the laptop offered slightly less and slightly more than 3 hours, respectively, although the difference is not statistically significant, which makes me believe that the Unity desktop is the chief culprit rather than static drainage of power. We also need to take into account how finicky this kind of test is, and the results might not be too accurate. However, if we compare to what we had in the past, this is an improvement. A rare one. Also brings back the argument around battery life regression versus battery degradation, which used to be the favorite argument of all those who disagreed with how I measure things and report results.
What else? The Browser application - the Snap one - crashed for no good reason. Now, Wireless settings were NOT preserved and carried over from the live session when booting into the installed system, and this seems to be a first for Ubuntu. Online search through Dash is still weak and largely irrelevant, and it undermines the power and potential of this functionality the way it could have been realized. A few other glitches and bugs here and there, but that was largely that.
Now, Ubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak also ships with the touch-capable Unity 8 desktop environment, which we have seen on the M10 tablet, including the fairly nifty Convergence mode. Looks fine, except it comes with only a tiny amount of apps, and no real setup or instructions on how to configure things. We will review this separately, but this is another missed opportunity to wow the users. Another less-than-optimal offering.
Ubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak is a buggy release, full of regressions and sadness, and largely irrelevant in the wider scope of things. It's also another nail in the coffin for the Linux desktop, as it introduces even more problems and issues. The functionality that was there before is missing. Instead, we get weird choices that serve no purpose, and new core apps are just horrible.
There's very little to praise. The package management is AWFUL. Codecs are missing even when asked to be installed. The hardware support is deteriorating on all levels. There are tons of visual bugs. There's nothing new or exciting in the desktop. I did not even bother changing the wallpaper and creating a teaser image the way I normally do. I could not be any less engaged. Watching an ant ferry a leave to its nest is far more interesting. I truly don't understand why Ubuntu is so keen on killing itself. Is it deliberate? Or just incompetence? The rushed release schedule? What? No idea.
Anyhow, you might as well save yourself some time and bandwidth and just ignore this edition. Yakkety Yak is pointless, and the last Ubuntu truly worth using is Trusty. That one is a phenomenal release. But 16.10? Pfft. 2/10. And something tells me this entire season of distro releases, most of them Ubuntu-based, is going to suck big time. Let the cold and depression begin.