Ubuntu 13.10 and Xubuntu 13.10

xu001Ubuntu 13.10 and Xubuntu 13.10 were released a few days ago. Yippee! I was eager to play with them to see what improvements have been made, so I installed them in VirtualBox 4.2.18 and clicked away.

This is a short review of my initial thoughts and impressions of these two Linux distributions.

Note: Since these operating systems are running inside VirtualBox instead of using real hardware, hardware compatibility is not tested.

Installation and Resources

First of all, both offer extremely easy installation. Ubuntu and Xubuntu both installed fine without any problems. Installation was fast (under four minutes each), and the install screens were mostly the same as before with little changes. Those familiar with the installation process will know exactly what to expect.


Ubuntu 13.10 installation has a few new images to look at, but it is mostly the same.


Xubuntu 13.10 installs quickly and easily using the familiar installation screens.

Hard drive space and memory usage (measured by at idle desktop after boot using df -h and free -h) were both as low as they have always been with Xubuntu requiring slightly fewer resources than Ubuntu. This is to be expected since the Xfce desktop environment is designed to be a lightweight desktop environment. Below is a summary.

OS             Kernel      Disk Used   Memory Used 
Ubuntu 13.10 3.11.0-12 2.8G 322M
Xubuntu 13.10 3.11.0-12 2.6G 223M

The low memory usage reported by free -h is impressive compared to other operating systems, but please keep in mind that memory usage increases as programs are opened and the computer is actually used.


Here are few times measured using a stopwatch to emulate end-user, real-world waiting. Times are mostly even and consistent since Ubuntu 13.10 and Xubuntu 13.10 are practically the same operating system.

OS Install Start Login Shutdown
Ubuntu 13.10 3m18s 8s 3s 12s
Xubuntu 13.10 3m24s 8s 2s 12s

(m = minutes, s = seconds)


  • Install = Installation time from start to reboot prompt, including text entry
  • Start = Cold boot to login screen
  • Login = Valid login to usable desktop
  • Shutdown = The time from the final shutdown click to full power off

Please keep in mind that these times are measured using virtual machines in VirtualBox. Real hardware times might vary.

Ubuntu 13.10

Ah, Ubuntu, Ubuntu. Are you still using Unity? Oh, it looks like you are. Pity.


The Ubuntu 13.10 Unity Desktop. The desktop graphics are pleasing to the eye, and performance is responsive and quick in VirtualBox.

Somewhere, deep down, I was hoping that Unity would disappear in favor of…something. Anything. Just not Unity or GNOME 3.

Ubuntu 13.10 is not entirely bad. In fact, the entire distribution with Unity feels more polished and more responsive than previous versions. It runs well in VirtualBox compared to the sluggish performance of previous Ubuntu Unity-based versions. Desktop effects are instant. The Dash functions without blanking the screen. Menus are snappy. Software has been updated to the latest versions. Ubuntu is definitely better than previous 11.04+ versions.


Ubuntu 13.10 includes LibreOffice


And this is what stood out the most: Unity now works well in VirtualBox in addition to its overall refinement. If Unity had worked this well in Ubuntu 11.04, then my impression of it would have been more positive.

Sadly, Unity itself is the problem because, for me, it gets in the way of using the computer. It also feels too Mac-like and too iPhone-copied in an apparent attempt to cater to and attract those crowds. The result is a dumbed down interface that is too simplified and takes too many mouse clicks to get from Point A to Point B. Enough has been debated about Unity already, so there is no need to continue discussing it. You either like Unity, or you do not. Those who do like Unity should be pleased with Ubuntu 13.10.

New User Crash Report

The only crash report encountered occurred when attempting to add a new user. After the user was created using the User Accounts windows, the User Accounts window would close and present a crash report.


Making the final click after adding a new user would always produce this crash report in Ubuntu 13.10.

This was consistent for each virtual reboot. Once the crash happened, creating additional users did not produce further crash reports.


Windows-based laptops and computer bundles are notorious for including third-party bloatware and advertisements, but this is incongruous in the Linux world. So, when it happens, it stands out.

Just like the previous Ubuntu, Ubuntu 13.10 includes the Amazon.com icon in the Launcher, and it opens Amazon’s web site in Firefox when clicked. Nobody can blame Canonical for seeking revenue to help fund Ubuntu, but still…


Clicking the Amazon icon in the Launcher opens Firefox 24.0 in an attempt to visit the Amazon.com web site. The virtual network cable is deliberately disconnected in VirtualBox, so Ubuntu 13.10 cannot connect to the Internet which is why we see the “Server Not Found” message. This is not a bug in Ubuntu.

