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Mir To Ship As Default Display Server in Ubuntu 13.10

ubuntu20for20android20video20capture20-100012626-mediumMir is to ship as the default display server in Ubuntu 13.10, Ubuntu have today announced.

Canonical’s XServer replacement will be used to help power the Unity 7 desktop on devices with open-source graphics card drivers.

Unity 7 will run atop of XMir, an implementation of X that provides a compatibility layer that allows software, desktop environments, peripherals and multi-monitor setups designed for X to continue to work as expected.

But while Mir and XMir will be shipping in October’s release by default, not everyone will be able to use it.

Those with proprietary graphics card drivers installed (NVidia, ATi, etc) will instead be served with the traditional XServer windowing system as a fallback.

This fallback is necessary because, at present, GPU vendors don’t provide support for Mir/XMir in their binary drivers – a situation expected to be resolved by the release of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS next year.

Xmir is already able to run most desktop environments competently, including LXDE and KDE, as the following video shows:

‘Why Now?’

So why now? Why as default in Ubuntu 13.10?

‘Putting Mir front and centre on the Ubuntu desktop so soon is a risky move – but it’s also an unavoidable one…’

To meet the goal of shipping Mir as the only default in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, and powering whatever Ubuntu handsets OEMs are looking to ship in the meantime, Mir (and XMir) need to be production ready as soon as possible.

So while putting Mir front and centre on the Ubuntu desktop so soon is a risky move it’s also an unavoidable one if it’s to succeed. Real-world usage will give developers stronger feedback to help in shaping, optimising and honing the feature.

As Canonical’s Olli Ries explained to me earlier today:

“Mir has reached a level of maturity in terms of quality and performance which allows us to make it a core component for Ubuntu 13.10. With its current design, we enable all dependent derivatives to run unmodified on top of this new stack.

Integrating Mir today gives Ubuntu one additional cycle to enhance performance and further integrate it in in order to have another first class Ubuntu LTS by 14.04.”

Mir was created to aid in Canonical’s convergent goal for Ubuntu – to have the same code running across smartphones, tablets and TVs. As form-factors scale so too must the display technology driving them; a lighter and more flexible solution was needed that that provided by existing projects.

XMir, which runs on top of Mir, and will front the Unity 7 desktop in 13.10, is used to provide backwards compatibility for applications and services that rely on X.

What This Means To You

Enthusiasm about the technology in this change aside, this change will actually mean little by way of visible changes.

Whether you end up using a Mir-powered desktop, or one using XServer, the actual desktop experience in Ubuntu 13.10 should be the same.

And, for most of us, that’s all that matters.

If you’re running Ubuntu 13.10 already and would like to get a head-start on trying Mir you’ll find all you need to know in this blog post.

The post Mir To Ship As Default Display Server in Ubuntu 13.10 appeared first on OMG! Ubuntu!.

Ubuntu 13.10 Tweaks Dash Click Behaviour

If you’ve used a recent release of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop then you’ll know that opening apps, files and folders from the Dash requires nothing more than a left-click

But in Ubuntu 13.10 that behaviour has changed. And it’s a little annoying.

Left Click, Right Click

Over in Ubuntu development land a recent change in Dash behaviour has ticked off a handful of testers.

Left-clicking on an app icon or search result in the Dash no longer opens that item instantly. Instead, a Unity Preview of the item unfolds.

Unity Previews, introduced a few releases back, and previously opened by right-clicking on a result tile, offer up snippets of information, larger thumbnails, and context-specific ‘actions’ such as ‘install app’; ‘send via e-mail’ or ‘set as wallpaper’.

But in Ubuntu 13.10 both left and right clicking on an item in the Dash will open the Preview, where a ‘Launch’ action is available.

2 Clicks And It’s Open

Applications and folders can still be opened instantly from the Dash by double-clicking on a result tile.

One assumes that this change has two main motivations behind it:

  • Increase exposure to Unity Previews
  • Meet expectations of Windows switchers

It’s possible that user testing of Previews has shown that they are hard to discover.

Think about it: how many people are likely to right-click on a result tile if left-clicking – the norm – does what they expect?

With 13.10 bringing a barrage of web results into the Dash the Previews feature really comes into its own, so making them default is a smart, if annoying, move.

For Example

For example, Chuck Hamtowski searches for ‘hamsters’ in the Dash. He sees an app result – ‘Hamster TIme Tracker‘ – an image – Hamster-In-A-Wheel.jpg – and, with the Smart Scopes Service enabled, a variety of Hamster related web results, including music and reference items, are also shown.

