The Ubuntu 14.10 Upgrade: What to do

The Ubuntu 14.10 Release October 23, 2014

Ubuntu 14.10 will be released shortly and I know you are chomping at the bit and want to know all about it.

There is some important news, for some, and there is some exciting news for others, and there is some boring news, and frankly, some bad news.

Before diving into the shallow pool of Ubuntu 14.10 (shallow in a good way) I want to go over some other ground first. I want to address this question:

“I have installed Linux and I don’t like the default desktop. How do I change that without ruining stuff?”

If you are a long time Linux user you know the answer has two parts. First, “Oh, hey, don’t worry, this is why Linux is so great!” and second, something like “sudo apt-get install yadayada, then log out and then log back in again with your new desktop” where “yadayada” is the new desktop. Easy peasy.”

Now, let is rephrase the question, and in so doing reveal the bad news.

“I have installed Ubuntu 14.04 and I don’t like the default desktop. How do I change that to gnome?”

The answer to the question is actually pretty simple, but has a very different form that I find deeply disturbing. Again, there are two parts. First, “Well, Ubuntu comes default with Unity, and Ubuntu with Unity and some other stuff under the hood does not actually allow you to just swap around desktops like you could in the old days without messing around a lot and depending on exactly how good the information you get on this is, and which desktop you replace Unity and all that with, you will probably break something.” Putting this another way, Ubuntu has broken one of the most important features of Linux, one of the features that makes Linux cool, and in so doing, Ubuntu has made Linux more like Windows. Ubuntu/Unity/Etc as a “distribution” is now vertically integrated across the usual layers to the extent that it is either take it or leave it (I oversimplify but not by much).

And of course, you can leave it. That is the second part of the answer. “You will need to essentially replace your current distro with another distro.”

How to replace Unity with Gnome on Ubuntu

There is a tool to do this, available from Ubuntu. This is actually a pretty amazing tool. It allows you to take a current distribution of Ubuntu and convert it to a different flavor. Ubuntu comes in many flavors. The default is with Unity and it is a desktop environment designed for the average user. Then there are alternatives that have either different desktops or that serve very different purposes, and mixing and matching is allowed to some extent. For example, Ubuntu can be a basic server, or a web server (called a LAMP server), or a mail server (or all three) perhaps without any desktop at all. Or, you can pick any of several distinct desktops like Kubuntu (uses KDE, which a lot of people like) or XFCE, which is what Linus Torvalds and I use, or Gnome 3, and so on.

The tool is called tasksel

You install and run tasksel (sudo apt update; sudo apt upgrade; sudo apt install tasksel; sudo tasksel) and you get a thingie that lets you pick a “Package Configuration,” which looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 11.46.51 AM

You then very carefully follow the instructions or you will ruin everything! But if you do it right, it should very cleanly remove Ubuntu’s default desktop and install Gnome 3 or whatever. HERE are the instructions and HERE is an excellent episode of the Linux Action Show that goes into detail.

Important additional information: First, this information is current in early October 2014. If you are reading this much later than that, re-research because things may change. Second, it is not perfectly true that Ubuntu does not let you install new desktops and use them. It is true, however, that this is not seamless, harmless, or even recommended. A clue to the seriousness of this is that if you use tasksel to remove Unity and install Gnome 3, you can’t then install Unity because Unity will not cohabit with the version of Gnome you’ve installed. There is too much stuff in the middle that does not work right.

I have installed multiple desktops on top of Ubuntu 14.04, including Mate, Gnome 3 and Gnome Panel. It was the first time for me that playing with desktops broke my system and I’ve been using Linux (and Ubuntu) for a long time, and I mess around with desktop a lot. This is the new normal (for Ubuntu). You will see instructions on what you need to do to switch around desktops on Ubuntu, but frankly, that boat may have sailed other than the use of extreme measures such as tasksel.

I will give you a recommendation below if you are confused or uncertain about what form of Linux you might want to install, based on my own experiences.

Now, back to what you need to know about Ubuntu 14.10.

The first thing you need to know is that Ubuntu 14.10 is almost exactly like 14.04. There are virtually no visible meaningful differences as far as I can tell. So if you are using Ubuntu and are sticking with Ubuntu, don’t expect pretty fireworks. This will not be an exciting upgrade.

Second, 14.10 has an updated version of the kernel, the deep guts of the operating system, and this is important. It is good to have a current kernel. Also, this kernel has some important new hardware support. Some Dell laptops have the ability to turn off your hard drive if it feels itself falling, so the drive is not running when your laptop hits the ground. The new kernel actually supports this feature so if you have a newer Dell laptop, you might want that. There is some improvement in the handling of Dell touchpads as well. The point is, you should absolutely upgrade to 14.10 for a number of unexciting but still potentially important reasons.

Want a better desktop, mate?

No, we are not in Australia. The third item is the big exciting news. If you think Unity sucks, and you liked the old fashioned Gnome desktop (back in the days of Gnome 2.0) you will find this cool. Gnome 2.0 was the best Linux desktop for most purposes, in my opinion. With the new approaches taken by both Unity and Gnome 3, and since forever with KDE, I get the sense that the purpose of the computer is to have a cool desktop. For me, the purpose of my computer is to run certain software and manage files. The purpose of the desktop is to facilitate that, ideally in a way that allows me some customization, but that stays consistent over time so an upgrade does not break my workflow or force me to relearn how to use the hardware, and often, that means just staying out of the way. For me, Gnome 2.0 was the sweet spot in meeting those requirements.

But Gnome has moved on. The current thing that looks and acts like Gnome 2 is called Gnome Panel. It kinda works but it has problems, especially (in my experience) on a laptop. It is not being kept up like it should be to be a current usable desktop. So, sadly, Gnome is no longer recommended for those who liked traditional Gnome. This not to say that Gnome 3 (or for that matter Unity) aren’t great. But they aren’t. Just sayin’

But then there is mate.

