Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

It’s time for another review of Ubuntu, Canonical’s popular desktop Linux distribution. Ubuntu moves to version 14.04 in this release. This time around the code name for Ubuntu is Trusty Tahr and it’s a long term support release (LTS) geared toward providing a more polished desktop experience.

I bet you’re wondering what the heck a tahr is right? Frankly, I’d never heard of such an animal until Ubuntu picked it as the mascot for this release. I have to give the Ubuntu developers credit for consistently finding weirdly named animals to represent each Ubuntu release. They must have a guy or gal who spends part of his or her time browsing Wikipedia to find these animals.

Perplexed about this strange critter, I did a bit of searching to discover more about it and here’s what I found:

Tahrs are three species of large Asian ungulates related to the wild goat. Until recently the three species were believed to be closely related and were placed in a single genus, Hemitragus. Genetic studies have proven that the three tahrs are not as closely related as previously thought. Now they are considered as members of four separate monotypic genera; Hemitragus is now reserved for the Himalayan Tahr; Nilgiritragus for the Nilgiri Tahr; Arabitragus for the Arabian Tahr;[1] and Ubuntu 14.04 for the Trusty Tahr which is an operating system.[2]

More at Wikipedia

Tahr

Tahrs are three species of large Asian ungulates related to the wild goat.

So there you go, it’s always enlightening to discover new animals that you’ve never heard of before when a new version of Ubuntu is released. Who knows what surprises the next release of Ubuntu may have for us…maybe it will be called Amazing Anaconda or Outrageous Ostrich or something like that.

Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop

The Ubuntu 14.04 desktop.

What’s New in Ubuntu 14.04
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux kernel 3.13
Local menus
Launcher icon size controls
Live window resizing on by default
Keyboard filtering for Unity App Spread
Super + L locks Ubuntu 14.04
Raise volume past 100%
Full menus in GNOME apps
Antialiased windows

Local menus
The lack of local menus was one of the most sought after features in Ubuntu and the Ubuntu developers didn’t disappoint in this release. To use them you’ll need to open Settings then go to Appearance and then click the “In the window’s title bar” option under “Show the menus for a window.” It’s a very easy change, it takes about two seconds.

After you make the change, click on the title bar on an application window and the local menu will appear. It contains all of the usual stuff: File, Edit, View, History, etc. Personally I find that the local menus are much faster and easier for me to use, but your mileage may vary. It’s a very good thing that the Ubuntu developers decided to give users the choice on how they want to use menus in applications.

Ubuntu 14.04 Local Menu Control

It’s simple to activate local menus in the appearance settings.

Ubuntu 14.04 Local Menu in Window

You can see the local menu active in this window.

Super + L locks Ubuntu 14.04
You can use the Super (Windows) + L keys to lock your Ubuntu 14.04 desktop. I don’t generally keep mine locked for the most part, but this is a very helpful keyboard shortcut for those times when you want to lock down your Ubuntu desktop to prevent unauthorized access to it. This is a small but very useful addition for some users.

Launcher icon size controls
Another great change in this release is the ability to control the size of the icons in the launcher. You can make them as small as 16 or as large as 64 pixels if you want. To change the launcher icon size just go to Settings then Appearance. From there you can use the slider bar at the bottom to adjust the launcher icons to your preferred size. This is a great way of making the launcher take up less screen space if you opt for smaller icons.

Ubuntu 14.04 Change Launcher Icon Size

It’s very easy and fast to change the size of the launcher icons.

Live window resizing
Here’s a feature that’s on by default, and you’ll notice it when you resize windows in Ubuntu 14.04. It’s not technically new, but the fact that it’s the default sort of makes it new. When you resize a window you’ll see the results as you do it. This is a bit better to look at than how it was previously done. It’s not an earth-shattering feature, but it is a nice piece of refinement that adds to the desktop experience in Ubuntu 14.04.

Antialiased windows
Another bit of refinement is the inclusion of antialiased window corners. Again, this is not earth shattering, but it does make the desktop more pleasant to use. I suspect that many users won’t even notice it, but I’m still glad that it has been included in this release.

Keyboard filtering for Unity App Spread
If you’ve ever used Unity’s app spread then you’ll appreciate the keyboard filtering in Ubuntu 14.04. You can now start typing the name of a window after hitting the Super + W keys to narrow down the windows that appear. This can be a fast timesaver if you need to switch to a particular window.

Raise volume past 100 percent
In the true spirit of Spinal Tap, you can now make the volume go past 100 percent. Yes, you can get that little bit of extra volume if you need it. To enable this, go to Settings then Sound and click on the “Allow louder than 100%” option.

Ubuntu 14.04 Make Sound Louder Than 100 Percent

Like Spinal Tap, you can make your Ubuntu 14.04 desktop go to 11.

Full menus in GNOME apps
GNOME apps have gotten full menus added back in. This affects apps like Rhythmbox and gives you the typical File, Edit, etc. selections in the menu. Given the changes in GNOME itself, this is a helpful tweak for Ubuntu users who may not be familiar with where GNOME has been headed.

Ubuntu 14.04 Download and Install
You can download Ubuntu 14.04 from this page. You can get Ubuntu 14.04 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions.

Installing Ubuntu 14.04 was trivial and took about ten minutes or so. Even complete newbies to Linux should have no problem installing Ubuntu 14.04 on their systems, and you also have the option of running it as a live desktop if you prefer not to do an install immediately.

Linux Software Included in Ubuntu 14.04
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in this release.

Games
Mines
Sudoku
AisleRiot Solitaire
Mahjongg

Graphics
Shotwell Photo Manager
LibreOffice Draw
Document Viewer
Simple Scan
Image Viewer
Photo Lens

Internet
Desktop Sharing
Thunderbird Mail
Firefox
Transmission
Empathy IM
Remmina Remote Desktop Client

Multimedia
Videos
Gstreamer extra plugins
Rhythmbox Music Player
Cheese Webcam Booth
Brasero Disc Burner

Office
LibreOffice
Google Drive Scope for Unity

Ubuntu 14.04 Software Center

There are thousands of applications available in the Ubuntu 14.04 Software Center.

Where To Get Help for Ubuntu 14.04
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or post in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out one of these Ubuntu resources:

Ask Ubuntu
Ubuntu Documentation
Ubuntu Downloads
Ubuntu Forum
Ubuntu Site

Final Thoughts About Ubuntu 14.04
Ubuntu 14.04 seems to be all about refining the Ubuntu desktop. While there are not a lot of amazing new features in this release, there are quite a few very useful and needed tweaks that add up to a much better desktop experience. Canonical’s designers seem to be listening to Ubuntu users again, and they seem willing to make the changes necessary to give the users what they want. That may be the single most important thing about Ubuntu 14.04. It could be an indication of a sea change in Canonical’s attitude toward Ubuntu users.

For me the highlights of this release are the local menus and the ability to control the size of the icons in the launcher. Both features really gave me much more control over certain aspects of the Ubuntu desktop that I had been irritated by in the past. I’m very happy indeed that Canonical decided to include them in this release, and I think those two changes alone make it worth upgrading to Ubuntu 14.04.

Ubuntu 14.04 is well suited for beginners as well as more advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on Ubuntu 14.04? Tell me in the comments below.