Friday, 27 May 2011

Skype Out

Skype crashed today - I realize that this is not exactly news, but there is a fix.
  1. Go to the following folder:

  2. Delete the file shared.xml.
  3. Restart Skype.
  4. The Skype folder is a hidden folder - please check Show hidden files in your file browser to view and access it.
No jokes about the Microsoft purchase please ;)

Sources & References:

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

"Borrowing" Content!

Whilst I don't want Karmic Odyssey to evolve into the type of blog that simply recycles other people's content, there are are times when one comes across an article or post that just has to be shared!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Desktop's Desktop

Every now and again I like to change my desktop background and, when I do, I like to share the experience!

This background has been moved to Workspace #1 of my DELL Dimension 8400 - my primary desktop pc. The dock is Avant Window Navigator and the OS is Ubuntu 10.04LTS (Lucid Lynx).

Photo Credit: Kyle Merriman via Nat Geo's Your Shot.

I love pictures that draw the eye through the scene and this is a beautiful example: I hope that you enjoy it as much as I.

Sources & References:

Ubuntu Has Form!

I hate form-filling but it's one of modernity's necessary evils.

Back in my Windows days, I used Adobe Acrobat to annotate pdf documents in order to save recipients the time and trouble of trying to decipher my handwriting but I haven't bothered finding an alternative for Ubuntu - until now. Recently my employer requested that I update my personal details, so I decided to give open-source another opportunity to demonstrate how completely it meets the challenge of its commercial rivals.

I settled on flpsed PDF Annotator - you can install it from the Ubuntu Software Centre.

"flpsed is a WYSIWYG pseudo PostScript editor. "Pseudo", because you can't remove or modify existing elements of a document. But flpsed lets you add arbitrary text lines to existing PostScript 1 documents. Added lines can later be reedited with flpsed. Using pdftops, which is part of xpdf one can convert PDF documents to PostScript and also add text to them. flpsed is useful for filling in forms, adding notes etc."
The GUI is a little rudimentary, but you only need to click on the document at the point that you want to insert your text and then type away!

So, if you hate form-filling, give this tremendous little app a try!

  • WYSIWYG is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get

Sources & References:

Sounds Great

Joey Sneddon (over at OMG! Ubuntu!) has found a gem in the making: the Ubuntu Sound Gallery alpha.

The idea is to make sound profiles easy to preview and provide instructions on how to install the themes. I've played around with the two additional themes on the site (there's actually three on the alpha website, but the I already have the Ubuntu theme!) and it's easy to preview and download the themes.

Let's hope this great idea grows.

Sources & Preferences:

Friday, 20 May 2011

Super Fast

I've been trying to solve a startup problem on my desktop for a couple of days. I won't bore you with the details, but the symptoms included random hanging during the boot sequence, absent startup sounds, and lengthy delays before I got to my desktop.

At first I suspected some of the modifications that I've made over the last week or so (Skype Video & hardware additions) were the cause of my boot woes: but it turns out that it was a problem that has haunted me before and one that I'd never managed to resolve.

Searching my syslog threw up the strange but persistent error message:

jogga-desktop kernel: [ ##.######] serial8250: too much work for irq18

Where the # are (seemingly) random numbers. This line is repeated numerous times throughout the log and, I reasoned, must at least contribute to any delay. Trawling various bug reports and online forums led me to believe that the problem might be caused by an unused modem: so, I simply un-installed modemmanager using the Synaptic Package Manager.

Now my bootup sequence is back to under a minute.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


You don't have to search through too many new posts over at the Ubuntu Forums to realize that Canonical's new operating system has polarized the Ubuntu community1.

In common with many of the posters at Ubuntu Forums, I too have expressed the view that Unity isn't the finished article and that it will need time to mature. Even Mark Shuttleworth2 acknowledges that Natty has some "rough edges" (video - around 12:20)! However, despite my own reservations, I confess that I'm astonished by the reaction of some to the release of Natty. It seems to me patently absurd to abandon a brand just because you don't like the latest product.

It's clear that there have been disagreements about the future of Ubuntu with the new release of Gnome on the horizon and that Shuttleworth wasn't convinced about the direction that the Gnome development was taking. Moreover, with an aspiration (or "challenge") for achieving 200,000,000 Ubuntu users by 20153, Ubuntu has to become more appealing to casual users - in other words, Ubuntu has to work out of the box for ex-Windows users.

