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Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 2 Released, Reviewed

The second beta release of Ubuntu 11.10 has been made available for download.

Although you may be eager to try out the latest features, using this beta release as your primary operating system/in place of Ubuntu 11.04/10.04 is not recommended.

But taking it for a spin on a live CD or USB stick is not only safe (providing you don’t install over anything) but offers a great way to get play with the next version of the Ubuntu desktop before its mid-October release date.

Ubuntu 11.10 – Recap

Ubuntu 11.10 comes with an updated version of the Unity desktop.Changes include: –

  • Revamped Dash
  • Lenses are now part of the Dash
  • Lense refinement tools
  • Dash, launcher and Panel “camouflage” based on the desktop wallpaper

Unity is based atop of the latest unstable release of GNOME 3.

A handful of new applications are included by default,including e-mail application Thunderbird and back-up toolDeJa Dup.

The Ubuntu Software Center has been redesigned to make finding and install new applications faster and more fun.

Elsewhere there are changes to the default set of Indicator Applets (including a new ‘Device Menu’); there’s anew login screen powered by ‘LightDM'; arewrittenversion of social-networking client Gwibber; and all of the usual performance, stability, application and package upgrades one would expect to find.

On the technical side Ubuntu 11.10 brings “multiarch” support -allowing easy installation of 32bit applications and libraries on 64bit desktops – and, ofparticularinterest to users withmultipleubuntu devices, a new‘application syncing’ servicevia the Ubuntu Software Centre.

What’s new since Beta 1?

If you have been keeping up with developments to Ubuntu 11.10 over the last few weeks then much of what is below will be familiar or known to you.

If I were to pick one word that best describes the changes from Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 1 to Beta 2 it’d bepolish.

Whether it’s minor tweaks to the padding in the Software Centre, or the increased size of icons in the Dash; Beta 2 has clearly had a designers eye ironing out its many UI creases. The result makes for a stunning looking release.

The Ubuntu Software Centre

The new-look Ubuntu Software Centre has been refined further. Padding and alignment issues have been solved, and thegaudyorange touches through the store front found in Beta 1 have been daubed with a more professional looking grey.

One Conf

The new ‘Sync Between Computers’ feature of the Ubuntu Software Centre – which lets you sync a list of applications installed on one Ubuntu install and access it on another. Should you wish to install any from the list just click on it and hit ‘Install’.

Easy.

Unity

Bug fixes, performancesimprovementsand general UI tweaks to the Dash, indicator-area and Launcher are present.The latter of which now ‘camouflages’ into the desktop wallpaper just like the Dash and Panel.

Workspaces

Workspaces have been tweaked slightly since Beta 1, now appearing more ‘tighter’ and with orange border to denote active workspace, anddarkenedtiles for inactive workspaces.

LightDM

Ubuntu’s new sleek looking log-in manager has added an Accessibility Menu, offering up: –

  • Onscreen Keyboard
  • High Contrast theme
  • Screen Reader

Another minor, but pretty helpful, addition is that of a ‘Caps Lock alert’ in the password field: –

Applications

The version numbers of default applications included in beta 2 – thusat the time of writing- are as follows: –

  • Firefox 7 Beta
  • Thunderbird 7
  • Shotwell 0.11.1
  • Banshee 2.2.0
  • GNOME 3.1.92

Stability

Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 2 is by no means perfect: system applications/process still seem to crash at will, and parts of the interface still perform poorly.

But the issues may be hardware related; on my dual-core Atom netbook Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 2 is sluggish, power hungry and insists on spinning the system fan 24/7.By contrast Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 2 is easily the snappiest version of Ubuntu I have ever had installed on my desktop – despite the beta tag.

The best way to judge whether it’s too beta – or not beta enough – for your tastes is to take a Live CD for a spin on your own system.