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 application as well as the Wayland graphics method.
Canonical on Thursday released the first alpha version of Ubuntu 11.04, offering fans of the open source Linux operating method an early glimpse at the next major version.
four 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.
Natty Narwhal Alpha 1 can be downloaded from the project's website, though it's a early release and not intended for production systems. Users currently running Ubuntu 10.10 on a desktop method can upgrade by pressing Alt+F2 and typing "update-manager -d" in to the command box.
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.
Under the Hood
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 lots.
Users can pick 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.
The current kernel update includes a few desktop-related responsiveness improvements along with AppArmor for security and multiple improvements to virtualization performance.
Download Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) Alpha 1
natty-desktop-i386.iso – 717MB Desktop CD for PC (Intel x86)
natty-desktop-amd64.iso – 723MB Desktop CD for 64-bit PC (AMD64)
natty-desktop-amd64+mac.iso – 719M Desktop CD for 64-bit Mac (AMD64)