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Ubuntu Unity now on Fedora: Another win for freedom

Ubuntu Unity being made available to Fedora means more than meets the eye, says Jack Wallen. See why the addition of Canonical's flagship desktop is a huge win for freedom in the land of open source.

In a move that is both surprising and refreshing, the Ubuntu Unity desktop (the desktop that nearly caused both a mass exodus and a subsequent return of fans from Ubuntu is now available on Fedora (and, on a side note, Linux Mint). That means all the Fedora users who are unhappy with the GNOME Shell desktop, have even more options available.

Although this move was not handled by Canonical, it is still an important moment in Linux history. Why? Because it means the desktop that Canonical bet the bank on has proved it has teeth and staying power. When the majority of people lashed out at Canonical for making such a sweeping change, they stuck to their guns and continued to push the alternative desktop.

And now - that desktop has been migrated to other distributions. It's not a perfect marriage (there are some features that don't quite translate), but it works and works well. How did it happen? Simple:

  • Dedicated Fedora users, fed up with GNOME Shell decided they wanted an alternative that made use of the newer GNOME libraries and optimizations.
  • Using the openSUSE Build Service, the necessary packages were built and the GNOME:Ayatana / Unity repository created.
Unity On Mint (click to enlarge)

Fedora 17 users can now add the repository and then install Unity.

Linux Mint 13 users can simply open up a terminal window and enter apt-get install unity.

So... what does this really mean?

To me, first and foremost, it means the very heart of open source is still alive. That heart is choice. When Unity arrived it seemed as if, for the first time ever, a desktop was locked down to a single distribution. That left a bad taste in my mouth. And even though, in the end, I wound up really liking the Unity desktop, I always had issue with the fact that this wonderful alternative desktop was only available to a single distribution. That seemed, at least to me, antithetical to everything open source was about:

Freedom -- the cornerstone of the open source movement. It's not only one of the single most important tenets of open source, it is crucial to the success of the movement. I have always been fond of telling people not in the know this one important thing:

If my desktop doesn't act and look the way I want it, I am free to change it in whatever way I want.

That means I can use any desktop that appeals to me and, should I chose, modify that desktop so that it perfectly suits my needs. So when Unity came out, it seemed the ONLY way I would be able to enjoy this desktop was to use Ubuntu. There was something fundamentally wrong with that idea. I was accustomed to trying what I wanted on whatever I wanted to try it on.

  • Fedora + KDE
  • Fedora + Enlightenment
  • Ubuntu +GNOME
  • Linux Mint + XFCE

The list goes on and on. It didn't matter the distribution and it didn't matter the desktop. But Unity looked to possibly change that. Until now. Now we are back to having that grand sweeping freedom we have always enjoyed. You want Fedora and Unity? You can have it. You want Mint and Unity? Have at it. It's all there, waiting for you to give it a go.

There is always one certainty with the open source community -- they will find a way. No matter what happens (be it the Microsoft Secure Boot, Canonical's Unity, etc) the community of developers and designers connected to Linux and open source will always figure out how to integrate, translate, and migrate so that end users can feel free to use their desktops exactly how they want.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

8 comments
eldergabriel
eldergabriel

having tried both unity and gnome 3 / gnome shell, I prefer the gnome shell. Less clutter, more intuitive, and feels faster - just my opinion. I still really like LXDE tho (especially on older hardware), and cinnamon looks promising, too. As gnome shell matures, I'm sure it will get better, and may come out on top, even for tablets.

l.kobiernicki
l.kobiernicki

Out local LUG had plenty of users decrying the Apple-copying Unity. It's about a third as easy to use as Gnome 2 - & demands new keyboarding skills, to accommodate its screening off of the raw power of Gnome 2 desktop. Why did they do it ? " Follow the money " .. investor power, crippleware, lock users into corporate blind-sideing, narrowing of focus. All that, .. and a whole lot more. In an age of user lockdowns, OS desktop lockdowns are well in vogue .. Unity is nowhere as good as the native Mac OS desktop ( BSD with bells & whistles ). Unity Ubuntu on a Mac is just deadly. Anyone had a go at rEFIt & Co. ? Fickle, frail, fragile, & liable to die the death early. No thanx. Back to the underlying Debian OS, for me

rcugini
rcugini

Unity isn't worth much as a desktop. You can't even make icons disappear and most tasks are buried in menus several layers deep. Frankly, lxde or kde are far better desktops. Even mint's version of regular gnome is more user friendly. Unity is like using windows. Fortunately fedora is available in several spins and you can other desktops after installing it. You have to add extra repositories and codes to fedora anyway to make it fully functional on today's Internet and most commercial dvd movies.

wyattbiker
wyattbiker

Thats why Linux desktop is going nowhere. I haven't found a single one that doesn't have rough edges or weird UIs. Unity's is unintuitive and weird. With all the effort Unity put in they could've done something better and simpler. Linux needs a desktop that just works and doesn't try to be too smart or leading edge. Look at Windows XP and Mac OS X Leopard. Both just work and are pretty intuitive.

TtfnJohn
TtfnJohn

The entire point of open source is to allow cross pollination. Could be Unity, could be Mandriva's Rosa, could be a desktop that controller that doesn't exist yet. I'm not a big fan of GNOME and I never have been. That said if this triggers off a "natural" cross pollination of these things while maintaining some sort of branding for a given distro we're all going to find ourselves in a better place over time. We need to remember that it's early days for things like Unity, Rosa and other desktop overlays over GNOME, KDE and others that aren't buggy and, to an extent, customizable for users. This is what FOSS does best.

RustyShack
RustyShack

But Unity still sucks. I want something different for a desktop and this ain't it. Gotta start somewhere I suppose.

TNT
TNT

I'm glad KDE and Gnome have a new contender for the desktop title. Competition breeds innovation.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

Every once in a while I try out a new desktop- looking for something lighter, easier to use. Each time, i find myself back at Gnome 2.32. Why? Because it just works. Sort of like why people are staying with Windows XP...

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