Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 09:23

Ubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak desktop version is released today October 13th 2016. It is a regular release, supported for 9 months (until July 2017), bringing dual desktop environments, Unity 7 and Unity 8. This review covers 9 points, mainly about Ubuntu Yakkety bringing the new desktop environment Unity 8 on top of the new Mir Display Server plus many information you may find useful. Yakkety includes Unity 8 as a testing purpose, so every user can feel how Unity 8 is at a glance. Overall, this new Ubuntu release is already suitable for desktop use (Unity 7 only) but really not suitable for low-RAM computers. I hope this review helps everyone a lot. (Ade Malsasa Akbar,

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1. Basic Information

2. Installing and Post-Installing

You can find how to install Ubuntu 16.10 here and what to do after installing here. The installation procedures is basically the same with the previous release, and the WTDAI article tells about 15-points you can do (including the installation of codecs, common desktop, communication, programming, and educational software) after having Yakkety installed.

3. Hardware Compatibility

I installed Ubuntu Yakkety in the laptop (netbook) Acer Aspire One 756-967B (Intel Pentium, Intel HD Graphic, 11" LCD, 4GB RAM, 120GB SSD) with these details:

  • WLAN: OK
  • VGA: OK
  • Sound: OK
  • Touchpad: OK
  • Monitor: OK
  • Fn Keys: OK
  • Suspend: OK
  • SSD: OK
  • Battery + charger: OK

Ubuntu 16.10 running successfully without any additional driver installation after system installation. It is a fundamentally important value for a desktop/laptop OS.

4. Memory Consumption

In default mode (Unity 7), Ubuntu 16.10 eats around 1 GB of RAM when idle. It is a very huge consumption even if we compare it with our latest review in elementary OS Loki (~700 MB) or deepin 15.3 (~500 MB) when idle. It is a big deficiency, the most minus point (technically) for Ubuntu 16.10.

And if you wonder which processes eat the most memory spaces, the answer is compiz (between 100-200 MB, may vary for another computers) followed with gnome-software (around 100 MB, also may vary) and some other processes as shown at picture below:

This memory consumption data makes me feel sad for "<= 2GB RAM" users, because it must be very heavy for them to run this Ubuntu 16.10 operating system. I don't recommend Ubuntu 16.10 Unity 7 for low-RAM computers.

Note: if you wonder how it feels running Ubuntu 16.10 on 4 GB of RAM, like mine, I tell you it feels not heavy at all. It is still smooth and stable (in less crash/hang sense). I can do any desktop task flawlessly.

5. Unity 8! 

Ubuntu 16.10 brings Unity 8 built-in. It's a long awaited feature, and the users now can use it directly from their desktop session. Once Yakkety installed, in the login screen, you just need to choose "Unity8" from desktop session selection button in LightDM, and then log in. Unity 8 in Ubuntu 16.10 is brought to you by unity8-desktop-session software package (metapackage), as testing purpose only (in other words, Unity 8 here is not ready for daily desktop use). When you enter Unity8 session, then the desktop you will face is a black panel on top, with a vertical panel on the left edge (hidden by default, push hardly to reveal it), and a sidebar on the right edge (while you click on one item on panel tray). 
Note:  if you are using development version of Yakkety (e.g. beta), install unity8-desktop-session package to get the Unity 8 desktop environment.
The most noticeable appearance of Unity 8 is the Alt+Tab switcher like picture below. It's similar with the switcher in Ubuntu Touch (Ubuntu in mobile phone), while the screen covered with an blurred overlay with the application windows flipped in 3D view.

The desktop view at a glance is basically the same with Unity 7 (the normal Unity), except the user will feel some differences in the window decoration, the buttons, and even in Terminal. The Scope menu itself is still a window, not a full-screen menu like Unity 7 Dash. The Scope menu contains only few native Unity 8 applications: a web browser, a system settings, a terminal, and a "testing tool".

Interesting to see, every single icon in tray has its own sidebar on the right edge. It is almost similar with what you see in deepin 15.3 (or even Windows 10). It is bigger and larger than drop-down menu in Unity 7.

