Ubuntu, as one of the major linux distros out there, still carries on with its 6 month release schedule, and as we’re moving through April, here is version 19.04, codenamed Disco Dingo. Let’s take a tour of what’s new !
The Desktop The Yaru theme itself seems mostly unchanged, with the same classy look and feel, and good mix of colors, from orange to green, with a bit of dark mode here and there. I find that the default ubuntu theme is now modern and usable, and is, IMO, one of the best there is out there. Of course, this is subjective, and the orange might not fit everyone’s tastes.
Ubuntu 19.04 bases itself on GNOME 3.32, with the dash to dock extension by default. They benefit from the performance improvements in gnome shell, which should make animations a lot more reactive and smooth, and fractional scaling can still be applied in wayland sessions if you enable the dconf setting.
Ubuntu also benefits from the app permission control for flatpak apps. In GNOME Software, you can check which permissions a flatpak app will ask for before installing it, and a new “Applications” preference panel in the settings allows you to control these and change them, if any of these are user-modifiable. Non-flatpak apps also get their own page, listing the filetypes they can open, their access to notifications, and the total size they take up on disk. This is a good feature, all in all, and Ubuntu should definitely work to include their snap applications in this same settings panel.
The terminal now uses headerbars, which is nice if you like them, which I do, although Yaru’s handling of tabs don’t really seem to mesh well with this new headerbar.
Ubuntu also benefits from other GNOME 3.32 improvements, such as emoji being included in the on screen keyboard, improved and more legible sound settings, and more options to tweak how night light works, such as selecting the color temperature manually.
Finally, Ubuntu now ships with the desktop icons extension by default. This is great for people who want to use that feature, and while I personally never liked having icons on my desktop, it finally allows Ubuntu to use the latest version of Nautilus, which is a very good thing.
Under the hood
Ubuntu 19.04 ships with the Linux kernel version 5.0, which, as always, should guarantee better hardware support, and additional performance improvements. It mainly adds support for AMD Freesync, and the newer VegaM cards, as well as improved power management. Disco Dingo also uses MESA 19, so AMD users should have the latest graphics stack by default and have as good an experience as possible.
At installation, Nvidia users should also be pretty happy: the option to install third party drivers now includes proprietary Nvidia drivers, which will be picked depending on your graphics card’s model. This will definitely save some time and make using the distro easier out of the box. In terms of applications, Disco Dingo ships Firefox 66, Thnderbird 60.6, Rhythmbox 3.4.3, and Libre Office 6.2.2, so you’ll get the latest and greatest from each application. Ubuntu still ships some of its default applications as snaps, such as the system monitor, and the calculator, and while it’s ok for them to promote their own packaging system, I think using it for these applications, which are pretty simple and don’t require frequent updates, is kinda dumb.
As always, Ubuntu comes in a lot of different variants, or flavors, for those who do not want to use GNOME. You’ll find Kubuntu 19.04, which comes with KDE 5.15 and the KDE Apps 18.12.3, or Ubuntu Budgie 19.04, which is kinda the best distribution to use this desktop environment apart from Solus.
Ubuntu MATE should release on April 18th, and will stick to MATE 1.20 out of the box. 1.22 will land in Ubuntu MATE 19.10, in six months, since it has a few API changes that might break third party applications.
Other variants include Lubuntu, with LXQT, and Xubuntu, with XFCE, but changes seem scarce on these specific desktop environments, which don’t have as many contributors as GNOME and KDE.
Finally, Ubuntu Studio 19.04 will also be released on April 18th, with a new installer for optional features, as well as the addition of Carla 2.0, a plugin bridge allowing windows audio plugins to run on Ubuntu Studio.
And that’s about it ! Ubuntu Disco Dingo is not a feature packed release, although it is, as always, a solid one. The great performance improvements in Gnome Shell that started in 3.30 now give a good experience, with smooth animations and a stable framerate. The return of desktop icons will please some users, even though the feature is not yet 100% complete, and should also allow Ubuntu to move forward without patching older versions of Nautilus.
Ubuntu Disco Dingo is due to release on the 18th of April, and you’ll be able to update directly to it if you were running 18.10.