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YES, I have ridden the Unicorn: The Ubuntu Utopic unicorn

And no, you don't have to be a virgin. Linux fancier joke here

The spins go on

Unfortunately for those itching to get away from GTK, Lubuntu's move to LXQt has once again been pushed back. Instead, Lubuntu 14.10 will stick with LXDE and focus on bug fixes and stability improvements.

Ubuntu GNOME

Ubuntu GNOME, which wisely passed on the name Gubuntu, has quickly gone from “unofficial community project” to “really great Gnome 3 platform.”

For stability reasons Ubuntu Gnome doesn't use the cutting edge of Gnome 3 releases. That means Ubuntu Gnome 14.10 will use Gnome 3.12 rather than the newest release (which will be Gnome 3.14 by the time the final version of 14.10 is out). Gnome 3.12 brings two new default apps to the desktop, Maps and Weather, which are both available in this first beta.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 beta

New default apps in Ubuntu GNOME (click to enlarge to full size)

I used to wonder why the Ubuntu Gnome developers bothered. Gnome is, after all, a lot like Unity, but lacking the tight integration with the rest of the Ubuntu desktop that Unity enjoys. After using Ubuntu Gnome for a while though I've come around. Ubuntu actually makes a great base on which to run Gnome 3. I've found it to be less prone to crashes than Unity and a bit speedier as well.

If you're curious to see what all the fuss about Gnome 3.x is about, but don't want to distro hop just to test it out, give Ubuntu Gnome a try.

Ubuntu MATE

Will it be Mubuntu? Mabuntu? Or just Ubuntu MATE? Whatever the case, if you have fond memories of Ubuntu 9.10, MATE will take you back. Modeled on an interface familiar to anyone who ever used Gnome 2.x, MATE takes Ubuntu back to its roots.

So far this is a totally unofficial community created flavor, but it deserves mention here for two reasons. First, it will very likely become an official flavor soon and, second, MATE is often cited as a reason for moving to Linux Mint.

Whatever the name, Ubuntu MATE is your GNOME-friendly Ubuntu spin (click to enlarge to full size)

If you like MATE, but want to stick with Ubuntu, this is the spin for you. It's the closest thing you'll get to a modern version of Ubuntu 9.10. It also happens to be a very nice integration of MATE and Ubuntu brought to you by MATE desktop developer Martin Wimpress.

Let's recap

Unity based Ubuntu will always overshadow its various flavors, even if, as has been proposed, the Unity 8 desktop becomes yet another flavor.

The main Ubuntu distro is the focus of Canonical's time and effort and, despite the current focus on mobile and tablet interfaces, will likely remain that way.

But if you like Ubuntu, but aren't crazy about Unity, this year’s crop of alternatives are looking good. ®

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