You can not run any of X11 applications (e.g. Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, Shotwell, GNOME Screenshot, etc.) because Unity 8 session is not using X11 Display Server but using Mir Display Server as a replacement. Of course, while Unity 8 session is running, you computer does not run X11, but Mir. That's the reason. You need help from a special system called Libertine to run any X11 application on top of Mir in Ubuntu 16.10.

Note: X11 and Mir are software environment that acting as the display server in an operating system, in other words, the foundation of all GUI applications running on top of. Unity 8 is a new desktop environment created exclusively on top of Mir. Read more about X11 here, and Mir here.  

6. Default Software

Here is a list of built-in installed software in Yakkety Yak:

7. GNOME Calendar

Reviewing Loki and deepin 15.3 before, plus using openSUSE Leap KDE lately, make me aware how important personal management software is. The main point for me (and I hope for many of you too) is the schedule management. This is achieved by calendar software, when the user can arrange their schedules based on days (or even hours) and get reminder always at the right time. In Ubuntu 16.10, there is a GNOME Calendar included for that schedule management purpose.

The schedules created inside GNOME Calendar, are connected with the Ubuntu Date & Time Indicator Applet (top panel, system tray). You can see them in picture below, while the schedules appearing in tray indicator below the small October calendar.

8. Help & Documentation

Ubuntu 16.10 ships with its own Help and Documentation. Open desktop menu (press Super key) and search help and click on question mark icon. Then a window with the title Ubuntu Desktop Guide comes, showing a huge amount of documentations. It brings desktop-related how-to, along with file managements, networkings, add/remove software, multimedia, and system settings documentations. It is a complete guide for every user of Ubuntu 16.10, and it's very useful in many cases, for example, when the user has no internet connection to search for help they don't need to worry because they have this guide offline. 

This Ubuntu Desktop Guide is very easy to nagivate, for example, its main page is an overview of all sections (just like a book's index) while each section is clickable to show its contents.

Not only Ubuntu Desktop Guide, Ubuntu 16.10 also brings Help documentations for all GNOME Applications installed. To show it, while opening a GNOME Application (e.g. GNOME Calendar), press F1 key. It adds the usefulness value because the user can access the documentation directly in their own system, without any internet connection needed.

Besides the graphical documentations, Ubuntu 16.10 also brings man and info documentation system for its command line interface. They are the documentation every Terminal user must know, when they don't understand a command they just need to invoke man <command_name> or info <command_name>. This inclusion of man/info system is mandatory for a GNU/Linux distribution.

9. The Joy of SSD

I understand, SSD is ultimately fast in any operating system (not just Ubuntu). But this laptop with SSD preinstalled (second-hand) is new, and I want to share my joy of SSD with you. As you can see at picture below, my Nautilus is copying a single ISO file of Ubuntu Yakkety (1.7 GB) from one partition to another (ext4-ext4) with the transfer speed around 147 MB/s finished in around 11 seconds. The review part is that this new "copying progress" window in Nautilus, is an integrated (glued into Nautilus interface) and not focus-stealing (so I can press PrintScreen while it progressing) popup.

10. Conclusion

  • Ubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak is ready for desktop use in Unity 7 mode. It comes with enough functional free software built-in, and large number of free software in its repository. 
  • Unfortunately, Ubuntu 16.10 is not suitable for low-RAM computers, because it eats 1GB RAM at idle state, I recommend you to have at least 3GB RAM or above to install Ubuntu 16.10. Note: using 16.10 in 4GB RAM is already comfortable and smooth.
  • Unfortunately, its new Unity 8 desktop environment is not ready for daily use yet, except for testing purpose only. 
  • If you want a working system, use Yakkety only with Unity 7 session. 
  • If you want to help Unity 8 developments (or want to write articles about it), then use Yakkety with Unity 8 session. It is the easiest way for that purposes.

11. Additions

Here are some external stuffs about Ubuntu 16.04 you may find useful. They are mirror repository, contribution, development, and donation related stuffs. I hope the inclusion of these information is truly useful for whole Ubuntu community.