December 15, 2014

Create a live system ISO for your Ubuntu-based Linux machines using Systemback

Jack Wallen introduces you to an easy way to create live ISO images of your currently running Linux system with Systemback.
You have that Linux desktop or server precisely how you want it and are interested in either creating a spot-on backup or a live ISO that you can then install on other (similar) hardware. How do you do it? You could go through the process of learning a number of commands to take care of the process, or you could install and use a handy tool called Systemback.
The Systemback tool allows you to create restore points, backups, and live images of a running system. Currently, it only works for Ubuntu derivatives based on 14.04, 14.10, and 15.04. It does, however, work like a champ (and does so quite easily).
I want to show you how to install and quickly make a live image of your current Linux system.


You won't find Systemback in the standard repositories, so you must first add the repo with the command:
sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:nemh/systemback
Now, update apt with the command:
sudo apt-get update
Finally, install Systemback with the command:
sudo apt-get install systemback
You'll have to okay the dependencies before the install will begin. The dependencies will vary, based on what you have installed.
At this point, you should be able to start Systemback from the Unity Dash or your desktop start menu. You can also start Systemback from the command line with:
sudo systemback
You are now ready to create a live ISO.


Using Systemback is quite easy. From the main window (Figure A), select the location to house the ISO image (by clicking the ... button under Storage Location).
Figure A
Figure A
The Systemback main window.
Click the Live system create button and, in the new window (Figure B), give the live system a name, change the storage location (this location will need to have more than 4 GB of available space), and click Create new. You can optionally include user data files by checking the associated box.
Figure B
Figure B
Creating the live ISO image.
Note: If your .sblive file is larger than 4 GB, the conversion to a ISO is not possible. This is a file system limitation.
Depending on the size of your installation, the process will take some time to complete, so grab a cup of coffee or administer a server or two. After it's installed, you should find an .sblive image in the defined storage location ready to convert to ISO. This image can either be written to a USB device or used to create a live ISO image. From the Created Live images window, select the image you want to convert, and then click Convert to ISO. When this process is completed, you'll find the .iso file in the storage location ready to be written to disk. With that disk, you can then install the live image on other machines.
The best time to use Systemback is on a close-to-newly installed system. This is simply because of the file system size limitation. If you've installed too many applications on the system, the size will reach beyond 4 GB, and you won't be able to convert it. You can, however, still create restore points for a system. To create a restore point, first make sure you've selected a Storage directory, and then click the Create New button.
Once you've created a restore point, you can then go back to that restore point by simply selecting it from the left side of the window (Figure C) and then clicking System Restore on the right side.
Figure C
Figure C
Restoring from a restore point.
In the resulting window (Figure D), select the type of restore you want to do, if you want to include user configuration files, and click Next. This will begin the restore process.
Figure D
Figure D
Restore point options.
Systemback is a great way to create live images based on a pre-existing system and restore points in case you need to roll a Linux machine backward.
Do you administer or use Linux machines? If so, what do you use for your Linux backup/restore systems? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.


November 16, 2014

Ubuntu Mate 14.10 - New favorite linux distro

The latest Ubuntu Mate 14.10 is my new favorite distro. It installs and runs flawlessly, and has the looks and performance to allow me to work effortlessly. The MATE desktop simulates the old GTK2 desktop and favors menus instead of icons. Window title bar icons are on the right, icons can be added to toolbars, and are movable. It was also the only Ubuntu 14.10 flavor to work on all my PCs. Something about the video drivers on standard Ubuntu 14.10 just would not work on my Intel Core 2 Duo and AMD Phenom PCs. Ubuntu Mate 14.10 also includes a stylish grub menu, logon screen, and a new Mate Tweak utility which enables the composting manager, which is necessary to run my desktop screenlets. I added Chrome, Deluge, Synaptic, Audacious, Banshee, Gnome Music Player, Screenlets, Docky, VLC, and Picassa. This is an excellent and polished Ubuntu distro with updated packages, lots of themes and wallpapers, kernel 3.16, and Mate 1.8.1. It uses 424 MB memory on my system. Below are links where to download it. Enjoy.


You can download Ubuntu Mate 14.10 here:

Below is a walk thru demo of it:

November 12, 2014

Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS Available For Download with updates

Posted: 12 Nov 2014 03:39 AM PST,
Because Ubuntu MATE 14.10 was the first Ubuntu MATE release and it's supported for only 9 months, the Ubuntu MATE team released Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS yesterday, which is supported until 2019.

Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS

Ubuntu MATE is an unofficial (for now) Ubuntu flavor which uses MATE as the default desktop environment. MATE is a GNOME 2 fork introduced after GNOME 3 and GNOME Shell replaced the classic desktop metaphor, which led to some criticism from the Linux community. Currently, MATE only supports GTK2, but the plan is to add GTK3 support with MATE 1.12.

Ubuntu MATE 14.04 ships with MATE 1.8 by default, and not MATE 1.6, which is available in the official Ubuntu 14.04 repositories. This was possible because Ubuntu MATE is not yet an official Ubuntu flavor and that allowed using the Ubuntu MATE PPAs by default.

Compared to Ubuntu MATE 14.10, Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS comes with quite a few changes, although many of these changes have already been released as updates for Ubuntu MATE 14.10. For instance, Ubuntu MATE 14.04 supports Ubuntu AppIndicators out of the box:

Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS
An AppIndicator (Variety) running under Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS

Note that the AppMenu / global menu applet is available but it didn't work in my test.

Also, Ubuntu MATE 14.04 ships with some new packages installed by default:
  • MATE Tweak (a MintDesktop fork) - a tool which lets you configure which icons to show on the desktop, enable/disable compositing, change the window buttons layout, show/hide icons in menus and buttons and more;
  • MATE Menu (a MintMenu fork) - a searchable menu for the MATE panel. This is not the default menu, but you can add it to the panel by right clicking the panel, selecting Add to Panel and then adding "MATE Menu";
  • Totem has been replaced with VLC as per a community poll;

Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS

Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS
MATE Tweak

Other changes in Ubuntu MATE 14.04 include:
  • updated Ambiant-MATE and Radiant-MATE themes;
  • new community wallpapers;
  • enabled the Accessibility PPA to add Orca 3.14 which improves the accessibility of Firefox;
  • enabled screen reader activation via LightDM indicators and LightDM key bindings;
  • updated various MATE packages with the latest version from Debian;
  • various bug fixes, including: fixed Plymouth not displaying boot up splash screens, fixed GRUB theme activation, fixed Calculator media keys, fixed conflicts with gnome-applets and more.

Download Ubuntu MATE 14.04 LTS

November 7, 2014

20 things I did after installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu 14.04

Ten years has been gone by since the launch of brand Ubuntu. Ubuntu 14.10 is the 21st major release and this latest launch codenamed "Utopic Unicorn" could also be the most low-key release to date. But that's a whole different discussion. We will be reviewing Ubuntu 14.10 in detail soon. Here we'll see what all can be done to improve stock Ubuntu 14.10. 20 things to do after installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10

Introduction: Ubuntu 14.10 "Utopic Unicorn"
My favorite Ubuntu versions has almost always has been the LTS releases. Ubuntu 12.04 could be termed as my favorite Ubuntu to date, and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS comes a close second. On the other hand, Ubuntu 14.10 could be termed as one of my least favorite Ubuntu ever!

A lot of issues actually. First being the fact that there are no serious changes/improvements to Ubuntu 14.10, it's kind of like a token release. Secondly, for the first time in my laptop which has been running Linux-es for ages, a lot of commonplace apps like Firefox and Chrome are acting weird, like unusable-weird.

May be I will fresh-install Ubuntu 14.10 once again before doing the full review. For now, I'll do a quick things-to-do-after-installation exercise which is applicable for both Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Trusy Tahr.

Disclaimer: Even though I have made utmost care not to make any mistakes here, please make sure you double-check everything before executing. As they say, you don't trust a random code or command from the web. The same applies here. You've been warned.

