It’s still very early days in Canonical’s efforts to unify the experience from phone to tablet to desktop to TV, but results are starting to trickle in.
One of the side projects on my plate is a Unity8 login session you can install alongside the regular Unity7 desktop (or other desktops, your choice). The idea is to have a preview session available for the Trusty Tahr that lets Unity 8 developers and Touch App developers tune the experience on the desktop. For example, there’s evidently still some work to be done to make Unity8 useful on high-DPI screens like my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (3200×1800 pixels on a 13″ laptop).
Sorry for the potato. I haven’t got screen capture working yet so I had to use an actual physical camera. Early days. You can see the high-DPI issues in this picture. For example, see the teeny-tiny indicators at the top? Didn’t think so.
The cool thing about this session is it runs on the Mir display server with no X11 in sight. LightDM (the program that accepts your password and logs you in in Ubuntu) uses X11 to run the Unity7 greeter, then shuts it down gracefully and starts a Mir server, then uses Upstart to run a Unity8 session. Gee whiz.
Right now you could just install this from a PPA and go at it, but there are some big wrinkles that still need to be worked out. For instance, there’s no cursor support so mouse and trackpad support is a little troublesome (works swell with a touchscreen), and keyboard input seems to have no effect — Unity8 has been developed with phones and tablets in mind, they don’t generally have a mouse, trackpad, or keyboard. It’s OK, there are plans in the works to add those, and that’s one of the reasons we have this session at this point in the Ubuntu release cycle.
Also, there is no way to log off from Unity8 (phones and tablets don’t generally support that concept) so that pretty much requires a reboot of the whole system unless you have an SSH session open.
Finally, there seems to be some trouble actually launching applications. No worries, that’ll get fixed too.
I think this is pretty exciting. That’s why I’m letting you all in on this project in its infancy. The Ubuntu community deserves to be kept abreast of the coming excitement that will be available in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.