Mate is a fork of Gnome that intends to maintain Gnome 2 coolness. It has been around for a while now. It has been updated regularly, and the tradition seems to be to come up with the newest version of the mate desktop in sync with Ubuntu’s release schedule. I’ve tried mate a few times, and I’ve had mixed experiences with it, but in the end it is probably the desktop you want to install if you want Gnome 2-osity on any form of Linux.

This is a bit confusing unless you are already used to concepts like the difference between the terms “desktop,” “desktop,” “desktop,” and “desktop.” Mate is a desktop. Most desktops come along with software that is not strictly desktop but works with the desktop. There are two ways to get many (but not all) desktops. One is to install a “distribution” that uses that desktop, like installing Kubnutu to get the KDE desktop. The other way is to have some normal form of Linux on your computer, then you install the desktop onto that and later, you can chose to log into the newly installed desktop, or some other desktop that happens to be on your system.

Mate was available as an Unofficial Ubuntu Desktop. This means that the mate people would take the guts of a current Ubuntu distribution, and replace various parts with other parts so when you download and install the unofficial Ubuntu mate desktop you get Ubuntu with mate as your desktop.

Now, after a period of regular development, mate is an official flavor of Ubuntu. This means that you can do exactly what you could do before, install Ubuntu with mate instead of Unity or KDE or whatever. But it probably has other implications. I assume that being an official desktop enhances the degree to with an Ubuntu Mate distribution will install cleanly and function well.

It does not exist yet. I understand Ubuntu Mate as such will be released on October 23rd, the same day as Ubuntu. And it comes at a time when Ubuntu continues in the process of seriously downplaying the non-Unity desktops. If you go to the Ubuntu site and see what is there and download and install it, you can be forgiven for not ever knowing that you could have installed Edubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Mythbuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, UbuntyKylin, Ubuntu Studio or Xubuntu. You have to dig through a couple of layers of the site and then you get to a scary page that most people will think is just for techies. In the old days, Ubuntu highlighted the diverse alternatives. Now, the bury them. That concerns me.

What you should do instead of automatically installing Ubuntu

There are a lot of Linux distributions out there, and you are of course free to mess around with them. But I’m happy to give you my current advice (subject to change frequently!) about what you might consider doing.

A given Linux distribution, which includes its own distribution materials, may or may not work fully and easily on a given piece of hardware. Considering that when you are looking at or working in a browser or your favorite text editor, the system you are using isn’t that important most of the time, the ease and seamlessness of the installation is really one of the most important features of a distribution. It is my belief based on recent experience messing around with installing several different distributions on five different computers (four laptops, one desktop) that Ubuntu, in one form or another, will generally install the easiest. This includes getting the install medium, doing the installation, and getting help when something goes wrong.

Having said that, installing debian, a traditional well developed form of Linux, on which Ubuntu is based (as are many other distros and most installations worldwide, I think) is pretty easy. Having said that, I quickly add that you probably really want to install one of the “extras” versions of debian, which includes “non free” material and is stored in a scary place and not so well documented.

So, my first piece of advice is this. Get two sets of installation media (this is not hard). One for Ubuntu, the other for debian. Try to install debian. If you run into trouble, switch to Ubuntu. You’ll get the job done. The installation process is not too time consuming or difficult, so this is not a big deal.

My second piece of advice is to figure out what desktop you like. If you actually like Unity, then by all means go over to the dark side and install default Ubuntu. Have a nice time communing with the devil. See you on Halloween!

But if you prefer a different desktop, like Gnome 3 or whatever, then follow my first piece of advice, trying debian than Ubuntu. If debian installs well, then go to town installing your preferred desktop if it wasn’t the default during your install. If debian does not work, then pick the flavor of Ubuntu that has your preferred desktop.

My third piece of advice I’m giving with an important caveat. The caveat is that I’ve not tried this yet so I have no business telling you to do it. But I am going to try this and I think it might be cool. If a Gnome 2 style desktop is your preference, then either install debian and then install mate on top of that, or install Ubuntu Mate 14.10 when it comes out. Just for fun. It might work great.

My fourth piece of advice is this. If you like the Gnome 2.0 desktop and you want to use a well tested and tried interface, consider using XFCE instead. XFCE is quite like Gnome 2 in many ways, but even less in your face. You could install Xubuntu, the Ubuntu flavor with XFCE as the default (or if you have Ubuntu Unity maybe you can use tasksel to switch, depending on things I don’t want to advice you on). Or, and this is probably the ultimate solution, you can instal debian with XFCE. Which, tellingly, is the default desktop for the canonical Linux distribution that is not Canonical. (See what I did there?@?)

And remember, there are only two things you need to keep your eye on. First, you need a computer that will run your software, and pretty much all of these solutions should do that equally well; the only difficulty here is the match between the distro and the hardware, and for a desktop computer, any Linux flavor with any desktop will probably work so you won’t be pounding your desktop in frustration. For laptops you may want to be more conservative and go with the herd (Ubuntu). Second, whatever you do, have fun. And there is nothing in the world more fun than repeatedly reinstalling your operating system, right????


  1. #1 Peter Smith
    October 4, 2014

    Great article. I look forward to 14.10
    I have one important thing to add. Use partclone to back up your partitions first. It really does work and has saved my life.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    October 4, 2014

    I have never used that. I’ll have to give it a try.

  3. #3 joncr
    October 4, 2014

    tasksel is a venerable Debian tool that’s been around for umpteen years and seems to be getting a bit of exposure recently.

    Adding another desktop environment to Ubuntu, or any other distribution, as long as you know the names of the correct packages to install, either from the command line or from a GUI tool like Synaptic or Muon. (I saw a post on Ubuntu’s forum from someone who tried to install Gnome with “sudo apt-get gnome*”. That resolves to every package that began with “gnome”. Not what he wanted.)

