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back to article Canonical announces Mir display server to replace X Windows

Canonical has announced plans to develop new, open source Linux display-server software called Mir, in a move that it says will help further its goal of offering a unified Ubuntu user experience across PCs, smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. Traditionally, desktop Linux distributions have rendered their GUIs using software …

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Another one?!?

http://xkcd.com/927

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Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

"Isn't Mir this thing that burnt and crashed into the South Pacific Ocean near Fiji on 23rd March, 2001, after some dudes in Russia flipped a switch after they gave it up? This must be a metaphor for something, haven't figured out for what yet, though, must be something deeper than 'This software includes a space toilet and Canonical will give it up one day, when it will burn and crash and then we'll be in a south pacific paradise setting.'"

(LP is the developer of systemd and PulseAudio, among other sensible core bits of modern Linux distributions.)

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According to Wikipedia,

"mir" apparently is a Russian word that can mean "peace" or "world" or maybe both at once. I wonder if it also means "Unity". Anyway, you see what they're getting at.

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Devil

Re: Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

i·ro·ny:

Noun

The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. Eg. "The author of PulseAudio bitching about other people reinventing the wheel"

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Linux

Re: Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

I see Ubuntu wishes to re-invent the wheel and then get all the devs to support their new wheel as opposed to the wheel that already worked.

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Re: Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

http://stephenking.kraftysworld.co.uk/darktower/guardians/bear.php :-

The Bear, originally called Shardik, but named Mir (meaning "the world beneath the world") by the Old People,

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Re: Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

"the wheel that already worked"

Would this be ancient X or Wayland that won't be supported by the only graphics chip company that actually has passably good Linux drivers?

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Linux

Re: Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

Ancient X, it's ancient for a reason, a bit like, The ancient C language.

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Re: Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

Kind of missing the point there. Whilst C hasn't changed a great deal, the compilers have improved massively over the years. X still does what it was originally designed to do extremely well. Over the years though X has had bits hacked onto it left, right and centre. This means that for modern applications, especially where hardware acceleration is concerned, it is slooow because of its unnecessary complexity.

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Re: Yep. Lennart Poettering put it best...

for modern applications

I assume this means "for unnecessary applications". X11 was plenty fast enough when I was implementing the ddx layer for some experimental graphics hardware back in 1990, and it seems to me it's plenty fast enough now.

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Oh FFS

I see this as "You will have Unity whether you like it or not. And no cheating by apt-getting Gnome or KDE."

Perhaps time to seek a different Linux until Canonical figure out what the fuck they are doing.

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Re: Oh FFS

Based on the spec at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MirSpec the objective is to have Mir sitting underneath QT. So at least KDE should be in.

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Re: Oh FFS

Perhaps time to seek a different Linux until Canonical figure out what the fuck they are doing.

So they could be seeking for a long time then...

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A second chance.

Don't fuck it up this time!

TGF Xubuntu.

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Requirements?

It might be useful to them, but to me this dogged insistence on 'look and feel' requirements is a drag.

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Holmes

Naysayers everywhere!

Ok, that sounds ambitious. Maybe too ambitious? I mean, re-designing and re-writing the display server (will it still be a "server"?) from scratch for end-of-year would make me check my supply of Death March pills. How do they expect to manage this?

"None of the existing solutions would allow us to implement our vision without taking major compromises which would come at the cost of user experience and quality,"

You see what I mean.

I hope they have a framed version of the X Design Principles

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Re: Naysayers everywhere!

I'm sure they've been working on it for a while: no company announces a project like this before any code's been written. But, you're absolutely right, they're setting a target date that doesn't seem to leave sufficient time to test across enough hardware configurations to wrangle enough bugs to be stable b October.

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Anonymous Coward

Huh...

I'm definitely no linux expert but this article leaves me with the impression that they aren't really trying for anything new at all. They just want something they can control themselves. It just smacks of doing something different just for the sake of doing something different. If it's going to be compatible with existing apps, drivers, etc then what's it bringing to the table? Oh, right multi hardware platform support and a design they can control.

With such an aggressive schedule nothing can possibly go wrong right?

It seems to me that anything multiplatform has to make nothing but compromises in order to even begin to make good on such a feature.

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Re: Huh...

Well ,in the day..when windows 3.1 was able to drive a 386sx at fair speed, you could barely get a window manager to run on X on a 486.

X is a bloated nightmare of design by committee make it do everything (badly) excuse for a graphical driver. Similar to PostScript..

So I applaud someone actually tackling the job with a clean sheet of paper, and if they can make it backwards compatible with the chief APIs, even better.

IF they do it well, and it means faster displays on lower power and IF you can port existing apps to it simply by relinking with a new library..well that's a new standard and should be a step forward.

IF.....

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Re: Huh...