But, here's the thing: Ubuntu is free software. No-one is obliged to use it and no-one is obliged to like it! There are alternatives to Ubuntu in the Linux world and there's even a couple of choices in the Ubuntu stable:
"Of course, Ubuntu is far bigger than Unity. And the needs of the Ubuntu community, and users of Ubuntu, are far more diverse than simply Unity could address. So I’m proud of the fact that the Ubuntu community publishes the whole expression of software freedom across its archives. Kubuntu continues to improve and set a very high standard for the KDE experience. Lubuntu, the LXDE based expression of Ubuntu, is moving towards being 100% integrated. There is unique work being done in Ubuntu for users of the cloud and other server-oriented configurations. While we can be proud of what’s been achieved in Unity, we are equally proud of the efforts that go into ensuring that the full range of experiences is accommodated, to the extent possible with the effort put in by our huge community, under the Ubuntu umbrella."
Source: Mark Shuttleworth A Leap Forward (emphasis mine)
You can even run Natty using Gnome2!

Mark Shuttleworth is correct when he says that, "to be relevant", Linux needs to attract more users away from proprietary software and that will require compromises. After all, not everyone enjoys the challenge of making their computer work as (they expect) it should! I hope that those that have reacted in haste and left the Ubuntu community reflect on their decision and give Canonical time to get this right, not least because Ubuntu is its community.

1 Examples include:
All accessed 19/05/2011
2 Mark Shuttleworth: here be dragons Biography
3 Linked video around 5:44

Sources & References:

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Not So Shiny?

My personal victory over both Microsoft and Skype at the weekend diverted my attention from my laptops. On my return, I find that, on the DELL Inspiron 6400, Chromium crashes immediately it is started - couldn't do a thing with it.

There is a fair bit of chatter on the Internet about this problem and several solutions are offered, including turning off hardware acceleration via Firefox: however, I chose to replace Chromium (from the repository) with Google Chrome (a direct download). I've outlined the process here for two reasons:
  1. The linked instructions aren't absolutely clear.
  2. The download link in the original instructions directs to the French download page.
Instructions to Replace Chromium:
  • Install Google Chrome using the package manager: Download Page. Select the appropriate package and then click the Accept & Install button. When the download is complete, the Package Installer will start automatically - click Install.
  • Uninstall Chromium using the Ubuntu Software Center.
Whilst this option is a quick and dirty method for replacing the browser in the repository with Google's version (and adding Google's ppa to your software sources at the same time), you can also repair Chromium by copying the file from Google's browser to Ubuntu's browser.

Instructions to Repair Chromium
  • Install Google Chrome using the package manager: Download Page. Select the appropriate package and then click the Accept & Install button. When the download is complete, the Package Installer will start automatically - click Install.
  • When the installation is complete, open a terminal and copy & paste the following into the command line:

    sudo cp /opt/google/chrome/ /usr/lib/chromium-browser/plugins

    Press the return key and enter your sudo password at the prompt.
  • Copy and paste the following into the command line

    sudo chmod ugo+x /usr/lib/chromium-browser/plugins/

    Press the return key.
  • Uninstall Chrome by searching for google-chrome-stable in Synaptic Package Manager and marking the package for removal

Sources & References:
Ask Ubuntu How Can I fix Crashing Flash on Chromium?
Chrome Download (English)

Monday, 16 May 2011

LifeCam VX-1000 on Ubuntu 10.04

Please note that not all of the steps outlined in this post may be necessary to get your VX-1000 working with Lucid - you might find that all you need to do is install Jef Moine's gspca patch! I don't know who Jef Moine is and I have no idea about what the patch will do to your system; but, I do know that it worked for me. I recommend reading all of this post before deciding whether you need to follow each step.

The VX-1000 LifeCam
After several attempts to get my VX-1000 Microsoft LifeCam working with the various Ubuntu releases, I'd almost given up hope of successfully integrating the hardware with my desktop: inevitably, Ubuntu could see the device (type lsusb into a terminal), but sound and video stubbornly refused to co-operate. I assumed that I would never been able to get it to work with Ubuntu and I'd even started to consider alternatives - Then I plugged it into 10.04!.