    The catch, though, is many people want to remove what they’ve installed if they don’t like it. Since desktops are large and complex, and typically install many dozens if not hundreds of packages and dependencies (a full KDE install on Ubuntu amounts to just about one gig’s worth), cleanly removing all that stuff without breakage is difficult. For that, I’d use tasksel, and still cross my fingers.

    The best and safest way to see if you like a different interface is to boot a live image and play with it.

  4. #4 Brainstorms
    October 4, 2014

    Thanks, Peter, for the tip about ‘partclone’!

    Some of my own personal experiences (and I have a LOT of installation experience) and considerations on the subject:

    If 14.10 is not significantly different from 14.04, most will benefit from staying with 14.04, since its focus is stability and reliability. 14.04 is currently at maintenance level 14.04.1, and when 14.04.2 comes out, it likely will include the kernel of 14.10. (They switched to including kernel updates with package updates for the LTS versions since 12.04.3.)

    The easiest way to get the desktop you want is to install that flavor of Ubuntu with that desktop (i.e., Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc.). The next easiest way is to install Ubuntu Server edition, then install the desktop you want. (Google will find detailed instructions for you on how to do this; it’s simple.)

    Per my experience, you are probably better served by making a clean installation of any edition/version of Ubuntu, rather than performing an “in situ” upgrade. Yes, you’ll have to re-install applications and configure them, but you won’t have any upgrade issues (and I’m tired of dealing with upgrade issues, which inevitably is followed by the eventual re-install from scratch anyway). This is HUGELY helped by putting your ‘/home’ directory on a separate partition to protect it when changing to a new/different install. Again, Google for detailed instructions on how to do this. (It’s easy to set up this way if you start with the Server Edition when installing.)

    Given the above, I would think twice about converting a given desktop with ‘tasksel’. Especially with the caveat that Greg gives. Better to just make a new install from scratch — unless you like challenges and “adventures” with making your computer work properly. I do not. (I “experiment” with these things in a virtual machine, though — but not with my “daily user”.)

    For those who like GNOME 2, an attractive alternative to Mate is Cinnamon. However, Cinnamon is not ‘official’ yet. (Right: Google for instructions…) LinuxMint, which is Ubuntu with a few more consumer-oriented niceties added by default, offers both a Mate and a Cinnamon version “out of the box”. Both come in bootable DVD images; test-drive them both…

    I used to install Ubuntu (which installs Unity by default), then I would install GNOME 3 (“Gnome Shell”) and use that. Nice desktop, but then it became too problematic to get it to install and work properly, so in my disappointment I stopped installing and decided to learn to use Unity. (The Gnome edition of Ubuntu turned me off; it doesn’t seem the same to me for some reason.)

    Now I find Unity to be an adequately useful and usable desktop. I don’t think it’s helpful to describe it as “the dark side”, etc., even if only tongue-in-cheek… Everyone has preferences, and I know Greg does not like what Canonical has been doing, but for most people it will be easy to use and serve their purposes fine. And, as with everything software, it’s evolving and this will be a moot point in, say, a year.

    Do a “test drive” before you install if you’re unsure about your hardware support. Ubuntu’s “Desktop” DVDs are what they call “Live” disks. I.e., you can boot the DVD and run Ubuntu on your hardware without bothering to install it first — and it will leave your hard drive ALONE (unless you want to mount it and access its files, of course).

    This allows you to verify hardware compatibility. (Except for video drivers, unless you want to do some additional work to install a video driver in a Live session — it can be done, but you’ll need to (yes) Google for detailed instructions.) If you use an Nvidia video card, you need not worry; there are adequate open-source video drivers for Nvidia cards, and the proprietary drivers are very good. The prevailing opinion is (still) that AMD’s linux drivers for their video cards suck by comparison; YMMV. I buy only Nvidia cards for this reason.

    I might agree with Greg (well, I DO agree) that Debian is the canonical Linux distro, but Red Hat (and users of its derivatives) will take issue with that. (As would those who like the nuts-and-bolts approach of Arch, Slackware, and Gentoo Linux, but we all know they’re in a nerdy class of their own to start with. ;^)

    Lastly, realize that Canonical *cannot* (by virtue of needing to toe the line with redistribution restrictions and a less-than-Debianish adherence to “safe, known, supported open-source software) distribute any flavor of Ubuntu that by default installs several useful, desirable, or even necessary software apps, utilities, fonts, and plugins that you may take for granted on a Mac or Windows PC. However, they’re out there and are easy to install. (Mint installs some for you.) Google the phrase “after installing Ubuntu” to get a nice list of these and how to install them. It can turn a ‘meh’ experience of Linux into an ‘awesome!’ experience with Linux…

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    October 4, 2014

    Brainstorms, thanks for the comments.

    No, it is the dark side! And in a way your comment, which is very useful and all, explains exactly why. Prior to Ubuntu changing things, no one who knew anything about Linux such as yourself would have ever described the installation of an alternative desktop as an upgrade, or something to do a “fresh install” for! That is the point. You have exactly described a situation where you have been essentially cajoled by Ubuntu into living with Unity because it is kind of a one way street. This is very Windows like!

    I tried “just learning to like” Unity but I felt really bad every time I used my computer until I got rid of it. I just don’t like it at all.

    I did not happen to mention Red Hat/Fedora, but I had originally planned to, but things got too long. But, since you bring it up, my relatively recent experience with Fedora is that it qualifies as an easy and reliable install. I would give it a try.

    Regarding Arch, Gentoo etc. that’s scary land for all but the hardened and wizened, but sure, why not!!?!?

    This post:

    Is exactly an example of the “after you install Ubuntu” posts yo mention (and links out to others)… for 14.04.

  6. #6 Brainstorms
    October 4, 2014

    Greg, I get what you mean, but be aware that I had these kinds of experiences (with Ubuntu installs, upgrades, and desktop changes) before Unity was born!

