Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) review: Smart Scopes in, Mir out

Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) review: Smart Scopes in, Mir out

Summary: With the Mir display server failing to make the cut, Ubuntu 13.10, rather than being a stepping-stone on the way to form-factor convergence with 14.04, seems more like an obligatory release.

  • Editors' rating:
  • User rating:


  • Smart Scopes are now implemented
  • New 3.11 kernel
  • Unity 7 interface
  • General bug fixes


  • Mir and xMir dropped
  • Minimal new features

With relatively little that's obviously new, the final release of Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) seems a somewhat obligatory event. Of course it does feature a new revision of the Linux kernel (version 3.11.0-12) and a new revision of Unity. Also, as with every release, a lot of work has been done improving the various modules that make up the operating system, fixing bugs, eliminating vulnerabilities and improving performance. However, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, due for release on 17 April next year, will now perhaps come as even more of a shock if its promised big changes are fully realised.

The Ubuntu 13.10 desktop. (Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

Mir fails to make the cut

Canonical has said that Ubuntu 14.04 and the Unity Next interface, which will support desktop, TV, tablet and smartphone form factors, are dependant on Canonical's new display server, Mir. With this in mind, the Ubuntu developers had hoped to have an early release of Mir running in Ubuntu 13.10 — and indeed it did feature as an option in the beta release, as noted in our Beta 1 preview. Unfortunately, Mir has now been dropped from 13.10 due to technical difficulties and the final release reverts to the X Windows server. Officially this is due to problems with multi-monitor support, but Linux developer Matthew Garrett blogs that, in his opinion, there is rather more to it than that.

Canonical has received quite a bit of criticism for its decision to develop Mir, and Chris Wilson, who oversees Intel's open-source graphics driver development, recently posted the following on freedesktop.org: "We do not condone or support Canonical in the course of action they have chosen, and will not carry XMir patches upstream — The Management".

Visible changes in the desktop

One of the biggest changes in 13.10 is the addition of Smart Scopes (originally intended to debut in 13.04) in the Dash. These greatly extend the range, precision and relevance of searches initiated from the Dash query box. Search filtering is divided into Categories and Sources. When a search term is typed in to Dash, initially Categories and Source are selected automatically, but choices can be further refined by clicking on the individual filter buttons within these groups. A Security & Privacy setting, accessed via System Settings, allows you to switch off online search results if required.

The Dash Home lens with the Filters expanded to show the Smart Scope selection. (Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

As mentioned in our beta 1 preview, the appearance of the Nautilus file manager menus has now been been harmonised with the rest of the desktop theme. Previously these drop-down menus appeared with a stark white background. 

Nautilus drop-down menus are now style-harmonised. (Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

A new icon has also appeared in the status panel for keyboard mapping and input language selection.

The new language icon in the status panel. (Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

Linux 3.11 kernel

Linux 3.11 kernel, only released at the start of September, includes features that can improve performance and lower power consumption. For example Zswap, rather than swapping from RAM to hard disk, instead compresses some swap data and retains it in RAM, on the basis that the performance hit of using CPU cycles to compress and decompress to and from RAM will be less than a swap to and from hard disk. Dynamic power management for AMD's open-source Linux graphics driver is also supported, and there's a low latency polling patch for the network subsystem. More details of the new features in this kernel can be found on the Kernel Newbies site.

Installed applications with 13.10

Despite early plans to adopt Chromium, Firefox 24.0 is still the default browser for Ubuntu 13.10. Other default applications installed with this release include version 24.0 of the Thunderbird email client and the LibreOffice office productivity suite. All of these are revised since the beta release. Also included are Shotwell 0.15.0 (photo manager), Brasero 3.8.0 (CD/DVD burner) and Rhythmbox 2.99.1 (music player).

The Thunderbird email client can be launched from the messaging drop-down menu in Ubuntu 13.10. (Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

The Thunderbird email client does not appear by default on the launcher bar at the left of the desktop, although it can easily be added if required. Instead, it can be launched from the drop-down menu for the messaging icon in the status section, at the right-hand end of the desktop bar.

