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Ubuntu 11.04, Natty Narwhal, released in beta

The first beta of Ubuntu 11.04, also called Natty Narwhal, was released today. This is the first semi-stable 11.x version that Ubuntu enthusiasts can work with.

The feature set is impressive, it certainly provides an impetus for Ubuntu adventurers to upgrade from the previous version 10.10.

Right on top of the feature list is the Unity interface, which including drag and drop re-ordering of launcher icons, switching between running applications and some cool navigation and shortcut features.

The software pack includes Firefox 4.0 browser and LibreOffice 3.3.2 office productivity suite, which were recently released. The default music player is now Banshee.

Cloud-aware features are stronger with selective syncing capabilities with Ubuntu One. The launcher icon displays the sync progress, Ubuntu says. The transfers are also faster with the new version of Ubuntu.

The final version of Ubuntu will arrive on April 28. It is always recommended that users wait for the final version, which will iron out many kinks. But for the tech enthusiasts, the beta 1 may be well worth a drive.

More on the dirty details: the beta 1 is based on the 2.6.38 Linux kernel. The latest edition of X.org X Window System is included.

The beta is available for download on the Ubuntu Natty beta site.  Also reaching beta are the Ubuntu 11.04 editions for Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, Mythbuntu, and Ubuntu Studion.

Ubuntu Server 11.04 is also in beta, and it includes features to provision servers for specific tasks, which allows servers to balance workloads effectively and be more red