Unity? (was: What's your favorite distro, and why?)

Michael Torrie torriem at gmail.com
Mon Dec 16 17:13:25 MST 2013

On 12/16/2013 12:28 PM, Lonnie Olson wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 4:23 PM, Olli Ries <olli at olli-ries.com> wrote:
>> Mir does have nothing to do with Unity
> Correct.  This thread has diverged from the subject of Unity to
> general Canonical bashing.

I disagree with your assessment.  Mir might not have anything to do with
Unity now, but in the future the stated goal is to get Unity running
directly on Mir, allowing Canonical to throw out the X11 layer
completely and move to supporting X11 in a secondary way, like OS X
does.  Unity and Mir will then become the platform, much like OS X's
platform is defined by Quartz and Cocoa.  I expect Ubuntu apps to be
Mir-native, and to have tight tie-ins with the Unity desktop.  Unity
will be Mir's interface to the world.  Hence they will in fact become
related rather closely, unless Canonical decides to switch to Wayland,
which is very possible given little support from Nvidia, ATI, or Intel
for Mir.

I don't say all this to bash Ubuntu or even call it a bad thing.  I'm
just pointing out things as I see them.

> Unity is just another desktop environment, heavily based on Gnome3
> (IMHO), but different in many important ways.  Adding yet another
> desktop environment to the already large list is not that
> controversial.  It's really a personal preference thing.  I really
> like Gnome3, but I like Unity a little better.  That's just my
> opinion.

You are correct about Unity's origins, but you can no longer say Unity
has anything to do with Gnome 3. In fact Unity is moving development to
Qt.  Unity 2D, which made a brief appearance a couple of years ago was
all Qt.

> Mir is a display server (basically).  Olli covered this description
> quite well.

Yes I understand that very well.  But if Ubuntu is the only distribution
using Mir, and if Unity only runs on Mir, then at that point the
difference you mention become moot.  Unity on Ubuntu no longer will be
just another desktop option. It will simply be *the* Ubuntu desktop,
like Quartz/Finder/Dock is on OS X.

The end result is that someone will only target Mir in their application
if they want to run on Ubuntu, and if they want to have a nice,
integrated app on Ubuntu, they will tie into and use Unity.  At that
point, for better or worse, Ubuntu becomes its own complete platform,
like Android, or OS X.  At present I don't have any feelings one way or
the other about this. As long as good toolkits exist that abstract the
backends, then supporting Ubuntu is no more difficult than adding a
build target in Qt.  But this is the point at which Ubuntu starts to
diverge from "Linux."  That's all I was trying to say.

> Woefully incomplete list of examples of other arguments over competing options:
> GTK vs. QT
> Gnome vs. KDE
> Gnome3 vs. Gnome2 (hence spawning even more: Cinnamon/Mate)
> glibc vs ulibc
> Upstart vs systemd vs SysV
> etc. etc.

I think this comparison is not accurate because all of these things you
mention can more or less coexist and be swapped back and forth
interchangeably.  When Ubuntu completes the transition to Mir, Ubuntu
software and the Unity desktop will, in its binary form, be Ubuntu-only.
 Unity will be Ubuntu-only, since it's doubtful other distros will
support or ship Mir.  Software written for Ubuntu will be Ubuntu-only as
most other distros will be running Wayland.  So I guess

I stand by my opinion that Ubuntu is diverging from the rest of the
Linux world and is heading off in its own direction.  Maybe my tone
implied otherwise, but I'm not stating whether this is a good or bad
thing--I simply don't know.

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