Updated: May 4, 2016
April 2021. This is when we'll see the very final end of support for the most weirdly named Ubuntu release yet, provided you stick with it that long. Will you, though? This is the cardinal question we will try to answer today.
Ubuntu is no stranger to Dedoimedo, with big ups and downs, fickle consistency, and overall, pretty good hardware support. The previous LTS, Trusty, behaved - and still does - really nicely, and has its beloved spot on my production systems. Can this new kid on the block usurp the throne from its papa? We shall see. The official list of surprises is long, but theory and practice don't always co-align. Let us rock.
After a hiatus of distro testing, with many an instance failing to boot on my UEFI-blessed, Secure Booty G50 machine, Xerus did its job without fussing, proving once again that simple things can be so rather complicated in the world of Linux. The desktop has the same familiar look and feel, and this is a good thing for people who expect familiarity.
Network connectivity - Suckety Sux
Yes, I used this term before, but 'tis most appropriate. The good ole bug with my Realtek card? Still here! It is still present in the new LTS release. My network dropped twice during the live session. And only because I was in a super-good mood did I not abort the whole thing, because that's exactly what I did with Linux Mint 17.3 the first time around.
The problem with the bug is that you can't easily fix it (for normal people) in the live session, so I had to start fresh, again and again, before I was able to complete the testing and the installation. This is so annoying. So stupid. So amateurish. Xerus is supposed to be the new LTS, and to stay with us for five years. You don't start such a journey with a bug that's been outstanding for a good year plus. Easily solvable too.
Bluetooth isn't any better, I'm afraid. I was unable to interface with my Ubuntu Phone or my iPhone, something that my freshly arrived M10 tablet did pretty well just a few days ago. Realtek is such a menace. Don't buy Realtek if you need to use Linux. But then, for that matter, don't use Linux, either. Pointless. This is like pissing on your birthday cake to improve the consistency of the icing. Digital idiocracy at its finest.
I mean how difficult is it to fix bugs? Or code good firmware and drivers to start with? Or perhaps add an optional modprobe file that helps work around the bug for known, reported platforms. Or fix the bloody code. Do I need to use every possible curse word in the English language before someone takes notice? Why spoil my mood?
This bug has a workaround, mercifully, so you can use that once the system installed, and you should have an uninterrupted networking. For the most part. Beware, there's a snag. A new nasty surprise. A curve ball. We will discuss that soon.
On the micro-plus side, you can now setup Wireless for all users. This can be practical if you have more than one person using the computer, you do wish to give them network access, but not allow them to manipulate anything.
Samba sharing worked. But I was asked to authenticate. No more Mr. Anon. What? Why this all stupidity of a sudden? If I don't want to use credentials to access my test shares, then no, I don't want to. Don't force me to write down user names and passwords on random test systems. Maybe this is related to the flurry of security nonsense recently. I will explore this and figure out what has changed on the Samba front, but again, this is something really annoying, and it pissed me off, because it's not expected - or consistent.
Samba printing worked - again, with those annoying authentication prompts. Plus, it asked me to install a package. What? Why? Why not provide it to begin with? It's a tiny tiny Python thingie. Why make the experience different from Trusty?
You don't get any fancy, copyrighted blah-blah stuff, so no MP3 for you. Flash isn't there, either, but luckily, more and more websites are dropping this ancient technology in favor of HTML5. I didn't even bother looking for Flash clips. Speaking of music though, Video, which should NOT be the default player for music files, but for some odd reason it is, did complain about missing codecs, but then it did NOT download them. Why?
At least, HD worked without any issues.
Installation - kneel before Zo ... Xerus
Now, the interesting piece. For three reasons. One, it's not really different from Trusty, so you are well advised to read my guide on how to achieve this, especially if you plan on multi-booting with Windows. Now, if you're wondering, there's a guide for that, too.
The second reason is that this system has 16 partitions, and it boots a plethora of Linux, including six or seven different distros, plus Windows 10. That makes for a neat combo, plus a use case for multi-booting of its own. Lastly, ZFS. Ubuntu 16.04 is supposed to have ZFS, which would make it the pimp of da hood.
Only there's no ZFS. It's not available yet, so you will need to wait, install the ZFS libraries after the install and then migrate your filesystems. Nah. Boring, pointless. Not inspiring. Candy taken away from the baby, that's how I feel. Ext4, and that makes this review ever so more disappointing.
I have no idea what a xerus is. But maybe it's a special type of Rus? And Xe is actually HE in Russian. Or maybe it's Xenon Russian. Who knows. Either way, the system booted up, then told me how it couldn't handle Flash and I had to manually rectify this, except the network was down again.
Suspend & resume
Now, I normally save this bit for later, but I had to leave the house, so I put Xenial to sleep for a while. After I returned, lo and behold, THE BLOODY NETWORK would not come up, even with the modprobe fix! This is so annoying. I really feel like blowtorching a developer or three.
