Plans for Ubuntu Studio 18.10 – Cosmic Cuttlefish
For Ubuntu 18.10, we have been starting to think outside-the-box. There is something to be said of remaining with what you have and refining it, but staying in one spot can lead quickly to stagnation. Coming up with new ideas and progressing forward with those ideas is the cure to stagnation. If we can’t move forward, then we become stagnant, and a stagnant Linux distribution is a dying distribution. Technology is constantly changing and evolving, so we decided for this release cycle, and with the new leadership, Ubuntu Studio is undergoing something of a “reboot”; this is to say we’ll be adding new technologies and making some changes along the way.
Ubuntu Studio is a unique flavor of Ubuntu. Currently, it is the only remaining flavor of Ubuntu that is tied to its applications as opposed to its desktop environment. Originally, Ubuntu Studio started as an add-on to an existing Ubuntu installation, which used the GNOME 2 Desktop. Then Ubuntu Studio started to release its own CD images for direct download, as opposed to being an add-on. This included the GNOME 2 desktop and all of the metapackages much as it exists now.
In 2010, Ubuntu changed to move to Unity. With concerns about the performance of the brand-new desktop environment, and with GNOME 2 being deprecated in favor of GNOME 3, the Ubuntu Studio team decided to adopt the Xfce desktop, keeping an experience as close to GNOME 2 as possible, and to avoid the performance issues of KDE’s Plasma 4.
Since then, desktop environments on Linux distributions have matured significantly. GNOME 2 was forked to MATE, Plasma has been nearly rewritten to be a much lighter desktop, Unity has been dropped by Ubuntu in favor of GNOME 3 (as of the 17.10 release cycle), and we’ve seen newcomers such as Budgie.
With this in mind, the Ubuntu Studio team decided to rethink the choice of Desktop Environment, especially in light of the maturity of MATE as a close descendent of Studio’s original desktop environment. With that, it was proposed to look at either changing desktop environments or offering an alternative. Many Desktop Environments were tested for workflow, adaptation of our Ubuntu Studio Application Menus, and ease of development.
In the end and for the reasons described in this mailing list post, the Ubuntu Studio team would like to announce its first alternative desktop environment as KDE’s Plasma. We found it would be much easier to implement than most desktops at this time, and has struck a balance between form and functionality.
We want to be clear: Ubuntu Studio is not changing default desktop at this time. Some considerations are being made to make desktop selection available at install time, but to minimize DVD image file size we are also considering offering two separate ISOs.
With this, we would like to dispel a few myths about Plasma.
Myth 1: Plasma is a resource hog
This is no longer true. While Plasma 4 was quite resource-intensive in its time, this reputation bled over into Plasma 5. However, Plasma 5 is much less resource intensive for the following reasons:
- Nepomuk (the file indexer) was a huge cause of the performance problems in Plasma 4. Nepomuk was deprecated in favor of the much lighter Baloo indexer, which uses a negligible amount resources.
- The other performance concern was with Akonadi, the Personal Information Manager backend for such applications in the Kontact suite like KMail and KOrganizer. In our testing, Akonadi is disabled by default, and is only activated if one of the aforementioned applications is activated and configured. This is not a problem if you use a different email client and/or PIM, such as Thunderbird.
- Yet another performance and resource concern was with the compositor, or “Eye Candy”. The compositor can be configured to use OpenGL 2.0, 3.1, or simply use Xrender. Additionally, the compositor can be completely disabled with a preconfigured key combination (alt-shift-F12), and can even be disabled by default. That said, the KWin compositor has not shown in our testing to cause performance problems.
Myth 2: Plasma has confusing audio configuration
In our testing, this is no longer the case, and we actually found the audio configuration to be simplified. Gone are the days of having to make sure Phonon is configured properly.
Myth 3: Plasma will interfere with my workflow.
As stated above, Plasma is being offered as an alternate and will not replace your Xfce install. Xfce will continue to be offered
For Ubuntu Studio 18.10, we will no longer offer 32-bit installs. We made the determination that not only will this ease the burden on our already thin-stretched development team, but allow us to move forward on the process of making and ensuring that Ubuntu Studio the best multimedia creation Linux distribution. Additionally, we determined that most of our target user base is running on fairly modern hardware that supports 64-bit. Ubuntu Studio is not a distribution meant to revive old hardware, simply because many of the installed applications require modern hardware for the best user experience.
Additionally, we plan to offer a “welcome center” and “software boutique” similar to Ubuntu MATE and Ubuntu Budgie. We plan for this to replace the already-existing Ubuntu Studio Metapackage Installer as it has a more intuitive and attractive interface.
As stated before, the Ubuntu Studio team consists of a handful of volunteers. If you would like to see this project flourish, please contribute. The best way is to subscribe to and introduce yourself on the Ubuntu Studio Development mailing list, and state how you would like to get involved.