First things first: Downloading Codecs package during Installation
  • You can install restricted codecs package (which include Adobe Flash, MP3 codecs and such) during installation of OS itself. See below.
20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10
  • Notice the arrows pointing to the boxes in the screenshot above. If you tick both of them during the Ubuntu installation process (make sure you are connected to the internet before doing so), restricted extras package will be installed automatically and you will be able to play mp3's, avi's, mp4's etc. and watch flash videos (YouTube videos for example) right after Ubuntu installation is done with.
  • But there is a catch. If you have a slow internet connection (which is very rare these days), ticking the boxes shown in the screenshot above will unnecessarily lengthen the installation process. I for one prefer to do all that after installing Ubuntu. If you are like me, the next two steps are for you.
Update Repositories
  • After you install brand new Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04, the first thing you need to do is to update repositories and make sure you have the latest updates installed.
20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10/ubuntu14.04
  • Search for Software Updater in Unity Dash and launch the Software Updater app. It will automatically check for updates available. Install the updates.
20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04
  • OR you could simply use the command line method. Open Terminal (Ubuntu 14.10 Keyboard Shortcut: Ctrl + Alt + T) and copy-paste the following command into Terminal.
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
  • Enter your password when asked and you're done. Your new Ubuntu 14.10 has been successfully updated and upgraded. 
Install Ubuntu Restricted Extras
  • Install the "ubuntu-restricted-extras" package. This will enable your Ubuntu to play popular file formats like mp3, avi, flash videos etc. CLICK HERE (to install directly fromUbuntu Software Center) OR simply copy-paste the following command into Terminal to install the package (You need not do this if you have ticked the 'right' boxes before).
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
  • Done. [Note: The package contains some proprietary fonts and such which will not be downloaded while OS installation. Hence, you might still want to install Ubuntu Restricted Extras package even though you ticked those boxes before.]
Check for Availability of Proprietary Hardware Drivers

20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04
  • As in previous releases, Ubuntu 14.10 has 'Additional Drivers' functionality inside Software & Updates (previously called Software Sources).
  • In my case, all the hardware drivers including graphics, sound and wireless drivers were enabled automatically. But this may not be the case for everyone.
  • If you are among the not-so-lucky, open Unity dash (Ubuntu 14.10 Keyboard Shortcut:Super key) and search for 'Software & Updates' application.
20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04
  • Check for additional drivers available and activate the ones you want. In majority of the cases, this will do the trick. If you're not able to get hardware drivers working yet, you'll have to do a fair amount of digging through ubuntuforums and askubuntu.
Display Current Date and Day on Top Panel

20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04
  • Trivial stuff, but something I've been doing for years with each new Ubuntu release.
  • By default, only time is displayed on top. By going to the Time and Date Settings, you can modify it to display both date and weekday along with time. 
Enable Workspaces for Ubuntu 14.10

enable Workspaces for Ubuntu 14.10
  • Back in 2007, one of the first "feature" that attracted me to Ubuntu was the multiple workspaces thing and all the cool animations you could do with it. I know, it's kind of silly but workspaces are still very important to me.
  • Even when market leaders like Microsoft is thinking about bringing multiple workspaces feature to its upcoming Windows 10 OS (or so I heard), Ubuntu 14.10 by default decides to ditch workspaces. I find it kind of amusing. May be Canonical received a different feedback from its users. Anyway, you can easily re-enable it by going to System Settings - Apperance window (see screenshot above for reference). 
Unlock/Remove Unwanted Stuff from Launcher

20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04
  • A lot of apps are there in the Unity Launcher by default and this can be a problem if you're using a smaller screen device like netbooks. 
  • I almost never use apps such as LibreOffice Writer, LibreOffice Calc and even Ubuntu Software Center. Unlocking them from launcher makes the whole Unity experience a little less cluttered (Right Click - Unlock from Launcher). 
  • You can also re-arrange stuff in the Launcher by simple double-click and drag action. 
Learn the Essential Ubuntu 14.10 Keyboard Shortcuts

ubuntu 1410 keyboard shortcuts essentials
  • If you want to be a PRO Ubuntu user, you've to learn the shortcuts. There's no other way around. And there are a ton of them for Ubuntu's Unity interface.
  • Press and hold the Super key (aka Windows key) and learn the basics. 
Hate two-finger scrolling? I do too.

things to do after installing ubuntu 14.10
  • Two-finger scrolling is enabled by default. But you know what, I kind of like it now. But still, if you want to change it back to normal scrolling, here is what you need to do. 
  • Launch System Settings and browse to Mouse & Touchpad under Hardware.
  • Unselect Two finger scroll.
Unity Tweak Tool: The insanely good tweaking tool for Ubuntu
  • When it comes to tweaking Unity, there's no better candidate. Even the default Ubuntu Settings app is no match for Unity Tweak Tool.
  • Unity Tweak Tool is available in default Ubuntu 14.10 repositories. 
  • Click Here to install Unity Tweak Tool in Ubuntu 14.10.
  • Unity Tweak Tool has a lot of options to tinker with, about which we will discuss in detail later on in this post.
Enable 'Click to Minimize' feature using Unity Tweak Tool

