Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine Review

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know that I have a difficult relationship with Gnome. I love the aesthetics, but I despise the number of desktop crashing bugs, dropped frames and the number of extra clicks you need to make to get anything done. That being said, Gnome 3.34 in Ubuntu 19.10 is a giant leap forward and if the core Gnome team supported by Canonical’s renewed efforts keep tweaking the performance and stability in subsequent releases, I may be tempted to stop distrohopping and stay with vanilla Ubuntu until something exciting happens in the Linux distributions land.

Using Gnome 3.34 in Ubuntu 19.10 feels like getting used to living with a new girlfriend after you’ve been trying to recover from a bad breakup by falling into a string of random hook-ups. That is, I still miss Unity and I remember fondly its kinks and unique features (I <3 HUD), but I’m finding various exciting things that I can appreciate about this new relationship.

Things i didn’t even know I wanted, such as proper touch support. I’ve got my first touchscreen laptop (Lenovo X1 Carbon) and fingering my screen (tee-hee) to scroll through long academic papers is a godsend. Proper responsive scaling of a few selected Gnome applications (I smell Librem 5’s influence here) is also a nice touch that make the DE look more polished than ever before.

What really sells it though, and I have almost lost hope to ever see it happen, is the great increase in performance. Stutters and frame drops do occasionally happen, especially when you have a bunch of windows opened across multiple virtual desktops, but they are no longer omnipresent and are much less disturbing.

This used to be my gripe for as long as there was Gnome Shell. It’s still not perfect, but it’s freaking huge improvement.

In addition, although this may be more of a testament to how bad Gnome used to be, I only encountered two Gnome crashes, that brought down all the open apps as well. First one happened within a few days of usage a couple of weeks ago, while I was trying to log in after waking the laptop from sleep; the second happened while writing this review, mere hours before the 19.10 is released.

The stuff under the hood has undergone the standard version increment. The kernel is version 5.3.0, Gnome Shell is version 3.34.1, you can now experimentally install / on a ZFS partition and Nvidia drivers will be shipped with the .iso image. October releases used to be quite exciting and filled with new features, but this one was more about the polish and tweaking the user experience, than anything radically new.

Neofetch - Showing system info

Neofetch – Showing system info

What can make some users happy is the continued improvement of the snap integration, which now supports themes and some visual updates to the Yaru theme itself. Subjectively, I find Ubuntu 19.10 to be the best looking distro I’ve used in a while. Everything, from the Gnome itself to the color palette in dialog windows are wonderful to look at.

Activities - Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

Activities – Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

Calendar Widget - Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

Calendar Widget – Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

Calendar App - Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine

Calendar – Theme Example

Keyboard Layout Dropdown menu

Keyboard Layout Dropdown menu

Combined menu - Cool to look at, needlessly click-heavy to use

Combined menu – Cool to look at, needlessly click-heavy to use

File Rename - Nautilus

File Rename – Nautilus

Close File without saving - Gedit

Close File without saving – Gedit

Virtual Desktop switching

Virtual Desktop switching

I just wish the functionality and features would some day catch up to the eye-candy of recent Ubuntu versions, as whenever I use my girlfriends laptop running Ubuntu 16.04 with Unity, I feel as if the version numbers got mixed up. Unity in 16.04 still runs circles around Gnome in terms of raw performance, screen scaling, multiple display support and number of killer features. The only categories, where 19.10 gets points are the theme, touch support and responsive app scaling, which matters more on a phone or a tablet, than on laptops and desktops.

It takes too much time and effort to do simple tasks such as connecting Bluetooth headphones, switching audio output…Or even connect to wifi networks. There is no reason whatsoever why it should take 5-7 clicks!

One of my long time dream is having a calendar widget that would allow me to add to-do tasks and events without having to launch a second application. You’d think the big, beautiful calendar and notifications widget up top would allow me to do just that, right? WRONG!!! Stuff like this is really infuriating, especially considering some great usability innovations that are unique to Gnome. It’s app switching via activities menu, especially using keyboard is blazing fast and cool as heck.

Why the hell can’t the whole desktop be as efficient?

Unfortunately the flow of time waits on nobody and 16.04 has only 2 years of support to go. With the steady improvements rate, there is a slight possibility, that I’ll be able to use vanilla Ubuntu full-time once again, without pining for the past. I wish Canonical and Gnome team the best in their effort to get there.

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