Checking Out Ubuntu 18.04's Hardware/Software Software Survey
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 25 April 2018. Page 1 of 1. 20 Comments

Back in February was the controversial announcement that Canonical would begin offering a hardware/software survey for Ubuntu installations to premiere with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. This week while running some benchmarks of the effectively final release of Bionic Beaver, I noticed they finally got the feature exposed to users. Here's what it looks like and some of the hardware and software information detailed in these opt-out reports to Canonical.

Back in February the plan was to add a checkbox (checked by default) where the user could opt-out of the hardware/software survey, but otherwise various system details would be submitted to Canonical's servers, but they would not be recording the user's IP address. In the form it's now in for the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS release, it's not part of the installer but has been punted off to be part of the first-run process when initially logging into your new Ubuntu system - thereby offering the survey to those that may have received Ubuntu through an OEM install, etc.

When first booting to the new Ubuntu 18.04 installation, a "What's new in Ubuntu" window appears to highlight some of the differences -- particularly if you were last on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and aren't used to the whole Unity 7 to GNOME Shell transition.

And then it offers users the ability to make use of Canonical's Livepatch service for live kernel patching support without needing to reboot the system.

And then the next screen is to "help improve Ubuntu" by providing developers with your computer information. It does allow the user to see what information will be reported, view Canonical's legal notice, and is opted in by default but can easily opt-out if you want to preserve your PC's information privately.

Here's what one of the reports looks like on an older Intel laptop... The basic information obtained on the laptop or motherboard, BIOS information, the CPU vendor/family/model/stepping, the architecture, the GPU PCI vendor and model IDs, RAM, partition setup, the screens and their resolution/frequency, whether auto-login was used, if live-patching is enabled, the desktop in use, whether X11 or Wayland is being used, the system timezone, the installation media, and other basic installer stats.

Following that screen is then showing off some software available through the GNOME Software program like VLC, Skype, Spotify, Slack, Discord, GIMP, Android Studio, and Minecraft.

Here is a look at the report from another desktop system... It does show that at this point it's not making much of an effort to workaround system information where their DMI information be invalid with bogus/default strings, etc. This system was a "System manufacturer System Product Name" and also no GPU was listed as part of this report... But the other information was there and correct for the BIOS version, the basic CPU details, RAM, installation details, etc.

Here's a quick look at that same system via phoronix-test-suite system-info. So Canonical could certainly improve their logic around motherboard/system detection, etc, as the information is certainly available albeit just a mess depending upon the hardware vendors (a battle that's been happening for many years).

With this being a survey at first-install, unfortunately this survey doesn't know if the user has decided to install any proprietary drivers post-install or opted to use a third-party repository like the Padoka/Oibaf PPAs for much better graphics driver coverage. It would certainly be interesting to see what most Ubuntu desktop users do with regards to their graphics driver configuration and certainly is quite important these days. It would also have been interesting to see the amount of users with rotational storage versus solid-state drives. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what these survey reports look like once Canonical begins making them available.


About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.


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