Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 'Trusty Tahr', Beta 1 preview: Convergence deferred

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 'Trusty Tahr', Beta 1 preview: Convergence deferred

Summary: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS was to be the first converged desktop/tablet/smartphone release. However, it's shaping up to be more of a typical Long Term Support release, with the emphasis on solid and stable, rather than radical changes.


It's becoming a familiar story for Ubuntu desktop releases. Back in October 2011 Mark Shuttleworth set some ambitious targets for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr, and later announcements indicated that these would be achieved through a fully converged code base, a cross-format UI and the ability to run cross-format apps.

But as the release date approaches, perhaps not unreasonably for an LTS, things have been scaled back. The emphasis now is on reliability, while the company continues to pursue its goals in the mobile and tablet markets on a parallel track. Shuttleworth now estimates that desktop/tablet/smartphone convergence won't be reached until Ubuntu 15.04 or later.

The Ubuntu 14.04 LTS beta desktop. (Image: Terry-Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

The Ubuntu 14.04 desktop, at least in this first beta release, is almost indistinguishable from that of Ubuntu 13.10. One detail that is apparent is an extra network status indicator in the top menu bar: our screenshots show the indicators for a wireless connection; these change to an up arrow/down arrow indicator when a wired connection is in use.

The top menu bar on the Ubuntu 14.04 desktop has two status indicators for wireless networking. One for possible connections and one for the connection in use. (Image: Terry-Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

At least 14.04 LTS will have updated GNOME components, as Canonical has announced that it will ship with GNOME 3.10 packages — the first beta has the updated Nautilus-based file manager, now renamed 'Files'. Also, as with every full step release, Ubuntu 14.04 has a new Linux kernel revision, 3.13, with all the improvements that brings.

The Ubuntu 'Files' file manager, based on Nautilus, is updated to version 3.10. (Image: Terry-Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

Both Mir and Unity 8, (formerly known as Unity Next), are required components for convergence and for Touch apps to run on the desktop. When Canonical's plans for convergence were first announced, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS was to use the Mir display server and the Unity 8 shell. With plans for a fully converged Ubuntu now put back to 15.04 or later, the 14.04 release will be sticking with X window server and Unity 7 for the time being.

Ubuntu 13.10 included a rudimentary preview of Unity 8, and a preview will also be included in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. For this to be installed with the beta release, you need to enable 'Pre-released updates (Trusty proposed)' in the Software & Updates dialogue.

Multi-task filtering by text input

The Unity launcher works well enough for limited application switching, but if you choose to have a large number of application icons pinned to the launcher, and also tend to multi-task with multiple open applications with multiple windows, the Alt-tab-activated application switcher and the spread display are indispensable. If you find even the switcher and spread display not enough, Ubuntu 14.04 adds text-entry filtering. In practice, this feature has been available in the compiz compositing manager for a while, but Ubuntu 14.04 adds it by default.

Text filtering for task selection from the multi-task spread display. (Image: Terry-Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

Whenever an application spread is displayed on the desktop (Superkey+W), typing anything on the keyboard opens the overview text input bar and look-ahead search automatically narrows the spread based on partial or complete words typed into the input bar.

Menus where you want them

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with the application menus set to appear at the top of application windows. (Image: Terry-Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

With the introduction of Unity back in Ubuntu 11.04 (and before that in Ubuntu for netbooks 10.10), Mark Shuttleworth decreed that application menus should appear in the desktop upper menu bar, rather than at the top of each application window. With Ubuntu 14.04, users will at last be able to make a global choice for where menus appear, via the Settings/Appearance dialogue. A new entry in Appearance offers settings for Application Menu either 'In top bar', or 'In window title bars', although this is still a mouse-over-to-reveal behaviour.

Application menus can be set to appear either in the desktop bar, or at the top of application windows, through the Settings/Appearance dialogue. (Image: Terry-Relph-Knight/ZDNet)

What's next?

To date, our test installs of Trusty Tahr on a Dell XPS M1210 laptop have revealed a recurring problem with keyboard and touchpad initialisation. Following boot, the desktop is often left without either keyboard or touchpad input. Although this problem may be limited to only a small and specific group of hardware, hopefully it will receive a fix before the full release.

We will publish further updates with the Final Beta, which is due on 27 March (assuming there is anything of significance to report), and a full review of the final release, which is scheduled for 17 April.

The official release schedule for Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr is available on the Ubuntu website, where you can also find daily build install images. Current images are 'oversized' and will not fit on a CD. Ubuntu 14.04 is still in development and it is not recommended that the betas are used for mission-critical or production tasks.

To update to the beta, hit Alt+F2 to open a run command line and type update-manager -d, or open a terminal and type the same command line (do not close the command line or terminal until the update completes).

Topics: Ubuntu, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Reviews

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Glad they are pulling back a bit

    for a while it looked like Shuttleworth was trying to be the Sinofsky of Linux.
    • Shuttleworth?

