For the last sev­er­al years, the end of April has meant anoth­er release of Ubun­tu (the world’s most pop­u­lar GNU/Linux dis­tri­b­u­tion), and 2011 is no exception.

Yes­ter­day, Canon­i­cal — which spon­sors the devel­op­ment of Ubun­tu — announced the release of Ver­sion 11.04, code­named “Nat­ty Nar­whal”. Nat­ty suc­ceeds Mav­er­ick Meerkat, which was released back in Octo­ber 2010, and brings a host of changes across Ubun­tu’s many edi­tions and derivatives.

The change that most peo­ple are talk­ing about is the advent of Uni­ty, which is now the default shell in the reg­u­lar edi­tion of Ubun­tu. Uni­ty is not a replace­ment for Gnome, which has pro­vid­ed Ubun­tu’s desk­top envi­ron­ment for years; rather, it is a replace­ment for a part of Gnome. Uni­ty was orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped as a shell inter­face for net­books. Now it’s in the stan­dard fla­vor of Ubuntu.

Reac­tion to Canon­i­cal’s deci­sion to make Uni­ty a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of Ubun­tu has been mixed. There are those who love the change, and those who don’t like it at all. And there are a few folks in between. I’m one of them, because I don’t actu­al­ly use the stan­dard “fla­vor” of Ubun­tu. Instead, I use Kubuntu.

That “K” pre­fix stands for KDE, a pow­er­ful free soft­ware com­pi­la­tion that has under­gone a long evo­lu­tion since its cre­ation in 1996.

KDE is actu­al­ly more than just a desk­top envi­ron­ment, which is why the com­mu­ni­ty that devel­ops has begun call­ing it a soft­ware com­pi­la­tion.

Since KDE comes with its own beau­ti­ful, fea­ture-rich graph­i­cal shell called Plas­ma Work­spaces, Kubun­tu has no need for Unity.

(Uni­ty is tech­ni­cal­ly incom­pat­i­ble with the rest of KDE in any case, so even if Kubun­tu’s devel­op­ers want­ed to replace Plas­ma with it, they couldn’t).

Kubun­tu users are thus unaf­fect­ed by the changeover to Uni­ty. But that does­n’t mean that Kubun­tu 11.04 is devoid of new fea­tures. To the con­trary! Kubun­tu 11.04 includes KDE 4.6, the most pol­ished incar­na­tion of KDE 4 yet, along with Fire­fox 4, Libre­Of­fice 3.3.2, and updat­ed ver­sions of every major KDE appli­ca­tion (like Amarok, the music play­er, or KRDC, the remote desk­top client).

There are a great many sub­tle enhance­ments, from the clean­er and more intu­itive task man­ag­er to the improved search func­tions in Dol­phin (the file man­ag­er). Appli­ca­tions using the GTK toolk­it (Fire­fox, Inkscape) now look much nicer on Kubun­tu because they make use of KDE’s Oxy­gen artwork.

A con­sid­er­able num­ber of bugs have also been iden­ti­fied and fixed.

Changes com­mon to all Ubun­tu fla­vors include a new­er ver­sion of the Lin­ux ker­nel, a new­er ver­sion of the Serv­er, sup­port for Intel’s Intel­li­gent Pow­er Shar­ing, and improve­ments to many major filesys­tems that Ubun­tu sup­ports, includ­ing ext4.

“Ubun­tu 11.04 offers excit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for busi­ness­es to improve the reli­a­bil­i­ty, secu­ri­ty and man­age­abil­i­ty of desk­top, cloud and serv­er deploy­ments, chal­leng­ing the tra­di­tion­al license or sub­scrip­tion fee mod­el and embrac­ing open-source tech­nol­o­gy,” said Canon­i­cal CEO Jane Sil­ber in a state­ment.

In my view, Nat­ty is very much a worth­while upgrade. Although there was some doubt as to whether the Ubun­tu devel­op­ers could get Uni­ty work­ing well by release day, the late reviews of the stan­dard fla­vor have been gen­er­al­ly positive.

And Kubun­tu Nat­ty? Well, it rocks! 🙂 It’s faster, more reli­able, more pow­er­ful… an upgrade in every sense. If you’re an Ubun­tu user and you find that you don’t like Uni­ty, con­sid­er mak­ing the jump to Kubun­tu. Try out Plas­ma Desk­top. Dis­cov­er its many strengths for yourself.

Hap­py downloading!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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8 replies on “Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” released”

  1. Just upgrad­ed to nat­ty and am VERY dis­ap­point­ed and that is being VERY char­i­ta­ble. I can’t believe what a pile of steam­ing mon­key dung Uni­ty is. It is just not ready for prime time. I can’t believe they released it.

    I lit­er­al­ly have no choice but to rein­stall some­thing else over it. Or can I just remove Uni­ty and have Gnome in all its pris­tine glo­ry. I was hap­py with Gnome.

    1. Why not try Kubun­tu? You might like KDE. KDE 4.6, which is what Nat­ty ships with, is sta­ble and mature.

      Alter­na­tive­ly, if you’re real­ly attached to the Gnome you know and love, try Xubun­tu, which uses the Xfce envi­ron­ment. Xfce is sim­i­lar to Gnome in many respects — and unlike KDE, it’s built on the same toolk­it as Gnome.

  2. I can’t under­stand all the peo­ple whin­ing about how they think Uni­ty isn’t ready. It takes about two sec­onds to revert to the old inter­face and they don’t have to wor­ry about it for anoth­er six months.

  3. Per­son­al­ly, I’m delight­ed with NN, and Ubun­tu justs gets bet­ter and better.

  4. I can con­firm, Kubun­tu rocks. And this is com­ing from a long time Ubuntu/GNOME user. I also find Uni­ty (and GNOME 3) to be utter­ly bro­ken, maybe even beyond repair. So I had to check Kubun­tu and KDE out and I’m very hap­py I did and even wish I did it before, as I now find it even bet­ter than good old GNOME. Even the apps from KDE are bet­ter. So I would say Uni­ty was only good in a way of get­ting me to find out how good KDE is.

  5. GNOME 3 is sup­pos­ed­ly much more con­fig­urable if you want a Uni­ty-type shell with more options; I’ll try it out soon. I noticed last night that Uni­ty real­ly fails when you have lots of stuff open at once, since my Sat­ur­day night usu­al­ly involves a large amount of browsers, ter­mi­nals, and text edi­tors. Con­stant pow­er users should prob­a­bly stick with GNOME, although that rais­es the ques­tion of why you’re on Ubuntu .

  6. I use the Ubun­tu Clas­sic (no effects) inter­face on my lap­top run­ning Nat­ty. Uni­ty of course is too imma­ture and reg­u­lar Ubun­tu Clas­sic caus­es my intel graph­ics card to run real­ly hot.

    But I’ve tired of the whole UI bloat­ware thing.

    As soon as I can I want to run just plain Stump Win­dow Man­ag­er with a gnome pan­el at first to make things a bit eas­i­er. Imag­ine a win­dow man­ag­er you can dynam­i­cal­ly pro­gram with com­mon lisp. May also switch between awe­somewm (lua-based) or xmon­ad (haskell-based)..

    All I want to do in the future is switch between emacs, chromi­um, some­thing like skype and my win­dow man­ag­er. Going min­i­mal is the new hot­ness in my book.

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