Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander), Beta 1 preview: Mir, Unity 7, kernel 3.11

Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander), Beta 1 preview: Mir, Unity 7, kernel 3.11

Summary: The most significant aspect of Ubuntu 13.10 (codenamed Saucy Salamander) is the first release of Mir, Canonical's next-generation display server, which replaces X Windows. Saucy Salamander also features Unity 7 and Linux kernel 3.11.

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Interest that would be normally be mounting in anticipation of the next revision of the Ubuntu desktop has been somewhat overshadowed by the Ubuntu Edge superphone project. As a result, we've seen little news about, or indication of significant changes for, Ubuntu 13.10 (codenamed Saucy Salamander), which is due for final release in October.

u1310-desktop
The Ubuntu 13.10 Beta 1 desktop, which looks a great deal like the 13.04 desktop. (Images: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) was a solid but unspectacular release, and 13.10 is shaping up to be more of the same. Perhaps Canonical's goal of reaching convergence in 14.04 is such a challenge that any changes in 13.10 are restricted to those that will help it get there.

Mir and XMir: next-generation display server

The biggest change for Ubuntu 13.10 is the appearance of Mir — Ubuntu's next-generation display server and replacement for X Windows — and XMir (an implementation of X running on Mir). Graphics cards lacking Mir-compliant drivers will fall back to XMir — a fallback that will not be retained in 14.04, according to Ubuntu. A constantly updated page on the Ubuntu Wiki lists graphics cards that are currently Mir compliant.

It's likely that getting Mir developed and running — a necessary step to eventually support Unity Next/Unity 8 and vital to the convergence plans — has been a massive undertaking for the Ubuntu developers. If Mir is the only big new change in the final release of Ubuntu 13.10, it still seems like a significant step forward. Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager, notes in his blog that Mir is not turned on by default in the development versions of 13.10.

u1310-one
The install process for 13.10 now includes a configuration screen for Ubuntu One.

Unity 7 and 8

Ubuntu 13.10 features Unity 7, while Smart Scopes — the feature dropped from 13.04 — are scheduled to return. A selection of scopes will ship with the release, but Ubuntu says that, at least for 13.10, you won't be able to add new ones from the Software Centre.

The Unity 7 Dash click behaviour for applications has now been refined so that a left click will launch the app rather than opening a preview. Application previews can still be opened with a right click, while the preview still displays a Launch button.

Unity 8 (aka. Unity Next), which will be the shell for the fully converged 14.04, can be installed on 13.10, but it's an early alpha preview version — a demo that doesn't replace Unity 7, and is far from complete on the desktop. Even so, it closely resembles the Unity shell running on Ubuntu Touch Preview and as convergence approaches, even the name, Unity, assumes a greater significance.

u1304-dash-search
Top: a search for 'hats' in the Ubuntu 13.04 Dash Home lens, which does not offer filter options. Above: the same search in Ubuntu 13.10's Unity 7 with Smart Scope filtering.
u1310-unity8-app
A preview of the Unity 8 demo Applications Home screen.

Phased updates

Ubuntu is changing to phased updates: rather than roll out updates to all users at once, updates will only be applied to a preset portion of the user base; if there are no problems, the updates will be offered to further users, and the process repeated until everyone has the updates. If problems are reported, then updates are held until they are resolved. Users of Ubuntu 13.04 are already receiving phased updates and this will continue through 13.10 and beyond. Ubuntu developer Brian Murray explains the process in more detail on his blog.

Cosmetic changes

u1310-nautilus
The Nautilus location options pull-down for Ubuntu 13.04 (left) compared to the same pull-down in 13.10 with corrected colour themes (right).

The look of several GNOME utilities, including the Nautilus file manager and System Settings, has been improved with a fix to the toolbar colour themes.

Software shipping with the 13.10 beta

There were early plans to change to Chromium as the default browser for 13.10, but a number of issues have ensured that, for now, Firefox has been retained.

The 13.10 beta ships with the LibreOffice 4.1.1.2 office suite, Firefox 23.0 browser, Thunderbird 17.08 email client and Linux Kernel 3.11.0.4 (type 'uname -r' in a terminal window and hit return to see the Linux Kernel version). Ubuntu 13.04 is currently running kernel version 3.8.0-27.

