Ubuntu to default to Mir stack in 13.10, Kubuntu will not follow

Ubuntu to default to Mir stack in 13.10, Kubuntu will not follow

Summary: Mir display server will be the default choice in Ubuntu 13.10, while Kubunut will remain on X, citing community development.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Linux, Mobile OS, Ubuntu
32

Fragmentation has arrived in the display server area of the Ubuntu community, as the parent Ubuntu distribution forges it's own path, and its KDE-focused derivative remains on the X display stack used by the vast majority of modern Linux distributions.

In an update delivered to the Ubuntu development mailing list, Canonical director of product strategy engineering Oliver Ries detailed how Ubuntu would transition over to the new Mir-driven display stack.

Ubuntu 13.10 will use XMir, a stack where X and Unity 7 run on top of the Mir system compositor by default, with a fallback option of running X without any Mir driver support. This edition will be supported for nine months.

By Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, a long-term release that will be supported for five years, the fallback X option will be removed. This release is intended to have full Mir driver support.

Come October 2014, when Ubuntu 14.10 is due, the entire Mir stack running Unity 8 as session shell will be the default option. Ubuntu 14.10 will be supported for nine months, and include rootless X support for legacy X applications.

"Using Mir as a X compatible system compositor in 14.04 which can host any Desktop Environment that is running on X today, will allow all dependent Ubuntu derivatives to run on top of this stack in 13.10 and 14.04 without any changes needed on their side," said Ries.

Ries pointed to a YouTube clip that showed Unity 7, GNOME, KDE, XFCE, and LXDE running on XMir.

"Canonical is committed to supporting XMir for five years during the 14.04 lifecycle, which will give derivatives enough time to evaluate the graphics stack landscape and to make informed decisions when they are ready," he said.

One derivative that is not waiting to make a decision is Kubuntu. The KDE-focused spin on Ubuntu has decided that it will be choosing to move to a display stack based on Wayland.

"Here at Kubuntu, we still want to work as part of the community development, taking the fine software from KDE and other upstreams and putting it on computers worldwide," wrote Kubuntu lead Jonathan Riddell.

"So when Ubuntu Desktop gets switched to Mir, we won't be following. We'll be staying with X on the images for our 13.10 release now in development, and the 14.04LTS release next year. After that, we hope to switch to Wayland, which is what KDE and every other Linux distro hopes to do."

Riddell said that another layer, such as Mir, between KDE's windows manager, KWin, and the monitor is only likely to produce more bugs that the KWin team would need to fix, and for that reason, Mir would not be part of any Kubuntu image.

"What's unknown is what happens when an Ubuntu Desktop user installs Kubuntu Desktop or vice versa. We'll have to find a way to deal with that in a sensible manner."

Although Wayland would be mostly synced from Debian, Riddell said that maintaining it would be "fiddly", as would maintaining the live CD system containing three display servers in form of X, Wayland, and Mir.

Moving to Mir is far from the first time that Ubuntu has pledged to forge a different route from all other Linux distributions. Rather than continuing to have a modified GNOME desktop as its default environment, the decision was made to move to the Unity desktop instead. Beginning with Ubuntu 11.04, the Unity desktop was made the new default environment, and many users were not pleased with the decision.

Following the move to Unity, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth announced in Novemeber 2010 that the Linux distribution would make the transition over to Wayland.

At the time, Shuttleworth said that it would be realistic to expect the first usable images of Unity on Wayland to appear within a year, but that it could take up to four or five years to move the ecosystem.

"Progress on Wayland itself is sufficient for me to be confident that no other initiative could outrun it, especially if we deliver things like Unity and uTouch with it," Shuttleworld said.

Come 2013, though, Ubuntu shifted its weight behind creating its own display stack based on its new Mir display sever.

Mir is expected to power not only the standard Ubuntu desktop, but also the Ubuntu Phone system.