Now that you mention it I do remember not having the suggested amount of RAM to run X windows back in the day when I had an AMD 386DX40. Could run windows fine though. Guess things have flip flopped a bit though. Microsoft UI's are what take large amounts of RAM.

My point was how can they maintain compatibility, add cross platform support, and design something that fixes the alleged design flaws of it's predecessor in less than a year? /Shrug. Like you said more power to them if they can somehow pull it off, but I think history speaks of a need to drop backward compatibility in a quest to create something new from the ground up. At least without adding bloatware called compatibility layers. Such things do not make for a lightweight and especially portable solution.

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Re: Huh...

None of your bull makes any sense

> you could barely get a window manager to run on X on a 486.

Oh yeah. So it runs on a Sun 3/60 but barely on a "486". Get a real computer, buddy.

> X is a bloated nightmare of design by committee

Fark off. More like, everything not needed had been left OUT. Though I remember his Billness personally declaring X "insanely dumb" (that was when Microsoft was still on the OS/2 trainride)

> make it do everything (badly)

Like address large bitmapped screens?? Note that "unlike most earlier display protocols, X was specifically designed to be used over network connections rather than on an integral or attached display device" [q.v. Wikipedia]. Granted you don't need that when arsing around in your bedroom on knockoff 486 running Windows 3.1.

> excuse for a graphical driver

LOLNO

> Similar to PostScript..

Kinda confused here, buddy. Postscript has nothing to do with X. Though indeed I want NeWS back. Yet another Sun Microsystem production - "Nearly good, then Abandoned".

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Pint

Re: Huh...

Actually this made me re-read Eric Raymond's take on The Unix Hater's Handbook take on X, here, scrolling down a bit.

Dammit, Eric's web page encoding is fubared. What the hell.

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@itzman (was: Re: Huh...)

"Well ,in the day..when windows 3.1 was able to drive a 386sx at fair speed, you could barely get a window manager to run on X on a 486."

You never ran Coherent, did you?

For the record, I was running X on Slackware 1.0 on a 386sx16+mathco on 8megs of RAM and an 80meg Maxtor hard-drive. 20 years ago. It ran quite nicely. Probably didn't hurt that I compiled my own kernel ... took almost 18 hours to compile on that setup, but the results were worth it ;-)

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Re: Huh...

Hmmmm .... I used to work for a company selling software based on X-windows. We had lots of clients using X windows servers such as Hummingbird Exceed and XVision running on top of Windows 3.1 to access the software. This was in the early '90s so the majority were running on 486s.

We also had people running Unix variants, such as Interactive Unix, directly on PC hardware. They seemed to be able to run fine and do real work.

Where things got hairy was working with different window managers which is what you allude to in your post. The issue there was that Motif etc sucked up all available resources to make things look pretty. If you stuck to twm, or in the Win 3.1 X Windows implementations used the the built in window manager, then those problems went away.

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Re: Huh...

Going forward X Windows design might be better at keeping malware at bay. We have GHz processors now the performance issue went away when 1/2 GHz processors appeared.

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Coat

> jake

> running X on Slackware 1.0 on a 386sx16+mathco on 8megs of RAM and an 80meg Maxtor hard-drive. 20 years ago

Slackware 2.01. Still have the dual-CD jewel box (there is something called a "GNU-Archive" and an "Elisp Archive" and a "high-end Linux distro 'bogus'" on it, as well as Scheme, Oberon and .. Sather?). I just had 4 megs... 4 sticks of EDO RAM? And they came in a sort of long transparent plastic stick ...

I now need my my anti-melancholy pills. Nurse, please!

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EDO RAM Ahhh the good 'ol Days when RAM was REAL RAM!

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Re: Huh...

We had lots of clients using X windows servers such as Hummingbird Exceed and XVision running on top of Windows 3.1 to access the software. This was in the early '90s so the majority were running on 486s.

Agreed. I still have a mid-1990s copy of Exceed with its box; I used it for quite a few years until I switched to the X ports that were included with various UNIX-on-Windows efforts. (If memory serves, at least some versions of Interix / Microsoft SFU included X servers and clients. These days I use Cygwin/X when I need an X server.) Pretty sure there's another commercial Windows X server in my collection, too, though I don't remember whether it's XVision or something else.

The issue there was that Motif etc sucked up all available resources to make things look pretty. If you stuck to twm, or in the Win 3.1 X Windows implementations used the the built in window manager, then those problems went away.

Or wrote your own lightweight window manager. Alas I lost the sources to mine - not that it was of any interest to anyone else, but it has nostalgic value.

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This is Canonical. How could they possibly screw thinks up. Looks at the shiny beacon of light the unity is. Why I could bet that the could make the MS office ribbon even better. Loves conical, humps Canonical . Oh crap who has the number to the free clinic.

