Updated: February 19, 2016
Something amazing happened after I tested Fedora 23. I stopped hating Gnome 3. For the past few years, I purposefully ignored it, unless testing a heavily veiled derivative like Zorin or Deepin, but now, I have no more beef, veal, or mutton with Gnome, and this is why I decided to give Ubuntu 15.10 with the Gnome desktop its chance.
As you already know, the autumn season has been more or less merde, so my expectations aren't too high. But perhaps this distro can redeem the family. Plus, it's been two months since, so we might as well see some of those ugly regressions fixed. Follow me.
My test box is Lenovo G50, with sixteen partition, seven or eight operating systems, including Windows 10 and a bunch of Linux distributions, UEFI, Secure Boot, GPT, and a tricky Realtek Wireless card, which has been failing pretty much all and every distro recently. And for those struggling with long sentences - or actually reading my reviews before commenting, NO, THERE IS NO HARDWARE PROBLEM with the system. There's problem with sucky drivers and kernel bugs not being fixed. Anyway.
Ubuntu Gnome Werewolf started fine and booted into a very bland, empty desktop session. It can't get any more boring than that. The Wireless is off by default, and the icon does not show in the system area, and you will have to invoke the menu and manually fire it up and then configure the right access point.
Good start. The card didn't gimp - yet - and Samba throughput was really good. Samba printing also worked well, identical to Fedora in terms of steps needed to get to Nirvana. Wireless was also behaving, and Bluetooth is an exercise for after the installation.
An interesting little exercise. Flash was almost impossible to find, unless you go NSFW. HD video worked without a hitch. As fas as MP3 goes, the default player was Video rather than Rhythmbox, but it did offer to search for codecs, did find them, did install them, and then I was enjoying some fine music. Reminds me of good ole days. Why can't every distro solve this issue so simply and elegantly? Other than those that ship with codecs in the first place, that is.
There wasn't much else to do in the live session, so I set about committing the distro to hard disk. The installer is classic Ubuntu. But. It didn't recognize the SUSE setup for some reason. Just marked unknown. Maybe the combo of BTRFS and XFS? Maybe. Anyhow, I marked the right partition, created the username, and watched a somewhat less than exciting slideshow roll by. Overall, there were no problems, and the installation completed without issues.
Using Gnome - Noldoring around
Much like the Vivid family used to do, Ubuntu Gnome 15.10 prompted me with an update window within seconds of reaching the installed desktop. Neat. The process completed quickly and painlessly.
I can't claim the same level of fun and smoothness with Ubuntu Software Center. As it turns out, you need to launch it with sudo, otherwise it will start within the context of your user, you won't have elevated privileges, and you won't be prompted for a password. And this means simple things like changing software sources will not work. You won't be able to mark check boxes, and the program will idly spin updating its cache every single time.
The default collection is reasonable, but it won't make you shiver with excitement. You get Firefox, Evolution, Transmission, LibreOffice, Cheese, Rhythmbox, and some other odd entries. If you want the real goodies, they are available in the repos. Gnome Tweak Tool is a part of the standard set, so you can immediately apply some functionality magic by adding the minimize and maximize buttons, normal menu, and such. Gnome could be so much better if it dropped the touchesque nonsense and focused on classic desktop functionality.
VLC, GIMP, Steam, and Skype are almost mandatory extras:
Spotless. Really. I tried Ubuntu Phone, Nokia 520, and iPhone, and they all worked without a hitch, including little lock screen notifications. I was also able to play music from iPhone, even if iPhone does not see these files itself. Splendid.
However, a problem hit me about 15 seconds after mounting Nokia. While it was working fine, Ubuntu Werewolf decided to throw a hissy and complain about a system problem. Yes, it is the same upowerd crap we've seen two months ago. To answer your question, no, old regressions have not been fixed. If the Realtek bug has been around for a year or longer, why do you think anyone cares about something only 60 odd days old?
After this fiasco, my Samba speed started to crawl while copying a 600MB file over to the Nokia directly from a remote Windows share via Wireless, and then my network connection died with the predictable Realtek bug, which has not been resolved, either, the same way it has not been resolved across the entire range of Linux distros, SUSE, Manjaro, and all others included. More regressions, more nonsense.
After fixing the Realtek issue with the modprobe conf change, network speed and throughput improved considerably, especially Samba, and I didn't see the issue crop up again since. Just shows how simple and easy it is to fix this kind of stupidity, and it can be easily done before users get to play.
Not really. I was able to pair up with the Ubuntu Phone, but it just kept on disconnecting. This is rather annoying but not unexpected. Quite in line with the rest of the autumn crop misery.
Digging under the hood, there's just a vague connection refused error, which tells us nothing where the issue may lie. I believe it's all part of a larger distrosuck project.
bluetoothd: connect error: Connection refused (111)
I cannot compare directly to what we did with Fedora, as the test there was executed on my older LG laptop with an Nvidia graphics card, so we will have to wait until the Gods of the Internet gather enough mercy to let me boot Fedora on my G50 box. Anyhow, the utilization was about 540 MB in the memory space, approx. 300 MB less than the Unity version of Wily Werewolf.
The CPU is not too quiet, and two or three cores will often use about 2-5% of CPU on average, which isn't ideal, or frankly necessary. Gnome still has a long way to go, although memory management is commendable.
Disappointing. Only 2.5 hours, but I guess that has to do with the CPU noise. I was honestly hoping for at least three or even more, but it seems developers love the idea of things going backwards rather than forward this particular season.
Then, after a bunch of use, the distro started behaving, and with the screen at full brightness, the numbers were suddenly much higher, maybe too much so. Battery life can be tricky to judge, especially if you do a lot of stuff, followed by moments of idleness, during which the screen may blank and fool your system. Still, I had to show you the other side of the coin, but realistically, my testing shows you're more likely get about three hours of battery life with some light to moderate use plus 100% brightness on this particular platform.
Stability, performance, suspend & resume
The only issue was the upowerd crash + Realtek bug, which really pissed me off. Other than that, Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf was stable enough. Suspend & resume works without problems. Performance is decent but not stellar, and there are many lighter, nimbler distros around.
I activated pretty much all of the extensions that ship with Gnome Tweak Tool, enabled some desktop icons, changed the background, and did a few other odd changes. The end result is a sleek, practical system. Not as refined as some, but quite decent.
Ubuntu Gnome 15.10 Wily Werewolf is an interesting little beastling. It is an okay distro, and compared to some of its family, actually better in terms of raw functionality. Sadly, end of January when I tested this, roughly two months after Ubuntu 15.10 has been released, the same set of bugs that plagued us early on still affects the distro family. Wily Werewolf with the Gnome desktop is no exception, and it suffers from unnecessary, reproducible regressions.
Multimedia and smartphone support are quite good, the presentation layer and apps are decent. But resource utilization can be more frugal, there are some obvious issues in the system management, and old, known bugs must die. Battery life is also a letdown. Well, hard to expect miracles from such a dreadful lot, and this Gnome edition probably does as good as it can. If you're after Ubuntu and not too keen on Unity, this could be your desktop. Overall grade 7.5/10. We've seen better days, though. Frankly, you should focus on the Xfce desktop, and give Mint a long and thorough check. That brings us to the end of this review.