Ubuntu 18.04 LTS → First Impressions
Rishabh Nambiar

“A usual sentiment thrown around with the word GNOME is ‘ugh, so laggy’ but this isn’t always the case and certainly isn’t an issue with Ubuntu 18.04.”

That’s because IT IS LAGGY! Personally, I believe Linux in general has gone downhill lately, and will deter a lot of would-be users (and perhaps some existing users too).

Performance has taken a heeeeee-uge hit, wich has resulted in an extremely poor end-user-experience. Now this is something that isn’t very easy to articulate because it can be quite subjective, but it’s a topic I’ve studied in some depth.

There are two essential components necessary for a good user-experience:

  1. A consistent fast frame-rate (baseline: 60FPS).
  2. Minimum lag between user-input and screen response (baseline: 4ms).

Ubuntu 18.04 has failed miserably on both these fronts. Yes, you’ll get people saying stuff like “…I don’t have any issues…”, but quite frankly, these people have no idea what they’re talking about (these people fall in to the group that are not bothered by “jank” — they’re more “utilitarian” and couldn’t care less about user-experience. Fluidity and responsiveness are low on their priority list — so long as they can “get the job done”).

Here’s a very simple test that should allow you to observe the issue:

  1. Start Firefox and open the Google homepage.
  2. Click on the “Images” to (to search for images).
  3. Perform an image search for something (e.g. “Linux”).
  4. Middle-click something near the middle of the page (to start auto-scroll).
  5. Move the mouse pointer about 1cm below the auto-scroll circle.
  6. Let go of the mouse completely.
  7. Observe as the page scrolls slowly downwards.
  8. Once you hit the bottom, scroll upwards using the same method.
  9. Observe as the page scrolls slowly upwards.

You’ll get different results depending on the desktop you’re running, the version of MESA you have installed, the GPU you’re using, the GPU drivers you have installed, and whether or not you have layers.acceleration.force-enabled set.

Admittedly, I haven’t tried Ubuntu 18.04 with animations turned off, as suggested by the author. However, I will do immediately after I finish this comment. Regardless of whether or not it works — is it really “excusable” that new Linux users should somehow know about such “workarounds” in order to get a smooth stutter-free desktop experience?

Unfortunately, Ubuntu 18.04 isn’t the only culprit. The “jank” (micro-stutter) issues occur on several distributions using several different GPUs and drivers.

Desktop Linux has dropped the ball, and too many people within the community simply want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend (just like The Matrix “spoon” scene) “…there is no problem…”.

There is a problem, and it’s a serious one, and it will be to the detriment of Linux desktop uptake.