Tag Archives: Unity


Unity 4.5 released with many improvements

Today Unity Technologies released a new version of the popular Unity game engine that powers numerous interesting games that run on all major operating systems including Linux. Games based on Unity 3D that are also compatible include: Shadowrun Online, Castle Story, Surgeon Simulator 2013, Verdun, Wasteland 2 and many others. Improvements continue to arrive constantly for this popular game engine including fixes for Linux based distributions.

Version 4.5 of the game engine has set a new record by containing 450 bug fixes, more then any other Unity release ever:

No other Unity release has featured so many bug fixes: by downing more than 450 of the little critters, we’ve set a new record! Plus, thanks to our all new Module Manager, with Unity 4.5 we’ll be able to serve you platform-specific hotfixes across mobile platforms.

There are also many new features such as:

  • OpenGL ES 3 support on IOS;
  • Faster scene loading, resulted from reworking MonoBehaviour serialization;
  • Smooth and natural 2D physics
  • Rapid repairs. Using the new Module Manager the Unity team will be able to ship platform specific fixes faster, without the need to wait for new Unity releases.
  • Shader Workflow Boost
  • Stereoscopic rendering for DirectX 11
  • and many other features

There are also many notable fixes for Linux support:

  • Query webcam for dimensions when user doesn’t specify them.
  • Worked around drivers grossly underreporting video memory.
  • Fixed switching to fullscreen mode for window managers that do this in two steps.
  • Fixed translucent hardware cursors.
  • and others

Those of you that would like to try this new Unity version should know that Unity has a free version available, with limitations of course ( HERE ).

You can check the release notes to see the other fixes including the Linux Specific ones ( HERE ).

The official release page: HERE.

My Ubunyu Unity desktop after customization.

How to customize your Ubuntu desktop in 6 steps

Ubuntu is a great Linux distribution for users who want an easy-to-use interface and is arguably the best distribution for a user new to the Linux world. Some side effects of this is that, in terms of interface and appearance, many arbitrary choices have been made for the user by Canonical, particularly in the form of the Unity desktop environment.

These are not set in stone, however. Below are a few tips on how to feel more at home in Ubuntu. For a glimpse of some of the things you can customize in Ubuntu, you can see above what my desktop looks like using Unity in Ubuntu 14.04, compared to the default setup.

Let’s break down what is needed to do this.

1. Install the Unity Tweak Tool

Before you can make any significant changes to the appearance of Ubuntu, you will have to install the Unity Tweak Tool, This is a special settings manager for the Unity desktop environment, and allows you to implement things like alternate icon sets and themes. It can be downloaded from the Ubuntu software center, or if you prefer, from the terminal with the following commands:

sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

If you are using Gnome desktop environment, then you might want to try the Gnome Tweak Tool, which can also can be installed from the Ubuntu software center or with the command

sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

2. Install a GTK theme
There are many custom themes for Ubuntu, which affect the way applications and windows look. The theme I use is the Numix GTK+ theme. You can find out more about the Numix themes and icons at http://numixproject.org/ . You can install the the Numix theme by opening the terminal and entering:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:numix/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install numix-gtk-theme

To enable the theme, open the Unity Tweak Tool and select “Theme”, located under the “Appearance” header and select the theme, which should now be an option listed under “Available Themes”. This process can be repeated for any other theme, provided the repository package name is known. Many themes are available for perusal at Gnome-Look.org. One very similar set of themes to Numix are available is Moka at http://mokaproject.com/.

3. Install an icon set

The icons used in the screenshot are also from Numix, the Numix Circle icons. These icons can be installed by entering into the terminal the commands:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:numix/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install numix-icon-theme-circle

To enable the icons, select “Icons” in the Unity Tweak Tool and highlight the icon set. Once again, this is possible for any of the multitudes of icon sets available. Moka also offers very nice icon sets that bring colorful, consistent design to your desktop.

4. Install Conky system monitor
Conky is a lightweight desktop system monitor. By itself, it is quite plain, but it is completely hackable, which opens the door to complete customization of the application, which can be used to display a variety of useful information. You can install Conky by with these commands

sudo apt-get install conky conky-all

You will also need to install Curl with the command

sudo apt-get install curl

The Conky theme shown in the screenshot is Harmattan, which displays time, weather and system processes in 15 different themes. To install this theme, you can download the .zip file from deviantART, then extract its contents. Move the .conky-weather folder (you may have to hit Ctrl + H to view these files) into the home folder, as well as the .conkyrc file from the folder containing the theme of your choice (the Harmattan theme is nicely organized into folders for different types of themes). There are hundreds of themes of Conky, and all you need to try them is to replace the .conkyrc file in the home folder with the .conkyrc file for that theme.