.

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I'm not familiar with "X Windows" - is that a Microsoft product?

Because the UNIX thing is "the X windowing system" or just "X" to its friends.

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One compile to serve them all

Just one thing. Having to recompile a code for every version of a given flavor of Linux and again for every different flavor has stopped my most needed software companies from going beyond Mac and Windows. Get it to the point where one compile will install and work on multiple successive versions of Ubuntu or other Linux and it will break down this barrier. This gives me the impression that is a possible here.

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No, this will make it worse

Because this is a Ubuntu project and other major distros and DEs still exist.

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Re: One compile to serve them all

"Just one thing. Having to recompile a code for every version of a given flavor of Linux and again for every different flavor has stopped my most needed software companies from going beyond Mac and Windows."

You don't have to - that's just what a lot of people do and then bitch about it. Spending some time understanding things like the LSB specifications would perhaps be useful. LSB is not perfect by any means, but if you want binary compatibility across multiple distributions and versions then you would want to know about it.

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Stop

And even after

All this is done, Unity will still be a horrible piece of shit to use on the desktop. Change for the sake of change is just fucking stupid especially when your projects goal is to create a Linux distribution that is easy for people to come to and pick up. Creating a 3rd desktop paradigm (that's a hideous piece of shit and a resource hog to boot) does not do anything for these goals.

It's as if OSX and Windows 7 had a filthy, shameful liason and Unity was the deformed bastard offspring of that unholy union. And that's why Ubuntu is hemorrhaging users who are all going to Xubuntu and Mint. Because those desktops are actually fucking usable.

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Re: And even after

"All this is done, Unity will still be a horrible piece of shit to use on the desktop."

Yep. But by the time its done no one will care what ubuntu are doing.

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Re: And even after

"a filthy, shameful liason and Unity was the deformed bastard offspring of that unholy union"

And people think that it's the operating system that isn't user friendly; in this thread it's many of the Linux users that aren't user-friendly...

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Meh

Huh ?

The one part of Linux I have no problem with is X ... and it works perfectly over a network with little resources.

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Re: Huh ?

And over a high latency network use NX from NoMachine.

Works brilliantly at scrapping the (multiple trip) latency associated with home broadband to remote server networks...

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Mushroom

Aha!

Connect a smartphone to a monitor and keyboard, for example, and the OS could shift from a phone-like UI to a more traditional desktop PC experience.

Hello? Microsoft? That is indeed The. Way. It. Should. Fucking. Work.

Actually I'll have a tenner on that being the design remit for Windows 9............

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Linux

I think is is just a wake up call for Wayland

Finish the bloody thing already!, seems to be shouting Shuttleworth.

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QNX Photon microGUI

Anyone remember the QNX Photon microGUI that was part of the QNX demo floppy?

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Re: QNX Photon microGUI

"Anyone remember the QNX Photon microGUI that was part of the QNX demo floppy?"

Ah yes - as far as performance per processing unit goes, it's still the fastest thing i've ever seen from a GUI... and the QNX network model was good. Lovely OS, hopefully not ruined by RIM (not tried it in years).

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Re: QNX Photon microGUI

If RIM could be persuaded to open-source QNX it would certainly shake things up.

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R.I.P. Ubuntu

Just a short time ago...

Ubuntu was on fire. It became the number-one Linux distro on the planet. Personally, after years of providing business and consumer IT services for MS-Windows... and merely dabbling with Linux... Ubuntu (with Gnome, or KDE), became the distribution that (along with the unending nastiness, problems, and the endless expense of supporting, so-called, "Microsoft solutions")... finally convinced us to drop MS-Windows from our general sales/support sphere. We began fully supporting Ubuntu servers, networks, and desktops. Linux truly was becoming ubiquitous. Most of the WEB runs on Linux. Supercomputing runs on Linux. Almost all network devices run on Linux. And, now, around 70% of all smart-phones, in the market, run on Linux. We could literally set up, and install an Ubuntu 10.xx desktop in place of a MS-Windows desktop and, with an hour of training and a few days of hand-holding, migrate clients off of the Windows-platform entirely. In fact, the only MS-Windows work we were accepting were primarily migration and integration (to Linux/Open-Source). It was amazing.

