How time flies! Every six months, Ubuntu releases the next iteration of their popular desktop Linux distribution, and today is just such a day. Ubuntu has officially released version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal". There are thousands of package updates in this release, but what follows are some of the more notable items.
desktop environment for Ubuntu is now the Unity
used the Gnome
Panel, which in Gnome 3.0 is being replaced by the Gnome
Shell. Due to the high level of integration between Gnome Shell
and the Mutter
window manager, and the wide array of platforms targeted by Ubuntu,
the Canonical team opted for Unity as the default desktop Gnome Shell's stead
Should you not
care for the Unity interface, the “classic” Ubuntu desktop interface can be selected
from the login menu.
The Unity Dash
now allows you to quickly search through your applications. Not only
does a single keypress allow you to start searching for applications
you have installed, but it will even suggest possible matches that
you do not have installed (and a single click will then take you to
the description/installation screen in the software center!)
new style of scrollbar has been introduced for both the Unity and
Gnome Shell desktops. The new scrollbars take up less space and
dynamically appear as you approach their area. This gives more space
for actual content, while giving the controls a static size that is
easy to use on portable devices.
Due to the
tablet/netbook friendly GUI of Unity, Canonical has dropped the
netbook edition of Ubuntu. The one interface has been conceive to
work for all devices.
had a good run, but has been replaced by the more popular Banshee
- Better support for iPhones in
- Media playback has been integrated
into the volume control
As mentioned in a
previous HotHardware news article, OpenOffice has been replaced
by LibreOffice as the default office suite.
The Software Center has been improved and now has WebLive support. This allows you to "Test Drive" many applications without installing them. Clicking the "Test Drive" application connects you to an instance of the application via an NX session on a remote server.
anti-productivity front, unless you really use the web for work, the default web browser Firefox
has been updated to version 4. Work has also been done to integrate it with the rest of the desktop
environment in a more seamless fashion.
One has seen a bit of work since 10.10. It now sports a much
nicer interface and is cross platform.
Ubuntu One allows
you to synchronize music, folders, and bookmarks across multiple
systems, even with Windows, Android, and iPhone devices. Music
bought through Ubuntu One's store is backed up in the cloud and
accessible from any of your other Ubuntu One devices.
Music from the
Ubuntu One Music Store
does not count against your
Ubuntu One storage limit (First 2GB free, $3/mo for every 20GB
greater than that).
Server Cloud has improved OVF support, as well as dynamic
resizing/renaming upon first boot.
If you so desire,
you can set up broadcast accounts to send broadcasts to Twitter, Facebook and other services directly from the desktop.
Messaging is also
integrated into the interface, and you can use a plethora of back-end
servers to communicate with your friends.
Ubuntu is now
using the 2.6.38 version of the Linux kernel. The 20,000+ updates
since the kernel in Ubuntu 10.10 offer several advances. Some of the
- Increases desktop performance.
This includes the “wonder patch” that gained attention for
allowing the desktop to get a better share of system resources when
the system is highly utilized by processes in other control groups..
- VFS (Virtual File System –
communications between the kernel and user space) optimizations.
The VFS is now 30-50% faster on some operations.
- Improves support for popular video
chipsets and adds support for newer hardware. Specific items
include support for Bobcat APUs, Radeon 6200, 6800, & 6900
family GPUs, and better power handling for i3, i5, and i7-2000 APUs.
- Many driver improvements,
including better support for wireless LAN drivers for chips from
Atheros, Broadcom, Intel, Ralink and Realtek.
- Fixes suspend/resume issues for some hardware;.
- Improvements to Ext3, Btrfs,
SquashFS, UDF and XFS file system performance.
For those not interested in the Unity or Gnome desktop environments, several derivative versions should also be celebrating releases today. These use the same repositories as Ubuntu, but have varying desktop environments and default packages.
: Uses the KDE4.6.2 Desktop Environment.
: An official version of Ubuntu that uses the XFCE Desktop Environment.
: An Ubuntu distro with heavy emphasis on educational software packages.
Users already running Ubuntu or a derivative may upgrade directly from their existing install. Users interested in trying Ubuntu for the first time can download a LiveCD from the main site and try it without installing anything to the hard drive.