If this was Ubuntu 13.04 then clicking on any result would see the Dash close and the application/file open.

With Smart Scopes this would mean that clicking on the hamster thumbnail for the Wikipedia result would open his browser.

But I thought it was a picture! Why has Firefox opened?” he might say.

Showing Chuck a Preview – a snippet of useful information from which to make a decision on – rather than shunting him out of the Dash – is by far the better option. This way he remains where he is; he can see what the item is about; and, if it’s what he’s looking for he can opt to ‘View’ it in his browser.

Hamsters in the Dash - Great Band Name

Hamsters in the Dash – Great Band Name

Can Be Disabled

This early on in Ubuntu 13.10′s development it’s best to assume that this change isn’t set in stone. It may simply being trialled to see how well it works.

If you find the change really annoying you can disable it via the Dconf editor tool:


dconf write /com/canonical/unity/double-click-activate false

The post Ubuntu 13.10 Tweaks Dash Click Behaviour appeared first on OMG! Ubuntu!.

Developers Continue Debate on Default Browser for 13.10

firefox1The debate as to which web browser will come installed by default on Ubuntu 13.10 continues. 

Discussion on switching from the current default ‘Firefox’ to the webkit-based* ‘Chromium’ were first raised at the Virtual Ubuntu Developer Summit (vUDS) back in May.

Continuing that discussion in a post to the Ubuntu Desktop Mailing List Canonical’s Jason Warner writes:

“In the past few weeks I’ve seen quite a few articles and comments on the possible switch, and in light of those I’d like to focus this discussion a few ways.

1. This is NOT about which browser is better.
2. This is NOT about which browser has more features or X, Y or Z feature.
3. Openness and freedom are still part of our core values. However I’d rather not turn this thread into a “who is more open/free” debate.

What is important, and ultimately should be the deciding factor, is the common end user experience. Which browser, in the common case, will be the best for the general end user?”

Quality, stability and user experience as highlighted by Warner as important points for consideration.

So Which?

We conducted a vote a while back. The results gave a win for those who favoured Firefox as default (57%) compared those who favoured Chromium (43%).

Slim split, and hardly decisive.

Psrt of the rationale that started talk on switching was that idea that more people are using Chrome(ium) than Firefox in general.

Judging by visits to this site from Linux users for the last 30 days Firefox still rules the roost with 50.9% to Chrome’s (including Chromium) 46.8%.  Opera and minor webkit using browser (Web, Midori, Rekonq) make up the remaining scraps.

Is Firefox winning because it has the convenience factor of being pre-installed? Could be. What this stat certainly shows is that almost 50% of users go out of their way to use something that isn’t the default.

Bottom Line

As of yet no decision has been taken, but Warner himself states that he is ‘still leaning towards Chromium’.

Of course, the bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter which browser comes by default. Both will remain available to install from the Ubuntu Software Centre (albeit Chromium has, up until recently, been poorly maintained).

*Now a webkit fork

The post Developers Continue Debate on Default Browser for 13.10 appeared first on OMG! Ubuntu!.

Ubuntu 13.10 Readies Arrival of Smarter Unity Dash


Unity’s much-delayed Smart Scopes Service is preparing to land in the daily builds of Ubuntu 13.10.

The feature aims to add a more comprehensive and relevant search experience to the Ubuntu desktop. Over 50 new ‘Scopes’ – a data-specific search backend – will come installed by default. Some of these deliver results from popular websites like Wikipedia, Yahoo!, and Google; others deliver data from locally installed applications, like music players and installed apps.


It’s Like Source City in the Unity Dash

Each of these scopes can be disabled individually by right-clicking on it:

Disable a Smart Scope in Unity

Disable a Smart Scope in Unity


The Smart Scopes feature was originally intended to debut in Ubuntu 13.04, but was eventually considered ‘not mature enough’. Whilst this was a shame, it was necessary. The version about to arrive in 13.10, and now available in Saucy-Proposed-Updates, is faster, more intelligent, and more featured than that targeted for 13.04.

Admittedly many remain suspicious about how useful it will be. Over the coming months eager testers will get to find out. But, if you found yourself aggrieved by the “irrelevancy” of Amazon shopping results when looking for a local file or application, prepare for much of the same – just on a larger scale:

empathy search

Searching for a locally installed app returns all this…

As bad as the image above might look to some the Dash is doing what it’s meant to. Empathy, the app I was searching for, is in top spot. I don’t have to scroll or wade through to find it.