The Amazon icon can be removed by right-clicking it and choosing to unlock it from the launcher.

Privacy Risk

After Unity, this is the next gripe I have with Ubuntu that effectively kills the Ubuntu deal. By default, when you use the Dash to search for items on your computer, these search requests are sent to Canonical’s servers to help retrieve related search results from online sources. These results are displayed in the Dash. They could be Wikipedia articles, reviews, or whatever that relate to your current search.


Search your computer and online sources.” The “online sources” part can be a cause for concern. The “online search results” option is set to OFF and the VirtualBox network cable is disconnected, so no search results are shown. Only the search results relevant to the computer are displayed.

This feature adds a level of integration between the Internet and the operating system in an effort to make the operating system more connected with the outside world. It is not a bad idea and I can see the use for this, but in this age of increasing ISP, corporate, and government snooping of our Internet traffic, it can be a privacy risk for those who wish to keep their AisleRiot Solitaire searches secret. This is nothing more than Ubuntu “phoning home,” and there is no telling who is sniffing those network packets while searching from the Dash.


Again, no online results because the online search is disabled.


If connected to the Internet and if the online search is enabled, you can view more information about a particular program, such as stars, reviews, and images. It has potential, but I cannot shake the feeling that this could be used (someday) to monitor how I use my computer and record which programs I decide to run.

The social media crowd with their online connection addiction will welcome this feature because you really can find out more information about the programs you run, but those who value their privacy might find it intrusive.

Does Ubuntu really need to relay my Dash search requests to Canonical while I use my computer? Is this absolutely necessary? System update checking and the Ubuntu Software Center are understandable, but that should be all. Anything else feels like a potential feature to exploit by the outside world.

Thankfully, the phoning home of online search results can be turned off by going to System Settings, opening Security and Privacy, and setting the toggle switch to OFF.


When set to OFF, Ubuntu will not relay the Dash search requests to headquarters…or so I have been told.


To be absolutely certain that Ubuntu will never phone home, turn the toggle switch off and refuse to allow Ubuntu to connect to the Internet. Accidents happen, so it’s easy to think that a switch is OFF when it might be ON.

Even at the start of installation, Ubuntu 13.10 wants to reach out and touch someone.

Even at the start of installation, Ubuntu 13.10 wants to reach out and touch someone.

True, the argument can be made that Dash searching is no different than using a search engine in a web browser in addition to the countless other stuff that occurs when online, but, by default, this is built into Unity as a feature instead of using a browser that I have control over with regards as to what gets sent and retrieved using what method to preserve privacy.


Ubuntu 13.10 Summary

On the surface, Ubuntu 13.10 is not noticeably different from Ubuntu 13.04. The bug fixes, improved Unity, and added features sprinkled throughout the operating system are good, but Unity is still used and the privacy issue remains.

If you enjoy Ubuntu 13.04, you will probably enjoy Ubuntu 13.10 even more. However, after using many versions of Ubuntu since version 6, Ubuntu 10.10 remains the best that I have ever used due to its speed, simplicity, ease of use, and compatibility with Compiz and Emerald. These advantages put Ubuntu 13.10 to shame, and I would prefer Ubuntu 10.10 over Ubuntu 13.10 any day.

To its credit, Ubuntu 13.10 has a slick-looking user interface with improved eyecandy. The Launcher is transparent to allow the background wallpaper to show through, menus fade in and out, and even the Logout/Shutdown dialog is styled with an attractive transparency. Unity looks as good as it always has while performing better.


Ubuntu’s Unity eyecandy remains among the best in the Linux world. Shown here is the Logout/Shutdown dialog in Ubuntu 13.10. The buttons fade in and out as the mouse hovers over them. Nice touch.

Xubuntu 13.10

Xubuntu is better than ever!

Compared to Ubuntu 13.10, Xubuntu has made strides in the right direction, and I found it to be much more agreeable than Ubuntu 13.10. All of the dislikes regarding Unity and Ubuntu 13.10 are nonexistent because Xubuntu uses the tried and true Xfce desktop environment. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Xfce only improves itself for the better.


Xubuntu 13.10 default desktop. Boots fast. Menus are snappy. Low resource overhead. Better icons.

These features might be small, but the little tweaks make Xfce easier and more reliable to use. Xubuntu 13.10 runs perfectly in VirtualBox. Menus are fast and snappy. There is no “phoning home” with search results since the Unity Dash does not exist.

My favorite improvement is the new login screen that seems more refined. I like this version better than the previous versions.


The Xubuntu 13.10 login screen. Simple and clean. The user icon changes for the selected user.

(By the way, an easy way to create the user icon shown in the login screen is to copy a 1:1 ratio PNG image to your home directory and rename it to .face. The image shown above was copied from /usr/share/pixmaps/faces.)

Keep in mind that if your user home is encrypted (an option selectable during installation for both Ubuntu and Xubuntu), then a generic user icon will appear instead of your custom icon. Until you log in, your custom icon cannot be read by the system. After logging in, your custom icon will appear on the login screen and screensaver password entry dialog.



The initial desktop is clean and uncluttered. The most immediate difference is the icon set. The Xfce default icons have been slightly redesigned with a lighter skyblue appearance, and they look much better and less blocky than the previous versions. You can never go wrong with improved eyecandy no matter how small the change.


The Xubuntu 13.10 desktop features improved icons, Xfce 4.10, and updated software.


Like its predecessor, Xubuntu 13.10 offers extensive customization of various parts of the interface. Shown here are the Desktop and Panel dialogs. If you dislike the default Xfce appearance, you are free to adjust it to your heart’s content. It is possible to make Xfce look like GNOME 2, GNOME 3, or even KDE to a limit. All while enjoying the low overhead of Xfce.



Xubuntu 13.10 does not include LibreOffice or the same selection of programs as Ubuntu 13.10, but it does include Abiword 3. You can easily install LibreOffice or any other additional software. Xubuntu installs with a usable minimum to get started.

New User Crash Report

Just like Ubuntu 13.10, Xubuntu 13.10 exhibits a crash report when a new user is created. The conditions for appearing are exactly the same, and it is consistent upon each reboot despite the ExecutablePath being different.


Xubuntu 13.10 did it too!

Xubuntu 13.10 Summary

While Xubuntu 13.10 does not flash the eyecandy of Ubuntu 13.10 and Unity, it is far superior in my opinion. It is fast, reliable, and works superb in VirtualBox with minimal overhead. This makes Xubuntu a good choice for a virtual server where a GUI is needed. Xfce is plain and simple. Because of this, I find Xfce to be far more usable than Unity, and I can accomplish the fun with less clicking and in less time.

After Linux Mint 15, Xubuntu 13.10 is a close contender for “favorite Linux distribution.”


Xfce is clean and uncluttered by default for those who enjoy desktop whitespace.


After a few days with Ubuntu 13.10 and Xubuntu 13.10, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to drop Ubuntu yet continue with Xubuntu. The glory days of Ubuntu 10.10 excellence are over, and they are apparently not returning due to Canonical’s obsession with the whole cellphone integration craze that is sweeping the world. I want a computer that looks like a computer, not a cellphone/desktop/tablet hybrid OS.

Ubuntu 13.10 was fun to experiment with, but I would never use it because, again, its Unity user interface gets in the way of using the computer. This is ironic because Ubuntu is what made me switch to Linux in the first place. Ubuntu 13.10 has lost everything that made Ubuntu great for me. Innovation often produces good things, and some people might like the new Ubuntu, so by all means, give Ubuntu a try and decide for yourself.

On the other hand, Xubuntu 13.10 is a definite winner, and it continues to perform well with the familiar Xfce simplicity. Xubuntu makes a great virtual Linux and desktop Linux, and its improvements truly improve. On the other hand, Xubuntu might be a challenge for new Linux users to grasp due to the sparse Xfce interface. It takes a little time to adjust to Xfce. Power users should leap for joy with Xfce, but new users might throw up their hands in frustration at first.

As good as Ubuntu and Xubuntu have become, in my experience, Linux Mint is still better due to its variety of Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce, and Debian offerings combined with its eyecandy-attractive ease of use and superb hardware compatibility. In the end, I would still recommend Linux Mint to new Linux users, since I find it to be the most user-friendly Linux distribution currently available.


Parting Thought

As always, Linux is versatile and offers infinite customization. For example, if you prefer a certain desktop, such as Xfce, KDE, or Cinnamon, over Unity, then you are free to install and use it in Ubuntu 13.10. Yes, other desktop environments besides Unity work with Ubuntu. So, if you like the hardware compatibility and support that Ubuntu offers but you dislike Unity, then you can swap parts and mix and match to your liking.

With Linux, you are usually never stuck with a certain arrangement. If you do not like something, simply change it! If Ubuntu and Xubuntu both seem lacking in some areas, then combine the best of both worlds to create the system you like. This requires knowledge, time, and experimentation, but your imagination is the limit and you will definitely become a more skilled computer user from the process, and that is what makes Linux so much fun.

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