Now, I have a fix for this - and I will follow up in a separate tutorial. The combo of my previous workaround and the new method to restore network connectivity for crappy Realtek cards without rebooting will feature in an article in just a few days. Please be patient. Understand my anger and pain. I'm literally containing myself from vomiting on the keyboard.
This is the new frontend for managing packages. And I've heard rumors about something called snaps. From what I was able to read and understand and such, these would be bundled combining all the needed libraries to execute the program almost standalone, without depending on the fine, delicate structure of the /usr and /lib filesystems. This is quite important for portability, even though it can cause disk bloat and potential security risks. Then, this is how most Windows applications work, and when you add in some more rumors about having Bash on Windows, it kind of starts making sense.
But I won't be testing that just yet. Just like ZFS, some things are not meant for a first review. Instead, more importantly, let's ask how well does this new package manager work? Well, I wasn't too impressed. It does not feel as rich as USC. Worse, it is not accurate. Maybe even broken.
I searched for both Steam and Skype, and even though the right partner channels are all defined and whatnot, you can't find them using the GUI. You will have to install the software from the command line. We had seen this before, only the other way around, where it didn't show running apt-get. Regression. Retarded.
The default set is decent if not amazing. Then, once you figure out how to get the extra goodies, the likes of VLC, Steam, Skype, GIMP, and alike, the arsenal begins to look quite presentable.
There have also been changes to some of the default applications and such. Privacy options, too, plus some of the scopes as well. And I don't like how the Launcher looks when you select a mid-section icon. Icons shouldn't really be flattened around it, unless it's toward the edge of the vertical bar. In this case, the top part should have that card deck effect, not icons just above Thunderbird.
The default set includes Firefox and its aforementioned mail client brother from another mother, LibreOffice, Cheese, and a few other goodies. An interesting application is System Test, which lets you test and report your overall hardware compatibility. This is quite neat, even though some of the steps are tedious, you can't skip them, and the whole sequence takes a long time.
Looks like a modest set. I tried adding more, hitting the plus button, but it didn't do anything for me. Either you can't really create any other online accounts other than the short list, or something is broken. Ah well.
Worked fine this time, but then, the same can be said about rehabilitation after claymores. It does not make it glamorous or fun. If only, oh if only, there was a way to install codecs while in the live session. Oh, is it possible?
Good and bad. On the bright side, both iPhone and Windows Phone were properly initialized and mounted. On the dark side of the moon, not without errors. Rhythmbox would consistently crash if I tried to play the MP3 files off of my little Nokia, which sounds just as bad as My Little Pony. And I had an initial error using the iPhone, probably due to the computer trust issues. After that, Rhythmbox didn't see it, and couldn't play its tracks. All in all, this can be done a whole lot more smoothly.
Performance, responsiveness, resource usage
The system is fast, but boy is it gluttonous. It ate 1GB of RAM without doing anything. That's a bit drastic. I know those bits and bytes go to good use and all that, but still, there's no reason for such a heavy footprint. The CPU was quiet, though.
Not good, either. Only about two hours and a bit. Really bad. I mean, seriously? This is even worse than Werewolf, which was capable of about 2.5 hours. I am not pleased with the direction the power consumption is going. Not at all.
Not good, I'm afraid. Network, bad. Bluetooth, bad. System crashing - once. It froze completely when I connected an external keyboard - the one I used for my Raspberry Pi testing, y'know dongle and such. I wanted to charge it, and I ended up with a system that needed a hard boot.
I don't recall other applications dying on me, but then I expect absolute, spotless performance from LTS releases. It's better to delay than have this kind of reputation shattering fiascoes as the welcoming party.
After some customization, you can't see the emotional scars:
Dafuq? What is this? Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus is supposed to be an LTS. A pillar of stability! It's buggier than Werewolf. And it sure comes with a dozen new issues and/or regressions that Trust did not have. Horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible. Why? WHYYYYYY? Why oh why?
Why can't I have my peace and quiet and sanity? Why do you have to dash my hopes? Why do you have to ruin my day? Why can't I use this new LTS with a big and happy smile on my face? Why did you have to rush this release? Why release the tablet without the newest LTS on it? Why all of it?
I am really displeased. But I also believe I must keep on testing Xerus, so that you know where you stand, and hopefully, with enough pressure, we will see some positive results. Much like openSUSE, I presume the issues will be ironed out a few months after the initial offering. Which reminds me, I need to test Leap again. On the Xenial side of things, there's a lot of room for improvement. Network support first and foremost, Bluetooth, battery life, memory consumption, codecs, package management. All of it really.
At the moment, Ubuntu 16.04 is not ready for mass consumption. It pains me, really deeply pains me, because I know there will be a ripple effect on Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Mint, and for months ahead, we will struggle with silly problems and regressions, and hardware support will just suck. For now, Xerus gets 3/10. Let's hope things improve, for everyone's sake. More than just pride and silly release names are at stake. The whole of Linux, even if you don't believe that. See ya.