What's next?

u1310-salamander

The Final Beta is due on 26 September, which we will report if there's anything of significance to add; a full review of the final version will follow shortly after its 17 October release. The official release schedule for Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) is available here.

Daily build install images can be found here — note that current images are 'oversized' and will not fit on a CD. Ubuntu 13.10 is still in development and the betas are not recommended for production or mission-critical tasks.

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Reviews

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31 comments
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  • Re: Unity 7 and 8. More of the same....

    Despite users voicing their opinions on the unpopularity of Unity Canonical stick with it. Sounds a little too much like Microsoft to me.
    5735guy
    • correction ^

      Canonical *stuck* with unity a log time ago and yes many people did complain. Users however seem to be OK with the current implementation so your complaint is a little dated but I understand where you are coming from. On that note Canonical is currently rewriting the entire unity experience in the form of unity next/unity 8 (I believe its to be implemented in 14.10 for the desktop) there is allot of anxiety as to how this drastic change will turn out however it also shows that Canonical IS NOT sticking to the unity you hate so much so maybe they are listening. Though it has allot to do with building the convergent phones and tablets UI as it does people not liking unity i'd imagine.
      gregshw
      • "but I understand where you are coming from"

        -- I believe, he is a troll.
        ac1234555
        • me a troll? or was it the other guy?

          I was trying to be respectfull I to had a rough time with the early builds of unity so I understand that one would be upset that they kept it for so long when it had such bad feedback. I wasn't trolling and I don't believe he was either.
          I missed his title when I wrote the first comment though I'd like a explanation as to how unity seven and eight could be the same thing ... They are written in diferant languages pretty sure..
          gregshw
          • I believe, 5735guy is a troll.

            nt
            ac1234555
      • They are not "Okay"

        I moved to Manjaro Linux because the Ubuntu kernel has become extremely bloated and Unity is a pain! However it's Linux. You can install GNOME 3, Xfce, Openbox, Lxde if you want.
        Unbiased4You
        • another manjaro fan

          I also switched to Manjaro. I wanted the rolling release because I no longer enjoy reloading my machine every six months.
          revspaminator
    • No Idea Have You

      All the other UIs run on top of that crappy crashing X Window. Years ago I tried using Linux as my main OS, all different brands such as SUSE, Red Hat, Mandriva etc. and with Gnome and KDE UIs. The developers haven't a clue what the regular user wants. An OS "That just works", and that is not what any of these gave me. Finding video drivers, and printer drivers and wireless drivers to install after the fact. And if I was lucky enough to search the web and find them, the next update of KDE or Gnome would break them again. Had to live with constant regression.

      Ubuntu is trying to get away from all these developers that only develop for themselves, and expect every user to be a coder geek. Ubuntu is developing for those who want an OS to "just work" out of the box.
      bigpicture
      • Linux Is Not OS X...

        Nor should it be. If you aren't willing to learn something then use a product that does the work for you. And BTW, I've had more Win 7 crashes in the last 3 months than X problems in the last 5 years.
        revspaminator
      • Get On Board!!

        Everything you just described in your comment may have been true perhaps 5 years ago but a lot has changed. One of the best things about Linux is that it lets the user be in control. If people are too lazy to learn some simple typing commands to help make their user experience better then I guess that is their problem. Out of the Box you say? You speak as if maybe everything works perfectly on your Windows machine. Plug and Pay is so flawless I know. Sad part is most people can't even use the OS for dummies without getting lost. Yet they are expecting Linux to be easier.
        Nathan Bravatto
    • correction 2

      Ever heard of Kubuntu, Xubuntu, or Lubuntu? They arent forcing anything on you.
      rolltide101x
    • Alt Distros

      There are distros based on Ubuntu that use different desktop enviroments.

      Kubuntu = KDE
      Xubuntu = XFCE
      Lubuntu = (I forgot)
      Many, many more.

      If you don't want to install a new distro based on Ubuntu, just install a new DE.
      Jadon Levesque
  • Why is the world moving to flat & mono-color icons???

    I think Unity 7 looks nicer that Unity 8, if Unity 8 is going to have all these flat & mono-color icons.

    I hope there will be a choice to switch to good ol' "Classic" icons!

