No one reviews an alpha, but we do. The aim of this review is not to 'test' the upcoming version of Ubuntu, but to see what's new and what's improved.
Since it's an alpha so we won't talk about stability. All we are going to talk about is what you can expect in the upcoming version of Ubuntu. With this review, we are also starting a section called 'Just Ubuntu' which will keep you updated with everything about your beloved Ubuntu. If you have tips about Ubuntu you can either email it to us or join me on my Google+.
You can download the Alpha 3 from here, but we don't recommend installing it on your main PC as it make break or crash often.
One of the most notable features are the changes made to the notification bar or the Indicator menu. It now shows available updates and printers connected to the PC along with bluetooth and start-up applications.
Startup applications allow you to control which application you want to start when you boot your machine. Ubuntu One is set to start-up on default. You can easily add other apps such as Gwibber or Torrent clients to start-up apps. The inclusion of the setting in the Indicator will help users make better use of this useful feature.
You can also control the display setting from here. Quite handy if you are the one who carries her laptop for presentations and needs to connect to projectors every now and then.
Indicator menu has also removed the useless 'Me Menu' which allowed you to control your online status. Removal of the Me Menu also means you can't see your name on the top panel, which I don't like.
The indicators got a visual refresh which includes a refactoring of the session indicator and a new power indicator.
The Ubuntu Software Center
There are minute changes to the Ubuntu Software Center. The USC has added a new 'top rated' views to the main category page and all subcategory pages, which shows you the top rated apps. Quite helpful in finding good apps. You can now edit or delete your own reviews. It also improved the speedup for standalone deb file installations (gdebi functionality).
All new ALT-TAB
Ubuntu 11.10 may bring yet another notable change, the all new Alt-Tab switcher. Unlike the old Alt-Tab switcher, the new switcher is a bit animated and glossy. It shows you the running apps and allows you to switch from one app to another. I don't yet know in what order the icons will appear, but its a nice upgrade.
The new feature is available by hitting Ctrl+tab until the feature is complete. Using Alt+Tab will use the old method.
Thunderbird settles down
As we all know Thunderbird is now the default mailing client for Ubuntu, which is good news. I am a Thunderbird user so getting it pre-installed is a major advantage for me, especially the higher level of integration it will provide with the system.
Gwibber vs TweetDeck
Adobe has announced that they won't build AIR for Linux anymore which brings an end to Twitters's TweetDeck on Linux. This is one of the dangers which we have always been warning about. Many blog sites keep begging for proprietary products on Linux, which I always opposed -- fearing days like these. Since AIR and TweetDeck are proprietary we can't even fork them or maintain a version for Ubuntu. That's why we never endorse non-free technologies such as Adobe Edge on Linux. But don't worry, Gwibber is going through a major make-over and the latest version is very polished. The new gwibber offers improved performances and a new interface using the most recent GNOME technologies. You will never need TweetDeck again.
Yet another contribution by the Ubuntu team is slicker sidebars which not only save space (especially if you are on a netbook or tablet) but also makes the entire experience pleasant. There are some bugs though, such as the one with GIMP, which are yet to be fixed. Overall, the new sidebars rock.
Ubuntu 11.10 is using the latest verion of Gnome. It is running on current unstable version (3.1.4) and is on its way to GNOME 3.2. So, you get all the goodies of Gnome 3 with familiar and more stable Unity Shell instead of Gnome 3 shell.
It also brings better performances of launchers and panel, port to gtk3 and gtk3 indicator stack, according to the release statement.
I am using Ubuntu 11.10 alpha 3 on my Dell Mini netbook and it has not crashed yet or interrupted my work. I will continue to use it on that machine and compare it with my main Natty desktop. Keep an eye on the Just Ubuntu section. It's right there on the main menu.
You may not find this review complete, it's not. Didn't I tell you, it was an alpha review ;-)
Note: Special thanks to Robert Bronstein for correcting typos. He reminds me of Linus Torvalds' law "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow!"