Ubuntu 20.10
Linux Format|January 2021
The Groovy Gorilla is out. Jonni Bidwell wonders if he might finally meet his spirit animal, or if he’ll be maimed.
Jonni Bidwell

SPECS

Minimum Processor: 2GHz

RAM: 4GB

Disk space: 25GB disk space

IN BRIEF

Probably the world’s most popular Linux distribution. Now with a smoother Gnome desktop and even more Snaps. See also: Linux Mint, Pop!_OS, elementary OS, Solus OS.

We really enjoyed the last Ubuntu release, and indeed the slew of Ubuntu-derivatives (such as Mint and Pop!_OS) that have been rebased on 20.04. We’re still waiting patiently for elementary OS 6 though…

For those unfamiliar with Ubuntu’s release cycle, this is the first of three interim, short-term release (STR) versions that Canonical and the community will use to shape the next LTS (long-term support) release in 2022. If you’re looking for stability and would rather nothing broke, we’d strongly advise you to stick with the LTS. On the other hand, if you want to see newer software, Gnome improvements and the occasional new and exciting bug, then the Groovy Gorilla is for you. It’s supported for nine months, by which time the next STR (21.04) will be ready.

Consistency via snaps

Snap, Canonical’s packaging format and sandboxing mechanism, continues to be the default offering for applications in the Software Centre. A handful of helper snaps are installed by default, including the common themes package which means that (if you’re using a popular theme) Snap applications will be styled in a manner consistent with the rest of the desktop. This addresses one of two particularly common snap-related gripes. The other, that Snap applications by default don’t have access to the filesystem outside your home (or /media) directory, can be worked around on a snap-by snap basis. Software Centre notwithstanding.

Ubuntu is still very much powered by DEB packages. It’s not constructive to think of these packaging formats as rivals. Snaps (and Flatpaks, for that matter) enable developers to package up complex applications for multiple distros, while users don’t need to wait for distribution packagers to catch up to the latest versions. Traditional packages are more suited to system applications and libraries, where distro-specific configuration is needed. But if you do have really strong feelings against Snaps, it’s still possible to remove them and the daemon they rode in on.

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