10.04 Lucid Lynx and 10.10 Maverick Meerkat are almost identical in the looks department – both used the old boring (no kidding) Gnome interface. They even have the same cat-sounding names. If you don’t know your Ubuntu very well you won’t spot the difference easily. (clue: wallpaper)
11.04 Natty Narwhal and 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot are both using the new Unity shell and are easier to identify through not-too-subtle differences.
One major give-away is the login manager. Right from the start you know it’s Oneiric since it has a more polished and pretty login thanks to LightDM. Not to mention it’s got Ubuntu 11.10 written across the bottom left of the login screen. Who could miss that? Natty still used the old Gnome 2.X login.
The Unity Launcher for Oneiric also sports a new and bigger Ubuntu button to toggle Dash. It has been moved away from the top panel and now looks more prominent sitting at the top of the Launcher.
The Ubuntu button on Natty Narwhal used to be on the top panel. It was smaller too, only slightly bigger than the window buttons. According to what I’ve read, surveys report that a lot of the people who took the Ubuntu usability tests missed this button or did not bother with it. Perhaps it was too small? Anyway I liked it where it was. Maybe a little color and effects would have made it noticeable.
However I’m getting used to the new Ubuntu button on Oneiric now. It looks more visible than ever before and I’ve always wanted Ubuntu to have better branding on the desktop. Well the bigger button makes up for that. Windows always has its traditional Start button. Mac has the ever-popular Dock. Linux has nothing. Not even a penguin.
Now how else will you know what Ubuntu version you have? From Ubuntu versions 10.04 to 11.04 you have the System Monitor, a.k.a gnome-system-monitor, for that. Simply launch it from the menu and you will see something like below:
Ubuntu 11.10 has System Info which can be launched directly from Dash using “System Info”, or through the new Gnome 3.2 Control Center (gnome-control-center info).
Additionally you can use the command line to identify what Ubuntu version you are running. Just fire up gnome-terminal then type the following, cat /etc/lsb-release. You should get something like below:
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