Ubuntu 12.04 LTS vs. 14.04 LTS: Quick Change Review

With the recent release of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (affectionately known as “Trusty Tahr”), there are a number of people (and organizations) that have been waiting to upgrade from LTS to LTS desktop or server. The question to ask yourself might be whether to upgrade or to re-install? The answer to that question may lie in some of the changes that have taken place between these LTS versions (a little more than two years between them), so let’s take a quick look at some of them.

The Burning Question
Let’s address the big question now, even before we talk about some of the changes between the LTS versions of this OS. Should you upgrade your Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or perform a clean installation of 14.04 LTS. I would like to say “it depends” and site that your specific configuration, customization and third party repositories may help you make your decision.

Unfortunately, my experience with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (going from Ubuntu 12.04 LTS) is that you really need to do a full and fresh install. There are a large number of underlying architectural changes to structure, libraries and major components to really insure that your upgrade will complete without major issues. Honestly, if you want a stable system with the latest drivers and utilities that this version has to offer, you need to re-install.

Quick Hits: What Has Changed?
The long and short of it, a lot has changed since 12.04 LTS. First, you will notice that Unity has matured. Not only does it look “cleaner”, but the performance is smooth and responsive from the get-go.

Additionally, there are a number of very welcome (and needed) updates, like:

  • TRIM Support for SSD enabled by default (for Samsung and Intel)
  • NVidia Optimus Support vastly improved (no more bumblebee)
  • High resolution and multi-display support improvement (including the “off” standard resolutions like 2560×1080 and 2880×1620)
  • Major application upgrades (Firefox 28, LibreOffice 4.2.x, Nautilus 3.10 and Linux Kernel Tree 3.13)

Great! But What Can I See?
Strictly speaking, in terms of looks alone, it is much more subtle. You will notice additional themes and colors available and, if you run Unity, the 3D effects are much smoother and transparent (literally and figuratively).

Strangely enough, one of the items you may not notice right away (especially if you run one of the other Ubuntu Desktop variants like Kubuntu) is in the window menus. When Unity was introduced, you will remember that all application menus appeared in the top “bar” and not on the application windows themselves. In an unexpected change of heart, Ubuntu has restored the old look and feel. You can now get menus in the windows, minimize from the Unity Launcher and also customize the launcher exactly the way you want. Take a look at the screenshot below:

Ubuntu 14.04: New Menu Layout

Normally this kind of change would not be something to point out except for the fact that the change to the “top of screen” was such a hot topic when Ubuntu made it. They were setting a new user paradigm and despite a hot bed of negative feedback, did not want to entertain moving it back (or even providing the option). Now, with no mention or fanfare, it is back where it started.

Where Do We Go From Here?
Since there are a large number of architectural and configuration changes for those who wait to move from LTS to LTS, we are going to run a series of articles over the next eight to ten weeks where we will cover a number of topics that may be different from the older Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. A short list of topics are:

  • UI: Menus and Window Decorations
  • Hardware Support: Open Source and Proprietary Drivers
  • Multi-Monitor and High Resolution Display Improvements
  • Major Application Updates
  • Unity Changes: Reversing Course
  • Codecs and Multimedia Changes
  • Compatibility Libraries
  • Laptop Compatibility Updates
  • SteamOS Plugin in Ubuntu
  • The New Software Center
  • Privacy Updates
  • The New Kernel
  • Architectural Blueprint

If you think we missed a topic that you are interested in, drop us a line in the comments below and we will do our best to address it. For those of you subscribed to Linux Academy, you can log in and expect to see videos covering these topics on the site. We will be sure to link them in the articles for anyone who may want to take a look in a bit more depth.

Keep an eye on this site for a lot more content updates in the coming weeks and months as well, we have a lot to say!

Terrence T. Cox

A veteran of twenty years in Information Technology in a variety of roles. He has worked in development, security and infrastructure well before they merged into what we now call DevOps. He provides training in Linux, VMWare, DevOps (Ansible, Jenkins, etc) as well as containers and AWS topics.