Ubuntu 14.04 beta 1 brings some changes to GNOME, but the big focus is on maintaining the status quo for this long-term support release.
A few days ago, Canonical pushed out the first beta edition of Ubuntu Linux version 14.04, the release of the open source operating system that will hit production mode this April. As a long-term support (LTS) release, the new OS will help define the face of Ubuntu for a long time to come.
Codenamed Trusty Tahr—in honor of the species of goat-like creatures that roam various parts of Asia—Ubuntu 14.04 will have its official release April 17. But Canonical unveiled the first beta versions of the new OS Feb. 27. A beta build featuring the Unity interface, Canonical's homegrown desktop environment for Ubuntu and the one that will run by default in the final release of 14.04, won't be available until beta 2 appears March 27, but a build for the GNOME interface and several other variants are included in beta 1.
The beta builds don't bring too many changes from previous Ubuntu releases. In the GNOME build, Gnome Shell has been bumped up to version 3.10, and for those who don't like the Shell, the build also offers a GNOME classic option by default. In addition, it features what could be considered an updated software stack, since many of the GNOME 3 "core" apps are now available for download through the Software Center. In some cases, however, these are just old GNOME apps with new names, so nothing has changed too radically. For other desktop environments, changes are mostly limited to new wallpaper and minor touch-ups in the application stack.
What's perhaps most notable about Ubuntu 14.04 as it appears so far is what hasn't changed. In particular, there's little in the way of "convergence" between different hardware platforms. The application stack and underlying software infrastructure for the desktop version of Ubuntu has not yet become identical to the Ubuntu mobile platform, and Ubuntu 14.04 still will rely on the X display server rather than Mir, an alternative server that is an important part of Canonical's plans to make Ubuntu apps work equally well on all types of hardware devices, from laptops to smartphones to TVs.
But that doesn't mean Canonical has given up on its convergence plans. The company recently announced that Ubuntu-powered mobile phones will ship in 2014, and that it remains fully committed to completely integrating the codebases for the desktop and mobile versions of the OS. And since 14.04 is an Ubuntu LTS release, designed for production environments that need as stable a platform as possible, it's not a good candidate for experimentation anyway. Expect to see a lot more real change in Ubuntu 14.10, which will debut in October.