Doubtless, I've made the process of getting this over-priced/under-performing hardware to work with Ubuntu more difficult than necessary, but now the camera works with Cheese and I can use it for both video and sound calls with Skype. That's the good news: the bad news is that the picture quality is pretty rubbish!

Actually, getting the video to work in Skype is fairly straightforward. Make sure that the camera is plugged in and then open a terminal and type:

LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/libv4l/ skype

However, I experienced two problems with this approach:
  1. After closing Skype or rebooting the computer, the video no longer worked. This seems to be because the standard command in the startup applications entry is simply, skype and no amount of editing in the Startup Applications' Preferences dialog would force the v4l application to load.
  2. The built-in microphone didn't work.
I rectified the first problem by removing the standard Skype entry from the Startup Applications' Preferences menu (Preferences > Startup Applications' Preferences & unchecked the Skype option) and then created a new shell script and adding that to the startup routine. Using Scite (any text editor should suffice), I created the new script thus:

# Start Skype with video enabled
LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/libv4l/ skype

I saved the file in my /home directory as and then made it executable:

chmod +x /home/jogga/

(For obvious reasons, if you are following these instructions, change your username to suit!) Then I added this script to the startup applications by clicking Add in the Startup Applications' Preferences dialog.
Adding the Skype script to the Startup Applications List

This approach does seem to lengthen the boot time but it does work.

To get the sound to work I installed Jef Moine's latest gspca patch. The patch works for a broad range of webcams and you can find a list of supported devices here.
  1. Download the gspca-2.12.25.tar.gz patch to your Downloads directory (or any convenient location).
  2. Right-click the package and select the Extract Here option (or use Archive Manager to extract the package to your location of choice).
  3. Open a terminal and change to the gspca-2.12.25 directory - in my case:

    cd /home/jogga/Downloads/gspca-2.12.25

    but you should amend the command to suit your own username and directory location.
  4. If you want to install the whole package (i.e. support for all the webcams), type:


    However, it is possible to install only the driver required to make your camera work. For instance, to support the VX-1000, type:

    make gspca_sonixj.ko

    You can identify the required driver using the gspca Supported Webcams documentation.
  5. Then, install the driver:

    sudo make install

  6. Reboot your computer and test your webcam's microphone by making a Skype test call.
If the microphone is still not working, you may need to change the input device in the Sound dialog (Preferences > Sound > Input).

So, this is another piece of hardware that will see a more use thanks to a little perseverance and a lot of effort by the Ubuntu Community.

Sources & References:
Jef Moine: Jef's Page
Gnome Projects: Cheese Home Page gspca Supported Webcams

Renaisance - The Sequel

I've had some more good fortune with redundant hardware today!

Whilst searching through an old crate for a power cord today, I came across the companion to my diNovo Cordless Keyboard - a rather snazzy number pad. To be honest, I never used the thing when the keyboard was hooked up to Windows, but I thought that I'd see if it works on Ubuntu: needless to say, it does!

Two fresh (rechargeable) AA batteries were all that were required to allow the device to pair with the usb controller.

Johnny No-Mates

Joey Sneddon over at OMG!Ubuntu! seems to have interpreted Microsoft's acquisition of Skype perfectly.

As news of the acquisition broke yesterday (actually on the 10th, but some of us keep strange hours), various blogs and forums carried speculation and scare stories of how Microsoft intended to dump support for Linux as soon as it had an opportunity: Microsoft has moved quickly to quell such rumours.
"Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms."
Source: Microsoft Press Release (emphasis added)
Undoubtedly, time will tell just how much investment and support will be forthcoming: but let's be honest if such support merely continues in the same vein as Skype's efforts on behalf of the Linux community, it's unlikely to be very impressive!

I am a Skype user (that is, Skype is installed on several of my systems) and I am comforted by the noises coming from Redmond. However, I don't really know why I'm so relieved: I use Skype predominantly as an IM client and rarely (if ever) use it for VOIP calls. In fact, so infrequently do I use the service that my Skype credit has recently become inactive!

Sources & References:
OMG!Ubuntu! Microsoft will ‘invest and support’ Skype on non-Microsoft platforms
Microsoft® News Center Microsoft to Acquire Skype

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Bad Blogger!

I spent hours working on my Unity Launcher post only for Blogger to delete it. Blogger indicates that it's in the process of restoring the lost posts but there's been no update since 10:26 13/05/2011 - so, as I have no idea when (or even, if) Blogger will restore my post and I've reposted it myself (so you may see a duplicate).