Topics: Linux, Mobile OS, Ubuntu

About

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

32 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • thoughts

    "Ries pointed to a YouTube clip which showed Unity 7, GNOME, KDE, XFCE and LXDE running on XMir."

    Umm, should I be impressed or something? This doesn't look like anything a modern OS shouldn't be able to handle - Windows 7 and 8 handle such things fine. Running a 3D app while letting a video play and showing the animated preview of the video in alt+tab or on hovering in the taskbar, all with Aero's transparency turned on? Yeah, done that. My system handles it nicely :).

    Using compositing is interesting, but the KDE folks do point out that it's yet another layer in the system to break. I'm wondering if it really adds anything to the graphics capabilities.

    Anyhoo, a note on the window managers: Personally - whenever I try Linux, I don't like Unity. I'd much rather stick with KDE or Gnome. Unity is less flexible than even Windows (which at least lets you place the taskbar on any side of the screen you wish).

    And with Windows doing a lot of backpedalling with Windows 8.1, it's looking like Microsoft is actually listening to their customers more than Ubuntu.

    That's the interesting thing with "proprietary" software: Voting with your wallet is actually a real thing. Microsoft didn't grow a heart overnight - more than likely, they saw their rather poor sales figures. Their actions affect their sales, and it shows.

    Linux, on the other hand - well, it remains totally up to the devs where the OS goes. They can choose to ignore their customers with no consequence, which seems to be what Ubuntu has done.

    As much as I like the idea of open source, the business model and user feedback still need work.
    CobraA1
    • Linux, on the other hand - well, it remains totally up to the devs

      Not really, anyone can request a feature

      http://wiki.xfce.org/wish_list

      It doesn't mean it will always get implemented, but at least it you can request it, one of the most requested features in recent memory was tab support in Thunar, and now it has it.
      And if you don't like the direction a desktop environment is going you can move to another one, there are plenty of options available to you, something you don't have with microsoft and windows 8.
      guzz46
      • Well . . .

        "And if you don't like the direction a desktop environment is going you can move to another one, there are plenty of options available to you, something you don't have with microsoft and windows 8."

        Well, if you have Windows 8, you have two options right now (desktop and modern).

        Anyhoo: Your average user can't tell the difference between the desktop environment and the OS. Different desktop environments might as well be different OSes. They don't really care what's underneath - they care if it works for them.

        So, for the average user, once they learn about the different desktop environments, it likely becomes Windows desktop vs Windows modern vs MacOS vs KDE vs Gnome vs Unity. They don't really care if it's the Linux kernel or the NT kernel or the XNU kernel underneath.

        Telling them "okay, now that you've chosen Linux, now you get to choose a desktop environment" is likely just to lead to a bit more frustration or confusion. People are used to the OS choice being the desktop environment choice.

        The distinctions between the kernel, the distros, and the desktop environments - likely just leads to a lot of consumer confusion. Most people just want to make a single choice and be done with it - they don't want to make three separate choices.
        CobraA1
        • Luckily, every distro has a default Desktop

          So, users don't "HAVE" to pick a desktop, one will be installed. In fact, unless they are curious, a regular user will not know they have choices, and for the curious, there is lots and lots of help available.

          As to "distinctions between the kernel, the distros, and the desktop environments", those same consumers seem to be able to buy cars, even with all the differences between 2 and 4 wheel drive, front and rear wheel drive, automatic or standard, 4,6, 8, 10, or 12 cylinders. 2, 3, 4, or 5 door. Truck, van, SUV, minivan, car.

          You're right, maybe someday we will all be so lucky as to told: Here is your car, it's exactly the same as every other car, good luck finding it in the mall parking lot.
          anothercanuck
          • If Linux cost $30,000, the comparison to cars might be valid.

            "So, users don't 'HAVE' to pick a desktop"

            The point is, the user should only have to choose once - they should NOT find out later (when they have already made a considerable investment in the desktop they chose) that another choice may have been better. The choice should be clear, and it should be made up front, not later. People want to be productive, period. They do not want to be playing around with different desktops after they buy the machine.

