'Natty Narwhal' alpha offers peek at Ubuntu 11.04

An early release of the 3D-enabled Linux operating system is now available for a test drive.

Canonical on Thursday released the first alpha version of Ubuntu 11.04, offering fans of the open source Linux operating system an early glimpse at the next major version.

The Alpha 1 Release of Ubuntu 11.04, also known as "Natty Narwhal," is intended as a "developer snapshot" of the next major Ubuntu version, which is due in April. That version has already generated considerable interest and controversy in recent weeks, most notably because of Canonical's announced decision to use the 3D-enabled Unity interface in the desktop version of the software as well as the Wayland graphics system.

Natty Narwhal Alpha 1 can be downloaded from the project's Web site, though it's a very early release and not intended for production systems. Users currently running Ubuntu 10.10 on a desktop system can upgrade by pressing Alt+F2 and typing "update-manager -d" (without the quotes) into the command box.

Two more alpha releases of Ubuntu 11.04 are planned for after this one, followed by a beta version due roughly a month before Natty Narwhal's scheduled official release on April 28.

Under the Hood

Unity is indeed the default desktop interface in this new Ubuntu version, but it's only partially implemented so far. Currently, the Unity Launcher is available for launching applications that are pinned to the launcher and for switching among running applications.

Users can choose to run either Ubuntu Desktop, which requires 3D driver support and offers Unity by default, or the Ubuntu Classic Session, which is based on the traditional GNOME desktop and supports all video hardware and video drivers, Canonical says.

Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 1 also includes version 2.6.37-rc3 of the Linux kernel, which is based on the latest mainline release candidate. This represents a major update from version 2.6.35, which is what's used in Maverick Meerkat, or Ubuntu 10.10. By the time Natty Narwhal releases officially next spring, it is expected to include version 2.6.38, which will offer considerable speed improvements under heavy loads.

The current kernel update includes a number of desktop-related responsiveness improvements along with AppArmor for security and multiple improvements to virtualization performance.

A Community Effort

Alpha versions may not be suitable for production use, but they're a great way to see what's coming.

If you give Natty Narwhal a spin, be sure to provide feedback and report any bugs you find. Besides getting an early look, you'll also be helping to make Ubuntu better.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags open sourceLinuxoperating systemscanonicalunixsoftwarenon-Windows

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Ada Chan

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

I highly recommend the Dynabook Portégé® X30L-G notebook for everyday business use, it is a benchmark setting notebook of its generation in the lightweight category.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?