I know that everyone has problems, but I put a lot of work into that post: it's a good job that I had a backup! Grrrrr......

Sources & References:
Blogger Status
Blogger Buzz Blogger is Back

Unity Launcher

Notwithstanding the Canonical Design Team's protestation that its new Unity Launcher is not a dock bar, it's difficult to resist the temptation of comparing it to alternatives like AWN and Docky.

Perhaps one reason that Canonical is so keen to distance itself from these more established options is that, given such comparisons, Unity does not fare particularly well. Take Avant Window Navigator for instance: in 10.04, AWN can be customised extensively, including the addition of bespoke launchers and the ability to change the application's behaviour and theme. Such system tweaks are mostly absent in Unity, making the Launcher little more than a placeholder for application shortcuts. However, the news is not all bad!

For a start, the Unity Launcher looks fantastic - it really does. The Faenza-like icons are of generous size without being invasive and the slick design means that size and rendering attributes are never compromised, even when a large number of icons are added to the launcher. The Design Team pulls-off this trick by tilting unused icons; a feature it calls, accordion.

Another nice design feature is the ability to allocate shortcuts to icons - yes, that's right; the ability to shortcut shortcuts is a design feature of the Unity Launcher! You can view the assigned shortcut keys by pressing and holding the Super Key (aka, Windows Key) and the appropriate key identifier is superimposed on the icon.

To activate any particular application, just hit the Super Key together with the appropriate shortcut key.

Perhaps the biggest advantage that Unity can boast over its (non) rivals is the ease with which icons can be added: both drag-and-drop and right-click functionality have been incorporated into the design and this feature may well appeal to a broader audience than the current hardcore Ubuntu users (although I doubt this feature is enough on its own). Reorganising icons is also easy: simply drag-and-drop the desired icon to its new position on the bar. If the icon being relocated stays within the confines of the Launcher, the other icons make room for their companion by opening a gap as the icon is moved either up or down.

Conversely, if the icon does leave the Launcher's confines, a line appears at the insertion point as the icon moves over it. Simply letting go at the desired place drops the icon into its new position - easy!

In common with other launchers, Unity highlights active applications but, once more, the ability to customise this feature is limited.

All-in-all, Unity looks great without being terribly exciting: let's hope that, as the concept matures, the developers build in more flexibility.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Quick Dash

One of the recent additions to the GUI in Ubuntu 11.04 is the Unity Dash: it's a Gnome Menu replacement that allows users to search for and launch applications.

You can launch the dash window by clicking the Distributor icon (the Ubuntu logo) on the Unity Panel or hitting the super key (aka the Windows key) on your keyboard.

The first thing to notice is the search function at the top of the panel: this facilitates predictive searching - displaying the results for applications and files as you type. As more data is added to the search string, so the results are refined:

The Dash home screen also provides shortcuts to common destinations and it won't take long for users to realize that the default values are media-based applications (such as Internet, photos, email, etc) rather than productivity-based! Clicking an option displays three categories of applications:
  1. Most Frequently Used
  2. Installed
  3. Available for Download
I like this last option; it's a bit like an app-store function that introduces you to a selection of the 35,918 applications available from the Ubuntu Software Centre.

More traditional users and access a Gnome-type menu via the drop-down control to the right of the search box:

So much for function: but what of fashion?

Clearly, Ubuntu is moving towards an Android-type interface and focussing more on social use. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, there are some shortcomings!

Firstly, the Dash is dark and I find it a little depressing. Secondly, configuring Dash is as limited as configuring the Unity-Panel (see links). However, I suspect that as this release of Ubuntu (and the next) will start to rectify these issues and the Ubuntu GUI will once again become the home of eye-candy.

Sources & References
Ask Ubuntu How Can I Configure Unity?
Jorge Castro How I use the Unity Dash - video

Monday, 9 May 2011


Well, I suppose that it had to happen eventually: Karmic Odyssey has started to expand!

I've added a summary of the bits and pieces of kit that I'm using and blogging about. On the bright side, it's more interesting than my biog!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Maybe It Is The One!