5. Install some indicator applets

There are many third-party indicator applets that you can use to monitor information on your desktop. There are applets for weather, system performance, and more. The ones I use are quite simple. Because weather and performance are already in Conky, I haven’t installed these, but you can install them by entering the following commands in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install indicator-weather
sudo apt-get install indicator-multiload

The two applets I use are the Keys Lock applet and the Touchpad controller, because my laptop does not have an indicator light for caps lock or the touchpad disable hotkey. You can install these with the commands

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tsbarnes/indicator-keylock
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/atareao
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-keylock
sudo apt-get install touchpad-indicator

You may have to re-login to your user in order to launch these applets.

6. Get advanced with CompizConfig Settings Manager

If Unity Tweak Tool is not powerful enough for you, you can try installing the CompizConfig Settings Manager.


CompizConfig may damage your system if the wrong settings are applied. Use with caution. You can enable settings hidden in all corners of Ubuntu, and you can install in from the Ubuntu Software Center or from the terminal with these commands:

sudo apt-get install compiz compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-fusion-plugins-extra compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-plugins

Your Ubuntu desktop is now supercharged! All of these steps have thousands of other options attached to them, so customizability is endless. Now go out and try them!


Ubuntu 14.04 beta released for testing

The Beta version of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) has been released to the public. Now, the last few Ubuntu updates have been mundane to say the least. 14.04, being a Long Term Support Release would appear to be boring as well, right? Wrong.

While the updates do not bring any game changing new features, the developers have brought back some well loved features from the old gnome interface.

“Wait, they’re bringing back Gnome?”, you may be thinking, still no. Instead they have added back in some optional features that originally made switching to Unity so rough.

As with the last update, they are still trying to make Unity an overall nicer desktop environment to use. As part of this, they are putting into place a new lock screen that looks similar to the logon screen. This is replacing the old lock screen that, well, looked as if it were still part of Gnome. This gives locking a very slick feel.

As well as the aesthetics portion, the newer Unity interface is providing the user with more customizability options. One of these new options, is the option to set the application menu bars inside of the application window itself. Previously the application menus were hidden up in the top bar of the desktop, not the window. This stirred up a lot of controversy when it was first introduced. Because the menu was detached from the application, many users thought that the interface hid those options, and made the OS harder to use. Despite who you side with, Trusty Tahr gives you the option to go either way.

Also, the infamous click to reveal option has been (reluctantly) added in as well. Unfortunately, if you are looking to enable this option, you do need to install an external application, such as CompizConfig.

Finally, a noticeable tweak for those of you using HD displays, is the addition of anti-aliased windows, and dash. This provides for less “fuzzy pictures” and a sharper looking UI on high resolution monitors.

To wrap things up, it appears that the Ubuntu developers are finally spending some more time on the desktop version of the OS, and hopefully if everything goes well, when 14.04 comes around, we should get a stable release with a lot of nice features as well.

You can download the beta of Ubuntu 14.04 from here.


Ubuntu 14.04 gets new lock screen and borderless windows

Canonical is making it really hard not to like Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. Last week, I discussed about the improvements and new features which has landed in Ubuntu 14.04. Since then, two new features have been added. Both of them have been previewed in earlier development cycles but never made it to a release build, until now.

Now Canonical is introducing brand new lock screen in Ubuntu 14.04, which is simply gorgeous. We have seen glimpses of this lock screen in the past. The proposal for this change was given way back in 2011.The bug report can be found here.  The new lock screen is handled by LightDM and so it resembles the login screen. Unlike the previous lock screen, it now integrates well with the rest of the OS.  Some of the system indicators such as sound, calendar (no meetings requests are displayed), user switching menu and language indicator are accessible while the screen is locked. Locking the screen does not stop music or video playback.

Another notable is borderless application windows. Borderless application windows were proposed during 11.04 development cycle. Due to certain limitations and issues with Unity 2D, the plan to implement this feature was dropped. With the new CSS themeing capabilities and anti aliasing features that were recently added in Ubuntu 14.04, this feature can now be rolled out without issues.


Although, this change may not be noticeable in all apps, as the borders were only 1 px thick, it does give a different look for certain applications like the gnome-terminal. Overall, it improves the look of the open apps.


