'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!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags unixopen sourceLinuxcanonicalsoftwarenon-Windowsoperating systems

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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?