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Ubuntu 11.10 beta gives Software Center a Mac-like makeover
Sep. 02, 2011

The Canonical-backed Ubuntu project released the first beta of Ubuntu 11.10 ("Oneiric Ocelot"), featuring both an improved Unity Dash interface and a makeover for the Ubuntu Software Center that resembles the Mac App Store. Ubuntu 11.10 also advances to Linux 3.0.3, Firefox 7.0, and Thunderbird 7.0.

Ubuntu 11.10 offers a more polished rendition of the UI changes to the Unity desktop's "Dash" interface, which were first disclosed in conjunction with the August alpha release of Oneiric Ocelot. The key Dash changes include new windows controls and transparency effects, and the swapping out of the "Places" concept with more search-savvy "Scopes and Lenses."

Ubuntu 11.10's new Dash interface
(Click to enlarge)

Scopes are data sources that can access both online or offline data with improved search filtering options, including user ratings and app categories. Lenses present the data derived from Scopes in different views. For more details on the Dash changes, see our earlier coverage, as well as this beta review of Ubuntu 11.10 by Lifehacker.

Software Center in Ubuntu 11.10 beta
(Click to enlarge)

The other major change in Oneiric Ocelot's beta release is the new Ubuntu Software Center. The makeover mimics the look and feel of the Mac App Store, and "looks fantastic, and is much faster than it was before," according to Lifehacker's Whitson Gordon. He notes with some regret, however, that the Synaptic package manager is no longer included by default, although it's said to be easily installable.

Other interface changes include a redesigned Alt+Tab switching interface (see image below). In addition, better performance is promised for the launchers and panel, thanks to a port to GTK 3 and a GTK 3-based indicator stack, says the Ubuntu project.

Redesigned Alt+Tab switcher in Ubuntu 11.10

The Ubuntu 11.10 beta offers GNOME 3.1.5 as an alternative to the Unity desktop. However, many Ubuntu old-timers accustomed to good old GNOME 2.x are criticizing both of these new-look, touchscreen-focused environments.

Other package updates include Linux 3.0.3, Python 3.2, GCC 4.6.1, CUPS 1.5.0, and Shotwell 0.11. Mozilla's Firefox 7 browser is now standard issue as is a beta of its Thunderbird 7.0 email client, now established for the first time as the default, says the project.

Firefox 7.0 is standard issue
(Click to enlarge)

Ubuntu adds LibreOffice 3.4.2, which appears to have pretty much supplanted in the desktop Linux community. It will likely move up to the new 3.4.3 version by the time the final is released in October. The Banshee music player, meanwhile, has moved up to version 2.1.3, and ships with a music lens installed by default. New packages include the Deja Dup backup tool.

Those with Ubuntu 11.04 can upgrade in place, if they have an hour or so to spare

The major change to Ubuntu Server is the addition of an "Orchestra" collection of "the best free software services for provisioning, deploying, hosting, managing, and orchestrating enterprise data centre infrastructure services," according to the Ubuntu project. Orchestra includes the up-and-coming Cobbler Linux installation server.

Other Ubuntu Server improvements include a new DevOps-based Ensemble platform for handling service deployment and orchestration for both cloud and bare metal, according to the project. There's also further integration of the OpenStack cloud platform, which was initially supported in the previous Ubuntu 11.04 release, as well as the reintroduction of Xen hypervisor as an option.

New images for Ubuntu Core

Finally, Canonical has posted some new development builds of the minimalist, embedded-oriented Ubuntu Core, which will be fully unveiled in the final October release, according to a story this week in TheVARGuy. Automotive in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) appears to be a major focus, says the story. Indeed, last month the Genivi Alliance listed Ubuntu IVI Remix, which is based on Ubuntu Core, as one of five distros compliant with its open source Linux Genivi spec for IVI systems.


The first beta for Ubuntu 11.10 is available now for free download from links provided at the Ubuntu 11.0 Technical Overview page. Users currently running Ubuntu 11.04 on a desktop can upgrade in place via the command update-manager -dupdate-manager -d.

The final stable version of Oneiric Ocelot will be ready in October, following a secondary beta release on Sept. 27.

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