As many of you are probably aware, we are working on the Mir display server that is designed to provide a fast, efficient, and extensible display server across phone, tablet, desktop, and TV. Our ultimate goal is a fully converged Unity 8 running on top of Mir ready for the next LTS timeframe, and in 13.10 we plan on making our first step in that direction.
For 13.10 we plan on delivering Mir by default in Ubuntu Desktop with XMir (an implementation of X running on Mir) and our current Unity 7 codebase (the same Unity codebase that is currently in the Saucy development release).
This will be enabled for graphics hardware with Open Source drivers supported by Mir (primarily intel, nouveau and radeon). For binary graphics drivers (e.g. many NVidia and ATI cards) that don’t support Mir yet, we will fallback to the normal X server that we usually ship. This will mean that all users are well served in Ubuntu 13.10 and everyone will get the standard Unity 7 experience with feature parity with X (e.g. multi-monitor support). This fallback will be removed for Ubuntu 14.04. We are working with GPU vendors and partners to provide the required driver support and are confident to have this in place for 14.04.
This has been discussed with the Ubuntu Community Council and all councils and flavor leaders from each of our official flavors this week. Many thanks to those folks for the feedback they provided.
So why are we doing this? Well, we want to get Mir and XMir as production stable as we can. We have a competent and dedicated team working on this right now, and we are confident that we can ship comfortably in 13.10 and get everything in the archive around Feature Freeze time; this will include performance optimizations and bug-fixing.
Shipping in 13.10 will give us an opportunity to expose Mir to millions of Ubuntu users and help us to better understand their needs, fix and resolve edge-case issues, and overall exercise Mir and XMir must faster on our road to the next LTS.
Some of you may be wondering the impact this will have on flavors, but this should not inhibit our flavors at all. All desktops run competently in XMir. See the video below which shows each of the different desktops in our flavors running on XMir on integrated Intel graphics (this also demonstrates X screen capture is working!):
Can’t see the video? See it here!
We will work with our flavors to ensure that this transition is as comfortable as possible. We are also working with the Mir team to ensure we get additional documentation written regarding third-party backends, non-Ubuntu build instructions, and driver instructions (see this thread on mir-devel).
Consequently, the Mir plan has been posted to our ubuntu-devel mailing list. We encourage anyone with an interest in this topic discusses it there.
Here is a short FAQ that should answer the most common questions.
What is the announcement?
For 13.10 we plan on delivering Mir by default in Ubuntu Desktop with XMir (an implementation of X running on Mir) and our current Unity 7 codebase (the same Unity codebase that is currently in the Ubuntu 13.10 development release).
This will be enabled for graphics hardware with Open Source drivers supported by Mir (primarily Intel, Nouveau). For binary graphics drivers (e.g. many NVidia and ATI cards) we will fallback to the normal X server that we usually ship. This will mean that all users are well served in Ubuntu 13.10.
What does this mean for Ubuntu users?
From a user perspective, the addition of Mir instead of X should have no visible of functional change.
What is XMir?
XMir is an implementation of X running on top of the Mir display server. This provides a compatibility layer for desktop environments and applications designed for X to run on top of Mir.
Why are you shipping XMir in 13.10 by default and not providing it as a tech preview?
Our decision to deliver this functionality in Ubuntu 13.10 is to get Mir as production ready as soon as possible. We have a competent and dedicated team working on this right now, and we are confident that we can ship comfortably in 13.10. Fortunately, for our users they will notice no change in Ubuntu; it will be the same Unity graphical environment as before (although we will be including some additional features such as our new search functionality in the dash).
What graphics hardware is supported by XMir?
If your Intel, AMD, or NVIDIA card works without proprietary drivers, it will work with XMir.
What happens for graphics hardware that is not supported?
If you are running a graphics adapter that Mir does not support, Ubuntu 13.10 will fall back into the traditional X server that we ship. This will deliver the same Unity and application experience. As such, whether your graphics hardware is supported or not, Ubuntu 13.10 will function the same.
How does this affect other devices such as monitors, wacom tablets, mice etc?
These other devices should work as normal with XMir.
Can I run other desktops such as KDE/GNOME with XMir?
Yes, we have tested the desktops in use with our flavors and they work. See the video here showing them working on XMir on Mir with Intel integrated graphics.
Will other Desktops Environments work on Mir in the future?
Canonical is investing in building Unity 8 support for Mir, but other projects are invited to build Mir backends too. We are currently revising and improving our documentation to make this development work easier, and questions on this topic are welcomed on mir-devel.
When can we expect this to arrive in the archive for testing in Saucy?
We will be delivering this in two parts. Firstly, in the next few weeks you can install a PPA with these different components in that you can use for testing. Secondly, we are working with the Ubuntu Desktop team to set up daily landing (as we have with Unity) to land these different pieces in Universe. We expect the archive updates to begin by the end of July, in plenty of time for Feature Freeze.
Contributed by Jono Bacon.