Updated: April 22, 2017
This is the last Ubuntu as we know it, this is the last Ubuntu as we know it, and I feel very ambiguous about this decision. In a way, the world of Linux has revolted against commercial innovation that Ubuntu tried to instill, and now we're in the post-modernistic world of anarchy, free software, and whatever.
But that shall only happen in the next LTS. For now, we still have Ubuntu adorned with Unity, and the latest release bears the name Zesty Zapus. I prefer my version. Let's see what it does, how well it does, and whether it can handle my Lenovo G50 machine.
Booted just fine, no issues with UEFI, as there shouldn't be with any sane distro in the year 2017, alas my rejection report list just keeps growing. The desktop looks and feels the same like any number of recent Ubuntus. It's a little bit bland and boring but rather consistent with its overall theme and message. There isn't much fun to do, which should actually be the case for live editions. After all, how are people to decide whether to use a system if the demonstrator doesn't deliver?
Well, the network was stable throughout the live testing, which could be due to the kernel 4.10, which builds on the tweaks and improvements introduced in 4.8.7, which finally helped resolved some of the connectivity problems with my Realtek card.
Wireless worked fine. Bluetooth also behaved. I was able to reach Samba shares without a problem, but I did need to authenticate, because we all know security is the bestest thing ever. The printer applet also serves its purpose - both Samba and Wireless, but this isn't a new thing, and it has nothing to do with the new so-called driverless printing that is supposed to help with mobile devices. However, the visual bug of mangled entries still remains. If you move your mouse cursor over the printer connection types on the left side, the entries will sort of overlap in a very ugly manner. This hasn't been fixed, and it's a sad thing. This is NOT how you make a professional product.
Another sad thing is that you don't get any codecs - nor can you download them, because Videos, a stupid name for a generic player, cannot download them. Absolutely pointless. Well, you can play HD video, if it's encoded in a loving way, HTML5 in Youtube and such, but no MP3 or other proprietary stuff. I don't mind the whole licensing thingie, but the error message is misleading. Also, why not allow users to actually grab the codecs when they try to play their files? That's no different than doing it during the installation.
Windows Phone (Lumia 950) and Ubuntu Phone, no worries. 'Twas gutte. Both mounted successfully, without any issues. You only get a single screenshot because I'm still angry over the media codecs issue.
You get the usual, familiar deal here. It takes forever to discover partitions, and then again when you choose the installation type, so you waste more time waiting for the discovery step than actually getting the system configured.
I am not sure about the whole encryption piece - it was grayed out, and ZFS still isn't available, nor is it likely to be, and at this point, I've given up any hope or desire to actually play and test this. One of the changes in Zesty is that it uses swap files rather than partitions for new installations. In my case, it correctly identified and used the available 8GB partition.
I decided to displace one of the two Fedora 25 on the box, the one that got upgraded from Fedora 24, and install Ubuntu 17.04 there. The installation was faster than before, mind, if not drastically. Decent slides, somewhat funny and silly, especially the reference to the pointless Gnome Software Center (in disguise). In the end, I had a healthy setup with some half a dozen distros plus Windows 10, GRUB2 and all that. No issues.
Zesty Zapus booted all right, but it did not retain the Wireless configuration from the live session. Why oh why. That's such a trivial thing, used to be fine in the past, but it seems that Linux folks LOVES regressions. Maybe that should be a slogan?
Hardware compatibility, suspend & resume
I will start with this sub-section, although I normally write about it toward the end. Ubuntu 17.04 comes with some obvious improvements over the previous versions of the distro. Apart from the support for new processors, it also offers Intel's microcode firmware by default. It used to be disabled.
The Realtek card behaved splendidly. I did not use the modprobe tweak, and the connection held steady and true, without any problems. Perhaps we can truly say that kernel 4.10 resolves this once and for all. We're talking many GB worth of pr ... tested. The things I'll do for humanity. It would seem, for the first time EVAR, since I have this laptop (early-mid 2015), we finally have a decent Wireless connection. Progress!
It also worked fine after suspend and resume, multiple times. All in all, Zesty does its job on the hardware front. All the Fn keys worked, everything was initialized correctly, me likes that there are some really neat things here.
Samba did gimp once - the name resolving stopped working, but I was able to get to my Windows hosts using IP addresses. Seems like a one-time fluke or perhaps a pinch of suckology to sour up the cake.
We finally have MP3 playback. Videos still sucks, and it does not integrate with the system area, so no contextual volume button-function for you. Rhythmbox does respect the rules of the game.
The default arsenal is okay - Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Transmission, Rhythmbox. That's about it on the semi-exciting side. If you want more stuff, you'll need to download a few hundred MB, and don't forget to enable Partner software channels. I added VLC, GIMP, Steam, Skype, and a few other tools, plus some icons and themes.
Nothing new under the sun. The Software Center is a pale shadow of its rich, professional commercially-flavored ancestor. It works, but it looks too abstract, as though it's been designed for people with extra thick thumbs. We can definitely smell Gnome all over the place. None of those fine reviews, recommendations, purchase options, or such. At the very least, the options and features and repos are all there, and you can actually tweak and configure the package manager, unlike some other other solutions. The command line functionality is as true as it ever was. My favorite.
The universal package mechanism works fine, and it's gaining traction. The problem is, it's not advertised enough, it's still too nerdy, but you can test if you feel like. I will be writing a full article on this soon.
High numbers, but the distro is quite fast and responsive. Better than Yakkety, for example. Memory wise, 1.4 GB more or less, and CPU tolled at about 3-4%. However, the figures bely the very smooth desktop experience.
Well, nothing too special. About 2.5 hours if you're gentle. Mediocre but ok.
I did some gentle pimpage. To wit:
There were a few other issues, which I think should be highlighted:
Dash shows old icons even if you use a different icon set.
Dash did not update all the search entries after installing a few snaps.
Icons get reshuffled when you change the wallpaper.
Ubuntu 17.04 Zesty Zapus, or let's face it, Zapata, is a decent release. It has nothing to do with the recent announcement. No hidden symbolism or nostalgia. Simply put, some of the old issues seem to have been ironed out, with the focus on hardware support, speed and some rough edges and papercuts here and there. Pretty nice. Good fonts, too!
However, the live session is uber-boring, the multimedia stack is a bit weak, and some of the default applications are just useless, thank you Gnome. There are also several visual bugs lingering about, and they shouldn't be there. Other than that, I don't have anything else negative to say about Zesty. Oh, you still cannot right-click to create new files. Someone needs to have their laptop confiscated for life. Well, if you like Ubuntu or feel like testing, Zesty offers an improvement experience compared to the last several releases. This is a welcome change, and could signal a fresh breath of hope that is so desperately needed. Grade wise, 7/10. Now, your turn to play.