Ubuntu 13.10: The good, the bad, and the ugly
The new Touch operating system for mobile devices is still a work in progress
There are also a few known bugs with this release, though we didn't encounter any of them on our systems. They include problems when there are many partitions on a disk, freezing the install and requiring a restart. Upgrading encrypted volumes also requires a work-around, which is explained in the release notes.
Originally, this release was supposed to use Mir, a new display server that is supposed to work on both traditional and mobile desktops. Currently, Ubuntu uses X window since Mir doesn't yet fully support multiple monitors. Ubuntu is expected to complete the switch to Mir next year, a controversial move which puts Ubuntu at odds with some other versions of Linux. For example, Intel and Red Hat support the competing Wayland display server.
Mir was included, however, in the Ubuntu Touch component of Ubuntu 13.10, designed for mobile phones.
There is a benefit to be had in being able to search for files you own on both local drives and in cloud services such as Google Drive and Flickr. That's the idea behind Unity Smart Scopes.
A prototype version of this search function was available in the previous Ubuntu release, which searched Amazon in addition to the local drive. Now, Smart Scopes also searches across such sites as Etsy, Wikipedia and Reddit.
The result is a cluttered mess.
The first thing many users will probably do after installing Ubuntu 13.10 is to get rid of most of these results. The quickest way is through the privacy settings, by turning off “Include online search results” in the “Search” tab of the “Security & Privacy” settings window. Unfortunately, this not only turns off Amazon and Etsy searches but also disables your ability to search for the online files that you own.
Another option is to turn off individual types of results with the use of filters, available through a drop-down list on the right side of the Smart Scopes search results window. Unfortunately, the filters don't stick. We had to turn off the Web searches each time we did a new search.
Smart Scopes are supposed to get better the more you use them, but there doesn't seem to be any benefit in using them for general Web searches over, say, using Google. Clicking on the results will open a browser anyway, so you might as well just start there and use your favorite search engine which, chances are, will offer results that are better organized and more relevant.
And mixing generic Web results in with your own files is just confusing.
On the plus side, Google Drive searches worked well once we added Google Drive to our “Online Accounts” under “Settings.” In addition, visiting Gmail and Google Docs prompted us to install the related applications, which was convenient and useful.
On the other hand, search through other cloud-based storage platforms, such as Microsoft's SkyDrive, Box, and Dropbox, aren't supported. Of the three, only Dropbox has an Ubuntu app, available for download through the Ubuntu Software Center, but we weren't able to get Smart Scopes to find any of the files we had stored there, even if they showed up fine in the Dropbox folder.
Finally, Ubuntu's Unity interface continues to hide the Files menu when windows are maximized. When writing this review, for example, we were able to move the window close and minimize buttons from the top left to the top right, using the Unity Tweak Tool app. But the File menu stays invisible until you mouse over it, violating the principles of usability design with this bit of “mystery meat navigation.”