    I feel the message from Windows 8 is don't thrust change!!!
    IndianArt
    • those are dash plugins

      With the arrival of smart scopes its important to be able to identify if your looking for a apps scope or the update icon (poor example but I try). Anyways the gist of what I am saying is that the flat icons pertain to the dash itself your applications seem to appear as usual.
      gregshw
  • Constant OS upgrades are a pain

    Ubuntu is strange. If you want the latest and greatest versions of your applications you have to upgrade the whole OS. What if your graphics card won't support the newest version of the OS? Are you then stuck with old versions of your applications? I'm not trolling for Windows, but it seems that the Windows strategy is better. I can run Word 2010 on Windows XP if I want.

    Am I missing something here? Can I upgrade applications in old versions of Ubuntu without installing a whole new version of the OS?
    bmeacham989
    • Don't you mean having to upgrade at all is a pain?

      I would far rather upgrade / update on Ubuntu than Windows. These processes are far faster and less obtrusive than they are in Windows. In Windows the OS and the apps updates are not integrated. Every time I boot Windows I get dozens of update messages in different windows then I get numerous updates running (slowly) and stepping on each other. Then I always have to reboot and Windows tells me it is installing the updates when I thought it had already done so. Then when I restart it sits there saying it is configuring new updates ..... It is infuriating!!

      Anyway I digress - Yes you can certainly try installing the latest version of, for example LibreOffice, on an old version of Ubuntu but it may not work. The Ubuntu developers spend time on each version packaging up the distribution with the versions of the main applications that are current at the time, making sure that everything works properly on that version. There is nothing very strange about that and of course it won't cost you anything like as much to install and run the latest Ubuntu and apps as it will if you go the Microsoft route.

      If you limit developers to making sure that today’s applications run on old operating systems then either you stop the applications from using features that may be found on new OS at all or you have the developers spend a lot of time making sure that these features degrade gracefully depending on the vintage of OS.
      terryaaa8
    • Re: Constant OS upgrades are a pain

      Hi bmeachamp98

      A direct comparison with Microsoft product is not so relevant. Windows is releasing a new version of its system irregularly. With a 6 months short term release and yearly long term release, Ubuntu still offer you to run more recent application than the ones you are referring to (XP is now 10 years old and the MS Word 2010 is... 3 years old, if I am not mistaken).

      This policy ensure that the applications proposed by default are stable and secure. Moreover, some kind of applications like the internet ones (i.e. Firefox) need to be in line with the Internet non-stop innovations and therefore, Canonical updates them without waiting for the next Ubuntu release.

      This being said, for many applications, there are specific ppa servers that allow you to install more recent versions easily if you need so (for example for LibreOffice: http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2011/01/new-ppa-makes-installing-libreoffice-on-ubuntu-easy). And if you really want the last-last version, you can download the deb file from the application website (or compile the sources...).

      The title of your post indicates that you are annoyed to have to update Ubuntu so often, with the risk of facing incompatibility issues. Beside that I rather expect new Ubuntu versions to bring better hardware support, not the opposite, there are backport solution of this, should it happen.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Pierre
      vmalep
    • Not a pain

      Regular 6-month upgrades are light, retain compatibility, gain hardware compatibility, and solve version fragmentation. They're easy to install and inform & back-up advanced modifications before overwriting them.
      snadrus
    • Constant Reloads Are The Pain

      Ubuntu's upgrade process is rarely clean and usually leaves me digging through forums to get everything working again. I won't even waste my time talking about Windows upgrades or my low opinion of the NT kernel. I switched to a distro with a rolling release and I'm very happy so far.
      revspaminator
      • Compared to Windows Ubuntu update pain is minimal

        While I would agree that the frequency of updates for modern operating systems can be annoying, as I said previously, I find the process of applying them with Ubuntu is relatively easy.

        My recent experience is that the updates for each Ubuntu release very rarely break anything and if they do a new update is available to fix things within a very short space of time.
        Upgrading to a new release of Ubuntu can be more problematic but in general I have found Ubuntu to be a very stable and powerful operating system, far more so than Windows.

        Apart from the horrible update mechanisms in Windows, with Ubuntu, at least for the moment, I don't need to run various bits of background software, soaking up CPU cycles and disk access and generally getting in the way, to protect myself against malware and slap band aids on Windows as it gradually falls apart under normal use.
        terryaaa8