Ubuntu 13.04: how things are shaping up

Ubuntu 13.04 is the latest version of Ubuntu, scheduled to be released on the 25th of April this year. But what’s it shaping up to? In this article I’ll sum up some of the changes since the last LTS (Long Time Support) release, Ubuntu 12.04. You might wonder “Why not Ubuntu 12.10?” The answer is simple; I never used Ubuntu 12.10 after my first crashtastic experience in VirtualBox. I’m not saying Ubuntu 12.10 was a bad release, but it didn’t really work for me.

Please do keep in mind that this article is based on what can currently be seen in the latest daily builds of Ubuntu 13.04, and as such does not necessarily resemble the final product.

When I first loaded up the desktop, there were 2 things I immediately noticed.

1. Wow, that new Dash button (commonly referred to as the BFB, or Big Fat Button) looks awesome!
2. Ah, damn! What did they do to the wallpaper!

The Launcher icons have received a bit of a revamp. Apart from the Dash button having received a makeover, the gradient on normal Launcher icons has been slightly changed, as well as the workspace switcher button having gotten a new look.
The wallpaper is once again a slightly changed version of the so-called Warty Final wallpaper Ubuntu has used ever since version 10.04. Personally I liked the looks of it in Ubuntu 10.04, but I think ever since then the default wallpaper has gone downhill. Anyway, that’s just my opinion. You can judge for yourself!

Indicators? Yes, those little thingies in the upper right corner of your screen. Some minor changes have been made to those as well.

It all still looks the same as far as I can tell, apart from your name no longer being shown. But when opening the indicator menu’s, we find some changes.

Inside the power indicator, we’ll find a few shortcuts. About This Computer takes you straight to your system information in the Gnome Control Centre, whereas Ubuntu Help brings you to the Ubuntu Desktop Guide. A handy little shortcut for new users. User switching has also been moved to the power indicator.

The messaging indicator is now able to pick up notifications from websites like Reddit (if you allowed Firefox to “install” them). This can be handy, although you still need to go to the website for it to pick up these notifications.

Files, also known as Nautilus, has since long been Ubuntu’s default file manager, and so far it still is.

The dark top bar as we knew it from before has disappeared, to be replaced by the regular window background colour. You’ll also notice that there are barely any buttons left. What’s left are back, next, search, display modes, and a cog button, seperated by a bread crumb (the thing that shows you which folder you are currently looking at). The arrow icon next to the display modes button brings you more display and sorting options, whereas the Elementary style cog button brings you to a menu showing you the options that used to be available in the global menu under File and Edit. Speaking of the global menu, there’s only one actual menu left with a few options like Connect to server, Preferences, New windows and Bookmarks. One minor annoyance I’ve had with it is that I can no longer use the backspace key to go back to the previous folder.

The Dash
Now the first thing that comes to mind is probably Amazon search results! Are they still there? Ubuntu 12.04 introduced Amazon search results being displayed in the Dash This raised much controversy, mainly because of privacy concerns, but also… well… check for yourself.

The good news is that this can now easily turned off under Privacy in the System Settings. What’s not so great is that this also disables every other form of online scopes/lenses.
Apart from that everything that’s really changed seems to be the icons at the bottom of the Dash, and the legal notices in the bottom right corner. Oh, and there’s the gradient at the top of every expander in the Dash.

Software Updater
The Update Manager has been renamed to Software Updater, and now shows the name of the actual applications being updated, rather than package names and descriptions, which could be confusing to new users.

Of course, the software in the repositories has been updated. At the time of writing it contains Firefox 19.0.2, Thunderbird 17.0.3, Rhythmbox 2.98 and all of the Gnome 3.6.3 stuff.
It’s also running version 3.8.0-11 of the Linux kernel.

Performance and stability
I’ve been using the daily builds for a while now, and I must say I’m pleased. I’ve had very little crashes so far, and I’m definitely noticing significant performance increases! You might not notice these performance increases on graphically less powerful systems, though, because of Unity 2D having been ditched. Overall things are running very smoothly for an alpha. For the brave souls who like to use alpha stuff, these are the 2 biggest issues I’ve had so far, and their solutions are below:
1. Where did my sound go?
–  Go to your sound settings, choose a different output device, and switch back to the correct one.
2. After the first Dash search, the system becomes very slow!
– Uninstall the music and video lenses.

In case the provided solutions don’t work, just reboot your system.

What if I want to blow off some Steam?
Need to get rid of some aggression? Don’t worry. Steam will be ready for you with some zombie shooting action when you need it. You might have a bit of a hassle on a multi-monitor setup, though. So I recommend you disable every monitor except your primary one before you try starting a game. With the experimental NVidia drivers gaming performance on Ubuntu has ever been better.

In case I forgot to mention something important, feel free to point it out to me.

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