20 Things todo After Installing Ubuntu 14.10/Ubuntu14.04
  • You can now click on the apps to minimize it to the launcher, a behavior which should have been default if you ask me. Here's how you do it.
  • Launch Unity Tweak Tool which you've already installed, goto Launcher sub-menu under "Unity". Rest is self-explanatory (refer screenshot above). More details and video
Enable 'Hot Corner' feature in Unity Tweak Tool

ubuntu 14.04 tips and tricks
  • Hotcorners along with multiple-workspaces have been two of favorite features ever since I started using Ubuntu years ago. Enabling hotcorners is a pretty straight-forward affair since you have already installed Unity Tweak Tool.
  • Launch Unity Tweak Tool and goto Hotcorners sub-menu under 'Window Manager'.
Compiz Config Settings Manager, nuff said!
  • CCSM is similar to Unity Tweak Tool, but more advanced, and very specific to Compiz, the default window manager. CCSM may not be as relevant as before, but it still packs the punch. We'll deal with some CCSM specific hacks later on. 
Disable Animations and Fading windows using CCSM

ubuntu 14.10 tips and tricks
  • I am all for eyecandy, but it should not be at the cost of performance or responsiveness.
  • Disabling Animations and Fading windows from CCSM might make your Ubuntu look less attractive. But as far as I can see, it has a significant positive impact on performance. 
Disable Active Blur in CCSM for a faster loading Unity Dash

ubuntu 14.04 tips and tricks
  • Launch CCSM again, goto Ubuntu Unity Plugin under Desktop.
  • Change Active Blur to Static Blur or No Blur. 
Disable Online Search Results in Unity Dash

ubuntu1410 privacy
  • Online search results in Unity dash, sounds like a good idea on paper, but not in the real world. It unnecessarily makes Dash search slower (at least for me). 
  • To disable it, goto System Settings app and find Privacy category. 
Disable Record Activity Option in Unity Dash

ubuntu 1410 privacy on/off switch
  • Ubuntu by default will be recording your activity which is later used to refine searches in Unity and such. You can completely disable this feature by accessing Privacy category within System Settings application. 
  • You can optionally disable recording for a pre-defined set of files only like image, text, video etc. instead of completely disabling recording altogether (my preferred way).
Disable Unnecessary Error Messages from Appearing in Ubuntu 14.10

ubuntu 14.04 tips and tricks
  • If errors like that with titles such as "system program problem detected" or "ubuntu 14.10 has experienced an internal error" are common in your Ubuntu installation, you might want to disable Apport error reporting tool altogether. 
Disable Unnecessary Error Messages from Appearing in Ubuntu 14.10
  • Hit ALT + F2 and run the following command (as in the screenshot above).
gksu gedit /etc/default/apport
  • Change value of "enabled" from 1 to 0 (instructions are provided in the text file itself).
Disable Error Messages from Appearing in Ubuntu
  • Save and exit. Now for changes to take effect, do the following in Terminal.
sudo restart apport
  • OR do a system restart. Both will do. Apport is supposed to be disabled in stable releases and yet I'm finding it enabled in almost all major releases since Ubuntu 12.04. More details and discussion about Apport can be found here.
Remove Unwanted Lenses from Unity Dash
  • NOTE: If you are new to Ubuntu 14.10 and Unity, you might not want to do this. Stay with default settings for the time being and find for yourself if Lenses are useful or not.
  • I have never found video, music or photo lens useful. I know where exactly my files are and I would simply use Nautilus file browser instead. Never been a fan of shopping lens either. All I need is a really fast loading Dash.
  • If you're like me, you might want to trade them for a faster responding Unity dash. Copy-paste the following command into Terminal.
sudo apt-get autoremove unity-lens-music unity-lens-photos unity-lens-shopping unity-lens-video
TLP Power Management Tool
  • Jupiter used to be an easy to use hardware and power management applet for laptops and netbooks running Linux.   
  • I have had overheating problems in Ubuntu on several occasions. Jupiter came to the rescue every single time. Alas, Jupiter project is no more.  
  • TLP looks like a good alternative. Here's how you install TLP in Ubuntu 14.10.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw
  • Just restart the system and you're done. There are no specific settings you need to do to make TLP work. Just install and forget. 
Install Preload
  • Preload has been mentioned a number of times here. It basically monitor applications you run, and by analyzing this data, predicts what applications you might run, and fetches those binaries and their dependencies into memory for faster startup times. 
  • Installing Preload could drastically improve your overall Ubuntu Unity performance. To an extent, the kind of slickness you see in distros like elementary OS is because of Preload. Click Here to install Preload.
Other Popular Apps to Install:
    Also, Netflix works out of the box in Ubuntu 14.10 "Utopic Unicorn". No need for painful tweaks and trouble-shoots anymore! So that's it for now folks. More Unicorn news, updates, reviews and comparisons to follow. Stay tuned.


