Following the binding semi-annual cycle, Canonical has published the October 20.10 edition following the important long-term version 20.04 from April this year. It is an intermediate version with nine months of support until July 2021.
The main Ubuntu edition with Gnome desktop: Like the application overview shown, everything here is large and striking. But everyone understands the concept after five minutes.
Anyone who knows Ubuntu also knows the supporting role of the October versions. Version numbers “YY.10” always mean intermediate versions, short term versions (STS) with limited endurance. Because of the short term of nine months, many users (server administrators anyway) ignore these issues and concentrate on the durable LTS (Long Term Support) versions, which appear every even-numbered year in April – most recently and currently April 20, the next not until 2022 ( Version 22.04).
Ubuntu 20.10 (“Groovy Gorilla”)
is always a recommendation for a new installation, but does not have much in its luggage that could justify an upgrade of a running 20.04 LTS. The latter is usually only done by Ubuntu fans who always want to stay up-to-date, but sometimes also users who urgently need a new kernel version because it solves a specific hardware problem.
Correct handling of intermediate versions
Ubuntu manufacturer Canonical estimates the distribution of Ubuntu STS intermediate versions at only about five percent – 95 percent of all Ubuntu installations would therefore be LTS long-term versions. That is understandable, but on the other hand, STS versions are not a dead end.
Before the current version 20.10 expires, there are three months to upgrade to version 21.04 from April 2021. Ubuntu’s “update management” will actively offer this as soon as the successor 21.04 is available. The prerequisite for such notification is that under “Applications & Updates -› Updates ”the setting“ For every new version ”is active.
Ubuntu has had an exemplary grip on the upgrade itself for many years, and it is usually as short as it is pleasantly painless. It goes without saying that the current version 20.04 can also be upgraded to 20.10 with immediate effect.
However, there should be good reasons for this, because the easy-to-maintain long-term version 20.04 is exited and three upgrade actions are required (- ›21.04 -› 21.10 – ›22.04) to achieve LTS status again.
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Ubuntu 20.10 with Kernel 5.8
The live system boots with Grub2. The greatly simplified options are limited to normal and safe start and OEM installation.
New kernel versions are always welcome because a current Linux kernel brings new hardware drivers as well as improvements and bug fixes for hardware and file system usage. The 5.8 kernel is also considered to be the most extensive kernel development in years and, among other things, fixes an annoying problem of power management, waking Bluetooth and WLAN devices from sleep. There have been notable developments in the Flash-Friendly-File-System, exFAT and BTRFS file systems. Devices with new Intel chips (Tiger Lake and Ice Lake), with the latest AMD processors (Zen 3) and with Thunderbolt ARM (USB 4.0) benefit from the new hardware drivers in the kernel. With very up-to-date hardware, Linux with a kernel that is as fresh as possible is an important argument. The LTS version Ubuntu 20.04 still uses Kernel 5.4, by the way, even after the update to the first Point Release 20.04.1 (August 2020). The new kernel is still not a very strong motive for an upgrade to version 20.10, because the upcoming point release Ubuntu 20.04.2 will soon also contain the younger kernel 5.8. This update 20.04.2 for the long-term version is expected in January or February in early 2021.
Liveboot and updated installer
With the live system and the installation medium, Ubuntu 20.10 shows some remarkable changes, none of which are necessarily aimed at the private end user:
Prominent “OEM Install”:
Grub will now start the Ubuntu live system. The simplified boot menu now only shows fundamental options such as “Ubuntu”, “Ubuntu (safe…)”, “Test memory” and astonishingly prominent in third place: “OEM install (for manufacturers)”. This installation variant was previously housed discreetly in the “Options” (F4). “OEM install” offers manufacturers and admins a clean setup variant with customization options, which later leaves the end user to set up the first-time user account. For normal users, however, this option is hardly relevant (Lubuntu therefore ignores it).
Ubuntu 20.10 and ZFS:
The next change also concerns a function that is at least controversial on the end-user desktop: After the installation has started, the ZFS option “Erase hard disk and use ZFS” already introduced with version 19.10 appears under “Installation type” under “Extended functions”. What is new is that Ubuntu 20.10 has dispensed with the previous “experimental” rating and classifies the ZFS file system as a normal function. Under the hood, ZFS support has indeed been significantly expanded. The responsible zsys service calculates the snapshot frequency more sensitively with regard to the available storage space, and ZFS pools also receive an automatic trim function, which is important for optimizing SSD storage. The trim clean-up function previously had to be triggered manually (zpool trim).
Increasing ZFS integration: The installation with the ZFS file system is no longer considered “experimental” after an improved zsys daemon is working under Ubuntu.
The box on the right outlines what the ZFS file system can do and why it usually has no place on the end-user desktop. For this it should be noted that Ubuntu is pushing the installation of ZFS, but still lacks all the tools that could make desktop use palatable. The highly complex terminal tools zfs and zpool are necessary for active and productive use. The least that desktop users would expect would be graphical access to the saved snapshots with the option to revert to a selected point. There are first experiments on this, but their introduction to Ubuntu will take some time.
Only the Gnome-related desktops with the Ubiquity installer offer ZFS. Kubuntu (KDE) and Lubuntu (LXQT) use the Calamares installer without the ZFS option.
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Login to Windows domains:
A third innovation, which should not play a major role for many desktop users, is the registration in the Active Directory of Windows domains during installation. The option appears at the point “Who are you?”, Ie when creating the first user. At the very bottom there is the “Use Active Directory” box, which then leads to a sub-dialog with the login data. This innovation in the main Ubuntu version was followed by only one of the official versions, Ubuntu Mate 20.10. The other editions omit this option.
Ubuntu 20.10 with Gnome 3.38
Application overview of Gnome: It takes a little effort to tidy up and sort the program overview, but technically it works perfectly.
Ubuntu 20.10 presents the desktop Gnome 3.38 in Canonical’s standard edition and here a lot has changed compared to the LTS version 20.04 (Gnome 3.36).
Improvements under the hood of the “Mother” compositor promise smoother work and optimized multi-monitor operation with different refresh rates. This means that the monitor with the higher frequency does not have to be clocked down with consideration for the other.
The full-screen program overview (Win-A or click on the 9-point icon in the dock) now dispenses with the distinction between “Frequently” and “All”. All programs are always shown, but they can be arranged and bundled individually regardless of the alphabetical sorting – simply by drag & drop: important things can be brought to the front and marginal matters can be grouped in a folder by dragging an icon onto another. Collection folders can be named individually.
The most important symbol in the system bar is the session menu (far left) with the shutdown options. Tidying up this clearly was successful and was also overdue after the important power-saving function “Standby” was practically undetectable for several Gnome versions.
In the Gnome Control Center under “Settings -› WLAN ”and again“ Settings ”, the option“ Enable WLAN hotspot ”has been refined. After activating the function, a QR code appears so that you can easily connect to a smartphone or tablet.
Log-in via fingerprint:
The options for biometric log-in have been expanded in Ubuntu 20.10.
When displaying the notebook battery, some an approximate fill level is sufficient, while others prefer an exact percentage. Gnome 3.38 now offers both options optionally.
The five other official Ubuntus 20.10
With Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Mate and Ubuntu Budgie, there are five official Ubuntu flavors with different surfaces. “Official” means that their developers work with Canonical and can therefore offer their derivatives at the same time as the major version is released (unlike Mint, Zorin, Peppermint and others). As described at the beginning of this article, with the exception of the new kernel, not all variants adopt all changes to the Ubuntu base (ZFS, domain registration). In addition, these flavors are defined via the respective desktop: