Ubuntu 10.10 arrives in beta

The Maverick Meerkat edition of the Linux distribution has come to beta slightly ahead of schedule, but its planned launch date remains the same

Maverick Meerkat, the 10.10 version of Ubuntu, has come to beta slightly earlier than expected.

On Thursday, the Ubuntu project posted a download of the beta release on its web site, rather than the alpha 4 released that was expected to precede the beta. The stable version of the Linux distribution is still slated for arrival on October 10.

Ubuntu 10.10 contains a series of major updates to the open-source operating system, such as multitouch support. However, the project's previously slated goals of upgrading the desktop from the Gnome 2.x series to Gnome 3.0 have fallen by the wayside, as 10.10 is set to ship with Gnome 2.31, as opposed to Gnome 2.30 included in the 10.04 distribution.

The desktop edition of 10.10 comes with a variety of software changes: photo manager Shotwell has replaced F-Spot, microblogging client Gribber has been updated to support Twitter's switch to OAuth user authentication and the user interface of the Ubuntu software centre has been updated. Within the netbook distribution, the major change is that a stripped-down user interface — known as the Unity interface — is now the default. Unity bears a visual and functional resemblance to netbook OS Jolicloud, in the sense that it is lightweight and built around speed and connectivity.

The current long-term support (LTS) edition of Ubuntu is known as Lucid Lynx, or version 10.04. The next major iteration of Ubuntu after Maverick Meerkat will be Natty Narwhal (11.04). It is anticipated that Natty Narwhal will update from Gnome 2.x to Gnome 3.0.

In a blog post outlining the new aspects of Maverick Meerkat, Canonical founder and Ubuntu developer Mark Shuttleworth wrote that the release is named after the animal because "meerkats are... light, fast and social".