The first alpha release of Ubuntu 11.04
is set to arrive this Thursday and one of the most prominent changes to be found in Canonical's April 2011 Linux distribution update is the Unity desktop by default
rather than GNOME2 or the GNOME 3.0 Shell on the desktop -- up to this point Ubuntu's Unity had just been used on the Ubuntu Netbook Edition. For those that have yet to try out the latest Ubuntu "Natty Narwhal" packages in preparation for this first alpha release, you are probably curious how far along is this new Unity desktop. Well, fortunately, Canonical's Rick Spencer who is the Director of Ubuntu Engineering has provided a Unity update.
For those interested, Rick Spencer has written this blog post
where he outlines his views on Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 1. There's also an image (embedded below) comparing Unity in Maverick to where it's currently at in Ubuntu Natty to where the target point is for each of the different core areas.
The areas where Ubuntu 11.04 is doing better right now with Unity is in the areas of the performance of its launcher, application launch time, and file management. It's great to see that Unity is supposed to be much faster already in Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 1 as seeing as in Maverick the Unity experience is very disappointing
and using its netbook interface was far slower than just using the GNOME or KDE desktop.
Where the current state of Ubuntu 11.04's Unity code is actually doing worse than what was found in the Ubuntu 10.10 implementation is with the launcher quality, launcher functionality, and application window management. The areas where Rick views as unchanged since Ubuntu 10.10 is with the launcher appeal, global menu integration, indicator appeal, indicator performance, and indicator functionality.
Fortunately the Canonical/Ubuntu developers still have until April to get this Unity desktop shell working appropriately with a decent speed and where the usefulness does not at least regress compare to the standard GNOME desktop. There's also work on Compiz, which will be the default compositing window manager for Unity, to be done in the coming months.
Besides Unity, Ubuntu 11.04 will feature an updated X.Org stack
(no Wayland by default
in Natty, but there is a package repository for Wayland and you can already run the Wayland Display Server
quite easily), the Linux 2.6.38 kernel, Mozilla Firefox 4.0, improved gestures / multi-touch support
, and many other areas of improvement for Ubuntu on the desktop, mobile devices, servers, and in the cloud.