I downloaded the newest version of Ubuntu – 17.10 – to take a look at what’s been going on in this free, open source operating system. I have in the past dual-booted a version of Ubuntu with Windows but most of the time I run the OS in a virtual window, using VirtualBox. The big news was that Canonical has moved off its Unity Desktop and is now using Gnome. It felt much more like a Windows desktop interface.
I don’t always encrypt my VirtualBox drives but it seemed somehow easier in this version than it had been the last time – 16.04 – that I’d played around with Ubuntu. The setup always prompts you to encrypt your home drive, but I took the full disk encryption.
It’s funny that this sort of arrangement – opening up Windows, starting a new app (VirtualBox) and typing in an access password to decrypt might make more sense to people than turning on a computer and having to type a decryption password.
One feature I hadn’t expected to see – and that usually involved a bit of fiddling – was integration with cloud storage and social media accounts. Rather than having to customize each app or get under the hood, you can access a list of cloud services from the settings menu. The connection is just like any other app connection – Gnome will be the app name in your cloud service – and it supports two factor authentication.
I was able to successfully connect a Google and a Microsoft account. The Google Drive mounted within my file explorer, which was nice. I can drag and drop files from Google Drive to my hard drive just like I would with any other network drive share. Unfortunately, I can’t find where Microsoft’s OneDrive connection is. The online account is connected, but since there is no app or other icon, I can’t use it. This will take a bit of digging.
Microsoft and Ubuntu
One thing Ubuntu has always done better than Windows is desktop search. I can quickly search and bring up matching files and apps, among other things. Sure, you can do that a bit in Windows 10 but I find it still a bit janky. I laughed when I did a search for Microsoft – I was looking for my OneDrive – and got this:
The Microsoft Word and other Office products are still not something you’ll find natively in Ubuntu. There are similar apps but – just as with the recent Microsoft Office apps on Chromebook, a Linux-based OS– I’m not sure why anyone who need Office wouldn’t just use the web apps, now known as Microsoft Office Online. They are less functional, free, browser-based versions of the full Microsoft Office suite. Since there’s no installation (for the diehards, you can try CrossOver or Wine but Microsoft Office 2013 appears to be the last solid option to run Microsoft Office in Ubuntu), you just use your browser.
I’m retiring my Ubuntu 16 VirtualBox instance. 17.10 was quick to set up – adding KeePass and connecting to Windows network shares – and even easier to adapt to the new interface.