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Ubuntu 11.04 natty narwhal alpha 2 screenshots

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal alpha 2 has just been released and as usual, we'll do a recap of all the new features since alpha 1.

Before you proceed to get an detailed view of what's new in Ubuntu 11.04 alpha 2, here's a video I've recorded with the latest Ubuntu 11.04 alpha 2:

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Now let's get started.


One of the biggest changes is the replacement of two of the oldest Ubuntu applications: Banshee and LibreOffice have replaced Rhythmbox and OpenOffice:

Libreoffice banshee

Ubuntu 11.04 alpha 2 comes with Kernel 2.6.38 RC2, X.org Server 1.10 and Mesa 7.10, Gnome 2.32.1, Nautilus, Firefox 4.0 beta 10, LibreOffice 3.3.0, Banshee 1.9.2, Evolution 2.32.1.

'200 lines kernel patch' is default in Natty

The Ubuntu 11.04 Natty alpha 2 kernel includes the official inclusion of the '200 line patch' which improves responsivness for some workloads. It also brings a major update to the VFS, RCU dentry handling, which is slated to improve filesystem performance particularly with parallel loads. This kernel brings support for some previously unsupported ACER SD card slots.

The new X.org Server 1.10 and Mesa 7.10 (along with updated drivers) bring support for Sandy Bridge graphics, improved 3D support for newer radeon hardware, support for more OpenGL extensions, improved multi-head functionality, and of course many bug fixes.


One very interesting change since Ubuntu 11.04 alpha 1 was made to the AppMenu (Global Menu) which is now hidden in the application window even for unmaximized windows. Here's how it works:
  • when a window is maximized, the application title is displayed on the top panel and the menu shows up when hovering it
  • when an application is not maximized but has the focus, when hovering its title on the top panel, only part of its title is displayed so you know to which application that menu belongs to (yet its title doesn't get in the way)

Here are some screenshots to get a better idea:

Ubuntu 11.04 natty narwhal alpha 2 screenshots
(unmaximized, focused window)

Ubuntu 11.04 screenshots
(unmaximized, focused window - hovering the application name on the top panel displays the menu)

This behavior can also be seen in the video in the beginning of the post.

Unity launcher / places

The Unity Launcher now supports intellihide (which has been set as default). To bring the launcher when an application is in full-screen you can press the Super key or mouse over the Ubuntu logo in the top left corner. Also, there are some new experimental Unity options: Backlight always on, launch animation (pulse until running and blink) and urgent animation (wiggle and pulse):

Unity Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal screenshots

Unity Places Files / Applications is back in Unity, though not fully functional for now:

Ubuntu 11.04 screenshots

Ubuntu 11.04 natty narwhal screenshots

Ubuntu Software Center got ratings and reviews support:

Ubuntu Software center ratings reviews

You need an Ubuntu single sign-on to be able to rate an application.

Another very interesting recent feature is tiling which you can achieve by dragging a window to the left/right edge of the screen. When dragging the window back, it comes back to the initial size. If you drag a window to the top edge of the screen, it will maximize:

Ubuntu 11.04 natty narwhal screenshots

The Ubuntu Sound Menu now supports playlists:

Ubuntu Sound Menu playlists

Unity also got a "Places Tile View" which is broken in the latest Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 2, but it should return soon:

Unity tile view ubuntu natty 11.04 screenshot

Ubuntu One has a new look:

Ubuntu One

The Classic Ubuntu desktop got some changes too (this is the fallback for those running computers that don't support Unity): the "Menu Bar" has been replaced with the "Main Menu" applet and AppMenu (Global Menu) is now default for the classic interface too:

Ubuntu 11.04 classic desktop

Grub2 finally got BTRFS support!

The BTRFS Launchpad blueprint states that BTRFS now supports Grub2 and that it got compression support (however I didn't test this).

However, the work on BTRFS is not done. Here's a list of things that still need work:
  • investigate integration with the release upgrader
  • investigate snapshot integration with apt's dpkg::pre-install-pkgs hook
  • investigate UI options for easy revert after upgrade
  • provide UI to discard snapshot after upgrade to save space
  • automatically revert to snapshot on upgrade error

Unity 2D (Qt)

Unity 2D Qt

A Unity Qt/QML port was recently released which is supposed to be available as an option for those who do not have the necessary hardware to run the regular Unity ("3D"). However, Unity 2D won't be available on the Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal CD. Instead, a classic desktop (Gnome panels) will be available as a fallback for those with old hardware, as you've read above. This however has not been 100% decided!

Here is an older video with Unity 2D in action:

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For those who want to try out Unity 2D in Ubuntu 10.10, check out the following post: How To Install Unity 2D (Qt) In Ubuntu From A PPA

No more Netbook Edition!

In Natty the dedicated Ubuntu Netbook edition is only used on the preinstalled OMAP3 and OMAP4 armel images. On all other architectures the Ubuntu Netbook Edition has been merged with the Ubuntu Desktop Edition. The ARM version is still using the EFL launcher that we started the cycle with, we are still integrating the Unity 2D launcher, but don't expect it to be the default launcher until A3. We are still using a 2.6.35 kernel as a 2.6.38 kernel is not yet available for OMAP 4.

In case you're wondering if you should upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04 alpha 2, I'd say: don't do it yet. Ubuntu 11.04 is quite unstable for now. Let me put it this way: it took me over 4 hours to create the 3 minute video in the beginning of the post.

Up next:
  • March 3rd, 2011 - Alpha 3 release
  • March 31st, 2011 - Beta release
  • April 21st, 2011 - Release Candidate
  • April 28th, 2011 - Final release of Ubuntu 11.04

Download Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal alpha 2