    October 26, 2014

    Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn is here -- Linux fans, download now!

    Not only is Ubuntu one of the most user-friendly Linux distributions, but it also gets many timely releases. Say what you want about it, but the overall experience is second to none. I would not hesitate to recommend Ubuntu to both Linux beginners and experts alike.

    After we just learned the name of the future version of the OS (15.04) to be Vivid Vervet (it is coming in 2015), Canonical releases Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn today. Linux fans can download it now!
    One of the most important aspects of a Linux-based operating system is the kernel. In 14.10, it is very up-to-date.

    Canonical explains, "the Ubuntu 14.10 release delivers a v3.16 based kernel. This brings a significant number of bug fixes and new hardware support including expanded architecture support for Power 8 and arm64 platforms. It also includes support for Intel Cherryview, Haswell, Broadwell and Merrifield systems, and initial support for Nvidia GK20A and GK110B GPU’s. There is improved graphics performance on many Nvidia, Intel and ATI Radeon devices and also audio improvements with support for the Radeon .264 video encoder. Expanded platform support is enabled via support for 64 bit EFI boot on 32 bit EFI BIOS. This release also brings performance improvements in suspend/resume times".

    Canonical touts the following additional changes:
    • Unity has improved support for High-DPI displays.
    • Firefox is updated to version 33 and Chromium is updated to version 38.
    • Gtk updated to version 3.12. Qt updated to version 5.3.
    • Support for IPP Everywhere printers is added, and printers shared from Ubuntu can emulate IPP Everywhere printers.
    • LibreOffice 4.3 brings a lot of improvements including improved PDF support, new features in Writer, Calc and Impress (word processor, spreadsheet and presentations).
    If you are ready to download, you can get it here. Since this is a final release, it should be safe for most home users; however, if you are using it for a business, you should always test first.


    Ten years of Ubuntu: How Linux’s beloved newcomer became its criticized king

    Ars looks back at the decade in Ubuntu, from Warty Warthog to 25 million users worldwide,by Scott Gilbertson Oct 22 2014, 9:00pm EDT

    In October of 2004, a new Linux distro appeared on the scene with a curious name—Ubuntu. Even then there were hundreds, today if not thousands, of different Linux distros available. A new one wasn't particularly unusual, and for some time after its quiet preview announcement, Ubuntu went largely unnoticed. It was yet another Debian derivative.
    Today, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, estimates that there are 25 million Ubuntu users worldwide. That makes Ubuntu the world's third most popular PC operating system. By Canonical's estimates, Ubuntu has roughly 90 percent of the Linux market. And Ubuntu is poised to launch a mobile version that may well send those numbers skyrocketing again.
    This month marks the tenth anniversary of Ubuntu. As you'll soon see in this look at the desktop distro through the years, Linux observers sensed there was something special about Ubuntu nearly from the start. However, while a Linux OS that genuinely had users in mind was quickly embraced, Ubuntu's ten-year journey since is a microcosm of the major Linux events of the last decade—encompassing everything from privacy concerns and Windows resentment to server expansion and hopes of convergence.

    Warty Warthog: What's an Ubuntu?

    Enlarge / The default desktop of Ubuntu 4.10, Warty Warthog.
    Starting right from its launch, Ubuntu took a different approach to Linux, one that was perhaps best defined by its slogan at the time: "Linux for human beings." The word Ubuntu itself recalls the same idea, coming from the South African philosophy where it means, literally, "humanness." More broadly translated, it's "humanity toward others."

    This distinction is more than simple semantics. It's what makes Ubuntu unique in the annals of Linux history.