    So it’s not just that it’s a characteristic of Unity. But I also get where you’re coming from regarding it “taking over” and making the OS become Windows-like… needing fresh installs, etc. to make a desktop change.

    My point was, really, if you’re not particular about your desktop, and Unity suits you, use it! There’s nothing wrong with Unity, but it won’t satisfy all tastes. At the same time: If you *do* want to change your desktop, THEN you can curse its intransigence.

    I’m giving Canonical the benefit of the doubt –for now– pending their future release of “The Holy Grail of Convergence”. I can’t help but see touch-friendly elements in what they’ve got so far. So far.

    However, let’s give Canonical one due: They’ve developed the easiest drop-dead simple installer that makes Ubuntu installation/re-installation quick and non-intimidating. So while they pretty much force a clean install (bad, if it can be practically avoided), it’s not the dread of the past when re-installing, e.g., Windows XP.

    I finally geeked out and wrote a set of bash scripts to handle the re-install of my “not mainstream” app packages (and batch installing repo packages I favor), so that took that pain away. (I know, I know… But the package owners should do that, not Canonical, since those apps are not (yet) part of Ubuntu’s core package set.)

    I’m not cajoled… If I were still really wanting to use Gnome 3, I’d work through its Windows XP-like install/upgrade troubles. I don’t “live with” Unity any longer; I’m happy with its performance & features. That might change, but for now, I “don’t see” the desktop much any longer — just the work I’m doing. (Some of the latest features of Unity are actually pretty handy, to be honest.)

    Still, I agree with you: it should be as simple as running an installer from the Ubuntu Software Center to swap out your desktop. I think the drive to achieve “The Convergence” is what changed things and led to the complexities under the hood that mucked it all up. There’s now too much intricacy under the hood to make it a clean change-over.

    So, Canonical, you’d better redeem yourself by delivering an impressive solution that will make us all forget this transitional period! (Okay, we’ll see…)

    A word about Fedora: It’s more like Debian — it doesn’t make for easy installation of essentials — such as your video drivers. There’s more “hand fixing” to get your system configured. Ubuntu does more for you by default (and has nicer tools, IMHO).

    I think the current ultimate “Just Starting Out” distro is Mint, and Cinnamon the nicest Windows 7-like desktop. The Irish distributors of Mint thumb their nose at redistribution rights issues in favor of giving you a “ready to roll” OS; Canonical will never be able to on legal grounds and Debian will never do so on ideological grounds.

    Fine by me… I can still build what I want. And yes, “it should be easier than it is now”. But how to fix that on the way to touchpads and smartphones? Let Canonical do as they’re doing and install an Ubuntu derivative that makes it easier. Then the world has both.

    I like this guy’s site/lists: — He’s very thorough & detailed, an has his own PPA repo with good stuff in it.
    For lighter fare (news & such lists), is good for quick catch-ups on the consumer-oriented Ubuntu world.

  7. #7 Brainstorms
    October 4, 2014

    If you want to really learn Linux ins & outs, and “have fun building it from scratch”, you can one-up the Arch, Gentoo, Slackware crowd and do the “Linux from Scratch” project:

    Work through that and you’ll not only have a fully-customized system, you’ll be competent to administer your Linux system from a place of knowledge & understanding… (It would be like learning how to customize your sports car by building a car from a crate of parts. You’ll be a junior mechanic when you’re done. Without getting grease on your pants.)

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    October 4, 2014

    You are absolutely right about Ubuntu deserving huge amounts of credit for making Linux something that could be installed without the usual goat sacrifices. It is exactly this fact that is behind me using Linux to begin with.

    “I finally geeked out and wrote a set of bash scripts to handle the re-install of my “not mainstream” app packages (and batch installing repo packages I favor), so that took that pain away. (I know, I know… But the package owners should do that, not Canonical, since those apps are not (yet) part of Ubuntu’s core package set.)”

    That’s a great project for a person who wants to mess around but does not really need to mess around. The problem would be handling the ppa’s and such, to keep them current, I suppose.

    I’ve started that Suse’s build your own linux a couple of times but for various reasons never followed to the end. Some day I will.

  9. #9 Brainstorms
    October 4, 2014

    I’ve not followed LFS yet, either — but also “plan to”!

    My plans for my scripts are to make a GUI to run them. Something that looks like a bill of fare: Check off what you want (and load/save preferred configs). Then I should have my own PPA to give others easy access to the whole thing. At that point it would be a simple point-and-click to “finish your Ubuntu installation”.

    At this point it’s command-line, but at least it’s at the level of “hold your hand” CLI. (I hate “guess what I’ll do” type scripts, which are all too common… Gives the CLI a bad name.)

  10. #10 Brainstorms
    October 4, 2014

    Here’s another helpful tip, to go along with installing a separate ‘/home’ partition:

    Make TWO operating system partitions on your drive, not one. (You only ever need one swap partition.) For Ubuntu, 12 GB per OS and 4 GB for swap covers almost every situation. The rest of the disk is for Windows (if you elect to multi-boot) and ‘/home’.

    Note: You can share your ‘/home’ partition between versions of Ubuntu. You CANNOT share your ‘/home’ partition between different DISTROS of Linux. (I learned this the hard way; trust me…) If you want to multi-boot Ubuntu and Fedora, for example, keep your ‘/home’ directories on your OS partitions (as is the default) and make a ‘/data’ partition that’s shared between them. Account meta-data does NOT mix if your parent Linuxes aren’t the same.

    If you do this, then when you boot, you’ll get a menu to pick what you want to boot, with one of them being a count-down default. One OS is “what you’re using”, while the second one is at times a backup and at other times a sandbox to work out installation and upgrading issues before committing to it.

    Here’s a great tool to manage your boot menu — really should be a part of Ubuntu: “grub-customizer”. It’s a PPA; Google for it.