But then... Ubuntu simply seemed to implode. Version 11 introduced the "Unity" (tablet-UI) as the default desktop. And, even though, at least 90% of Ubuntu users screamed bloody-murder... Canonical refused to pull back. It was as though they [Canonical/Ubuntu] was intentionally sabotaging the adoption of the world's favorite desktop Linux, in a way that closed, proprietary, systems only wished they could (and, even more strangely, Canonical made this incomprehensible-decision... to abandon the traditional desktop... just before Microsoft began their-own, insanely-unpopular, push to effectively eliminate the desktop-PC... as we know it... with the Windows-8/Metro-UI). We in the (Linux-supporting) IT community consoled ourselves with the fact that there were other options still within our power, such as, other distributions and simply installing the "desktop" of our choosing (despite the artificially-imposed difficulty and negative consumer impact of Canonical's highly-questionable design assertions). Frankly, people are leaving Canonical's Ubuntu in hoards, because of "Unity". However, if Canonical now abandons even the mainstream window-servers (in a further effort to push the "Unity" UI)... then, I'd say, that about does it for UBUNTU. Which really is a damn shame.

What the HELL is going on..?

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@AC 04:45 (was: Re: R.I.P. Ubuntu)

"What the HELL is going on..?"

Simple. You're conflating *buntu with "Linux + GNU & accessories".

Canonical is a marketing organization, not an engineering organization.

Look around. There are other, more streamlined, variations of FOSS options than the KitchenSinkWare provided by Canonical.

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Re: @AC 04:45 (was: R.I.P. Ubuntu)

Thanks jake,

But, I'm not conflating anything. I am talking about the fact that "Ubuntu" very much provided exactly what consumers and our market (individual users, and small to medium businesses) wanted and needed. And, I am talking specifically about how the distribution (the Ubuntu 10.xx package), literally, changed the face of "Linux" acceptance in that market.

We have been using and providing numerous Linux (and Microsoft, and Unix) options (and support) for years (using numerous Linux distributions and configurations). And, (along with Microsoft's numerous blunders in the last few years) it was the last "Ubuntu Linux desktop" (Ubuntu 10.04 to be specific) which really helped to finally push the Linux-OS, into general user-land, for us.

However, now... Ubuntu seems bound and determined to become... just another Linux, market-wannabe... offering a very niche user interface... which will have a handful of adherents, with no more market traction than a few hardcore fanboys... instead of the real force for general desktop Linux-acceptance that it was shaping-up to be.

And, I think, the reason for this abysmal situation is, very much, the "Unity" decision, and the ongoing ignoring of what -we- (the more general market... including a vast sea of Windows, users) have flatly stated we want (both, literally, and through actual adoption). And, this latest (in my, and many other's opinions) idiotic abandoning of the general Linux-ecosystem for what appears to be NOTHING more than a grab at more control and imposition-al power over Ubuntu-users... is what has disappointed so many of us. THAT, is what I am railing against. We, solution and option providers, feel like we have had the rug pulled-out from under us... just as our faith in Linux (Open Source, and the marketplace) finally seemed to be righting itself. And, Ubuntu's explanations seem more like a series of thin rationalizations instead of genuine, rational, criteria for their recent actions.

So... Yeah... Before we Linux/Open-Source-supporters, once again shuffle-off into our server-closets... I want to know... What the HELL is going on..?

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Re: @AC 04:45 (was: R.I.P. Ubuntu)

"What the HELL is going on..?"

Mark Shuttleworth's attempts on creating his very own Reality Distortion Field? A long term attempt at becoming some Jobsian Affair? The OS, the desktop, the cloud, the music service, the eyes firmly now on mobile. I can envision Ubuntu stores popping up with a more purplish glow and African drums as muzak. Wake up, wake up, three quarks for Muster Mark!

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@AC23:34 again wonders ... (was: Re: @AC 04:45 (was: R.I.P. Ubuntu))

... "What the HELL is going on..?"

What part of "Canonical is a marketing organization, not an engineering organization" is difficult to understand?

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Re: @AC23:34 again wonders ... (was: @AC 04:45 (was: R.I.P. Ubuntu))

>> What part of "Canonical is a marketing organization, not an engineering organization" is difficult to understand?

How about the part where they are clearly making ENGINEERING decisions which completely ignore all of their previous MARKET successes AND are clearly undermining their own product AND seem to be really PISSING OFF MOST OF THEIR USERS for no logical reason? Pretty stupid MARKETING if you ask me.

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@AC 09:23 (was: Re: @AC23:34 again wonders ... (was: @AC 04:45 (was: R.I.P. Ubuntu))

The past users of *buntu used it as a conscious choice. These are the people that built the brand. The brand is drifting off it's prior course. And the past users seem to be making yet another choice; i.e. to find a substitute OS that fits their needs better than the direction Canonical is heading.

The decisions that you seem to think are driven by engineering are actually driven by marketing. The space cadet wants a piece of the iFad/Fandroid market ... I never said it was a smart marketing decision, but clearly it is driven by marketing, not engineering.

Cupertino could build iShitOnAStick[tm], and the fanbois would mindlessly flock to it. Canonical doesn't have that kind of fan base. Neither does Redmond, for that matter ... which is part of the reason that *buntu took off in the first place. People making a conscious choice to change OS.

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