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Ubuntu 13.10 to feature Mir display server by default

An ambitious plan to get Mir ready as the default server could pay dividends for Ubuntu users, and sooner than expected.

I love ambitious plans. The more crazy-ambitious, the better.

Case in point: What if the Apollo 11 astronauts, instead of shooting for the moon, were just taking a road trip to New Jersey? Even if they made it ahead of schedule, they wouldn't exactly be making commemorative plates about it. (Though, now that I think about it, they should. I would absolutely buy a “Neil and Buzz go to Jersey” plate.)

In short: Aiming high is good. And that applies to software as well.

That's one reason I was thrilled to see that the Ubuntu team plans to ship Mir, by default, in the next version of Ubuntu (13.10). Mir, of course, is the new display server that is being created to replace X.Org in all future releases of Ubuntu.

Let's just think about this for a moment. We're talking about replacing the display server here.This isn't like Ubuntu is going to write a new calculator app (not to belittle the developers of calculators). This is a major, critical component of the entire system. The QA effort required, alone, is fairly astronomical. Regardless of your personal thoughts on Canonical building a new display server, you've got to be impressed by the speed of development and ambition here.

Now, this will only be the first step in the transition to Mir, for Ubuntu. In 13.10, all desktop environments (including Unity, KDE, LXDE, etc.) will be running on top of XMir, which is an implementation of the X Window system, running on top of Mir. Think of it as a compatibility layer to let you run current software. The team has even posted a video showing various desktop environments running on top of Mir/XMir.

But the 13.10 release (to be rolled out in October of this year) won't be “100% Mir” – as Mir will only be utilized if you are using Open Source video drivers. Using a proprietary driver like Nvidia, for example? Then you'll be using good old Xorg, which really won't be a bad thing at all, as the experience of actually using Ubuntu 13.10 should be identical (or close to it) regardless of whether you are using Mir or Xorg.

Getting Mir in the hands of end users sooner is a great move by the Ubuntu team. It allows them to get in the maximum amount of testing and feedback time before they “throw the switch” and make Ubuntu use Mir all of the time (which is the goal for the 14.04 release next year).

And here's the great part: even if the team doesn't manage to get Mir ready in time for the 13.10 launch, the ambitious goal will have helped them get that much closer. For which I give them a solid high five.

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