    Currently I keep 14.04.1 in one OS partition and 12.04.5 in the second one. (More partitions could hold, e.g., Mint/Cinnamon, Fedora, etc. — you can make as many as you wish to play with.) That’s one alternative to using virtual machines to do serious testing, and is more “honest” since they’ll use your actual hardware/drivers.

    I cringe every time I read about someone who upgraded in situ and lost their home files or wrecked their OS and couldn’t boot. Don’t take chances with your ‘daily user’! Disk space is cheap these days…

  11. #11 Irving Briscoe
    Kirkland Lake Ontario Canada
    October 4, 2014

    I run an Asus 8″ Netbook with 2 gigs of ram and a 320 Gig Hard Drive. I have Ubuntu 14.04 which I have upgraded from the original 10.04 over time. I find the best desktop to run is the Cairo Dock version. It is Gnome based and comes up as a desktop of it’s own. It gives me some of the features of a Mac at a PC price. I also hacve the habbit of getting the Synaptic Package manager as soon as I install so I can do updates and installs at the same time. I hate the inhouse Ubuntu Software Center. By the way, the hard drive is partitioend with a 200 gig NTFS file system for my main files and the rest is Linux for the OS. This way if I want to I can run a windows dvd and read the data drive.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    October 4, 2014

    Absolutely, synaptic which was once standard in Ubuntu should be one of the first things to install!

    On my desktop, I have an SSD with the os and a giant regular HD with / with swap on the SSD.

    Yeah, I can see where 1 ~ for 2+ distro would be a problem but mainly for . files, so maybe there could be some way of swapping them. I. The past, tho, I’ve uses a separate data partition or drive.

  13. #13 fkol-k4
    October 5, 2014

    Leaving personal preferences aside, i don’t think that the recommendation “Install Debian rather than installing Ubuntu” is such a simple thing to say.

    Assuming that we’re discussing about official releases, Debian’s official release (wheezy) is already 2.5 years old and contains much older package versions (eg GNOME 3.4) and Debian’s next release (Jessie) is one month away from Freeze and it probably will be released about the same time that Ubuntu 15.04 will.

    So, unless we’re talking about Debian Testing (or maybe Sid to avoid the freeze period?), we can’t really compare Debian to Ubuntu.

    So if you’re actually proposiing Testing or Sid, you might wanna throw in some links to maintenance tips and advices, maintaining a Testing (not just Jessie, but the rolling testing) or even Sid distro isn’t all that simple as upgrading Ubuntu.

  14. #14 Bob L
    United States
    October 5, 2014

    Here is a great way to use Partclone and with compression

    Don’t forget to change Directory and Dates. That’s how I keep track of all my backups

    Backup Scripts

    sudo e2fsck -f -y -v /dev/sda9

    sudo e2fsck -f -y -v /dev/sda10

    sudo partclone.ext4 -c -d -s /dev/sda9 | gzip -c7 > /data3/Backup-Linux/Zorin/Zorin-9-0_64-bit-ulitmate-09-18-14_root-sda9.img.gz

    sudo partclone.ext4 -c -d -s /dev/sda10 | gzip -c7 > /data3/Backup-Linux/Zorin/Zorin-9-0_64-bit-ulitmate-09-18-14_home-sda10.img.gz

    Restore Scripts

    sudo e2fsck -f -y -v /dev/sda9

    sudo e2fsck -f -y -v /dev/sda10

    zcat /data3/Backup-Linux/Zorin/Zorin-9-0_64-bit-ulitmate-09-18-14_root-sda9.img.gz | sudo partclone.ext4 -r -o /dev/sda9

    zcat /data3/Backup-Linux/Zorin/Zorin-9-0_64-bit-ulitmate-09-18-14_home-sda10.img.gz | sudo partclone.ext4 -r -o /dev/sda10

    This has never let me down. I play around so much and I do break my distro’s. So Instead of re-installing the distro, I just restore it from my last back. Great if you have multiply boot ups. I have five on 1 box along. You can back up all your distro from within in 1, then boot into another and backup that one.

    Try it, I think you’ll love it.


  15. #15 Peter Smith
    October 5, 2014

    like you, I love partclone. I have never tried it with in-line compression. Thanks for the useful tip.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    October 5, 2014

    On one hand we have the suggestion that we wait to go to 14.10 because the XX.04 releases are the more stable longer term supported releases. That could be a good idea but as I understand it the fact that there is a newer version of the kernel and a few laptop hardware specific changes in 14.10, people may want to upgrade. It would be very unlikely if 14.10 was in any way a downgrade or broke.

    On the other hand we have the suggestion that since Ubuntu’s release cycle is twice a year and Debian’s slower, then one should go for Ubuntu instead of Debian. Maybe, but it depends.

    Ubuntu is Debian plus stuff Ubuntu puts in there. The release cycle for the parts underlying Ubuntu-specific changes, then, is rally the Debian release cycle. If you install Debian and then on top of that install a desktop (like Gnome or Mate) then the upgrade/update cycle for that desktop is what you get for the stuff that is not in Debian. This is the same thing as installing Ubuntu and getting a slower and more ponderous cycle underlying a more surficial release cycle for the Ubuntu related stuff.

    If you happen to not like Unity and other stuff in Default Ubuntu, the opting for Ubuntu to get a faster release cycle for software you don’t like is not recommened. If you like Unity then you must go with Ubuntu, and then decide weather to update at XX.04 and XX.10 or not.

    Meanwhile, as I understand it, kernel patches that are essential (including security) come out as needed, typically on Sundays (I think), and other important upgrades happen on a regular basis, so keeping your system up to date should have similar results for most essential and all security related changes as long as you are using any active distribution. In some cases, newer versions of certain components will be found in some distros while not in others. Maybe Ubuntu is always ahead on this on averse, but not in detail, and then, it depends on what is supported. EG for a while Ubuntu dropped the gimp in its standard distribution while, IIRC Debian did not. Most of the examples of out of sync software, though, are probably things below the surface that the typical Linux Desktop user does not necessarily know about (like which version of some tool or another is in place)

    Compared majorly to windows and less so to Apple’s OS, any actively maintained distribution with default desktop, or distribution with an desktop you add, will be updated much more regularly.

