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01 April 2011, 10:23

Canonical releases Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1

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Ubuntu Logo The Canonical development team has announced the arrival of the first beta for Ubuntu 11.04, code named "Natty Narwhal". This first beta version will be followed by a second and final beta on 14 April – as previously reported, there will be no release candidate for Ubuntu 11.04.

The first beta of Natty Narwhal is based on the latest 2.6.38 Linux kernel and features Unity as the distribution's new default desktop – Unity is developed in-house by the Ubuntu developers, replacing the GNOME Shell. The Unity Launcher, a sort of 'dock' meets taskbar and notification area, can be used to launch applications pinned to it or switch between running applications – file type aware drag-and-drop is also supported.

Zoom The Dash on Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1.
Other new Unity Launcher features in 11.04 include full keyboard navigation support and right-click context menu quick-lists. Users can search for applications and files using the Lenses implementations. Furthermore, by pressing the Super or Windows key, users can launch the "Dash" start screen for various common tasks, including search; alternatively, clicking the Ubuntu logo in the top-left corner of the screen will also open the "Dash".

Package updates in the development preview include version 1.9.5 of the Banshee music player, which has been integrated into the sound menu, 1.10.0 and Mesa 7.10.1, version 4.0 of Firefox and LibreOffice 3.3.2 – as previously announced Oracle's open source office suite has been replaced in favour of the LibreOffice community fork. Although version 1.2 of the Upstart event-based init replacement was released on 22 March, Natty Narwhal includes the 0.9.4-1 release.

Zoom Firefox 4.0 running on Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1.
The developers also note that there is a known issue that prevents the first beta from being used with the Windows-based Ubuntu Installer known as Wubi. Users are advised to "consider waiting for a few more days for updated desktop images that fix this issue, or use the Live CD or USB images to try out Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1".

As with all pre-releases, use in production environments and on mission critical systems is not advised. Users testing the release are encouraged to provide feedback and report any bugs that they encounter.

More details about the first beta version can be found in the mailing list announcement and in the release notes. A list of planned features and changes for version 11.04 of Ubuntu is available on the Blueprints for Natty page.

Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1 is available to download from the project's web site. Users currently running Ubuntu 10.10 on a desktop system can upgrade by pressing Alt+F2 and typing update-manager -d into the command box.

The final version of Natty Narwhal is scheduled to arrive on 28 April 2011. The latest stable release is version 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat", while the current Long Term Support (LTS) version is Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS "Lucid Lynx". The next release following 11.04, Ubuntu 11.10, will be code named "Oneiric Ocelot".

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