Although they're not installed by default, GIMP 2.8.6 (bitmap editor) and Inkscape 0.48 (vector editor) are available for installation from the Software Centre.

Ubuntu SDK

The first release of the Ubuntu SDK is also due this month. The SDK provides support for developing Ubuntu applications in QML with plug-ins for the Qt Creator IDE, in HTML5 or in HTML5/Cordova. Canonical says that once Ubuntu becomes converged in 14.04, developers can easily write apps that run across all devices — smartphone, tablet or desktop.

What's next?

We'll report on Ubuntu 14.04 developments as they occur. The first beta of 14.04 is scheduled for 27 March 2014, with the full release due on 17 April — the release schedule is available on the Ubuntu Wiki. Although 14.04 still lacks a codename, this may be resolved at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in November.


There are currently no specifications for this product.


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Topics: Ubuntu, Linux, Operating Systems, Reviews

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  • Ubuntu is awesome


    The fact linux is free is just great and ubuntu is personal favorite
  • Ubuntu is awesome


    The fact linux is free is just great and ubuntu is personal favorite
  • Always liked Ubuntu

    I've always liked Ubuntu and it's always nice to see a British company doing so well. Still looking forward to next April though
  • Quick but good review - but Mir wasn't "dropped", and price? It's free

    Just a quick correction - Mir wasn't "dropped" from 13.10, the decision was not to make it the default. You can still install it from the package repository with a single command, or single select/install action in the software center. Lots of beta testers report that it's working fine for them - though there are edge cases that have rough edges.

    And, price? Can you pay for Ubuntu? Even for servers, I wasn't aware you can pay for the software ... though there are for-cost add-ons (primarily, Landscape, their alternative to Active Directory for managing groups of computers/servers), and services are available.
  • Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) review: Smart Scopes in, Mir out


    Too much time will be spent configuring the system to make the sound work and close the telnet port. Also more time is needed to compile the kernel and apps. Not worth the install, rating it a 1.0.
    • Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) review: Smart Scopes in, Mir out


      Loverock Davidson - Rating 1.0. I have to admit, I read ZDNet largely to see what LD has to say - for comic relief.

      13.10 works great on my Touchpad x220 unless I enable Mir and plug in a second monitor. It was a wise decision to back off on Mir. Better good than fast is a good development rule.
    • RE: Too much time spent configuring the system to make the sound work.

      This isn't Linux in the 90s. What are you configuring? If your sound isn't working, I'll give you a hint. Plug in your speakers.
      Version Dependency
      • LD is the Consummate Microsoft Anti-Google and Linux Troll!


        He's never even attempted to download any Linux distro. Much less, actually learn to use it to have an honest opinion about how good or bad any Linux version is! ....he's simply here to espouse his hatred of all things he's just not only NOT aware of in the first place, but doesn't know anymore about, other than how to spell...... "I Hate Linux"!

        Loverock Davidson is a BIGOT and RABID HATE MONGER TO THE MAX! .......the Ubuntu part is one of the 31 flavors he's heard about and "Plug in your speakers" part? He can't even do that on Windows let alone make his way to Windows Control Panel!

        But he doesn't have to know how to operate or control Windows. That's all done for him by the nurses in his Insane Asylum Home! ;-P ......where Elvis is still alive and Bill Gates comes to give him doggy treats, while they all watch Steve Balmer monkey dance and throw chairs singing Developers... Developers.... Developers..... where the none of them know how to keep the Malware and Virus Bugs away baked into Windows in the first place!
    • Straight forward update from 13.04 to 13.10


      Loverock-Davidson, have you actually installed a version of Ubuntu? It's easier than falling off a log from the LiveCD - just a few mouse clicks and the usual region and language set ups and away you go.

      I don't understand why you are talking about configuring sound and compiling the kernel and apps and closing the telnet port. I've installed Ubuntu on my netbook, 3 laptops and 4 desktops with no bother at all (and definitely no compiling or closing ports) and I'm no IT expert.

