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Canonical delivers second Natty Ubuntu beta

Easter's no time for an RC

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Updated Canonical has released a second beta for a new version of Ubuntu, having changed its nomenclature for betas and release candidates ahead of final code.

The Ubuntu team delivered the beta for Natty Narwhal, Ubuntu 11.04, on Thursday afternoon Pacific Time.

Canonical's Ubuntu release manager Kate Stewart told the Ubuntu mailing list: "The team has been hard at work since Beta 1, fixing bugs and getting things all nice and natty."

Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon also Tweeted: "Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 2 is out – this is the last beta so test and file bugs so we can get this baby rock solid!"

Typically, Ubuntu goes from alpha to final release via one beta and a release candidate. Only twice before, it seems, has there been a second beta – Ubuntu 6.06 and 10.04 – and each time the beta was followed by an RC before final availability.

Ubuntu 6.06 and 10.04 were Long-Term Support (LTS) editions, making them major pieces of work that set the technology and look and feel of releases following in the next two years.

This time, however, Canonical is dropping the RC label entirely and calling it a Beta 2. Stewart told the Ubuntu mailing list in February that Canonical felt that shipping a release candidate on April 21, just before the Easter holiday, would be "a bit late."

"We're going to go ahead and add a Beta 2 for this release, and drop the Release Candidate from the Natty Schedule," she wrote. The date for Beta 2 was given as April 14.

Ubuntu director of engineering Rick Spencer followed this up, telling The Reg Thursday the Easter holiday meant there was less time for testing and bug fixing in the final week. "The release team decided to pull forward the last milestone, typically call the Release Candidate (RC) from next Thursday to today to allow for more testing and bug fixing to happen."

Spencer said: "It's not really realistic that the image built today won't get bug fixes and changes before the final release. Therefore, it's really a beta, so they renamed the milestone to beta 2."

Natty Narwhal is a big deal for Canonical. The company has dropped GNOME and adopted Unity for its default interface, which is designed for multi-touch. Also, Canonical has killed the separate netbook edition of its Linux distro, and combined the netbook edition with the main code. Beta 1 took a hammering as the worst Ubuntu beta ever for numerous bugs left to fix and for poor workflow in Unity, which lacks the functionality of GNOME 2.3.2. ®

This article has been updated to include comment from Rick Spencer.

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