Please update gdal to version 2.1.3 Jan/2017

gdalinfo --version => GDAL 1.9.2, released 2012/10/08

It supports gnonomic projections needed to generate cubemaps like this:

enter image description here

We'll take a look at that next time we build a new system image.

Just as background -- what we're doing right now is updating the underlying version of Ubuntu that our servers use. Once that's done and released, we'll be able to build a new system image based on a newer version of Ubuntu, and that in turn will allow us to upgrade a bunch of packages. No timelines yet, but it's one of the things at the top of our priority list.

I've found examples to use pip to install specific versions of gdal. Is there a chance they run here? Asking because some compilation is probably needed.

Possibly? I think the plan of compiling gdal into your homedir and then pip installing it by pointing it to the compiled gdal libraries should work in theory...