Situation of the Linux Desktop #2: Habemus tumultum…

… qui nomen nominatur “pacem”!

Wow, Latin! Oh er, welcome back! Wonder what that strange sentence does there – and what it may have to do with the Linux Desktop? Well, due to unforeseeable incidents when moving houses along with some family matters, I was more or less cut off from any news. I didn’t have internet connection for about one month and was not in the mood to buy a newspaper (and since TV and radio programs are more or less useless to disgusting and a total waste of time, I don’t own a TV or a radio). You can probably imagine how surprised and amazed I was yesterday when I finally read what had happened in the meantime!

The news of not even a handful of weeks missed – and all of a sudden the Roman Catholic church has a new pope (even though the old one didn’t die!). That was what inspired my headline which translates (or at least should translate) to: “We have a turmoil… which is called (the name) peace!”

“Мир”

“Peace”?! Yes, peace. It’s one possible translation of the Russian word in the sub-headline above. Others are “world” or even “universe”, but I couldn’t resist to put together peace and turmoil. 😉 What the heck am I talking about? Alright, alright. You’ll know what I mean right away. “Мир” is pronounced… Mir!

Well, Mir! You’ve probably heard of the new display server which Canonical (makers of Ubuntu) announced. Even this announcement had a huge impact in the Linux world. A lot has already been written about it. But this is one topic that clearly affects the subject of my blog – the Linux Desktop. While I tried not to be too biased about Ubuntu in the past, Canonical are giving me a hard time once again.

Closed graphic drivers

My position on the efforts of Canonical, Valve and others was one of cautious confidence that it could be of great value to the Linux community. I’m not one of those Linux fans who want this operating system to “succeed” and I don’t really care for market shares and things like that. But there’s certainly some truth to the fact that we’d all benefit from good drivers provided by the companies who build the hardware. Yes, while I prefer open drivers (for obvious reasons), I don’t have a problem with closed drivers being available, too. It’s one additional option for those who need the performance, reliability, etc.

It’s common knowledge that X11 is really old now and that this is not just beginning to show. For the conservative desktop environment X will remain the display server of choice but the general next step, the future of the modern Linux Desktop would be Wayland. Almost everybody agreed with that – at least until early march. A few years ago even Canonical had praised Wayland and planed migrating to it in the future. Now said Company is developing their own display server Mir…

Canonical’s Mir and Wayland

Alright, Canonical have abandoned the classic desktop with Unity and are clearly aiming for the mobile market. That’s ok, I guess. But developing a new display server and convincing Nvidia (who already hesitated to support Wayland!) to support it instead of Wayland is not a nice move at all. Doing so at this particular time (before Wayland could actually play any role) really looks like an attempt at backstabbing that other display server for me!

Thanks to Canonical, Nvidia will be even less motivated to offer drivers compatible with Wayland. Canonical’s founder even boasted of Mir possibly running on more devices than Wayland! That sounds like a plan. A plan that may be very profitable for Canonical but also a plan that can prove to be devastating for the Linux community. How to treat the new situation? Curse and boycott Mir? That’s probably overreacting. Embrace and praise Mir? Certainly not at this time. Anyway all this is a development that we should eye closely. Perhaps Mir will provide a few interesting features in the future. Right now it’s just a concept – and a splitting one. Let’s see what happens next.

GNOME 3 and Consorts

Another thing has happened since I wrote the first “Situation of the Linux desktop” in November. MATE is no longer the only promising GNOME fork. Now there’s also Consort.

The difference between them is that MATE picked up the dead GNOME 2 and remains based on the GTK+2 toolkit. According to the makers of Consort, this is “dead technology” and their effort is maintaining a classic GNOME desktop based on GTK+3. GNOME 3 will be dropping their “GNOME classic” or “fallback” mode with the upcoming version 3.8. This mode resembles GNOME 2 in many ways – but the most important thing for many people is the fact that it does not require hardware graphics acceleration. So Consort will be picking up where GNOME 3 Classic left.

Currently Consort doesn’t work with Arch Linux so I didn’t test it, yet. So I can’t say much more about it right now.

The situation!

The Linux Desktop has fragmented even more since my last post. With Consort there’s a new desktop environment in preparation and with Mir there’s even a new display server in the making. The later could even be seen as a hostile attempt to sabotage Wayland. More than ever the situation is getting unclear and confusing. Probably a good time to work on the DDD again?

What’s next?

Next I’d like to release a new version of the DesktopDemoDVD.

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