For source specific searches you can use modifiers. Want to quickly search Wikipedia? Prefix ‘wiki:query’.

modifiers in unity smart scopes

It’s Possible to Search A Specific Service

Modifiers are great, but they are a power-users tool. Do you use them on Google? I don’t. And that means that for me the “default” set of results returned will be more important.

That’s where the “smart” in ‘Smart Scopes Service’ will come in. The relevancy of results will be determined by people like us. As we search and click on results the ‘smart scopes server’ that delivers the results will learn which types of results are more relevant for which terms.

Given that the feature is only just gearing up to arrive in 13.10 the results are not as finely tuned as they will be by October. If you’re using Saucy already, just keep that in mind when using it.

Other than that, the feature adds an insane amount of potential to the Unity desktop. A world of results, and the ability to interact with them, will be only the tap of a Super key away…

What to Expect from Unity in Ubuntu 13.10

It’s 5 months away from release, but we already know most of the new features planned for Unity in Ubuntu 13.10.

This is, in part, due to developers putting focus on Ubuntu Touch – the mobile version of Unity aimed at mobile and tablet devices.

While this work will eventually make its way to the desktop in the form of Unity 8, it won’t be finished in time to make this release. So the current version of Ubuntu’s desktop – Unity 7 – will serve as the basis for the next release, albeit with some extra polish, a few new features, and plenty of bug-fixes.

Features planned for Unity in Saucy include:

There was also, early on in this cycle, talk of Locally Integrated Menus being implemented. However this hold-over from Ubuntu 12.04 was not mentioned during the recent Ubuntu Developer Summit session.

For performance fans the Ubuntu development team plan to use Compiz 0.9.10. This ‘trunk’ version includes a number of patches and tweaks that add a bit more oomph to the window manager’s performance.

You can see an earlier version of the proposed In-Dash Payment Preview in the video below.

What to Expect from Unity in Ubuntu 13.10 OMG! Ubuntu! – Everything Ubuntu. Daily.

Unity 8, Mir Preview To Be Available in Ubuntu 13.10

Both Unity 8 and Ubuntu’s new display server Mir will be available to try in Ubuntu 13.10. 

At least, that’s the aim, anyway.

The details of precisely how both items will be available to try is currently being hammered out by developers at this weeks Ubuntu Developer Summit. But while neither Mir or Unity 8 will be installed by default, or ship as a session on the Saucy .iso, developers are extremely keen to make them as easy to install in 13.10 either through the Ubuntu Software Center or a dedicated PPA.

Unity 7 and the traditional display server will continue form the default desktop experience in Saucy, which is due in October.

‘Preview’ Means ‘Preview’

Regardless of how Unity 8 and Mir is made available to Ubuntu 13.10 users the most important thing for anyone to remember is that it’ll be a preview. Unity 8 – the desktop version of Ubuntu Touch – is unlikely to be in a finished, polished state by October.

There’s also a question of what applications will run under the Mir session. Whilst the final release of Mir will support running “traditional” apps reliant on and GTK, it’s not a given that these will run on the preview version being planned at present. A set of Ubuntu Touch apps will be installed alongside the Unity8/Mir session by default to make up for this.

But the preview will have its uses. It’ll give designers, developers and dutiful testers the chance to play with a functional, if limited, version of the next-gen Ubuntu desktop. Stress it; test it; help shape it.

Around the same time as Ubuntu 13.10 is released more complete version of Ubuntu Touch for Phones is expected to be released. 

Unity 8, Mir Preview To Be Available in Ubuntu 13.10 OMG! Ubuntu! – Everything Ubuntu. Daily.

Chromium Likely to Replace Firefox As Default Browser in Ubuntu 13.10

chromium logo

Saucy Salamander Could Ship with Chromium

Ubuntu 13.10 is hoping to ship with Chromium as the default web-browser in place of Mozilla Firefox.

In a discussion on the subject at the current Ubuntu Developer Summit developers expressed broad support for the change, saying that they are “leaning towards” supporting such a switch.

Ubuntu ‘s Desktop Manager, Jason Warner, who says the switch ‘feels like the right decision for the general user’, shared the main rationale behind it:

  • Google Chrome has ‘leapfrogged’ Firefox in usage
  • There is ‘clear demand’ for it from users; supplying Chromium would meet expectations
  • Switching to webkit-based browser offers consistency across convergent platforms

Warner stressed that updated versions of Firefox will remain readily available to install from the Ubuntu Software Center.

‘Concerns Addressed’

The session also saw developers tackle concerns and complaints that have prevented Chromium becoming the default browser in the past. Security, PC support, user-preferences, and methods of delivering updated packages were all touched upon.

One commonly raised ‘issue’ is that of extensions, or rather lack thereof, available the open-source browser in comparison to Firefox. Chad Miller, maintainer of Chromium in Ubuntu, explained that the Chrome Webstore offers a massive choice already, adding that “if it’s recent code, it’s almost certain someone has built it for Chrome.”

Switching to Chromium will also allow Unity Web Apps to take advantage of a proper ‘Chromeless’ state rather than the Firefox insistence on them opening in a new tab.

Sadly for those using PowerPC versions of Ubuntu Chromium’s V8 rendering engine is not available, meaning Firefox would have to ship in its place.

A final decision on whether to default to Chromium will be taken following further consultation with the Ubuntu community in the coming weeks.

Key Points:

  • Developers debating switch to Chromium
  • Chormium ‘more popular’ than Firefox, as well as more performant
  • Switch would create ‘consistency’ between Ubuntu Touch & Ubuntu desktop as both use Webkit
  • Unity Web Apps will be able to use Chromium ‘Chromeless’ mode
  • Stable releases of Chromium will be released as they’re available, much like Firefox
  • Firefox will remain updated and available to install from Software Center
  • Final decision to be taken after feedback with community

Take Our Poll

Chromium Likely to Replace Firefox As Default Browser in Ubuntu 13.10 OMG! Ubuntu! – Everything Ubuntu. Daily.

Ubuntu 13.10 Release Schedule


Ubuntu 13.10 – codename ‘Saucy Salamander – will be released on October 17th 2013.

The date of the release, along with those for the major development milestones, are listed on a release schedule on the Ubuntu Wiki.

While these dates are, at this early juncture, subject to change it has to be said that they rarely do.

As with Ubuntu 13.04 there will only be a single beta release for Ubuntu 13.10 itself. Ubuntu flavours, Xubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Lubuntu & co, are able to take advantage of as many 3 alphas, 2 betas and a release candidate.

Key dates at the time of writing are as follows. Bold indicates a milestone that Ubuntu-proper takes part in:

  • Alpha 1 – June 20th
  • Alpha 2 – July 18th
  • Alpha 3 – August 1st
  • Beta 1- September 5th
  • Final Beta – September 26th
  • Release Candidate – October 10th

With the final release scheduled for:

  • Final Release – October 17th

Ubuntu 13.10 Release Schedule OMG! Ubuntu! – Everything Ubuntu. Daily.

Enhanced Previews, Scope Toggles Added to Unity Testing PPA


It might not have been mature enough to ship in Ubuntu 13.04, but work on enhancing the Smart Scopes Service for Unity continues apace.

Over in the more ‘development-y’ of the development PPAs enhanced previews are now available for most results, including those from DeviantArt, Launchpad and Wikipedia:

launchpad preview
Deviant Art Preview
Wikipedia preview

It’s also now possible to see what ‘Scopes’ – thinks ‘content-specific search engine’ plugins – are installed by way of Applications Lens > Filters > Search Plugins (see image at top of post).

Right-clicking on one of the Scope results shown opens a Preview with further details and, more interestingly, a toggle for enabling/disabling it.


Install Smart Scopes in Ubuntu 13.04

Installing the Smart Scopes Service and upgrading the various bits and pieces that are needed to make use of it, is easy to do but not recommended.

It didn’t make it into 13.04 for a reason. Parts of it are buggy, slow, and in varying stages of completion. If you value a stable, productive desktop (or you’re allergic to web results appearing in the Dash) you’re better off sticking with stable Unity.

Stern talk over, upgrading to the smarter version of Unity requires the addition of one of two PPAs.

The first is called ‘experimental-unvalidated’. This is the most frequently updated but also the one most likely to break your desktop. It’s the pre-validation PPA that the above changes are currently in.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-unity/experimental-prevalidation
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install unity-lens-* unity-scope-*

The second, much safter option is ‘experimental-certified’. While this is generally more robust to use as packages are tested before being pushed to it, it is also updated far less regularly. The features mentioned above are yet to land in it at the time of writing.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-unity/experimental-certified
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install unity-lens-* unity-scope-*

Downgrading back to stable Unity is possible using the PPA Purge tool available from the Ubuntu Software Center.

Enhanced Previews, Scope Toggles Added to Unity Testing PPA OMG! Ubuntu! – Everything Ubuntu. Daily.