    The name, combined with the slogan, set Ubuntu apart from other Linux distros of the day. Its competitors tended to focus more narrowly on what developers and enterprise users wanted rather than what "ordinary" desktop users might need. Fedora, for example, takes a very different approach, aiming for users who are also developers and will contribute back to open source.
    The focus on "Linux for human beings" set the tone and direction of the Ubuntu project from the beginning. Ubuntu never chased developers. It also did not seem interested in the server market. Instead, this distribution was aimed squarely at desktop users (of whom there were significantly fewer in October 2004) and Linux newcomers. The idea was to win over "ordinary" users from Windows.

    Ubuntu was started by Mark Shuttleworth, who sold his company Thawte to VeriSign in December 1999 for $575 million. After a short vacation in space, he founded Canonical Ltd and started work on Ubuntu. Shuttleworth's announcement of the very first Ubuntu release defines the fledgling project as a "new Linux distribution that brings together the extraordinary breadth of Debian with a fast and easy install, regular releases... (and) a tight selection of excellent packages."

    Those goals—fast and easy to install, regular releases with support, and a wide range of applications available—are the basis of what powered Ubuntu to the top of the Linux charts. Perhaps the most significant of these three goals, though, especially in terms of Ubuntu's focus on new, beginning Linux users is the first one: making Linux easy to install.

    By 2004, Debian wasn't difficult to install if you had prior experience with Linux. For someone accustomed to the installation process offered by Windows XP or Mac OS X, however, it was, at the very least, intimidating. Ubuntu on the other hand was just as easy to install as Windows or OS X. You inserted the CD, it booted, and you double-clicked the installer. When prominent Apple supporter Mark Pilgrim switched to Linux, he chose Ubuntu. Pilgrim joked that it was the African word for "can't install Debian."

    Dapper Drake: Rising to the top

    Enlarge / The default desktop of Ubuntu 6.06, Dapper Drake, the only release to miss the April release date.
    Ubuntu stuck to its every-six-months plan, churning out progressively more polished releases from 2004 on. In ten years, it has only missed a release deadline once—6.06 Dapper Drake in 2006.

    By 2008, Ubuntu established itself as the distro of choice for "switchers" moving away from Windows or OS X or even other distros lacking the ease of use Ubuntu offered. Ubuntu put a friendly face on the otherwise cryptic world of desktop Linux. It offered a simple installation process, the promise of easy updates, and a great selection of applications all available at the click of a button in the Ubuntu Software Center. In short Ubuntu achieved its goals.
    Even those who don't like Ubuntu's take on the Linux desktop benefited from it over the years, as many of its defining characteristics, particularly the installation process and focus on a well-designed desktop experience. These traits became a priority in other projects, and the result of Ubuntu's efforts rippled out through the wider Linux world.

    Intrepid Ibex: It's lonely at the top

    Enlarge / The default desktop of Ubuntu 8.10, Intrepid Ibex.
    Scott Gilbertson
    The move away from GNOME did not hurt Ubuntu's adoption rate. It remains the most popular Linux distro by a wide margin, which makes it, among other things, the most popular target for critics. Linux, like every other tightly knit subculture on the Internet, seems to hate a runaway success, especially one that violates so many of the subculture's taboos.

    Violating unwritten Linux taboos became something of an Ubuntu sport over the years. And the critics were there at every turn, even right at the start. For example, as part of its initial launch, Canonical unveiled the Launchpad project hosting platform, but it did not release it under an open source license for another four years. This angered some who saw Canonical as saying one thing and doing another.

    Then there were gripes about Ubuntu developers not contributing to the kernel. And then there was the brown theme. Then the purple theme. Then the window buttons moved to the left of the window. The changes got smaller, the nits got pickier, but they were no quieter or less vehement. There's always someone very vocally unhappy about what Ubuntu is doing.

    Utopic Unicorn: Imagining Utopia

    Enlarge / The default desktop of Ubuntu 14.10, Utopic Unicorn.
    Scott Gilbertson
    Arriving alongside the ten-year anniversary of the project, there's almost nothing new in the latest version of Ubuntu, 14.10. There's a kernel update, a few application updates, but nothing major from Ubuntu itself.
    There is one bit of good news in the daily builds, though. Ubuntu has started work on a major change that will fix perhaps the biggest tarnishing marks in Ubuntu's history—removing the privacy-invading online search features.
    One of the best parts of Unity is the Dash, a single search interface that will find apps, documents, music, images, and all sorts of other data on your machine. It's the cornerstone of the Unity interface. The first few releases of Unity focused on local search, but in 12.04 Ubuntu added a feature that enabled online searches as well.

