On April 22, 2021, Canonical released a fresh version of the popular Linux distribution Ubuntu 21.04 Hirsute Hippo. This is an interim release, so it only has 9 months of support. After this period, it is logical to upgrade to Ubuntu 21.10, which will be released in November this year.

Should you upgrade to Ubuntu 21.04? I tried the updated system and talked about the main innovations in this review.

New Linux kernel version

Ubuntu 21.10 received a Linux kernel numbered 5.11.0-16. The volume of significant changes is small. Basically, the innovations relate to improved support for hardware – AMD processors, USB4 and Thunderbolt, keyboards in ASUS gaming laptops, sensors in Corsair power supplies.

Of course, with the kernel update, bug fixes and security patches were introduced.

Visual improvements

In March of this year, the GNOME 40 desktop environment was released with a redesigned design and tons of new things. Unfortunately, it is not included in the new Ubuntu, and the only sure way to try GNOME 40 now is to install the recently released Fedora 34 as well.

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Ubuntu – 20.10
Ubuntu 21.04

Ubuntu 21.04 users have to settle for GNOME 3.38.5 for now. There are still some changes. So, the colors in the dark theme have become slightly darker, and active items in the settings, file manager, and other applications are no longer highlighted in orange. Instead, they are indicated by an accent stripe on the side.

The document icons have been updated – now they have a bent upper corner, and the system menu has got separators.

Moving files to the desktop

This feature was removed in GNOME 3.28 but was replaced by a custom extension Desktop Icons NG (DING) that quickly gained popularity. Ubuntu 21.04 includes this extension out of the box, which means you can now use drag-n-drop again between the desktop and the file manager.

In addition, DING can be customized – change the size of icons, choose which system icons will be displayed on the desktop. Connected drives are now located on the right side of the desktop by default, just like in macOS.

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Wayland by default

Ubuntu already used Wayland as the default display server in version 17.10 but later reverted to X.Org X11. On 21.04, Wayland is again used by default – of course, if the current hardware is compatible with it. NVIDIA graphics card owners will continue to use the X.Org server. And those with access to Wayland will be able to return to X.Org if they have problems – this can be done at login.

Stronger home directory privileges

Previously, any user could access another’s files, which is not safe. This was because, by the standard, fairly free privileges were set for the user directory.

In Ubuntu 21.04, by default, a user will read and open another’s files but not change. However, these rights apply only during a clean installation of the system. If you upgrade from the old version, the privileges will remain the same, and you will have to change them manually.

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This is a small but rather important innovation that increases the level of privacy and security.

Power profiles

Power profiles have been added to the system, especially for laptops. True, the section with them is also available on desktop PCs. Currently, there are two modes available: balanced and energy saving with reduced performance.

Updated components

Updated versions of standard components and applications became part of the entire update. The whole list looks like this:

  • Firefox: 87.0;
  • Thunderbird: 78.8.1;
  • LibreOffice: 7.1.2.2;
  • Nautilus: 3.38.2-stable;
  • Kernel: 5.11.0-13-generic;
  • Bash: 5.1.4;
  • gcc: 10.2.1 20210401;
  • OpenSSL: 1.1.1j;
  • GNOME: 3.38.4.

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