What’s New in Ubuntu 21.04 Hirsute Hippo? Set up and Impressions

Ubuntu, the popular Debian-based Linux distribution, will release its latest version on April 22nd, 2021. With the code name Hirsute Hippo, version 21.04 is expected to be released with several improvements over the previous version.

While the stable version is still a few weeks away, Canonical has made the public beta ISOs available so enthusiasts can get their hands on the latest Ubuntu software before the final stable build. Here's a guide on how to run Ubuntu 21.04 on your own computer and find out what's new.

How to install Ubuntu 21.04

Would you like to try Ubuntu 21.04 yourself? Here is an overview of the installation on your computer.

1. Download the Beta ISO

First, visit the release page to download the latest Ubuntu 21.04 beta ISO for your desktop or laptop. You can either opt for a direct download or use torrent to get the ISO.

You can then optionally check the SHA256 hash of the downloaded file and match it with the hash provided by Canonical on the release page to confirm that your download was indeed successful. While this is not a mandatory step, it can be an extra precaution to get rid of corrupt ISO file problems.

Read more: Free hash checkers to check file integrity

2. Burn the ISO to a USB stick

After you've downloaded the ISO, the next step is to create a bootable USB stick. You can use a free tool like balenaEtcher to flash the ISO onto your USB stick. For best performance, we recommend that you use a flash drive with at least 4 GB of space and USB 3.0 support. However, USB 2.0 sticks also work.

Now do the following steps to flash the ISO to the USB stick:

  1. Insert the USB stick into your computer. Make sure to back up all important data as the stick will be formatted.

  2. Click on that Flash from file Option and select the downloaded Ubuntu 21.04 ISO file.

  3. Now click on the Choose a destination Option and select the USB drive.

  4. Click on that lightning Click the button and wait for the process to finish. It could take a few minutes.

For more information, see a dedicated guide on installing Ubuntu using a USB flash drive for you to review.

3. Change the boot order

To start Ubuntu 21.04, you need to change the startup sequence of your device so that it does not start with the default operating system present on your hard drive. This can be done by accessing the BIOS or the dedicated boot sequence menu.

You can reach this screen by repeatedly pressing a variable function key. Once you're done, you'll be greeted with a screen listing your hard drive and other attached storage. Scroll to the USB drive and press Enter to boot from USB.

Since the function key differs depending on the manufacturer, look for the appropriate key for your device. To help you further, we have a guide on how to change the boot order that can be used to boot from USB.

What's new and first impressions

Ubuntu 04/21 Hirsute Hippo is the regular short term release for 2021 and will soon be followed by the October 21.10 release. After six months of demanding development, version 21.04 does not contain any major visual or performance changes. This update focuses more on optimizing the existing software.

When the startup process is complete, you will be greeted by a new wallpaper and a system-wide dark theme in the usual GNOME 3 layout. Although GNOME 40 was released a few weeks ago, Ubuntu has stuck to GNOME 3.38 for this version until the applications have been updated to support the new GTK 4 that comes with GNOME 40. Here is a summary of the most important changes in this version:

1. Linux 5.11 kernel

Hirsute Hippo comes with the latest Linux 5.11 kernel, which, in addition to file system updates, enables better hardware support.

This includes support for Intel's Software Guard Extensions (SGX), which allows user-level code to assign private storage areas, called enclaves, to be protected from processes that run with higher authorization levels. The newer kernel also offers better AMD performance and power management support for AMD's Zen-based CPUs.

This kernel offers new mount options for the btrfs file system, the Ceph file system supports the "msgr2.1" protocol and the F2FS file system takes over user area control over compressed files.

2. Private home directories

The latest version fixes a vulnerability that was reported years ago. Choosing the default permissions for the user's home directory was a compromise between ease of use and security until the last update. Previously, all sensitive data stored in the user's home directory was readable by other users using the same system.

Privilege 755 has now been updated to Privilege 750, which restricts other users on the same system from reading files stored in other users' home directories. In Ubuntu 21.04, only the home directory of the logged in user can be read. However, this change only applies to new installations and not if you are upgrading from 20.10 to 21.04.

3. Improvements to the GNOME Shell

Although Ubuntu has stuck to GNOME 3.38 for the time being, it includes a number of improvements to the desktop environment. The GNOME Shell this time shows the dark theme by default. The Yaru theme has been polished to offer a darker theme that contrasts the accent color and modern, thinner symbols.

Many of the pre-installed applications such as the Disk Use Analyzer, Characters App and GNOME Image Viewer have been updated to the latest version, while other applications received the usual bug fixes and patches.

Non-GNOME applications like Firefox and Thunderbird have also been updated. The new extension for desktop icons in the latest version enables the support of drag & drop functions to and from other applications.

What can we expect in version 21.10?

There's been a lot going on since the announcement of GNOME 40. GNOME 40's modern user interface has gained a lot of love and popularity among Linux enthusiasts, which led to a bit of disappointment when Ubuntu decided to stick with GNOME 3.38.

Ubuntu, a distribution that is used by millions of users and servers, values ​​stability against the most modern technologies. However, we can assume that GNOME 40 will appear in the 10/21 updates, which are expected to be released in October 2021.

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About the author

Nitin Ranganath
(3 articles published)

By Nitin Ranganath

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