      I'm also not sure why you think you should provide a rating when from your post you don't even seem to have installed the OS or tested it.

      By the way, Terry Relph-Knight, in your review you state: "There are currently no prices available for this product."

      Well I think you'll find that the price is available - it's FREE. In my book that makes it spectacular value for money, particularly with all the free apps too. What's more, because it's free I always have the latest version of the OS on all my machines. No paying Microsoft for OS updates from WinXP to Win7 to Win8. I installed Ubuntu on all my XP machines and now they're up to date and run much faster. I have dual boot on my Win 7 machines and Ubuntu runs much faster than Win7 on those machines too.
      David Bird
      • Price


        Actually no I didn't say anything about prices in my review. The Prices comment at the end seems to be a standard part of the review pages format and is tacked on by ZDNet.

        What seems to slow down Windows 7 a lot is the dreadful Aero. If I remember correctly in Vista there was a specific setting to turn it off, but in 7 it is an almost hidden option - you have to choose a particular desktop theme.

        Loverock adds the same comment to any and every review of Ubuntu. I agree, must be a Microsoft comment bot. You would think the text of this knee jerk response might at least be updated to reflect the actual reality of a current Ubuntu install. But then I suppose there would be nothing to criticise.
    • Re: time is needed to compile the kernel and apps.

      Note to Microsoft: Please re-compile the LoveRock Bot to this century, he is still suffering from the Y2K bug. Surely you still support his kernel and apps.
    • Loverock-Davidson, WHAT???


      I have been using Ubuntu for many years and have NEVER needed to compile anything. Sound just works, so no messing there either. You seriously have not tried it. Just another anti-linux troll. Sad really. Linux is more secure than the Windows you mosy likely have installed.
    • You have nothing new to say......

      Same post everytime. My (humble) suggestion-stop trying to compile something that's already compiled and worked great and closing a telnet port port that isn't open and just use the software. Then again, you may have the aliens from Roswell calling you everyday asking when is the best time to take you with them
  • Try it first


    You didn't mention much about the speed improvements. A test on identical machines would be nice...

    Too much ink has been spilled in hatred of the Dash. It takes a while getting used to it, and you either like it or you don't. If not, there's Cinnamon, Gnome, E17, XFCE, LXDE, KDE, just slap 'em on and log out then in.
    • Re: Try it first

      It's not even clear from if the author even installed Ubuntu 13.10 before he wrote this review. I also noticed there was no mention of Ubuntu 13.10 server or phone/tablet, as both were also released today.

      I would have to rate this review (for lack of a better term) a 2.0 at best.
      • RE: Not even clear from if the author even installed Ubuntu

        Pretty obvious the author has no clue what Ubuntu is...when he writes that there is no pricing information available. The ubuntu.com homepage is titled "the world's most popular FREE operating system." Heck, if you installed it then you had to download the ISO. Did the author not notice it was a free download?
        Version Dependency
      • Price and installation


        Sigh! I repeat, THE PRICING COMMENT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE REVIEW IS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, THE REVIEWER. It is a default comment added by ZDNet.
        And yes of course I installed 13.10 (several times on several machines), look at the review, I prepared all of the screen shots. I have been using Ubuntu as my main OS for many years. And as far as speed improvement goes I can't say I have noticed any massive boost since 13.04, which is certainly quite responsive. I will think about adding benchmark tests to my reviews in the future.
  • Incredible speed improvements.


    Been using Unity since 11.04 (since the alpha!) so I don't mind it...in fact, I've grown so used to it that it's painful to use another desktop environment. But in it's early days, it was slooooooow. With 12.04 it got reasonably stable. With the last two releases, Unity simply flies. I'm glad that they spent less time on adding features and worked on making what they already have work.
    Version Dependency
  • Chromium


    I bet the reason Chromium isn't the default browser is due to the fact that it doesn't work in a guest account.
  • Any upgrade issues?


    Has anyone experienced any downside after upgrading (or attempting to upgrade) from 13.04 to 13.10 using Software Updater?