Doing more with your Unity8 preview session in Ubuntu 14.04

Ubuntu 14.04 will be released today and you couldn’t resist the itch to go try the Unity 8 preview session on the Desktop. How underwhelming… there are almost no apps, and some don’t even work and overall it’s actually pretty unexciting… let’s change that in the next few chapters.

First things first though… let’s look at what Unity 8 is not.

The Unity 8/Desktop preview primarily is not a ressurrection of Windows 8 – what you are looking at is the Ubuntu for Mobile UI running on your Desktop/Laptop. Changes to the user experience to move this UI to a Desktop/Laptop environment are coming in the next cycles.

It also is not at a quality level you’d expect from a LTS (hence it’s living in Universe), although it works fairly well on my 2 test machines. Due to limitations discussed in a previous post you might not be able to bring up Unity 8 on NVidia or ATI GPUs. We have not spent a lot of time on Hardware compatibility testing for this release and will focus on that as we march towards Ubuntu 14.10.

So, what is the Unity 8 / Desktop preview?

A whole lot of fun! I have helped Stephen and his team over the last couple of weeks to get some of the required pieces together and am totally excited to have Unity 8 running on top of Mir on my XPS12, which has a touchscreen. This feels like running Ubuntu for Mobile on my Nexus 7, just larger. Did I mention it’s running Mir?

Providing you with the Unity 8 / Desktop preview allows us to

  1. Give you a vehicle to stay on top of where the development of Ubuntu is headed
  2. Enable you to test your applications in that new environment
  3. (and most importantly) Provides us with a metric ton of information of how the system behaves (see below)

While I haven’t been part of the effort, I was told that moving Unity 8 from the Ubuntu for Mobile stack over to the Desktop stack was not overly hard. It seems like our earlier architecture & design decisions are paying off. Admittedly, there is lots to do to make Unity 8 a viable successor of Unity 7, but I have a strong feeling that we are on the right track.

Adding more apps

First of all, let’s make sure we add more apps, this assumes you have already upgraded to Ubuntu 14.04 entirely.

Just in case, let’s update the system once more:

$> sudo apt-get update
$> sudo apt-get upgrade

[EDIT: adding how to install the Unity 8 / Desktop preview session]
$> sudo apt-get install unity8-desktop-session-mir

This should now provide you with a second session type in the login manager. You can access the Unity 8 session by clicking on the upper right hand icon in the password prompt and selecting Unity 8 there.

Let’s install what we call “System” apps, which are primarily developed by the teams here at Canonical:

$> sudo apt-get install address-book-app webbrowser-app camera-app \
     friends-app gallery-app notes-app share-app 

It is worth mentioning that these apps also work under Unity 7 in your regular Unity session, give it a spin there.

Next, let’s install what we call “Core” apps. These represent the work of our awesome developer community, basically all of these apps are community contributed apps and just show what can be done with the Ubuntu SDK:

$> sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-touch-coreapps-drivers/daily
$> sudo apt-get update
$> sudo apt-get install calendar-app dropping-letters music-app rssreader-app \
     sudoku-app ubuntu-calculator-app ubuntu-clock-app ubuntu-filemanager-app \ 
     ubuntu-terminal-app ubuntu-weather-app reminders-app

Guess what? These also work under Unity 7!

Disclaimer: You might run into some apps that are not launching (bug) or you might wonder why webbrowser-app doesn’t come up (bug), rest assured that these issues will be fixed soon.

  • on my apu a8 5600k, simpley not work

  • Chetan

    I followed all the steps but then it resulted in to a blank screen..any idea why?

    • misokolsky

      I have the same issue. In log ~/.cache/upstart/unity8-mir.log.1.gz I see – “libEGL warning: unsupported platform (null)”, etc. I have a laptop Toshiba with intel graphic card and default video driver.

  • Marky

    Mine does not let me log in. Goes back to lightdm. Would love to get a hands-on preview on this one. Tired of seeing video demos on YT. Too bad I can’t do that yet. 🙂

    Nevertheless, keep up the good work guys. Excited for Unity 8,

  • Brice

    I too have an XPS 12. I’m very interested on gettting my touchscreen to work with the Unity 8 preview, but I can’t figure out what I’m missing. Any tips?

  • UbuntuXP

    I don’t think a Dell Dimension 2400 is supported, and it needs a new graphics card.

  • Beyar Feysel

    I have installed it, and my Ubuntu automatically logs into Unity8
    I can’t logout to change back to gnome, is that a bug? Does anyone know how to fix it?