The Ubuntu project released the Beta 1 version of Ubuntu 11.04 (“Natty Narwhal”), which switches the Linux distribution to the homegrown, 3D multitouch Unity desktop environment. Ubuntu 11.04 advances to Linux 2.6.38, adds LibreOffice 3.3.2, offers Firefox 4, and Software Center enhancements including a try-before-you-buy function.
With Ubuntu 11.04, the open source, Canonical-backed Ubuntu project has combined Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE) and Ubuntu Desktop Edition into a single release called “Ubuntu,” while Ubuntu Server Edition is now called “Ubuntu Server.”
Ubuntu Netbook lives on only in the ARM OMAP3 and OMAP4 images, which ship with the new Unity 2D interface by default, says the Ubuntu project. The beta release is also said to debut a “headless” developer image for Texas Instruments OMAP3
and OMAP4 hardware, featuring a serial port set-up and a minimal command line installation.
Ubuntu leapfrogs several Linux kernels since October’s Linux 2.6.35-driven Ubuntu 10.10 (“Maverick Meerkat”)
, moving up to the latest Linux kernel 2.6.38
. This brings Ubuntu new features including AppArmor security, support for Intel IPS (Intelligent Power Sharing), removal of the Big Kernel Lock, and file system improvements to Btrfs, Ext4, and XFS, says the project.
Other upgraded underpinnings include GCC 4.5, Python 2.7, Dpkg 1.16.0, and Upstart 0.9, says the project. The beta also brings X.org 1.10.0 and Mesa 7.10.1, as well as an updated Network Manager said to have been patched to use Appindicator.
Unity and Disunity
As promised back in October
, Ubuntu 11.04 also debuts a switch from the GNOME desktop environment as the default in favor of Canonical’s multitouch-enabled Unity interface, thereby improving 3D graphics support and touchscreen support, according to the company. Available as a preview with UNE in Meerkat, Unity is now front and center, and is clearly the most significant change in Natty Narwhal.
Unity is said to include a launcher that provides drag-and-drop re-ordering of icons, full keyboard navigation support, keyboard shortcuts, right-click context menu quick-lists, and the ability to switch between running applications. In addition to offering the “Dash” start screen, Unity adds a full “Lenses” (previously known as “Places”) implementation for applications and files. A 2D version of Unity is also said to be available.
While GNOME is still available under the installation option “Ubuntu Classic,” and will still be required for those who lack 3D driver support, there are few details on the release, or when an upgrade to the upcoming GNOME 3.0 might be available. Classic GNOME panel applets are not supported in Unity, although indicators such as nm-applet will still work, says the project.
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