  17. #17 Brainstorms
    October 5, 2014

    I usually dual-boot with Windows (for the very occasional things that require a native Windows boot, plus it came with my laptop so why not?) I, too, have a very large NTFS partition (Windows’ C:) that can be accessed by both Linux and Windows.

    Partitioning this way and storing common data files in NTFS is handy in many cases, but is especially good for files that you need to keep synchronized with those on a thumbdrive (which would be formatted as FAT32), because it avoids permission/ownership conflicts you may otherwise encounter.

    However, be aware that when you elect to use an NTFS partition in Linux, only one user account in Linux will be the owner of *all* the NTFS files. The NTFS ownership attributes do not map to the Linux ownership attributes. (And this is the reason why you CANNOT build your Linux OS in an NTFS partition.)

    Linux has *full* support for NTFS (including some nice NTFS tools) baked in and delivered by default (for most distros).

    Note that whoever mounts the NTFS partition first owns it. That can sometimes block you from writing to the partition! You can tell Linux to mount the NTFS partition at boot time and to also make a particular user always be the owner of the NTFS files. This is done by editing your file system table (‘fstab’ file). Google instructions for how to do this…

    I haven’t found a practical way of protecting or sharing the Linux home account ‘.’ files (AKA hidden files) when dual-booting different Linux families. It’s much easier to allow each Linux OS to have its own ‘/home’ directory (as part of its ‘/’), keep basically nothing in the home folders, and mount a ‘data’ partition in the home accounts of each bootable OS and use that to store your files.

    What I do is have my ‘fstab’ file mount my NTFS partition as ‘~/Windows’ (with me as the owner:group and umask of 002 or 022). Then I add another ‘fstab’ line to bind-mount the ‘My Documents’ folder within my NTFS ‘Users’ account to substitute for my Linux ‘Documents’ directory.

    If you do that, then just keep all files (that matter) in your ‘~/Documents’ folder, they become available to all booted Linux OSes and to booted Windows (and even to virtual machines that may be running via shared folders). You’ll be the owner (as expected), and it will mount every time you boot so that you never have to fuss with it — it’s just “there” to use.

    ‘fkol-k4’ is correct about Debian vs Ubuntu. Ubuntu is actually derived from Debian ‘Testing’, not Debian ‘Stable’ (suprise!) The reason for that is alluded to by ‘fkol-k4’: ‘Testing’ has more up-to-date versions of apps, so the compromise is a more modern consumer-oriented system that may have occasional hiccups. I think they made the right choice there. Debian is really more a sturdy server system, or (IMHO) an excellent base on which to build desktop OSes (such as Ubuntu), which is why I would recommend Ubuntu to savvy users and LinuxMint for less sophisticated users.

    Greg’s point about newer kernels is good, but Canonical is now keeping the LTS (Long Term Support) versions of Ubuntu updated with the latest kernels. (They didn’t do this before 12.04.3.)

    The Ubuntu Update Manager will give you an option of upgrading your “hardware stack” to the latest without upgrading your distro version. E.g., my 12.04.5 runs the same 3.13.0-36 kernel as my 14.04.1 install, even though it’s 2 years older.

    Mostly what newer kernels give you is not more up-to-date security, but wider-ranging hardware support. If you have newer hardware that requires a newer kernel for support, then by all means, that’s what you’ll need to install. Otherwise, as long as your distro is still under active support, it will get the latest security updates no matter how old it is. (One of my servers, running 12.04, still gets security updates for kernel 3.2.0.)

    And if you want the “latest latest” kernel (newer even than what 14.10 will deliver), you can download and install them from I wrote a script to automate downloading & installing newer kernels (because I wanted full SSD support in 12.04) — and eventually found out that you “can only go so far” with the newest kernels before “the paved road gives way to bumpy dirt roads”…

    Best strategy, I think, is to either use an LTS or the most recent release; both will get updated automatically with the latest kernels and their security patches, and they will have been tested thoroughly by Canonical before release — minimizing the chances of an update/upgrade breaking something. (The “Road to Happiness”.)

    Here’s a key consideration as to why you might wish to stick to LTS versions of Ubuntu: Canonical uses the non-LTS versions to introduce and allow the community to road-test new and potentially problematic features, apps, etc. (This is expecially true with ‘.10’ releases.)

    And the non-LTS versions are only supported (now) for 9 months, then abandoned. It used to be 18 months, so an investment in one of the non-LTS versions was worthwhile, especially if you installed one you like/has good hardware support you need.

    That said, if you’re the type who’s willing to put up with potholes in exchange for using ‘latest & greatest’, fine — do so, and send in bug reports if you get a glitch…

    As Greg pointed out, it’s not likely that 14.10 will be broken (and certainly won’t be a downgrade), but it may cause headaches until one or two months of updates fills in some of those potholes.

    As an example, I found 12.10 to be ‘meh’, 13.04 to be a wonderful distro (that was abandoned too soon), and 13.10 was a mess that forced me back to 12.04 in search of reliability and stability. 14.04 is the best they’ve released so far. I’ll try 14.10.. in December; I don’t want to be a guinea pig — at least not on my (or my friends’/family’s) daily use machines.

    So rather than installing Debian and then a desktop just to avoid Unity, I would suggest installing one of the Ubuntu flavors to get the desktop of your choice. …Unless you like the adventure of “system building” (which I can certainly understand!)

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    October 5, 2014

    Great information, Brain.

