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Ubuntu goes all-out for Wayland

Apr 22, 2021 — by Eric Brown 7,844 views

Canonical released Ubuntu 21.04, featuring Wayland enabled by default plus a Flutter SDK and native Microsoft Active Directory integration. Meanwhile, Linux 5.12 will drop on Sunday.

Unlike last October’s Ubuntu 20.10 (“Groovy Gorilla”), the newly released Ubuntu 21.04 (“Hirsute Hippo”) lacks major embedded news like 20.10’s full-featured Raspberry Pi 4 support. Yet, Ubuntu and its variants and derivatives continues to be the leading distribution on embedded products by a long shot. (Yocto Project and distros based on it are perhaps equally cited, but Yocto is not a distribution, but rather a collection of consistent layers, libraries, and tools.)

We also thought it worth noting that Ubuntu’s long road to the Wayland display server is finally complete. The now fully mature Wayland graphics support is available by default.

Updated Yaru dark screen on Ubuntu 21.04
(click image to enlarge)

Canonical announced its intention to switch to Wayland back in 2017 when it pulled the plug on its Unity8 “convergence” desktop in favor of GNOME. As part of that sea change, Canonical began the switch from its homegrown Mir display server technology to Wayland, a simpler successor to X that has increased its dominance in the Linux world.


Canonical’s Ubuntu project touts Wayland as being “a significant leap forward in security. Wayland is also automatically supported by applications that were built with Electron and Flutter such as Firefox and OBS Studio.

The full Wayland support has enabled the addition of a Flutter SDK to Ubuntu for GUI development. The Google backed, cross-platform UI tookit spans mobile, web, and desktop development and offers a rich collection of widgets. The Flutter SDK is available with snap build integration, “which makes it easy to publish your multi-platform Flutter app for one-click install by millions of Linux desktop users,” says Canonical.

In other news, Ubuntu 21.04 offers an enhanced version of the Yaru dark theme (see image above). The theme offers accessibility improvements in navigation and new file icons.

OMG! Ubuntu makes note of a new desktop icons implementation and the “long overdue change” of making the home folder private by default. The story also notes some wishlist items that are not included in Hirsute Hippo, including the latest GNOME 40 desktop and the GTK 4.0 (GTK4) graphics toolkit for GNOME.

Most of the enhancements to Ubuntu 21.04 are found in Ubuntu Server for the enterprise. Leading the list is native Microsoft Active Directory integration.

Related to the new Microsoft AD support, Canonical and Microsoft separately announced performance optimization and joint support for Microsoft SQL Server on Ubuntu. Performance enhancements include Force Unit Access (FUA) on XFS filesystems and persistent memory (PMEM) for high performance data storage without additional configuration.

Enterprise performance and scalability work from 21.04 has been backported to Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS, in support of Microsoft SQL Server. In addition, SQL Server and its command-line interface (CLI) are now available on optimized Ubuntu images on Azure.

In February, Canonical released Ubuntu Core 20, based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. The latest release of this lightweight, embedded Ubuntu flavor adds secure boot and full disk encryption. Last week, Canonical released MicroK8s 1.21, featuring a 32.5 percent smaller footprint to enable Kubernetes deployments as low 540MB. The release should ease clustering applications on platforms such as the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Jetson.

Linux 5.12 drops — and GKH puts the hammer on pranksters

Ubuntu 21.04 is based on Linux kernel 5.11, just shy of Linux 5.12, which has been delayed slightly but will be released on April 25. Highlights include new support for Clang Link-Time Optimizations (LTO), as well as IDMAPPED mounts, which can expose the same file or directory with different ownership. In addition, KLeak has been added as a kernel memory leak detector.

HiFive Unmatched

Linux 5.12 adds mainlined Intel Variable Rate Refresh Adaptive Sync support for the Intel Xe Graphics (Gen12) found on recent Intel Core processors such as 11th Gen Tiger Lake. There is also initial mainline support for the SiFive FU740, the Linux-driven RISC-V SoC that drives the HiFive Unmatched development board. Tomorrow, SiFive plans to reveal an AI-friendly SiFive Intelligence X280 core.

Meanwhile, the Linux kernel community has been more captivated by the news that Greg Kroah-Hartman, a Fellow at the Linux Foundation and the heir apparent to Linus Torvalds, has banned the University of Minnesota from future contributions to the kernel. The ban came after two grad students intentionally added faulty, but non-malicious, code to the kernel to try to prove that the kernel could be surreptitiously altered. Apparently, it could not.

Further information

Ubuntu 21.04 is available for download here. More information may be found in Canonical’s Ubuntu blog announcement.

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2 responses to “Ubuntu goes all-out for Wayland”

  1. enigma says:

    Ubuntu 20.10 was not LTS.

  2. Jeff Child, Chief Editor- LinuxGizmos says:

    Thanks for catching that. We have made the fix.

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