The world’s most popular desktop Linux distribution began the year with one desktop environment, yet ends it with another.
But despite several controverisal decisions along the way Ubuntu is, arguably, in better shape than it’s ever been. It’s found its mojo, refined its focus, and heads into the next year emboldened and renewed.
In this post we present 12 images from our archives that (somewhat) illustrate Ubuntu in 2017.
So join us as we look back and trace the key events for Ubuntu in 2017.
January 2017 – Cracks begin to show
January 2017 was a difficult month for fans of the Ubuntu phone.
They got their first hint that something was up with Canonical’s mobile ambitions after a planned over-the-air update for Ubuntu phone and tablets was shelved, and vague reasons given as to why.
One engineer involved with the project intimated that there were unlikely to be further new features released to existing handsets or, indeed, any new handsets. All attention was now on creating a Snap-based version of Ubuntu Touch — and it was unlikely that existing Ubuntu phones would be capable of running it.
We asked if the news meant the Ubuntu Phone project was on pause — a post that saw us branded as liars, haters, sensationalists, and (my favourite) irresponsibly spreading ‘fake news’.
Uncertainty may have been swirling around its commitment to smartphones, but Canonical still managed to put in another Mobile World Congress (MWC) appearance.
This year the company wasn’t there to pimp Ubuntu phones and tout Ubuntu tablets (showcasing of Ubuntu phones was left to the community).
Instead the company was there to talk up its internet-of-things offerings, including robots, switch racks, and a utilitarian looking augmented reality helmet running custom software atop Ubuntu Core.
With Ubuntu developers busy working on Ubuntu 17.04 (more on that in a moment) it was left to Linux laptop vendor System76 to keep the OS in the spotlight.
And to do that they unveiled the System76 Galago Pro laptop in March 2017.
Boasting an aluminium chassis, 4K display, and some decent spec’d internal hardware, the device got a lot of attention from tech press and from Linux enthusiasts alike.
We’re still confused by the totally bizarre teaser video the company created to build interest. And despite being bigged up as a flagship device the majority of System76 Galago Pro reviews suggest the device is far from being anything special.
April 2017 – All Change
You may remember April 2017 for the release of Ubuntu 17.04 (pictured above). The ‘Zesty Zapus’ arrived with little fanfare and few new features to speak of, but was nonetheless a welcome, iterative short term update.
What wasn’t known on release day was that Ubuntu 17.04 would be final version of Ubuntu to ship with the Unity desktop by default.
Shortly after its release Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth announced a string of major changes – an announcement which left the entire Linux community shocked.
He revealed that Canonical, which funds development of Ubuntu, was now going to focus on “growing Ubuntu for cloud and IoT rather than phone and convergence” as it’s what made commercial sense.
As such, the company ended its investment in Unity 8, Ubuntu phones and tablet, convergence, and revealed that Ubuntu would drop the Unity desktop and shift back to upstream GNOME Shell for its upcoming releases.
A whole lot of change was on the way…
May 2017 – Rogue One
May 2017 brought more bad press for Ubuntu as a security vulnerability was discovered in the Ubuntu login screen. A would-be attracted could get unauthorised access to other users’ files and folders by exploiting a vulnerability in the guest session account.
Canonical quickly fixed the flaw. It pushed out a update to disable Ubuntu guest session logins on Ubuntu 16.10 and Ubuntu 17.04 (the only affected distros).
This photo popped up on social media in June 2017. It shows an Ubuntu developer working alongside GNOME developer Jonas Ådahl on various HiDPI related matters.
It was a nice moment. It showed that GNOME developers were happy to welcome Ubuntu back to the GNOME fold, and rekindle the relationship between both projects (a relationship strained during the Unity years).
July 2017 — Available in a strange land…
Ubuntu became even more accessible in July 2017 as the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) left beta status.
Seeing Ubuntu (and other Linux distributions, including Fedora) listed on the Windows Store remains a bizarre and yet oddly awesome thing to see.
While some remain suspicious of Microsoft’s intentions by, er, letting Windows users access command-line Linux tools on the Windows 10 desktop, the feature has proven mildly popular with those trapped on Windows — but we’ve seen nothing to suggest it’s tempting users away from Linux full-time!
August 2017 — GNOME Sweet GNOME
Armed with feedback about what Ubuntu users wanted to see on the Ubuntu 17.10 desktop, the Canonical desktop team had a good idea of how the ‘Artful Aardvark’ should look and feel.
August 2017 saw a flood of improvements to the look and feel of Ubuntu 17.10. There was a new and improved version of the Ambiance GTK theme, a GNOME Shell theme, and the new Ubuntu Dock extension picked up dynamic transparency.
And, most controversially of all, Ubuntu moved window controls back to the right!
September 2017 – Mark Returns
Mark Shuttleworth popped up on BBC News in September 2017 to …Well, we’re still not really sure. HIs interview, while pleasant enough, didn’t seem to have much of a purpose. He managed to explain a bit about Ubuntu and its role in cloud and IoT, but things naturally zoomed off into discussing his time in space.
Regardless of content this was Mark’s first major public appearance since the April bombshell dropped. As such it was reassuring to see him full of passion and regard for the Ubuntu project, what it has achieved, and what it still stands to.
October 2017 – The Aardvark Arrives
Ubuntu 17.10 arrived in October 2017 with a new desktop environment (GNOME Shell 3.26), a new display server (Wayland), a new display manager (GDM), an improved GTK theme (Ambiance), a new GNOME Shell theme, and a new desktop dock extension (Ubuntu Dock).
When you consider how long it took minor new features to be added to the Unity desktop — despite a fleet of engineers working on it — that Ubuntu 17.10 arrived as polished as it did, in just 6 months, with fewer people working on it, is… A miracle?
I’m sure everyone at Ubuntu was pleased to see the release greeted by a swathe of enthusiastic reviews, positive feedback and community kudos.
November 2017 – Renewed Ubuntu
Helping to sooth the tumultuous ten months past was Dell. The famous computer company announced an updated range of Ubuntu powered laptops and desktop PCs in November 2017.
Dell is a long-time backer of the Ubuntu project so it was reassuring to see them express their continued confidence in the distro as a visible consumer-facing option, despite the recent changes.
And their support was not a guarantee. Earlier in the year Linux long-time Ubuntu laptop vendor System76 announced its own Ubuntu fork called Pop!_OS. The distro, which basically sports a different GTK theme and wallpaper, now ships in place of Ubuntu on all of the company’s devices.
December 2017 – Where Next?
Trying to pick an image that sums up this month, December 2017, is difficult. There haven’t been any major news events, reveals, or announcements. So I’ve chosen our ambiguous ‘question/poll’ graphic.
Simple because there’s still uncertainty of over Ubuntu going forward.
With an LTS looming large over the start of next year it’ll be interesting to see if Ubuntu can sustain the current momentum and charm it’s (somewhat inadvertently) recaptured. The Ubuntu 18.04 default application set may throw up some surprises, as will the likelihood of Canonical shipping Snap apps by default on the desktop image.