    For me, though, there is still a problem with Ubuntu. I don’t want to install the flavor that matches my desktop preference. I want to be able to change between desktops that I have installed without any problem. That may be doable in Ubuntu, but my experience with 14.04 was that after installing the default Ubuntu distro (with Unity) then installing different desktop, all the desktops were broken(ish) as was the default distro, with the main problem being a frequent “system error” notice, and a few other things like multiple notifiers, etc. I’m sure at least some of this is fixable, but I prefer the old days when the only down side of installing multiple desktops was using more hard drive space. I’ve got plenty of hard drive space.

  19. #19 Brainstorms
    October 5, 2014

    Greg, I’m with you on that… I miss the days when I could install Unity Ubuntu, then add Gnome 3 and have both available to every user at login.

    My take is that the internal restructuring that they’re doing to make desktop-tablet-smartphone convergence a possibility has resulted in the situation we have now.

    Canonical is the only Linux developer that I know of that’s trying to achieve this. (At least the only one publicly saying so, but the Linux community doesn’t generally keep that sort of thing secret.)

    With Ubuntu you may not ever again be able to easily switch desktops. Xfce, KDE, etc. can’t do what Unity is heading towards. This will make Unity a stand-out among desktops, given its unique internal architecture.

    Here’s an interesting question: Can you install Mint and then switch desktops without these issues? Xubuntu?

    Here’s a practical (if less than ideal) solution: If you want to circulate your logins among say, 3 Ubuntu desktop choices, then create 3 OS partitions and install each. You then multiboot into the desktop du jour and use a common data partition (or common ‘/home’) to always see the same set of files to work on.

    I know that’s an maintenance pain, etc., etc…. But I don’t know of any other way to make it work. I really, really don’t want to see “system error” dialogs when I customize my systems…

    OTOH, if Shuttleworth can actually make a smooth, practical multi-device DE/GUI happen, we might eventually have a change of heart — just to enjoy the convenience that will give us. (Might even declare a truce, maybe? Maybe?)

  20. #20 nonya
    October 5, 2014

    The best thing to do is to stay away from any of the *buntus! Far far away!! There are many many distributions that are better. And only the ones that have KDE as the default DE are at all worthwhile.

  21. #21 Brainstorms
    October 5, 2014

    Aside from the fact that the pros & cons of using other Linux distributions are not the subject of this discussion, you present an interesting way of contradicting yourself. Best you scurry back under your bridge before the sun rises…

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2014

    I may or may not have installed mate on Xubuntu.

    Btw I’m giving gnome 3.2 another look and liking it. It installed nicely on Debian stable.

  23. #23 Danni Coy
    October 6, 2014

    It should be pointed out that 14.04 was a long term release so it should have updates and backports for a few years. Between that and personal package archives (ppas) you should be able to get most of what you want in 14.04.

    I use Kubuntu – which I have for at least a decade now and I wasn’t aware of changes to Vanilla Ubuntu. It’s seems you should be right for any alternate desktop if you start with any of the alternate images.

    With regards to upgrades the strategy I use is to use two system partitions and one data partition. When I upgrade I do a fresh install over the older of the two system partitions this means that I always have a working system even if an upgrade goes horribly horribly wrong.

  24. #25 Argon
    October 6, 2014

    I installed Mint for my father when his Vista laptop started dying under the weight of cruft (and stupid toolbars) that he inadvertently installed. Mint was the easiest, out of the box system for what he needed. In retrospect, he should really stick with a Chromebook for 90% of the time he spends on the computer (surfing). The only thing missing for him was Word/Excel and tax preparation software. Libre Office fills the void somewhat for Office applications.

    There was a time when I installed non-LTS versions of Ubuntu but got tired of having major updates break networking or the display on my Dell laptop. Now I stick to the major releases. Actually, I now run Linux as a VM on my MacBook instead of dual-booting so the ‘breaking something with every new release’ problem is greatly reduced now.

    As for Unity vs. Mate vs. Cinnamon vs. KDE vs. etc… I never use the desktop to its fullest capabilities and so I’m happy with whatever crashes less often. This tends to be whichever desktop the distribution is most actively developing.

  25. #26 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2014

    I have used Libraoffice or Openoffice for ten years working with others and I’ve only had one compatibility problem and I’m not sure it was because I wasn’t using word.

    I don’t interact with others using Excel much, so I can’t vouch for that.

    People do like Mint!

  26. #27 Brainstorms
    October 6, 2014

    CrossOver from will allow you to run Microsoft Office software directly in Linux. Works great with Office 2010.

    Also works with a rather large selection of popular Windows software, too — such as tax prep software.

  27. #28 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2014

    Oh, on Tax Prep software, for regular people’s taxes (including those with a Schedule C) on line tax prep software seems to be pretty good.

    There are Linux applications for this too, but I’ve not kept track of them and I have no idea how good they are.

  28. #29 Mal Adapted
    October 6, 2014

    Eight-year Fedora user here. Previous iterations of were “works in progress”, but I’ve found LibreOffice to work with any M$ Office document I’ve tried.

    I tried to set Quicken up under wine, but couldn’t get it to work. CodeWeavers lists Quicken as a supported application under Crossover, so I paid about $50 for a Crossover license. Quicken works seamlessly under Crossover, and I’ve deleted the VirtualBox VM I was using to run my 12-year-old bootleg copy of WindowsXP.

    CodeWeavers claims to “have been able to fund significant improvements in the Wine Project.” Maybe, but as I said, I wasn’t able to make Quicken work with wine. Oh well, sometimes ya gotta compromise your principles and buy the freakin’ license if ya want your stuff to work.

  29. #30 Brainstorms
    October 6, 2014

    Mal, that’s not the primary reason for buying Crossover… Yes, you do well by helping CodeWeavers be solvent, since they *are* the “parent company” for Wine development. (And Wine frees us all from being shackled to MS.)