    Some users found this incredibly useful. Others, myself included, found it incredibly invasive. The fact that Ubuntu suddenly started shipping with a privacy policy sent many a privacy conscious user scurrying to less "innovative" distros.

    What has always been most troubling about the search features in Unity Dash is that they are enabled by default. Given that very few users change default settings—especially new users, Ubuntu's target audience—it effectively means that users may not be aware their data is being transmitted to Canonical's servers and then routed on to Amazon and elsewhere.

    It's worth looking at the rest of what Shuttleworth wrote in that post, though. "You do trust us with your data already," he continued. "You trust us not to screw up on your machine with every update. You trust Debian, and you trust a large swath of the open source community. And most importantly, you trust us to address it when, being human, we err."

    That last bit is especially relevant in this case, and it matters for two reasons. First, Shuttleworth apologized for the DMCA takedown notice, and it has never happened again.

    More importantly, Ubuntu is reversing course on the Amazon search lens. Sally Radwan, Product Marketing Manager at Canonical, tells Ars that "the opt-in by default is not set to land in 14.10... [but] it is in the development pipeline for 15.04." That is, Amazon and the rest of the online search features will soon be opt-in (if you update from an existing install it will still be there, but it's disabled for fresh installs of the latest daily builds). In short, Ubuntu is fixing its mistake even if it has taken a little while.

    Still, better late than never, because you do have to trust someone. Like it or not, Ubuntu or whatever your OS of choice is does have root access to your machine. Not literally of course, but it's effective access given that their code is running with root privileges on your machine and chances are you haven't reviewed it lately. You trust your distro to make sure that code is secure, stable, and acting in your best interests. You trust them to update it when something goes wrong.
    You could look at Ubuntu's privacy fiasco pessimistically, as proof that Ubuntu is out to get you. Or you could take the more optimistic view: Ubuntu is willing to fix things when it makes bad decisions.

    Ubuntu rebranded itself in 2010 and dropped the "Linux for human beings" slogan. It wouldn't be as catchy, but Ubuntu might do well to bring back its old slogan with a slight update: "Linux for human beings who make mistakes, but try to fix them."

    Vivid Vervet: The mobile future

    Ubuntu recently announced that next year's 15.04 release will be named Vivid Vervet. While Shuttleworth tends to focus on the animal names in his announcement, looking back over Ubuntu's history reveals that the word accompanying the animal is often the more defining element. From "Warty," which was all warts and all release, to Lucid, when Ubuntu seems to have developed a more distinct sense of visual and UI direction, to Vivid, which envisions a bright future.
    Again, there is almost nothing new from Canonical in Ubuntu 14.10. The reason for that is the project has all available hands working on its Unity 8 mobile interface. The Ubuntu Phone is coming, and for now the desktop is taking a back seat.

    Warty Warthog: The sequel

    Any numbers surrounding the use of Linux are suspect simply because it's very hard to track by distro. But again, Canonical tells Ars that the company estimates there are "around 25 million Ubuntu desktop users," and Canonical claims to have around 90 percent of the Linux market.
    And while this retrospective focused solely on the desktop, Ubuntu is no slouch in the server market these days. It now accounts for over 55 percent of all OpenStack deployments and, according to the company, around 70 percent of guest OSes "on major global public cloud environments."

    So even if Ubuntu Touch tanks and Ubuntu goes crawling home with its tail between its legs, it has an impressive home to return to. It's hasn't been a perfect ten years, but it's difficult to imagine where Linux would be today without Ubuntu. When it debuted in 2004, the most popular desktop was KDE 3.5, the default theme of which looked like a sad clone of Windows 95. Ten years later, Linux is everywhere you look, and most often it's Ubuntu Linux that you see.
    For better or worse, Ubuntu has become the friendly public face of Linux. But as Shuttleworth wrote on his blog several years ago, "free software is bigger than any one project. It's bigger than the Linux kernel, it's bigger than GNU, it's bigger than GNOME and KDE, it's bigger than Ubuntu and Fedora and Debian. Each of those projects plays a role, but it is the whole which is really changing the world."