Ubuntu 19.10 was just released few days ago. The new release comes with some interesting features to talk about, along with great software updates that will enhance your everyday usage.

The new changes include experimental ZFS filesystem support during the installer, turning Chromium browser’s Deb package into a Snap, GNOME 3.34, offline NVIDIA drivers installation and some performance fixes.

In this review, we’ll take a close look at the new release and what Canonical introduced so far.

Ubuntu 19.10 Review

GNOME 3.34

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Ubuntu 19.10

Ubuntu 19.10 comes with the GNOME 3.34 desktop environment, which is the latest stable release. This is not a minor software update, as GNOME 3.34 by itself features a long list of enhancements and improvements. But what catches the eye is how smooth and lag-free GNOME has become in this release comparing to previous releases, thanks to the huge list of performance bugs & issues that were fixed so far.

For example, you no longer feel a “mini-lag” when hitting the applications button and the app drawer starts to appear, you no longer feel a lag when opening the different Shell menus (Calendar menu, system settings menu and other panel applets’ menus). However, this is not to say that the lag is totally gone from GNOME; There are still some mini-lags when opening new windows or closing them, and they appear from time to time. But it’s fair to say that the situation has drastically improved comparing to the previous versions.

The other notable feature about this release is that you can now group apps in a folder by simply dragging and dropping apps icons together:

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Dragging apps to create a folder

And a folder will be automatically created:

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A created “Office” folder

A minor padding bug exists, though, if you try to rename the folder:

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Renaming a folder in GNOME Shell’s app drawer

For a full list of GNOME 3.34 features, check the official release notes.

Experimental ZFS Support

ZFS is a copy-on-write filesystem. It’s designed to prevent data corruption and offers a “snapshot” feature which allows you to rollback your system to an older status in case it breaks, and it offers a lot of other advanced features for storage management. It’s very similar to the well-known Btrfs filesystem in a way.

In Ubuntu 19.10, and during the installer, you now have the ability to use ZFS if you want. It’s still an experimental support, so you shouldn’t use it if you are going to do anything serious on your computer right now:

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ZFS support in Ubiquity

It’s also interesting to note that you can’t manually use specific partitions with ZFS right now, as the installer does not allow you. You have to use the entire disk for the new ZFS installation:

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No ZFS here, though

We do not usually review experimental stuff on the FOSS Post, as things are definitely meant to improve or become worse in the final stable versions. However, you can take a deeper look on ZFS from the Ubuntu’ developers blogs (1, 2), or read more about benchmarks between Ext4 and ZFS.

Installing Chromium From the Repositories Now Installs a Snap Instead

The main change that we do not like about this release is that if you try to install Chromium from the official repositories, you will now be redirected into the Snap package. This means that the chromium-browser package now does not contain Chromium, instead, it contains an installer for the Snap package which will download it automatically instead of the Debian package contents:

mhsabbagh@mhsabbagh-Inspiron-3585:~$ sudo apt install chromium-browser
[sudo] password for mhsabbagh: 
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  chromium-browser
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 11 not upgraded.
Need to get 48,8 kB of archives.
After this operation, 163 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Get:1 http://tr.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu eoan/universe amd64 chromium-browser amd64 77.0.3865.120-0ubuntu1~snap1 [48,8 kB]
Fetched 48,8 kB in 1s (54,8 kB/s)           
Preconfiguring packages ...
Selecting previously unselected package chromium-browser.
(Reading database ... 145080 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../chromium-browser_77.0.3865.120-0ubuntu1~snap1_amd64.deb ...
=> Installing the chromium snap
==> Checking connectivity with the snap store
==> Installing the chromium snap
Warning: /snap/bin was not found in your $PATH. If you've not restarted your
         session since you installed snapd, try doing that. Please see
         https://forum.snapcraft.io/t/9469 for more details.

chromium 77.0.3865.90 from Canonical✓ installed
=> Snap installation complete
Unpacking chromium-browser (77.0.3865.120-0ubuntu1~snap1) ...
Setting up chromium-browser (77.0.3865.120-0ubuntu1~snap1) ...
Processing triggers for mime-support (3.63ubuntu1) ...
Processing triggers for hicolor-icon-theme (0.17-2) ...
Processing triggers for gnome-menus (3.32.0-1ubuntu1) ...
Processing triggers for desktop-file-utils (0.24-1ubuntu1) ...