    But the bigger (and direct) benefit is the very nice GUI tool/manager that CodeWeavers adds in the form of CrossOver. It not only holds your hand through the entire installation process for a Windows application, but (for those in its growing library) it also applies its “expertise” in knowing which DLLs to download from MS and which DLL code-alikes to install from WineHQ/winetricks so that your Windows app will work correctly.

    If you use only Wine, you have to know all this esoterica yourself — and do the grunt work that goes with it. Which is why (likely) you “weren’t able to make Quicken work with Wine”.

    I have better things to do than to keep track of all that DLL config support, etc. — well worth my $50 to dispense with it and have their tool “make it so” with a few mouse clicks.

    My Office 2010 suite runs perfectly. When I’m not using LibreOffice, of course. :^)

  30. #31 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2014

    That’s not much of a violation of principle though. In the world of commercial and open source products there are going to be some commercial projects that work better, and some users that simply need that level of operability. Seems to me the basic principle here is to use open source when it works the same, and even use it when it is not quite as good, but then don’t punish yourself if you need to pay now and then, and if you pay, pay Codeweavers who supports wine instead of switching to Microsoft.

    Also, you are paying for a quasi virtualizer instead of using the FOSS version in order to run software you bought!

    Really, you should be doing your taxes in emacs

  31. #32 Brainstorms
    October 6, 2014

    No, you should be doing your taxes in ‘bash’.

    (Hey, it’s also Turing Complete.)

  32. #33 Argon
    October 8, 2014

    Excel 2010 is still listed as ‘bronze’ under CodeWeavers. I tried it but ran into too many issues. VBA remains a real problem. I don’t love VBA but the integration of a grid/spreadsheet with scripting is something that nobody does as well as Excel. LibreOffice’s scripting interface is a nice start but nowhere close and unfortunately has no penetration where I work.

    As for Wine… I’ve been impressed with some of the Wine wrappers available for the Mac. They’ve made it a lot easier setting up the environments for Windows applications.

    I’m more than happy to pay or donate cash for good software, commercial or otherwise. Most recently, it’ s been Sublime Text. It runs well under OSX, Linux and Windows.

  33. #34 Brainstorms
    October 8, 2014


    MS Office 2010 SP1 & SP2 are both “Silver” for Linux. I’m running v14.0.6023.1000 (32-bit) which is (I believe) Pro Plus SP 1. You can install Office then install service packs afterwards; I’ve verified that works, too.

    I’ve had MS Office 2010 in Crossover installed/running on a number of different machines in Ubuntu 12.04 through 14.04. It runs Excel spreadsheets with macros. (I’ve not tried running VBA code — not that I’m aware of.)

    There are a number of libraries that need to be installed to make it work — CodeWeavers’ installer checks your system and informs you of which ones you need.

    However, having accumulated that list, I now install via a script that always runs
    sudo dpkg –add-architecture i386
    (needed if installing on a 64-bit Linux)
    then installs these packages:

    python-gtk2 python-glade2 python-qt4 icoutils libgl1-mesa-glx:i386 libxrandr2:i386 libxcursor1:i386 lib32nss-mdns libc6:i386 liblcms2-2:i386 libcups2:i386 libasound2:i386 libosmesa6:i386 libxrender1:i386 libxslt1.1:i386 libxext6:i386 libsm6:i386 libpng12-0:i386 libfreetype6:i386 libgstreamer-plugins-base0.10-0:i386 libgstreamer0.10-0:i386

    and there’s never any issues getting MS Office (2000, 2007, 2010) to install and run properly.

  34. #35 samar
    Bangalore, India
    October 23, 2014

    This has been a very worthwhile to-and-fro conversation for someone who is currently frustrated by the idea of Unity and also frustrated with some of the difficulties some of the applications I use face with desktops such as Mint.

    I have been using Linux for about 15 years, but my focus has always been on whether a distribution can help me do the work I want to do. Distribution-du-jour is not my thing.

    Having said that, I must admit that much as I hate to say it, Brainstorms has convinced me of the long term desirability of trying to get along with Unity.

    Thank you all. It’s been great reading, with special thanks to Greg and Brainstorms.

  35. […] There is some discussion of whether or not you should upgraded to 14.10 here, but the short version is, for most people an upgrade from 14.04 is not necessary but not a bad idea, and an upgrade from any earlier version is a very good idea. Mostly, though, you should just upgrade. […]

  36. […] See: The Ubuntu 14.10 Upgrade: What to do […]

  37. #38 Lucho
    Buenos Airs
    November 11, 2014

    My experience after upgrading to 14.10 was awful as I could not use Microsoft Office in wine and I f(•@#$#%) hate Libreoffice. In fact, It’s crap for a professional writing. For you to have an idea, only since last year Libreoffice allowed me (through an extension) to place the number of the pages. Thus, I was not able to place numbers in the pages of my manuscript. Besides, it makes a mess with footnotes –even more from a .doc file- and they don’t look nice or takes three times more to do it.
    And suppose you start from the beginning to write in Libreoffice, it takes you more time to adjust the footnotes, to work easily with “styles”, to place commentaries in a text. I do not support Microsoft and I think it is monster only comparable with Mac. But Libreoffice, unfortunately, is not a real option for to draft a thesis, a book or even a journal article. It may work for the grocery’ list but not for a professional typewriting.

  38. […] Post Title : The ubuntu 14.10 upgrade: what to do – greg laden’s blog Source : Read More : The ubuntu 14.10 upgrade: what to do – greg laden’s blog […]

  39. […] Post Title : The ubuntu 14.10 upgrade: what to do – greg laden’s blog Source : Read More : The ubuntu 14.10 upgrade: what to do – greg laden’s blog […]

  40. #41 Matrix0027
    United States
    December 10, 2014

    Excellent post. I could not have said it better, totally agree with you.

  41. #42 orai
    January 12, 2015

    *Linux* Torvalds? Seriously?
    Otherwise, excellent post.

  42. #43 Greg Laden
    January 12, 2015

    It might be his nickname!