Linux News Today: Unity 8: All You Need to Know
Canonical is working on the next generation of the Unity desktop, and it has big plans for it, but it’s not yet ready for this particular environment. Here are some details about the new desktop that users might want to know.
One thing we’ve noticed is that quite a few users don’t actually know much about the upcoming Unity 8, even if Canonical is always talking about it and telling us what’s coming and what’s being added. The problem is that, unless you’re actively following the news on what’s happening on the development front, you might someday upgrade your system and discover that a new desktop environment has replaced the old one.
There are also a lot of misconceptions about Unity 8 and some users still think that the new desktop will somehow resemble the one that’s being used on the phone. Technically, it’s the same code, and you could say that it’s the same desktop, but that’s not the case. Also, the launch date is probably confusing for a lot of users, but that’s confusing for Canonical as well, so you shouldn’t feel bad about that.
What we do know about Unity 8
Let’s get to the most obvious and most asked question – Does Unity 8 on the desktop look like the version on the phone? First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Canonical is trying to do something called convergence, and one of the aspects of that concept is that developers have a single codebase for everything, no matter what platform it is running on. That means that Unity 8 for the desktop will be similar to Unity 8 on the phone, but only at code level. Ubuntu developers know very well that desktop users need other functions and design, but underneath it’s the same desktop. On the outside, it will be a very different experience, though.
Another issue that keeps popping up is the fact that seemingly no progress is being made and Unity 8 gets pushed back all the time. The truth is that Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical, sometimes makes statements that are hard to back up from a development point of view. He wanted to see Unity 8 by default in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, but that hasn’t happened. The progress is indeed slow, but it’s happening. Unfortunately, things are not progressing as fast as people want, and that is causing some perception issues.
Snappy packages. These two words are causing quite a lot of discussions, and they mean different things for different people. For developers, it’s a chance to try something new, for Ubuntu it’s a gateway towards a more up-to-date system and a more secure OS, and for users, it represents an end to the dependency issues. When Unity 8 finally lands, it will be in an Ubuntu powered by Mir and packaged with Snappy. It’s going to be different, but it’s a package deal.
The release date is a sensible subject as well. It’s difficult to give precise dates, and they are changing all the time. As it stands right now, two different versions of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS will be provided, one with Unity 7 and one with Unity 8. The plan is to have Unity 8 by default in Ubuntu 16.10, but plans tend to change.
Unity 8 only works with Mir. As I was saying earlier, Unity 8 is tied up with Mir, the new display manager from Canonical that’s replacing X. For now, Unity 8 and Mir only work with Intel, but that will change once the Nvidia and AMD drivers will get the proper support for Mir. Nobody knows when that’s going to happen, but Canonical hopes that it’s going to be soon.
You can test the latest version of Ubuntu with Unity 8 right now if you have the proper hardware. You can either install it on your system, in an LXC container, or you can download the ISO and check it out live.