I may have been a little harsh in my assessment of Ubuntu One back in February. Occasionally I use my meagre literary talents to publish book reviews on Amazon and, of course, my musings about Ubuntu here at Karmic Odyssey: so, when I flit between my various computers, it's handy to have access to draft posts regardless of which machine was the originator. Ubuntu One synchronises documents automatically so that, when I log on with a different computer, my work in progress is (almost) there waiting for me: that's very useful when you find yourself finishing posts at 04:30 in the morning.

Of course, I could just save my drafts to my network and open them from Nautilus...

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Unity Panel - What's Changed?

With the release of Natty Narwhal comes the new Unity Panel as a replacement for the familiar Gnome Panel; but what exactly is the difference between the two?

Well, perhaps the first thing to note is that, whilst Unity Panel looks very similar to Gnome, the Unity Panel can't be customized1: what you see is what you get - whether you like it or not. The Gnome applets have been replaced by indicators and users can't add, remove or modify these tools in any way. One of the things that I've always loved about Ubuntu is that I can (given my limited talent) customize the interface to my heart's content; but Canonical seems to have decided to implement a one-size-fits-all policy. Of course, if you really must have a customizable panel, one way to avoid the Unity problem (and utilize Gnome in 11.04) is to select Ubuntu Classic from the Sessions options2 during start-up.

Whilst I'm not terribly impressed with the lack of flexibility in Unity's indicators, it's not all bad news! A really nice feature is the integration of (maximized) applications' title bars and main menus in the main Unity Panel.

Application Title Bar in Unity Panel
Application Title Bar in Unity Panel

Application Menu in Unity Panel
Application Menu in Unity Panel

This is a great space-saving device, especially for laptops and notebooks. Resized (that is, neither maximized nor minimized) applications resort to the usual application Title bar. However, not all applications seem to have been fully integrated and some programs (LibreOffice for instance) retain their menu bar even when maximized.

The Ubuntu Menu has also been removed from the top panel and replaced by Unity's Dash and Launcher (more of which in a later post). In look and feel this is reminiscent of the (now defunct) Ubuntu Netbook Remix interface and, whilst it looks great, I find that it makes navigation less intuitive.

Everything else is pretty much as it was with Gnome-Panel with some minor rearrangement of services3. However, one nice touch is the addition of a shortcut to the default media player in the sound indicator. The interface now includes some basic controls (skip forward/backward & play/pause) in the Unity panel drop-down.

All-in-all the changes are OK and integrate well with the other innovations in 11.04: Natty is well worth a test drive if you have a test machine lying around.

1 This is not quite true: Unity Panel's opacity can be modified using the Ubuntu Unity Plugin in the CompizConfig Settings Manager: but that's about it!
2 The Sessions options can be found on the bottom panel when your Greeter Window appears and requests your username and password. Use the spin control to select Ubuntu Classic and login in the usual way.
3 For instance, the shortcut to the Ubuntu One Control Panel has been moved from the session indicator to the communication indicator.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

(Gnome) About Me

I've been playing around with Natty for a day or so and come across an interesting bug: my personal data disappeared every time I closed the About Me dialog. Starting the application from a terminal didn't provide any error messages or clues, nor did opening the dialog this way allow me to store my data!

It seems that the problem was caused because of my choice of mail client (Thunderbird): as my email configuration files were restored from my existing /home directory (on a separate partition from the root directory), I never bothered to configure the embedded mail client, Evolution - fortunately, the fix turns out to be very simple!

From the Unity Panel, click on the mail icon and select the Set Up Mail... option:

Complete the wizard but make sure that you uncheck the option to make Evolution your default mail client (unless, of course, you want Evolution to be your mail client). Close the wizard and then close Evolution (which opens when the wizard is closed). Now you should be able to add data to your About Me profile.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Natty Present for Karmic Odyssey's Birthday

The DELL Inspiron 1501 got to test drive the latest Ubuntu release from Canonical - Natty Narwhal. After a rocky start, I think that I'm quite pleased with the new operating system which, in look and feel, is reminiscent of Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

In order to expedite the upgrade I decided on a clean installation. This is faster than an incremental upgrade and means that I'm not troubleshooting plugins and applications no longer supported by the latest operating system. Therein was my first problem: following the installation, I couldn't start my wireless card (again). This problem is not unusual with Broadcom NICs and Ubuntu distros, and I confess that my check to ensure that the appropriate wireless diver had been installed was, at best, cursory! Actually, the wrong driver (the Broadcom STA driver) had been installed during the post-installation update rather than the Broadcom B43 driver and it took me some time to figure out what had gone wrong. Even when I had realized my error, the fix wasn't as straight forward as is usually the case.