            "those same consumers seem to be able to buy cars, even with all the differences between 2 and 4 wheel drive, front and rear wheel drive, automatic or standard, 4,6, 8, 10, or 12 cylinders. 2, 3, 4, or 5 door."

            A car is a major investment, and most people are stuck for several years paying it off, so most people will want to choose the best car possible up front, because after it's bought, there's no turning back.

            So yes, most people will want to spend a lot of research into a new car.

            Maybe if Linux cost $30,000, the comparison might be valid.

            When it comes to electronics - most people are buying the device and the UI. They don't want to be changing the UI afterwards, because the UI was chosen with the purchase. Electronics are pretty cheap, and it's often easier to just buy the device with the UI you want, rather than change it later.
            CobraA1
          • The point is, the user should only have to choose once

            And they did choose once, when they downloaded the Linux ISO, if they want to choose again then its totally up to them, I find it bizarre how some people argue that choice in UI is a bad thing, when choice in everything else seems to be ok, how many video editors are out there? how many media players are out there?

            "The choice should be clear, and it should be made up front, not later"

            It is, nearly every distro has a default desktop environment.

            "They do not want to be playing around with different desktops after they buy the machine"

            If they don't want to be playing around with different desktop environments then they won't, no one is forcing them to, but if they want to then they have that choice.

            "A car is a major investment, and most people are stuck for several years paying it off"

            Yet people handle choice in software just fine, video editors, media players, etc... so whats wrong with choice in UI? lets not forget that windows 8 has two different UI's in the one OS.

            "When it comes to electronics - most people are buying the device and the UI. They don't want to be changing the UI afterwards"

            Again, they DON'T have to change the UI, the UI was chosen when they download the Linux ISO, have you really used Linux before?
            guzz46
          • Not saying the choice itself is a bad thing . . .

            "I find it bizarre how some people argue that choice in UI is a bad thing"

            Lemme put it this way:

            -People have finite time and resources.
            -Research uses time and resources.
            -Most people don't want to spend inordinate time choosing things.

            It's not about whether people "can handle" a choice, or whether the choice "is bad." It's about whether people want to spend the time and resources to make the choice.

            In addition:

            -Compatibility is king. The most popular platforms prove that. "Will it work with my existing stuff?" is an often asked question.

            -Consistency is not unimportant. Inside an organization, if you have hundreds machines, tech support is easier if all of the machines are consistent.

            -A fractured ecosystem is a major complaint with Android - you think such a thing is not also a possible issue with desktop Linux?

            -Linux . . . hasn't really been doing well on the desktop. Android has shown that it's possible for Linux to do well, if done right. I imagine that desktop Linux may be increasingly influenced by Android in the future.
            CobraA1
          • It's about whether people want to spend the time and resources to make the

            "choice"

            Well that's up to the individual isn't it, but obviously people do want choice or there wouldn't be different desktop environments in the first place, and how come that same argument doesn't apply to every other piece of software? like video editors for example?

            "Will it work with my existing stuff?"

            Yes it will, because you're only changing the UI, not the OS.

            "tech support is easier if all of the machines are consistent"

            Then they will choose the same OS with the same UI.

            "A fractured ecosystem is a major complaint with Android"

            Yet it's still the most popular mobile OS.

            "you think such a thing is not also a possible issue with desktop Linux?"

            In what regards? certainly not in regards to the UI, because the apps still work the same regardless of the UI, and as I said before, the choice is made when the user downloads the Linux ISO, when you installed Ubuntu it didn't ask you which UI you wanted to use, you already made that choice when you downloaded Ubuntu.

            "Android has shown that it's possible for Linux to do well, if done right"

            Completely different examples, When Android came onto the scene microsoft didn't have a monopoly position on mobiles giving rebates to OEM's preventing them from using other OS's, and looked what happened, Android became the most popular mobile OS, it's no wonder microsoft want's to keep people blind to Linux on the desktop.

