Ubuntu 18.04 Beta - The good, the bad and mostly ugly

Updated: April 16, 2018

In about two weeks, Canonical will release its next LTS, 18.04 Bionic Beaver. What makes it special is that it's going to be running a Gnome 3 desktop instead of Unity, a sort of full-circle reversal of direction and strategy, and that means ... uncertainty. With Trusty Tahr being the only production Linux system in my setup, I am quite intrigued and concerned, because I need to choose my next LTS carefully.

So far, the prospect isn't encouraging, given the more-than-lukewarm performance by Aardvark. There's a lot of hope in the Plasma spin, given the stellar performance of the Plasma desktop recently, but that's still a big unknown, especially since Kubuntu 17.10 was a regression compared to the most magnificent and awesome Zesty Zapus. Therefore, I decided to check this beta, to see what gives ahead of the official release. Normally, I don't like testing unfinished products, but this be an extraordinary occasion. Let's do it.

Teaser

The good

There are some interesting features in Bionic Beaver. Encryption is more prominently touted in the installer, and this also means using LVM, which is not something that Ubuntu ever advertised or used. In fact, previously, Ubuntu often struggled with RAID and LVM if you were using the desktop installation. The encryption seems to work well - and pretty much like any Linux implementation, Android included, it asks you for a password early on in the boot sequence. Seems to work fine.

Encryption option

Unlock

Encryption works

Online accounts functionality is also decent - lots of services, and Ubuntu SSO is back in the game. This ties into Livepatch, which lets you install (minor) kernel patches without rebooting, very similar to Ksplice and Kgraft. We've seen and tested these before on Dedoimedo, and I used them in a professional capacity, too, and the technologies are far from trivial or perfect - the patches only work if kernel structs remain largely unchanged, but they are still a nice addition to the overall experience.

Online accounts

Livepatch requires that you sign into Ubuntu - hence the earlier thingie. The process worked fine, but the sign-in did stall the first time I tried it. The second time, it completed without any issues. Now, this is actually not a new thing. Both Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 feature Livepatch, and you can enable the service there with just a few quick command line tricks.

Livepatch

Credentials expired

SSO, logged in

Livepatch works

Ubuntu did not auto-sync the account login with the online accounts.

Software management features apt and snap in parallel. BTW, why is everyone now so keen on using apt and not apt-get, what's the big deal? A new fad. However, there are negative sides to software management, but we will discuss that in a moment.

Software

Installing snap package

The bad

Software management is largely broken. The fabulous USC gets replaced by a bag of mediocrity called Gnome Software. It's ugly, and it's useless. Compare the search results for Samba in the UI and on the command line. Pointless, inaccurate. Crap. Why is Spotify being promoted as a featured app when it can't play local files in Linux? Trying too hard and failing.

Software sucks

This is your LTS - look and weep.

I had no Samba connectivity. Not by name, nor by IP address. I then installed every single conceivable Samba package I could find, I logged out, logged back in, rebooted, nothing. Nautilus does not show anything. On the command line, smbclient works fine. This is such a horrible regression that I had to vomit and come back to writing this article. A failure that would make Napoleon give up France if he had to use it.

Samba does not work

I wanted to check and troubleshoot this some more - you get no ifconfig, you need to install the net-tools package. Seriously? What kind of nonsense is this?

No ifconfig

The only meaningful Samba related stuff is this (higher debug levels give nothing of value):

Reconnecting with SMB1 for workgroup listing.
Connection to 192.168.2.101 failed (Error NT_STATUS_RESOURCE_NAME_NOT_FOUND)
Failed to connect with SMB1 -- no workgroup available

Language locale choice sucks. If I choose EN(US) as the installer setup language, then there's no reason to give me any other language two steps later, now is there? I so hate this regional auto-guess bullshit. Not just in Ubuntu, but every distro.

Rhythmbox is still the music player of choice. Why? It's useless. Slow to start, and every time you try to play a file from an external device, like smartphones, it segfaults. This has been around for three odd years, and it's time to stop using this program.

The ugly

Gnome 3 is, for the lack of a better word, one big regression. Unity was slick, fast, elegant, practical, and it offered everything you'd expect from a semi-pro or pro desktop environment. Gnome is a joke. I have nothing personal against Gnome, but a desktop environment that BY DEFAULT has no right-click on the desktop, no ability to create new files in the file manager or edit its settings, no show desktop button, no taskbar or panel of any kind, no window control buttons, and lots of other simple things you need or expect - such a desktop is a complete and utter failure.

Ubuntu sort of fixes this - sort of. But then, the essential nonsense remains. No right-click in Nautilus. Year 2018, no ability to create any new files. This is so monumentally stupid I can't even explain it. At least it sorts folders before files! But it's like comparing a Trabant, after it's been hit by a 82mm mortar and than shat on by a flock of seagulls, to a brand new Porsche 911. Unity was splendid. This is 1998 dialup.

It gets worse. No show desktop button. System control is rudimentary. A joke. It looks ugly, it behaves ugly. It's much less responsive than Unity. SERIOUSLY slower. The search bar in Nautilus is a fat ugly sausage that makes my pixels cry. Overall, it's a suckfest.

Neutered UI

No new file

Conclusion

I think Ubuntu 18.04 is a punishment by Canonical for the community's witchhunt against Unity and the company's efforts to make a professional rival to Windows. Well, there you have it. A free and open-source stupidity that takes us back a good decade or more. Unless a miracle happens, I already know my review of Bionic Beaver will be bad and sad, and I will not be using this as my next LTS. I might even be forced to compromise with 16.04 for a while. Maybe Kubuntu will be my savior. Or I'll just go on using Windows, which, despite everything you can say about Microsoft, including its silly games with Windows 10, is still actually a dependable operating system for adults.

The beta does not have any big beta issues. But it does have deep, serious regressions that have nothing to do with the current release state and everything to do with the use of Gnome. Unity was a professional product. This is no longer the case. Canonical does not seem to care anymore, and this is a token release for the sake of it, infused with absolute zero enthusiasm. It shows. Livepatch, encryption, okay. But the rest of it is just worse, in every single aspect. Usability, quality, reliability, integrity of data, aesthetics, performance. There. And so, I'd like to thank the open-source community for their stalwart conservative efforts to destroy progress. Mission accomplished. Peace.

Cheers.

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