Xubuntu 20.10 Groovy Gorilla review

Updated: November 27, 2020

Let's have some Linux testing today, shall we. This autumn season I'm a reformed man, with a new approach to my distro escapades. Less emotional investment, lower threshold of tolerance, neutral expectations. The new key formula ingredient is fun. If I'm having it, the review becomes super-long and detailed. If not, then I'm stepping away, and you may then decide for yourself what to do, or try other online sources for relevant information.

After Fedora 33 and Kubuntu 20.10, I want to focus on Xubuntu Groovy Gorilla. For a few years now, I'm under the impression that the Linux desktop enthusiasm has shrunk greatly, and this is quite apparent among the smaller distros. Xubuntu is no exception. I used to have a lot of fun with Xfce systems, but this isn't quite the case lately. Then, there's always a chance the next distro I try will be a fresh turning point. Let's see what Xubuntu can do for us then.

Teaser

Here we go again

The live session started wrong. My internal volumes were all shown on the desktop, and this simply doesn't look good or useful whatsoever. Not at this point anyway. Moreover, the actual black-icon style on dark-blue background, ergonomics, nah. Then, I noticed inconsistent icons in the system tray, including what looks like GTK2 fallback icons from roughly a decade back. I was very close to simply stopping right then.

Live desktop

I decided to continue, just to see a bit more what gives. The installation is, of course, different from Kubuntu 20.10, because we can't have too much consistency, can we. The partition discovery was relatively fast, but then, the installer hanged after clicking the Install Now button, so overall 15 minutes were lost just waiting for things to happen.

But there's more to be said about the installer. It showed me the removable media first (sdb), which is something I've never seen happen before, and then, after a few minutes, it switched to the internal disk. It has labels. Notice there are letters or perhaps numbers under the color slider that indicates the partition layout above the partition list. Are those partition numbers? I don't know.

Installer, sdb option

Line numbers under partition colors

The installer uses its own style and theming that has nothing to do with the rest of the desktop. Of course.

Once the installer kicked into action, the internal volumes were all removed from my desktop, leaving me with the standard icons positioned roughly in the middle of screen. This is simply ungainly on all levels.

Installation started, volume icons gone

Any better after the installation?

Not really, I must say. As you can guess, the boot sequence is colorful - text, logos, splash, whatnot, and different from Kubuntu. The icons were all in order in the installed system, the Wireless configuration from the live session was preserved (unlike Kubuntu), there's no password wallet (unlike Kubuntu), and the updates were offered right away (unlike Kubuntu). Such blissful calm descends over me.

First login

"Correct" icons now shown. Wrong language shown.

Thunar still pins devices at the top, the overall icon contrast and theming are off - not broken like in the live session, simply off - notice the pale yellow-brown icon for Home, for instance. Just does not feel right. The language dialect was incorrectly set, which happens if you select an English-speaking region/timezone that is different from the keyboard. You can try with US, UK, ZA, CA, take your pick.

The touchpad was also jumpy, something I've not seen and experienced lately. Annoying. The main menu does not open with the Super key shortcut. Why, pray. What's wrong with the button used by at least 90% of all desktops out there?

At this point, I was looking at a classic Xfce desktop. I knew I had about half an hour to an hour of work ahead of me, to make everything and look and behave the way I like and/or need. This means sorting things out and fighting the usual culprits - is there a good dock, is there a good global menu, is the theming going to work well? And I decided not to invest the energy, knowing that while I would get a presentable, decent desktop in the end, it would be a fleeting end result, without any great benefit. Soz.

Desktop

Conclusion

Call me a bitter dinosaur if you like, but I do believe my expectations are fairly realistic - if not modest. I want a desktop that has stability, consistency, functionality - and good looks. Almost impossible to attain in the Tux world (lately). With Xubuntu 20.10, you get a bit of this and that, but you really need to invest effort in making the system behave. I also don't see a conflict between having a classic desktop and a modern one, at the same time. Integration with various online tools and services need not impede on the standard desktop formula and proven usage models. Pretty does not imply inefficient.

Xubuntu 20.10 simply does not radiate pride, quality and attention to detail that would warrant investment from the user. I believe it will find audience among people who really want a no-nonsense 100% bullshit-free system that works and behaves the likes of a classic 2010 box, but then, that also means deliberately compromising on aesthetics as well as some use cases that exist today and that some people may require. No reason why this should be the case, and yet it is. Since I wasn't having fun, I decided to bow out gracefully. Perhaps you will have more luck, but for me, this feels like a system trapped in time and lethargy.

Cheers.

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