      More like the Steve Jobs of Linux. It all started with the "You will use our dock in this specific way!" and the "You will have your menus in the top bar!" proclimations.

      They could do a lot worse than spending some time making the dock usable, and they should kill that stupid menu system thing they have in it. There's nothing worse than typing in the name of an application you want to run (which you know is installed and use regularly) and wait while it displays loads of music you can buy with similar names, and films that might sound like the application, before it even considers bringing up the application for you to load. It should bring the application up FIRST (and ideally ONLY the application) so you can load it. All the other crap it displays should be secondary, and even optional and disabled by default.

      Even just the simple ability to MOVE the dock to another location, or DISABLE it so you can put a better on in its place, would be a HUGE improvement. I mean, if I have another computer to the left of my Ubuntu system and use something like synergy to connect to it the dock becomes the biggest pain in the arse ever. If only I could move it to the right side of the screen it would all be come so much better.

      That's the main reason I choose Gnome 3 over Unity any day...
  • Right Strategy for an LTS version

    Suggestion: Please have a label with Text for the multi-task spread display. What I am trying to request is along with the preview if you could have the title in bold text it would be great. I think I saw something like this using the later versions of GNOME. Thanks.
  • Application menus can finally go back where they belong in Unity!

    Putting the application menus in the top bar was my biggest gripe with Unity, and why I have stuck with using Gnome fall-back (or whatever they're calling the Gnome 2.x emulation now). Maybe Unity will work for me now. Still using 12.04 LTS because I've tired of the tinkering with the interface and settings. Hope they have it right this time. If not, then there's 3 more years of support for 12.04, and another new LTS release due in two years.
    • Now for the buttons

      When will the add a setting in the Options Menu for moving the min/max/close buttons back to the right side of the window?
      • Now for the buttons

        @fwarren here are commands a friend shared with me:
        Make scrollbars normal:
        gsettings set com.canonical.desktop.interface scrollbar-mode normal
        Make window buttons on right:
        gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences button-layout ':minimize,maximize,close'
        • gsettings

          This used to work for 13.10 but doesn't work in 14.4. Maybe the upgrade process messed it up. I'm thinking of undoing the upgrade to get those buttons to the right again.

  • ubuntu & imvu

    Will Ubuntu ever be likely to bring out a version that will allow you to install the imvu client?

    If so when? If not, why not?

    I've installed many versions on my desktop before, but gone back to windows, as none would allow me to install the imvu client.

    Ubuntu should allow you to install EVERYTHING which can be installed on windows, the I & countless others would be able to use it.
    • Really?

      Are you really this dumb or just so inexperienced with Linux to understand? I'm thinking both.
    • You're kidding right?

      1. IMVU is the one that needs to get their software working for other systems.
      2. Do you seriously think that OS developers are supposed to put out versions which duplicate the software compatibility of any arbitrary OS someone chooses?
      3. Do you seriously think that Ubuntu only exists to let you install windows software?
      4. Do you not know that you can put WINE on and get most software working, I haven't investigated IMVU but I'm pretty sure I've seen it on a compatibility list, I use it for Hero Lab myself, but I'm not sure if this IMVU thing is more or less obscure... though to be fair, Hero Lab users tend to be the type that would just make sure a working WINE version exists rather than demand Canonical magic up a solution.
    • Yeah right

      If I buy a car that has a CD player - granted, a really good CD player - and I decide to try putting a DVD into it, do I whinge that the CD player won't play the DVD, or do I try putting the DVD into a DVD player instead?

      Actually, that's not quite right, since Windows software is more like an old casette, and there is an adapter available which lets you connect an old tape player to your car stereo - it's called a personal FM transmitter (or, in Linux terminology, Wine). Yes, it's not a perfect connection - you get interference from other stations (it's horrible having some stupid drum and bass interrupting your favourite country music), but it just about works. That's how it is with Wine. It kind of works, but it's not perfect. It is, however, a way of rounding off the corners of the Windows software square peg so it'll fit better in the Linux round hole.

      Note that you can't do the opposite - i.e., run Linux software in Windows - not without compiling it under Mingw (Minimum Gnu for Windows, or as I prefer to call it "Mingy Windows") or CygWin, so Linux is most definitely one up on Windows there...

      All in all Linux is a far more cross-platform system than Windows (which is probably the least cross-platform platform there is):

      1. Linux can read/write Windows filesystems, Windows can't read/write anything but WIndows filesystems.
      2. Linux can run some Windows software without modification. Windows can't run anything but Windows software.
      3. Linux runs on many forms of hardware. Windows runs on a PC, or on ARM if you have it locked down so it can only ever run Windows (are they paranoid or what?).
  • Still Incomprehensible

    Ubuntu is still incomprehensible to the average Windows non-geek user.
    • Switching geek Windows user (84 years old) from Windows to Ubuntu

      I installed Ubuntu for my dad (had Windows XP on) and he loves that everything starts up quickly, everything works and LibreOffice is simple and has everything he needs.
      Also no problems recognising graphics cards, printers, webcams etc.
      Ubuntu 14.04 is fantastic!
    • I dissagree

      I have found that the overall user experience has been great for everyone I have converted. I also like that I rarely have to spend time downloading OEM drivers. With the exception of HAL and maybe printers, everyone I have set up on Ubuntu loves it. -and most of them are older than 50 years of age. People aren't stupid or averse to change. It's the system, not the people, that needs to change.
    • Progress...?