This is very annoying because from our experiments, it takes around 11 seconds to launch Chromium from the Snap package. Also, this introduces a lot of side bugs and issues. For example, you no longer can import your bookmarks/settings from other web browsers such as Firefox, because the Snap package is sandboxed (It can’t reach the .mozilla folder in your home folder):

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Chromium can’t import bookmarks from Firefox in Ubuntu 19.10

You also no longer can use the extensions.gnome.org website to install GNOME Shell extensions, as your browser can not detect the local connector to the Shell:

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Extensions.gnome.org no longer working in Ubuntu 19.10’s Chromium

Also, while we acknowledge that most users will only need to access their home folders, it’s worthy to mention that you no longer can access system files & folders from inside Chromium (You can’t access anything except your home folder). This means that if you are to upload a file or an image for example into the Internet using an uploading website, then this file/image must be in your home folder, as you can not access directories such as /usr, /etc or other directories located in your root partition. In fact, you no longer can access any other partition at all, this includes USB sticks and other booted partitions:

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Such change can also cause all the users who are upgrading from Ubuntu 19.04 to 19.10 to lose all their passwords in Chromium when upgrading. Per this Launchpad report, you’ll need to run the following command to restore them back:

snap connect chromium:password-manager-service

As of the time of writing this review, there doesn’t seem to be a workaround so that one can use a Debian Chromium package instead of the Snap. Normally we would’ve guided you into the Chromium’s Dev PPA (Which is an official PPA) to install the latest versions of Chromium as a Debian package, but the package is still not available for Ubuntu 19.10 right now, so you may need to wait a few weeks.

Alternatively, you may try Ungoogled Chromium, or grab the Chromium package manually from other Ubuntu versions.

Proprietary NVIDIA Drivers Available Offline

Proprietary NVIDIA drivers are now being shipped inside the Ubuntu 19.10 ISO image. This means that if you have a NVIDIA graphics card and you switched into using the proprietary driver from the Drivers Manager, then you no longer need to download additional packages from the Internet, as those packages are already available in your local installation. They will be just installed immediately when you choose to.

While this change gives a better out-of-the-box experience, it has led into an increased ISO image size by around 100MB (For this change alone). In fact, the Ubuntu ISO image size has been on a steady increase over time. Ubuntu 19.10 comes as a 2.3GB ISO image:

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Updated Software & Appearance

Ubuntu 19.10 uses a white-on-black theme:

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There’s also a dark variant of it:

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And a light one:

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A nice set of Ubuntu wallpapers exist, like any other release:

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Aside from what’s mentioned, Ubuntu 19.10 comes with updated software list. This includes Linux kernel 5.3, Firefox 69, Thunderbird 68, Remmina 1.3.4, Transmission 2.94, LibreOffice 6.3 and Python 3.7. Beside the GNOME stack 3.34 (Some GNOME applications are still not updated, though, such as GNOME Software which is still at 3.30).

Conclusion

So you have seen the most important aspects about Ubuntu 19.10 so far. Unless you are motivated for change, there’s no need right now to upgrade to the new release, as you can wait 6 months till 20.04 gets released, which will be an LTS release supported for 10 years (up to 2030).

However, if you are a GNOME lover and want to enjoy the latest release of it, along many other pieces of software, then it’s perfectly OK to upgrade to the new release as long as you don’t use Chromium as your web browser. For post-installation instructions, review our things to do after installing Ubuntu post.

3 Comments

  1. Lee

    October 22, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    You can install Chromium from ppa:saiarcot895/chromium-beta (or chromium-dev), which has the happy side effect of still being VAAPI-enabled. I believe this was removed from the Ubuntu builds? The only ‘downside’ is the build comes sans Chromium sync keys, if you want that feature. It’s fairly trivial to create one you can keep for life, however, and the PPA and install instructions in the terminal provide details. It’s no more hassle than manually installing CCX extension files in Ungoogled imho.

    Reply

    • M.Hanny Sabbagh

      October 22, 2019 at 6:55 pm

      It’s an unofficial, 3rd-party PPA though.

      Reply

    • The Internet

      October 31, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Who is this guy? Can we trust him?

      Reply

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