Markus’ Little Blog

January 14, 2011

So Canonical ported Unity to Qt…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Markus S. @ 19:35

In case you haven’t heard already: Canonical ported Unity to Qt.
So far it’s only advertised as option for people without 3D drivers (like the EFL port of UNR before Unity) and no plan to make this default at some point has been announced.

To me it seems very weird, though. All that replacing and porting over and over again (UNR port to EFL, later a rewrite of UNR as Unity for Clutter/Mutter, then porting Unity from Vala/Mutter to C++/Compiz and now from Clutter to Qt with whatever window manager) makes me wonder if there are people in charge at Canonical who don’t change their mind every few months…

From a KDE perspective the increased adoption of Qt is certainly a plus but OTOH losing (or at least cutting down) Aurélien Gâteau’s paid work on KDE software is sad (he’s now part of the Unity porting team). He already announced his plans to work more on KDE software in his free time, so we won’t lose him as a community member but I fear his Unity work will go to waste in a similar way as EFL UNR just because some manager decides that everything has to be ported to Moonlight/Java/FLTK/Android/… six months from now……

What do you think is the overall picture? Will Unity-Qt help KDE due increased Qt adoption or will the work force transfer hurt KDE? Or will nothing change for us at all?

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32 Comments

  1. I’ve been wondering for some time how difficult it would be to recrete Unity and Gnome Shell 3.0 in Plasma and then demonstrate rapidly and easily switching between activites in KDE 4.

    Comment by T. J. Brumfield — January 14, 2011 @ 20:16

    • I have been thinking the same thing. Implementing the features of both unity and gnome shell should be possible using kwin and plasma, but would have the advantage of being in pieces that could be mixed and matched as-needed.

      Perhaps someone should think about breaking gnome shell and unity into discrete conceptual pieces that could be recreated in plasma individually (for instance a panel, a task manager, a desktop, a system tray, etc.). They could either be shipped as third-party widgets and/or pushed upstream as alternative versions of their existing counterparts. One of the advantages of plasma is that they wouldn’t need to be integrated into the existing panel, desktop, or widgets.

      Comment by TheBlackCat — January 14, 2011 @ 23:15

  2. why don’t they use kde/plasma? plasma is ported to qml anyway. doesn’t really make any sense this decision

    Comment by Beat Wolf — January 14, 2011 @ 20:17

    • Shipping a full set of GNOME dependencies and KDE Platform is too much for one live CD.

      Comment by Markus — January 14, 2011 @ 21:07

  3. The next step will probably be to port Unity to QML. I consider that a clean migration path ;)

    Comment by Bernhard — January 14, 2011 @ 20:35

    • Unity-Qt already uses QML.

      Comment by Markus — January 14, 2011 @ 20:44

      • LOL

        Comment by Bernhard — January 14, 2011 @ 20:47

  4. P.S: I wouldn’t mind if Plasma got some competition :)

    Comment by Bernhard — January 14, 2011 @ 20:44

  5. yea.. plasma could have totally done this way easier/faster/with less work. but whatever. :) the more open qt code the better, we’ll all use it as example someday. ‘how do i do this? how do i do that? o yea, they did it in unity.. *groks source*”
    wasting his coding potential i do think.. but money talks loudly.

    Comment by Drake Justice — January 14, 2011 @ 20:44

  6. Why didn’t they just use Qt?
    They could have covered both cases with just Qt. Now they have two code bases for the functionality that could be achieved with one.
    Good luck for them managing their beautiful stack:
    C++
    Qt/Compiz
    Compiz/(other window manager)
    Gnome(partially)

    Comment by Luiz — January 14, 2011 @ 20:47

  7. It is great news because it is the first workspace in pure Qt (that I know).
    Even if I like plasma it could be nice to have a simpler tool which uses less resources (I hope).

    Comment by charon66 — January 14, 2011 @ 21:35

  8. I hope they keep away from KDE4. KDE is currently VERY slughsh and slow, even on half-good machines. I’ve switched to xfce after more than 5 years using KDE, thanks to the version 4.

    A pure Qt desktop would be much better than using KDE, fast and easy to develop.

    Comment by Iuri Fiedoruk — January 14, 2011 @ 21:56

    • I have KDE4 running on a refurbished, old netbook for my daughter. It is a 1 Ghz processor with 1 GB of RAM and it isn’t sluggish at all. I’ve installed KDE4 on 7 year old computers, and while it is a bit slow on that hardware, it runs pretty well on anything built in the past 5 years.