In 11.04, you don't install the b43-fwcutter directly, you install 'firmware-b43-installer' package:
"Note: On Ubuntu 11.04 installing the 'firmware-b43-installer' package takes care of the downloading and installation of the b43 driver." Source: Ubuntu Documentation
The easiest way to install the firmware is from Synaptic.

Now that the correct driver is installed, I can connect to my network wirelessly: however, WiFi is no longer enabled automatically during the boot sequence even though the card is enabled in the bios settings and I have to toggle the card on manually (Fn + F2).

There are a number of other differences to get used to in this latest incarnation of Ubuntu:
  • Banshee Media Player has replaced Rhythmbox as the default music player. Whilst Rhythmbox can be installed and set as the default player, some of the plugins (notably, rhythmarty) no longer seem to work and that is a deal-breaker. However, the promised support for Zen media players makes the switch a little less painful for me!
  • Gnome-panel has been replaced with Unity panel. The new panel has indicators rather than applets and (wholesale) customization is a thing of the past.
  • Unity (a task launcher) and Dash (a Menu replacement) complete the visual changes and navigation takes a while to master efficiently. However, they both add nice touches to the user experience.

Some more thoughts and discoveries will follow in due course.

Sources & References:
Ubuntu Wiki Natty Narwhal
Ubuntu Documentation WifiDocsDriverbcm43xx

Monday, 2 May 2011

Happy Birthday Karmic Odyssey

It hardly seems possible that today marks Karmic Odyssey's first birthday: happy birthday to Karmic Odyssey!

Sunday, 1 May 2011


My recent bluetooth hardware upgrade has given me the chance to play around with some old and (I thought) redundant equipment. To my delight, it seems that some of that kit is not quite as redundant as I'd thought!

In a previous life I spent much time driving around the UK and, as a law-abiding and safety-conscious citizen, I used a bluetooth headset to make and receive telephone calls. Although I no longer drive tens of thousands of miles a year, I still own the headset (a Jabra BT135) and I decided to see if it could be put to use as a Skype headset on my Inspiron 6400: it can!

You can install Skype from the Ubuntu Software Centre.

To install your headset:
  1. Make sure that bluetooth is activated on your PC.
  2. Open your bluetooth Preferences dialog. This is usually achieved by clicking the bluetooth icon in your system tray or notification area: a pop-up menu will offer the Preferences option. If you don't use a system tray or notification area, go to System > Preferences > Bluetooth.

  3. With your bluetooth headset switched off, press and hold the power button until the operating light is a steady blue.
  4. In the bluetooth Preferences dialog, make sure that your computer is visible to other devices and click the Set up new device... button: the New Device Setup wizard will appear.

  5. Click Forward to invoke the device search.

  6. Select the device (the Jabra BT135) and click the Forward button. If you are prompted for a PIN number, the default for the Jabra BT135 is 0000.
  7. When the setup is finished, you'll receive a confirmation screen:

  8. Click the Close button to return to the Preferences dialog and you should see the headset listed in the Paired Devices window.

You may need to tell Skype what device to use: go to the Sound Options window in the Skype options dialog to set your preferences.

Very Natty

The new version (11.04 - Natty Narwhal) of Ubuntu was released on April 28th.
"The release of Ubuntu 11.04 has seen the arrival of a new look and feel for Ubuntu. A whizzy, new launcher and dash, and a clever workspace manager are some of the biggest changes. Take a look at what’s new and then feel free to choose between the classic and new desktop experiences at login."

What's new in Ubuntu 11.04? from Canonical Design on Vimeo.

Whilst the user interface is still built on Gnome, Ubuntu has built a new shell over the existing technology and called it Unity; "designed to be easy to use, unique, innovative, and good looking."

The system requirements are undemanding, but, given my previous experiences, I'll decide for myself if 384MB of free RAM is really all you need to run the new system! However, there is little doubt that this release will get a run-out over the next few days on the Inspiron 1501.

Sources & References:
Ubuntu 11.04 What's New?
OMG!Ubuntu! Natty Guide
Ubuntu Wiki Natty Narwhal Release Overview