            Besides, what did Android do right that Linux on the desktop didn't?
            guzz46
          • thoughts

            (reply broken up due to spam filter)

            "how come that same argument doesn't apply to every other piece of software?"

            Let's say I'm trying to explain this to a potential customer who just asked "which OS should I choose?" No other software in the world (including other major OSes) will end up in an explanation of desktop environments. Yet Linux has to think it's somehow special in this regard.

            Desktop environments aren't necessary. They're just one extra thing. It's an arbitrary and artificial distinction.

            It doesn't apply to other pieces of software because it doesn't exist in other pieces of software. Video players don't come with multiple desktop environments.
            CobraA1
          • reply 2

            "Yes it will, because you're only changing the UI, not the OS."

            Except the user may be switching from another OS - one that doesn't have desktop environments. This doesn't come up when choosing other apps or even other OSes.
            CobraA1
          • reply 3

            "Yet it's still the most popular mobile OS."

            Doesn't render the complaint invalid. Just means customers see value elsewhere.
            CobraA1
          • reply 4

            "Completely different examples,"

            Should I take a cue from your playbook and ask "what's the difference" a million times while ignoring the explanations?
            CobraA1
          • reply 5

            WOW did the spam filter not like a lot of my stuff. Never had to break a reply into so many pieces :/.

            "When Android came onto the scene . . ."

            Well, the monopoly days are way back in the '90s. Why is desktop Linux still struggling in the 2010s? Microsoft is certainly facing increased competition on all fronts these days, and they're even struggling in some markets, such as smart phones. I'd say the monopoly argument is old, tired, and no longer relevant.
            CobraA1
          • reply 6

            "Besides, what did Android do right that Linux on the desktop didn't?"

            I'd vote ecosystem. The apps people want are there. Desktop Linux doesn't have things like Microsoft Office, and most people don't want to deal with copycats like OpenOffice.

            (I don't think Android has Microsoft Office, either - but it's a smartphone with different expectations)
            CobraA1
          • New hypothesis

            New hypothesis on the spam filters: They're not liking multiple quotes.

            "test 1"

            "test 2"
            CobraA1
          • No other software in the world (including other major OSes) will end up in

            "an explanation of desktop environments"

            Yes there is, the BSD's, and you don't have to explain desktop environments, my mother uses Linux and she has no idea what a desktop environment is.
            Also, coffee isn't necessary, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't exist.

            "Video players don't come with multiple desktop environments."

            But they have different UI's, and work differently to each other, just like desktop environments do, yet choice in video editors is ok, but not choice in desktop environments? why?
            guzz46
          • "Except the user may be switching from another OS"

            Then compatibility has nothing to do with the desktop environment, desktop environments have no effect on apps.

            "Doesn't render the complaint invalid"

            And that doesn't mean fragmentation (or choice) affects popularity.

            "Well, the monopoly days are way back in the '90s"

            No it wasn't, microsoft still has a monopoly position on the desktop, on mobiles the roles are reversed, except there are no anti competitive practices hindering microsoft, they even have a major brand selling phones with their OS on it worldwide and microsoft is still struggling.
            guzz46
          • I'd like to see a recent article confirming that.

            "No it wasn't, microsoft still has a monopoly position on the desktop,"

            I'd like to see a *recent* article confirming that.
            CobraA1
          • I'd like to see a *recent* article confirming that

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems

            According to Net Applications windows still has 91% desktop market share, I don't agree those numbers are accurate, but I do agree that windows still has the vast majority share of the desktop.

            You will probably try to argue that it's not a monopoly, but wikipedia's definition of monopoly "The verb "monopolize" refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors"
            And microsoft has been proven guilty of trying to exclude competitors before.
            guzz46
          • Uh...

            You can switch desktops, it isn't that hard actually.

            If you've had the tip to separate your / and /home partition then it is even easier to try new desktops and distros.
            Max™‮‮