      I’m not sure what distro you’re using, but video card drivers may also play a factor here.

      I’m using openSUSE personally. I also tend to disable Strigi/Nepomuk.

      Comment by enderandrew — January 14, 2011 @ 23:27

      • I’m using Ubuntu. Sorry if I was not clear, I can run KDE on my machine, I also run it on my netbook. The point is that, for what I need (a desktop after all, just a way to launch apps, not semanthic crappyware), KDE is very fat, just install xfce, icevm or other small desktop and you will notice the improvements in performance.
        I still use dolphin, kate and konsole, as I love those apps, but no plasma, no konqueror (chrome all the way), no uneeded services running that requires a dozen of apps, databases and such and that you cannot de-active without warnings or problems, no apps in the desktop… :)

        I loved KDE3, KDE4 is just bloatware – for my personal taste.

        Comment by Iuri Fiedoruk — January 14, 2011 @ 23:33

    • I don’t think Unity-Qt is meant for Kubuntu.

      Comment by Markus — January 15, 2011 @ 00:50

  9. It might be an attempt to provide better cross desktop support for applications. I know Ive always thought it was a pain to mix qt and gtk applications on the same desktop. This might make it easier to do so. just my guess anyways

    Comment by Supreme1012 — January 14, 2011 @ 22:11

  10. I ask myself what the Gnome people think about it. Rather thinking about “us” as the people who could profit in any way of it, we should also ask ourselves whether it affects “the other” community in a negative way. Exaggerated: If the Ubuntu people do not use future Gnome technologies any more like they did in the past that could be misinterpreted as reluctancy to contribute in such a important phase of developing Gnome3.

    For unity in general I think it offers the opportunity to see more Developers from the qt/KDE site helping to improve it.

    But Anyway: I am more interested to see somebody developing a new Plasma-desktop UI. The old one feels like it is centuries old. If I jealously look at mobile devices and their interfaces, or even the gnome shell and its new approach, I ask myself why my “rather conservative” Notebook does not deserve a modern default interface.

    Comment by Burke — January 14, 2011 @ 22:18

    • > But Anyway: I am more interested to see somebody developing a new Plasma-desktop UI.
      > The old one feels like it is centuries old. If I jealously look at mobile devices and
      > their interfaces, or even the gnome shell and its new approach, I ask myself why my>
      > “rather conservative” Notebook does not deserve a modern default interface.

      lol, the Plasma developers had this foresight. They couldn’t take off, because of all complains that the taskbar/desktop icons/vision didn’t match what “we” were used to. So in the end, they’ve decided to hold back a little, and develop a classic desktop first using the new underlying technology.

      Plasma itself however, is perfectly capable of building these new advanced interfaces.

      Comment by Diederik van der Boor — January 15, 2011 @ 09:35

  11. Could the move to Qt be more focused on ARM devices without the need for an X Server? Qt has a very large mobile presence and Nokia is really trying to expand that. The more effort that Nokia puts into a mobile Qt runtime, the more Canonical benefits. They have already shown an interest in Ubuntu on ARM. This will just make the ARM experience more similar to its desktop cousin while still getting good performance. Plus if Qt later takes advantages of mobile features like OpenGL ES, Canonical automatically gets this via the Qt libraries. It is a win-win for them.

    Comment by David Greengas — January 14, 2011 @ 22:49

  12. Yes ARM is a big reason for this. So is having a non accelarated fallback for Ubuntu Desktop. Unfortunately issues like accessibility mean the other Unity will still be needing going forward for Ubuntu Desktop.

    This is the start of accepting Qt into Ubuntu and I think a general acceptance amongst some Gnome developers that Qt is the way forward. While KDE won’t be interested in Unity we might be interested in other applications that get Qt ports such as the microblogging app Ryan Paul is writing.

    Comment by Jonathan Riddell — January 14, 2011 @ 23:06

    • I’d imagine that fixing accessibility bugs in Qt is less work than maintaining two completely different codes bases of the same thing. It’s not like Qt doesn’t have any accessibility at all.

      Anyway… if Unity-Qt is also meant as fallback for Ubuntu Desktop, does this mean that Ubuntu will from now on bundle Qt? Or will Unity-Qt only be available in the repos and by default fall back to GNOME 2?

