June 13, 2011, 6:45 AM — Ubuntu 11.04 (nicknamed Natty Narwhal) marks a decided change in direction for the Linux-based operating system. The biggest change is that Canonical, the organizer of Ubuntu, is replacing the Gnome/KDE desktop environment with a new user interface called Unity.
This is a market response by Canonical to the perceived superiority of the MacOS and Windows 7 user interfaces. While Linux has always been a "what's under the hood" rather than "sleek styling" operating system, Unity immediately draws comparisons to Windows 7 and MacOS.
You might like it and you might hate it, but Unity provokes. It's a radical departure for a Linux desktop distribution to eschew both Gnome and the KDE desktop environment — although both are available for those that must use them for application or hardware compatibility reasons.
Canonical also changes direction with the latest Ubuntu server version, although not quite as radically. Several important FOSS (free and open source software) components have been added or changed, and with them, the tone and direction of Canonical's server operating system towards clusters and cloud use.
Canonical also added AppArmor (which we first reviewed in SUSE Linux) to its server editions, which helps bring Ubuntu server into wider roles where application sandboxing is needed.
The Unity desktop is a beautiful, if occasionally frustrating, change from the old default Gnome environment. Unity comes in two- and three-dimensional versions. The 3D version is more beautiful, and requires advanced resources — not any old slug laptop or VM will do.
The Unity 2D version is the backstop and it's easy on the eyes after one gets over figuring it out. On several machines that we tested, drivers or the Unity2D version itself had to be obtained from repositories. Gnome is used if hardware graphics display drivers can't be found.