Ubuntu 16.04: A desktop for Linux diehards

Striking a balance between LTS stability and nice features, Ubuntu's Xenial Xerus is special

Every two years a release of Ubuntu is designated Long-Term Support (LTS). Ubuntu 16.04, code-named Xenial Xerus, is the latest in that line. LTS releases are supported for five years instead of the usual nine months, but they also have less obvious implications. LTS releases are usually geared toward the enterprise, which means they generally include fewer new features and more testing. Both qualities are attractive to risk-averse companies running production software on Ubuntu servers, but provide comparatively little to the desktop user.

However, Xenial Xerus bucks this trend with a handful of new features and some welcome improvements. With the new app store, the stand-alone calendar, and the movable Launcher, Xenial might be one of the more feature-rich releases in a few years. In this review, I’ll start by walking through these new pieces and improvements, and end with a look at how Ubuntu stacks up -- in terms of installation, ease, features, and so on -- against other desktop operating systems you might be familiar with.

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GNOME Software Center

Not so long ago, the Ubuntu story for software installations was far from clear. If you wanted a GUI to install new software, you could choose from one of at least seven options that came by default. If you think that’s a lot, you’re right.

Ubuntu engineers recognized this was a problem and began rolling out Ubuntu Software Center in late 2009. New features and improvements were incrementally released, but active development started to lose steam. As a result, a flavor of Ubuntu called Ubuntu MATE (as in "yerba mate," the plant) dropped Ubuntu Software Center from its release late last year. This brought up questions of what would happen to Ubuntu Software Center upstream. Soon after, it was announced that Ubuntu Software Center would be dropped from Ubuntu in favor of GNOME Software Center.

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