      Comment by Markus — January 15, 2011 @ 01:03

      • > fixing accessibility bugs in Qt
        It’s not bugs, it’s adding accessibility at all on Linux

        > does this mean that Ubuntu will from now on bundle Qt
        Not for natty but probably future versions of Ubuntu Desktop will include Qt yes. It needs them to find about 12MB of space. (One reason for not using any kdelibs is to keep the disk space down.)

        Comment by Jonathan Riddell — January 15, 2011 @ 01:36

      • What twisted sense of accessibility does Canonical have to claim that there is no accessibility under Linux?

        AT-SPI is supported by by all major toolkits, incl. Qt4. I don’t know if Unity’s weird Nux toolkit supports AT-SPI but Qt4 definitely does. KWin and Compiz also have various accessibility features like zooming.
        Knoppix ADRIANE was launched 4 years ago and is actually used by blind people unlike (K)Ubuntu.

        I really admire your FOSS work but seriously, friend, get in touch with reality once in a while.

        Comment by Markus — January 15, 2011 @ 03:10

      • AT-SPI is supported by by all major toolkits, incl. Qt4. I don’t know if Unity’s weird Nux toolkit supports AT-SPI but Qt4 definitely does.

        Unfortunately that is wrong. See this post for more information: http://jpwhiting.blogspot.com/2010/02/state-of-free-accessibility.html

        Comment by Aurélien Gâteau — January 20, 2011 @ 09:18

  13. I am not very much interested in Unity. If Canonical has resources it would be great if they put use them to fix things working fine in Ubuntu but still having problems or being none existent in KDE like UbuntuOne, Dropboxsupport, multi-monitorsupport, network management (3G) or helping the KDE PIM team with the Akonadi-transition.

    Comment by Mark — January 15, 2011 @ 00:14

    • Aurélien said on different occasions that Canonical is not interested at all in these things.

      Comment by Markus — January 15, 2011 @ 01:04

      • Being the manager of the team that develops the desktop side of ubuntuone, I can tell you that better support for KDE in ubuntuone will come eventually.

        We are currently making the lower layers more platform independent. This is not directly or even specifically for KDE support, but it’s a necessary first step.

        I personally plan to create at least a Qt-based u1 client in my spare time (but having been in the company for a bit over a month, there is no free time yet ;-)

        Comment by Roberto Alsina — January 15, 2011 @ 01:18

      • Harald Sitter already wrote an UbuntuOne KDE client but it wasn’t Canonical who paid for that work. It was Google as part of 2010’s Summer of Code: https://launchpad.net/ubuntuone-client-kde

        Comment by Markus — January 15, 2011 @ 03:14

  14. New technology like this one probably brings some ideas for Plasma as well. Nobody says it’s bad for KDE yet, competition is a good thing, and if it brings our plasma genius guys to new ideas – great.

    And Ubuntu is not known for their development work (yet). They use the existing components and assemble them in a good way, doing some polishing. Let’s see their development skills competing with other desktops. I think Ubuntu is hyped anyway, but they’re the only ones with good merchandise work of all Linux distributions in the Desktop segment anyway. Nobody says anybody is going to like Unity anyway.

    Comment by STiAT — January 15, 2011 @ 14:56

  15. Its a shame about Aureliens KDE departure (even though its still going to be KDE related) but free software doesnt and shouldnt depend on one person for success (at least not the big projects).

    Porting Unity `again` is a bit too much, youre right.
    But if I had a choice between Qt and Mutter or some other choice…. Qt it is.
    Its a great choice but they will have to agree to stop bouncing around like that. Lets hope this is the one.

    Comment by Tom the toker — January 17, 2011 @ 16:40

  16. It seems that Unity-Qt is pretty far along so perhaps they should just stick with that and get rid of the other one (mutter/compiz w/e) and make sure Unity-Qt plays well with composting. I really hope that is where they are going.

    {Then they should switch to KWin from whatever they are using now, and replace Unity-QT with a heavily customized plasma and stop wasting their time porting a poorly designed DE to every toolkit under the sun.}

    I really liked where Ubuntu was going with their customized gnome until they announced Unity would be the default DE. They really jumped the shark with that decision. Good thing there’s Kubuntu.

    Comment by AhmedG — January 18, 2011 @ 00:33

    • I assume the move was prompted by the fact that Gnome itself is getting a major new UI. If Gnome wasn’t replacing its UI with Gnome Shell, then perhaps Ubuntu wouldn’t be replacing that with Unity.

      Comment by T. J. Brumfield — January 18, 2011 @ 00:41


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