Ubuntu 17.10 – unhappy remarriage

Ubuntu 17.10 is a new operating system not just because it was released very recently, in October 2017. It is also the first operating system from Canonical since it reverted from Unity to the GNOME desktop environment as default. It was GNOME 2 in use at the divorce time, and now it is GNOME 3 after the re-marriage.

Linux notes from DarkDuck has already reviewed the GNOME version of Ubuntu, when Unity was still in place. There is also a quick screenshot-style review of Ubuntu 17.10, but it is now time to get a more in-depth look into this operating system.

Ubuntu 17.10 is available to download through a large global network of mirrors, and torrents are available. The 32-bit ISO images are no longer available, only the 64-bit. The most recent 32-bit image for Ubuntu users is Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, which still will be supported for a few more years. However, all newer versions will only be available with the 64-bit kernel, unless you are looking for the low-resource distributions like Lubuntu or Xubuntu.

The ISO image if Ubuntu 17.10 is about 1.5 Gb in size. I “burnt” it onto a USB stick.
The USB drive is in the port of my Dell Inspirion 17 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let’s go!



Booting up

Nothing is changed in the boot sequence of Ubuntu 17.10. There is still only one question before you get to the default desktop, and that one is a choice between the Try and Install.

I chose the Try option, because this is a review of the Live operating system.

After few more seconds, I landed onto the default desktop of Ubuntu 17.10.

First impressions

Ubuntu 17.10 gives you a standard GNOME 3 desktop after booting up. There is a panel at the top, a dock/panel at the left and a pop-up panel at the right which is only visible in the Activities mode.

Ubuntu 17.10 welcome screen

The default wallpaper is in famous purple and orange tones with a silhouette of an aardvark on it. The codename of Ubuntu 17.10 is Artful Aardvark. If you don’t like the default image, there’s a choice of about two dozen available with a right-click on an empty space on the desktop and selecting the Change Background option. You can change images for the desktop and for the lock screen separately.

Ubuntu 17.10 wallpapers

The window control elements have (finally!) been moved from left to right, so you have less trouble getting used to Ubuntu if you migrate to this operating system directly from Windows.

The top panel contains an Activities button at the top, which you can also activate by the Super (Windows) keyboard button. Next to it sits the name of the active application with a short drop-down menu. Clocks are at the middle of the panel. The right part of the panel is taken by the notification area with wifi, volume and battery indicators only. All other control elements of the notification area, and more actions for visible elements, are accessible from the menu drop-down.

The left part of the screen is dedicated to dock / shortcuts. There are few icons there by default: Install, Firefox browser, Rhythmbox, file manager, Software Centre, help and Amazon web store. There is a “Show Applications” button at the bottom of the panel, which works similarly to the menu button. Of course, you can add more icons to that dock.

You can also control the width and behaviour of the dock by going into the Dock section of the Settings panel. You can even move the panel to the bottom. In this case, the menu button moves to the bottom-right part of the screen, which is a bit unusual.

The menu itself is not broken down into any sections by default. The only grouping you can see is that “Utilities” are moved to a separate menu folder. The contents of that Utilities group is very strange. For example, the PDF viewer application is there, while calculator is not.

You can create your own groups yourself, but this is a long and windy process as per GNOME Wiki.

Ubuntu 17.10 menu

The Activities screen is in GNOME to show you the list of active application windows, and also a list of virtual desktops. You can rearrange applications between the desktops if you wish.

Ubuntu 17.10 Activities screen

There is a search function available for both Activities and Menu screens. Given that there is no application grouping in the menu, search becomes the only alternative to manual scrolling if you want to find an application in the system. Unfortunately, that search function is rather glitchy. We’ll come back to that later.

Alt-Tab key combination allows you to switch between the applications, but not between the windows of the same application, if you happen to run several of them.

The freshly booted system took about 1.1Gb of memory, which is huge in my opinion.

Ubuntu 17.10 resources

Network connectivity

Ubuntu 17.10 gave no issues to me in configuring and activating of the wireless network card of my laptop, although the way to connect to wireless network is very complicated in a GNOME 3 desktop environment. You need to click at least 4 times to select your network, and then type in the password. At least you only need to enter the password once, unlike KDE.

Keyboard layout

Ubuntu 17.10 comes with English US keyboard layout by default.

If you want to change that, you need to go into the Region and Language part of the Settings panel and configure the set of your layouts there: add, remove, rearrange. The hotkey for quick flipping between layouts is configured in the Devices – Keyboard part of the settings panel. There you have the set of different hotkeys, including keyboard hotkeys somewhere near the bottom.

Unfortunately, you cannot configure my favourite hotkey Ctrl-Shift in GNOME 3. The hotkey needs to include a “real” key while both Ctrl and Shift are “technical”.

As you can see, the process is slightly different to what I described earlier in another article. The design of GNOME 3 control panel got an overhaul.

Applications

Ubuntu 17.10 includes some basic applications in the menu, but the list is not large. Because there’s no proper structure in the menu, I’ll only give you highlights without much grouping.

Firefox 56 is the default and the only browser available out of the box. There is also Thunderbird email client, but no torrent or internet messenger applications.

LibreOffice 5.4.1.2 represents the productivity tools. There are only core applications without Math and Base components.

There is no disk burning utility, but there is Rhythmbox and Video players available.
There are some simple games available in the menu of Ubuntu 17.10: Sudoku, Mines, Mahjongg, Solitaire. By the way, the menu search for “gam” does not show Mines or Mahjongg, so the search function is far from ideal.

Ubuntu 17.10 menu search

The Ubuntu Software is the default tool if you want to install or remove an application in this operating system. I tried it briefly, and realized that it lacks the very basic feature you expect from the software management centre: to update the repositories. And the repository available after the boot is not very good, otherwise why could I not find Pidgin or Geary applications in it?

Multimedia

Ubuntu 17.10 comes without necessary codecs to play video and audio files. You get a message about the missing codecs, and there is a button to install them.

Ubuntu 17.10 codecs error

However, the button takes you to a black screen of Ubuntu Software Centre with an “Unable to find” message on it.

Luckily, Firefox was able to play YouTube videos.

Ubuntu 17.10 multimedia

Neither 1tv.ru nor Vimeo nor BBC iPlayer videos were working for me. The reason was in missing Flash player.

Conclusion

Canonical decided to re-marry its Ubuntu operating system with GNOME Desktop Environment after few years of divorce. How good is this new family?

In my opinion, it is far from ideal.

The last Unity-based Ubuntu was way more usable and convenient for me as a user. There are too many inconveniences in GNOME for me.

Maybe things will improve in the next LTS release of Ubuntu 18.04, but for now Ubuntu is a no-go for me.

Want to try it yourself? You can order your own disk from the BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk site!

Video used on the screenshot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghj8oRCRhBY

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