Ubuntu 14.04 default and community wallpapers revealed

Continuing the new trend of adding community wallpapers to the default Ubuntu installation, Ubuntu devs released today 11 community contributed wallpapers to be included in the latest iteration of Ubuntu, 14.04 LTS. These 11 wallpapers were chosen from a community wallpaper contest which ended on 5th March. Shortly after releasing the community wallpapers, the default wallpaper was also released.

This release of Ubuntu is an LTS release, and with the slew of new features and improvements being added to this release, the icing on the cake would have been an excellent default wallpaper and a good set of community contributed wallpapers.

Alas, this was not meant to be. The default wallpaper of Ubuntu 14.04 is a big let down. The experimentation with purple colour and the shades could have and should have stopped with the last release. Unfortunately, that continued. This time, it has lines. In the blog post at design.canonical.com graphic designer Michal Izydorczyk says:

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been working on the new Ubuntu Wallpaper. The wallpaper has become an integral part of the Ubuntu brand, the strong colours and gradated flow are powerful important elements. We realised this when looking from a distance at someone laptop it really does shout UBUNTU.

And he says more :

We spent some time …thinking how to connect the old with the new and how to make the transition smooth. When we got the composition right we started to play with colours, we tried all our Ubuntu complimentary colours but we were not entirely happy [as they]didn’t feel like a next step from our last wallpaper…

I really could not find any connection with the transition and colours and all that Michal talked about. For me, the default wallpaper is just not appealing. Perhaps I do not understand art!

Below you will find all the wallpapers to be included with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. Do let us know how you like the new wallpapers in the comments.

[gss ids=”22790,22781,22780,22778,22777,22776,22775,22774,22773,22772,22771,22770,22769″]

The community wallpapers are good but I expected better. Many of my personal favourites from the contest were not included. Out of the 11 chosen wallpapers, I really like only 4. Some of them are good but rather depressing (gloomy sky, foggy forest). Surprisingly, there is no wallpaper featuring the mascot of this release, the Tahr. The bug report does talk about including another wallpaper of the Tahr. It has not been approved yet.


What to expect in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Every two years a Long Term Support (LTS) release of Ubuntu is made available to the public. Every LTS is supported for 5 years by Canonical. This year is the year of LTS release and its just 1 month away. Canonical will be keen to keep up the stability of LTS release like it has done in the past. Lets have a quick look at what can we expect from this year’s LTS release.

Appearance and Theme Improvements: Anti Aliasing and Smaller launcher icons

The introduction of GTK3 CSS-themed window decorations for Unity 7 has brought  antialiased corners to all windows. This means that the generated images by compiz i.e. window corners will have a smoother image. Launcher icons can now be reduced to 16 px.


Refined spread mode

  • The newly-updated Unity 7.x retains only active icons in spread mode, keeping on the active icon in focus; for example, opening a folder with Nautilus and opening another folder with Nautilus, retains as active icon on the Unity launcher the Nautilus’ icon, while dimming out all icons on the Unity launcher except the Ubuntu logo.
  • When all windows are open in spread mode, you can type the name(window title) of the open window to pick the window of your choice


Smoother Window Resizing

Open Windows can be resized smoothly . A video has been added to demonstrate the change along with the locally integrated menus.

Chrome banner

Chromium ported to Mir display server

Chromium browser has been successfully ported to Mir display server. The chromium build is based on Ozone meta-platform. Apart from normal websites WebGL, Google Maps and Youtube are working in this build. Chromium running on Mir is the first step towards chromium running on Unity 8.

Ozone is an abstraction layer below the Aura window system for low level input and graphics. It allows chromium to be run on alternative display systems like Wayland and Mir. The Wayland Ozone build for chromium was released a while ago. In fact the Ozone Wayland is under works since quite a while. Here is a video showcasing the browser.

Mir is the next generation display server which will replace X display system. It will be available for desktop and mobile installations of Ubuntu. It’s purpose is to enable development of next generation Unity.

Source: Robert Carr


Ubuntu Developers overhaul ‘Scopes’ feature

The Ubuntu developers are overhauling the ‘Scopes’ feature in Ubuntu. Scopes are used in Ubuntu by the Dash to get information for the user based on what the user searches. The most common of which are scopes to get lists of programs, music, videos etc. Canonical famously attracted some controversy when they introduced an Amazon scope that sent users search queries from the Dash to the Amazon site to get related products. Many users weren’t happy with their searches going to a third party site.

