Shuttleworth sees the Linux desktop living on with Ubuntu 19.10

It may never be as big as Windows, but Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth still sees a bright future for the Linux desktop.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Canonical has just released Ubuntu Linux 19.10, Eoan Ermine. Like most modern Linux distributions, it comes with many improvements aimed at delivering enterprise services for the cloud and Kubernetes container orchestration. But Ubuntu hasn't turned its back on the Linux desktop. 

In an interview, Canonical CEO and founder Mark Shuttleworth explained: "We never got the desktop into the consumer space. We're still happy to give developers and system admins a platform. We're still passionate about the Linux desktop."

While GNOME is now Ubuntu's default desktop interface, he continued: "We offer a selection of desktops. We want to deliver the best desktop regardless of which Linux desktop interface users decide is right for them."

To help make that happen, Canonical will have some of its developers at the forthcoming  Linux App Summit (LAS) 2019 meeting. This is a get-together of the leading GNOME and KDE desktop developers

"I don't have any particular goal in mind for this meeting," said Shuttleworth. "I want to help create an outlet for the actual desktop work. We want the desktop to be delivered reliably and make it easier for people to consume while staying secure." And finally, with Ubuntu, we want to "connect the dots between creators and end-users," he said.

As for today's latest and greatest Ubuntu release, Canonical claimed that, with GNOME 3.34, Ubuntu 19.10 is the fastest release yet. Even with older hardware, you should see significant performance improvements.  

In my first look, on my antique 2008 Gateway DX4710 -- with its 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor, 6GB of RAM, and Intel GMA 3100 graphics -- it certainly delivered. While I can't recommend you use a 10-year old desktop for your daily work, my dusty Gateway was lively with the new Ubuntu running under the hood. 

It didn't matter much on my old PC, but gamers will be delighted with Ubuntu 19.10 built-in NVIDIA drivers. Canonical also recently agreed to continue to support the 32-bit libraries gamers need to play Steam games

At its heart, Ubuntu 19.10 uses the 5.3 Linux kernel. This update comes with support for the AMD Navi GPUs and Zhaoxin x86 processors.

The new GNOME also lets you organize programs by dragging and dropping icons into categorized folders. It also has a new "night" mode with the dark Yaru theme variant.

Another interesting feature is this latest Ubuntu comes with native support for ZFS on the root partition as an experimental desktop installer option. ZFS is a combined scalable file system and logical volume manager. Usually, ZFS is used on servers because you can use it to create and use file system, which spans drives. It also has other features, such as copy on write and snapshots that enable you to restore deleted files and directories -- which could otherwise be lost forever to one mistaken "rim" command. 

ZFS is an old file system. It was created by Sun in 2001 and open-sourced as part of OpenSolaris under the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). Unfortunately, this license isn't compatible with Linux's GPLv2. Canonical's way around this was to build ZFS as a self-contained file system module: zfs.ko. This, argued Canonical and other leading open-source attorney Eben Moglen, means you can use Linux and ZFS together. Others, notably the Software Freedom Conservancy, say you still can't legally combine the operating system and this file system.

Be that as it may, Ubuntu has supported ZFS since Ubuntu 15.10 was released. The difference now is that, for the first time, Canonical has made ZFS an official option on the Linux desktop. I am not a lawyer, but I think ZFS's advantages are sufficient that I plan on making it my default Linux desktop file system. 

For now, Mint remains my favorite Linux desktop, but I will be taking a long, hard look at Ubuntu 19.10. It's looking mighty nice. Canonical said it's "still delivering the most usable Linux desktop." They may be right. 

You can download Ubuntu 19.10 today and decide for yourself. 

Related Stories:

Editorial standards