Updated: November 21, 2015
Xubuntu is our third test bunny for the season. We've tried Ubuntu, and it was okay. Too many regressions to make it a palatable choice. Then, Kubuntu was a total disaster, and an emotional disappointment. Both exhibited a strong degree of inconsistency compared to previous versions, which annoys me more than you can imagine.
Now, Xubuntu has been steadily improving for the past 2-3 years, and it's almost become my favorite distro. It's raked the best-of Xfce title last year, and came second in the annual distro competition. 15.04 was also quite good, and I use it pretty much daily. Which means that today's test will be of cardinal importance. Shall we proceed?
No issues booting on my G50 box. Without repeating myself, all the modern stuff works fine, and without any issues. You get the familiar Xubuntu looks, with only a gentle change in color and wallpaper. The rest has the same healthy, ergonomic DNA.
Wireless connectivity, Samba, Samba printing
Good. Samba was working perfectly and smoothly. With a fast throughput. You can also print to Samba shares. Excellent. None of that 1999 mentality, thank you. But I am worried that identical protocols behave so differently, so erratically in between different distributions.
Testing my Ubuntu Phone, which has massively improved lately, and now comes with a healthy Viking chieftain stack, things were only mediocre. The pairing was successful, but I was not able to connect to the phone. Failed for some obscure reason. The BT applet isn't the friendliest either and can be improved. Something for the next version.
Other than that, I was able to MTP the phone without any issues. Likewise, I was able to use iPhone 6 sans problems. Very dandy. Quite helpful and in tune with the modern times. Funny how much difference there is between distros on this simple front.
But then, there was a system crash. The same nonsense we saw with udev on Ubuntu, except there, the trigger was the Ubuntu Phone rather than iPhone. Here, it was the latter that caused Xubuntu to hiccup. I'm highly disappointed. Subsequent plug ins and outs did not result in similar trouble, but this is another big regression that mars the otherwise spotless record for this little distro.
Annoyingly, it is too tappable. I had to change the settings to be able to do my stuff without accidentally triggering mouse clicks. Seriously, how difficult is it to disable the pad while typing by default? Very easy, very helpful.
A surprising result. First, HD video played just fine, which is great. Flash wasn't there, understandably, but MP3 files played just fine! This is a first for an Ubuntu member of the family, without having to resort to VLC. Well played [sic]. Hi hi.
Overall, 15.10 Werewolf with the Xfce fleece behaved well. You can easily identify partitions, or go for a side-by-side setup without sacrificing a goat. A friendly and familiar wizard.
The installation slides are more tame in their message. There's also the size change of the wizard window. It was a quick process, overall. Speed seems to be the focus of this family range, at the expense of stability and quality. In the end, Xubuntu took control of the boot process, and there were no problems with any one of the half a dozen plus operating systems residing on the disk.
Hungry like the wolf
With the installation done, one of the first thing that happened was a prompt for incomplete language support. I'm not interested in these kind of messages. They are alarming and confusing. Sort that shit in the background, don't ruin my desktop experience. Then, there wasn't a quick update prompt like the previous versions used to do. The update window did show up eventually and gave me the extras I need.
Once that initial sequence has been sorted out, you will find lots of interesting goodies in the repos. I used the Ubuntu Software Center to install some of the missing software and cool stuff that I normally expect in a distro. No worries. Fast execution.
The default set is decent. Firefox and Thunderbird combo, Parole and gmusicbrowser with its many skins, LibreOffice, Evince, and a few other useful programs. You can then enrich the experience with the likes of GIMP, VLC, Steam, Skype, and friends quite easily.
Multimedia, some more
I had the gmusicbrowser crash on me while playing music. This is terrible. I also didn't get the Flash plugin, which was supposed to be downloaded and installed. I had to perform a manual apt-get operation. Why, oh why? Why this sub-100 IQ behavior all of a sudden?
Bluetooth, the sequel
Even after installing a bunch of updates, Bluetooth wouldn't behave. It stopped worked now and then. All in all, not the best of experiences I've had in my day.
Hardware compatibility, stability, suspend & resume
Mostly awesome. Well, apart from the crashes and bugs we've just seen and experienced, there was nothing else out of ordinary. The sleep and wake sequence is lightning fast. Touchpad needs tweaking, yet again. And there's no auto-dim for the screen brightness when you switch to battery, which means you will probably be depleting your juice faster than you'd want. Again, this is something I'd expect the devs to sort before releasing a beta-quality product that goes against all the hard work they've achieved in the past years. The microcode prompt is there, too. Webcam works, but Cheese isn't a default application.
Xubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf is fast, nimble, light and quiet. The CPU idles where it ought to, near zero, and memory consumption is only about 400 MB, half its Unity and Plasma brethren. Just shows how much difference there is when you drop all that compositing and effects and bad coding.
One of the consequences of screen brightness non-dimmability and possibly the changes in the kernel is the negative effect on battery life. The trend from Vivid Vervet continues. More hunger for blood and electrons. And this time around, Wily Werewolf tolls even more.
With 100% brightness, there's only about 2.75 hours of battery available. With 60% brightness, 37 minutes later into the session, with some light use, the system was willing to offer about 3.75 hours. However, this is probably inaccurate, and I'd say 3.5 hours total with reduced brightness makes more sense. Not a heroic achievement by any means.
Pimped up looks
It's a ritual, a tradition. I always do it, even if it has no practical value. But with some extra art, better icons, new windows decorations, and an odd extra here and there, Xubuntu becomes really presentable. And cool. And fun.
Xubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf is not a bad distro. It's okay. But it's a disastrous result if you compare to the last few editions. I guess the developers didn't have that much freedom having to work with a wonky, beta baseline, but still. If the product isn't ready, do not release it. Very simple. Keeping to arbitrary deadlines makes no sense, especially since Xubuntu is not a commercial offering. It only harms the user experience and loyalty.
Most of the stuff worked, the beauty and elegance and speed are there, but this autumn's release sacrifices lots of things to get there. Stability, for one thing. Battery life isn't the best either. Crashes and bugs are not becoming a top performer. An occasional niggle or two certainly do not help. All in all, if you're after Xubuntu, then Vivid is a much better choice. Werewolf isn't the Xfce's finest hour. 8/10. We know what it can do. We demand it. Let this be a polite warning.