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Official: Lomiri desktop now runs on Debian

Converged environment formerly known as Unity 8 breaks free from Ubuntu – and indeed, from tablets

Some significant news about what was Canonical's next-gen desktop: it now works well enough on Debian to be its developer's "daily driver."

The news was quietly announced on Twitter by UBPorts "creator and main developer" Marius Gripsgård. This is quite momentous in its way for several reasons. Firstly, that it's running on a desktop OS on a laptop, not on some kind of phone OS, which is the context in which we normally talk about Lomiri. Second, as we also mentioned in that story, it's running on the Mir 2 display server… which is significant, because the stack is not running on Ubuntu.

If you don't recognize the name Lomiri, it's the desktop that was formerly known as Ubuntu's Unity 8. The Reg took a look at the issues with Unity 8 back in 2017. That was in February; by April, it had been cancelled. It wasn't just Unity 8 that faced the axe: Canonical cancelled several projects, but one that survived was Mir, which Canonical is still developing and supporting.

Mir 2 is now a Wayland compositor, and also supports XWayland, which means that it can support both Wayland apps and traditional X11 ones. But thanks to additional elements in Mir 2 called MirOil, which appeared in Mir 2.7, and MirAL, Mir 2 can also support Mir clients – which includes Lomiri. Mir 2 also supports several distributions other than Ubuntu, including Fedora, Arch and Debian.

Lomiri was renamed partly because the project wanted a name that was independent of Canonical, so that other distributions could include it without worrying about trademark issues. This has been a problem for Debian in the past, for instance. UBports did not just remove Canonical names, logos and trademarks. Gripsgård told us:

With this came a lot of clean-up of older and deprecated components. We also made sure to remove all Canonical- and Ubuntu-specific patches. With this, we open up for other distros than Ubuntu to use Lomiri.

While UBports originally used Mir 1, now the requirements have been modernized and updated.

What made this possible to get it into Debian was the effort we did on renaming and dropping legacy dependencies. We also made sure it works with newer systems, and made it work with systemd (and its components). We use Mir 2.12, that is upstream. We have worked closely with the Mir team to get the support we need in Lomiri, hence the Miroil library: this is a support layer, to add things that got dropped in Mir 2.

A lot of development work has gone into this stack recently – not just into the UBports smartphone OS, but also into the desktop environment. UBports developer Alfred Neumayer gave a half-hour talk at FOSDEM earlier this month, explaining some of the work.

He displayed his slideshow directly from a tablet running Lomiri, so the talk itself was also a live demonstration. The Reg FOSS desk met Herr Neumayer at the Ubuntu Summit last year, and we suspect that he was using the Jingpad tablet that he showed us then.

The UBports project is ambitious. It's developing both its own phone OS, plus Lomiri as a separate, distro-independent desktop. It can now run on multiple desktop and mobile distros – for instance, it is included in the postmarketOS software we looked at last year. And true, Canonical itself is helping, via its ongoing development of Mir. We suspect that, some six years after its creators stepped away from it, Canonical's convergence project is about to bear fruit.


Thanks to Reg reader Mark H for dropping us a line about this.

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