      Consider what Windows was like 10 years ago. Windows 95 was in beta and on the verge of being released (much like Tahr is now). It was an OK system, but still needed quite a bit of knowledge (and the time to swap 13 floppy disks!) to install and get going right. How much has it really changed in the past 10 years? Yes, it looks a bit better. Yes, it has a more stable and more advanced internals.

      Now consider how much Linux has changed in those same 10 years. Back then the height of sophistication was the FVWM window manager. You needed an advanced degree in brain physics just to turn the computer on, let alone get a graphical interface. Now consider what Tahr is offering in comparison. Ubuntu may not be as dumbed down as Windows 8 is to allow the masses with no ability to do things they shouldn't be doing, but it sure as hell has opened Linux up to a huge number of people that wouldn't be even considering it 10 years back.

      I would say that the Linux/Windows differential is reaching a pivoting point, where the rate of change between the two systems is about to cross as Linux becomes better than Windows and leaves it standing still. It won't be long before Linux becomes the norm and Windows is the realm of the kookie geeks.
      • Do we really need OS anymore?

        Linux may continue improving but age of OS is about to expire. Cloud is on the rise and all we need is a thin client with Citrix installed to do all your computer related tasks. In near future you should be able to by thin clients with Citrix installed or Cromebook like laptops to browse web or connect to Online Applications offered by various product vendors to do all your job.

        Cloud is the new OS of the future.
        • I think not

          That's all very well, but there is one subtle flaw in it.

          No internet = no computer.

          Your internet goes down (maybe because you're in a rural area with a bad connection, or you want to take your laptop away on holiday with you) and suddenly it becomes completely useless. So until there is complete 100% global coverage of free, fast, wireless internet access (i.e., a huge constellation of LEO satellites that are free to use) then what you term operating systems will always be required. However, operating systems will always be required anyway. What is a Chrome Book but a small laptop with a stripped down version of Linux on it anyway? It's still got an operating system - albeit a very cut down one with only one real application (web browser), but it's still an operating system. So is whatever you would be running the Citrix client on.

          So no, operating systems will always be with us, no matter what this months buzz word is.
  • Mir should NOT be released in a LTS release.

    One thing Ubuntu has in common with Windows is the alternating release style (though Microsoft would never admit it).

    Have you ever noticed how in Windows every alternate release is complete rubbish? That's because they use every other release to try out their new ideas, no matter how idiotic they are.

    I mean, look at the actual releases since 95:

    Windows 95 - new technology, pretty ropey.
    Windows 98 - It's Windows 95 but fixed and working.
    Windows ME - The worst Windows system ever, but adopting the NT kernel.
    Windows XP - They finally have the NT kernel based desktop system working right.
    Windows Vista - A new interface style. Really flakey and useless Windows version.
    Windows 7 - They have fixed Vista.
    Windows 8 - Again, a new interface. So bad they had to "undo" it with 8.1.

    By that, Windows 9 should be a working version of Windows 8.

    Ubuntu is very much like that (or should be). The LTS versions are equivalent to Windows 98, XP and 7, where they refine the previous version and make it work well. It's not the time to be introducing new graphics stacks, etc.

    The intervening releases (.10) are the times to experiment - the time to release Windows Vista equivalents. That's the time to play with new ideas, so really they shouldn't be considering rolling out Mir until 14.10 at the earliest, or more realistically 15.10 - certainly not 14.4 LTS or 15.4 LTS. With a change that big you need a few months of it live in the field to iron out the bugs and make it work reliably before you can claim it has Long-Term Support (who knows - it might be a Windows 8 that they'll want to undo for the Long-Term Support).

    So yes, I think they were wrong considering using Mir in an LTS release without first using it in a non-LTS release.
    • It's not possible to fix Windows 8

      It's impossible to fix Windows 8. It's way too broken, in way too many ways. Sure, you can try and slap more lipstick on it, but it's still gonna be a pig.

      To fix Windows 8, you would have to re-write everything. It's broken beyond repair.
  • wi-fi connections

    new to Linux/ubuntu quite impressed, but struggling with wi-fi connections, says it out of range or just wont connect, then it will, have more succsess connecting in pc mode, tham in HDMI mode, have to connect in pc then switch to HDMI. apart from this really impressed, still getting used to it, the first thing that impressed me was the speed of it, will not go back to old os but the internet connection is really buggiing me @ present any ideas anyone?