The new system seems to be designed to alleviate some of the privacy concerns. Ubuntu will ship with a number of default scopes, what these will include remains to be seen, and then a ‘Scope store’ where users can select what additional scopes they want to use. This will allow the user greater control over what scopes are active on their computer and also provide user more insight into what scopes are available to them.

Aside from the new scope store the developers have made some other changes. They have improved upon presentation, which should mean the information is displayed to the users better, instead of the generic list of thumbnails that we currently see. To improve security scopes now come in 2 categories: network access or file system access. Meaning a Scope can either get remote content, or local content but not both. Again this seems aimed to assure those who are concerned about privacy.

I think scopes is a great feature of Ubuntu, but a lot of their effectiveness comes down to implementation. The current scopes can be a bit off with their suggestions, so aren’t always the most useful. The Developers have clearly listened to user feedback with all the privacy and security improvements. So lets hope they continue this trend and keep improving. If the developers can do it right this could be a must have feature in Ubuntu, but it will take lots of hard work to achieve. They do have some time on their side, as the earliest we will see the new scopes on the Ubuntu desktop is Ubuntu 14.10, so I am excited to see what they can come up with that time.

Source: Ubuntu Developer Blog

local menu

Ubuntu 14.04 brings back menus in application windows

Ubuntu users, I tell you this: good things come to those who wait. For all of you cheerful Ubuntu users, come 14.04, you’ll be able to choose whether or not you wish your application menus to appear globally or locally.  With Locally Integrated Menus (coined by Unity Desktop member JohnLea), that will become possible.

Global menus appear at the top of Ubuntu’s Unity bar, and change with the behavior and the active window you are using. “Locally integrated Menu’s” however, will make use of more traditional menu’s as seen below. Many users have long missed these traditional menu’s, some longing for their return.  With criticism of Unity still heard throughout the halls of the Linux “town hall,” it is promising to see some choice put back into the hands of the users.

Apparently, the choice took some time due to technical issues, as noted by Treviño’ of the Unity Desktop Team, assuring users the “classic” desktop has not been forgotten. Still being pursued however, is the heavy movement to convergence, which some disagree with.  In any case, movements like this are positive, despite the laundry list of changes I’m sure power users wish they had.

The current default global menu:
global menu

What will be available in 14.04:
local menu

The long road to unification
Some of you might remember it has been 2 years since 12.04 first prototyped LIM for the community to see. Quality checks prevented LIM from becoming included for such a long time, largely due to technical limitations in the existing compiz decor plugin “gtk-window-decorator.” With a refreshed Gtk3 CSS theming in Unity, 14.04 will make these menus come alive. For the complete rundown on the process, folks can head over to Treviño’s blog for the rundown.

Settings for Locally Integrated Menu’s will be configurable, so don’t worry just yet about what you can and cannot adjust for now. This dynamic interface lift will only truly make sense, once you are able to try it for yourself. The menu’s themselves will not be turned on by default, but with manual intervention in the “Appearance” section of the Unity Control Center.

Sources: bregmatter, Treviño


Ubuntu to ditch Upstart and switch to systemd

Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth says that Ubuntu will switch to systemd ditching their own Upstart init system.

The decision taken by the Debian technical committee, to use systemd, left Canonical with two choices – either user Upstart and patch things heavily against the upstream or adopt what Debian is choosing.

Canonical already have more than they can handle on their plate and projects like Mir continue to get delayed, so it’s wise to stick to upstream instead forking everything or suffering from NIH syndrome. This way Canonical will be able to use it’s engineering talents on other areas which can improve Ubuntu instead of re-inventing the wheel.

However it was a ‘defeat’ for Canonical which was fighting hard to get Upstart in Debian and it was also a matter of ‘pride’. Shuttleworth criticized systemd for being ‘invasive’ and attracted un-necessary anger from the free software community.

Mark made the announcement in a blog post titled ‘losing graciously‘. Praising Upstart he said, ” Upstart has served Ubuntu extremely well – it gave us a great competitive advantage at a time when things became very dynamic in the kernel, it’s been very stable (it is after all the init used in both Ubuntu and RHEL 6 ;) and has set a high standard for Canonical-lead software quality of which I am proud.”

Then he talked about switching to systemd, “Nevertheless, the decision is for systemd, and given that Ubuntu is quite centrally a member of the Debian family, that’s a decision we support. I will ask members of the Ubuntu community to help to implement this decision efficiently, bringing systemd into both Debian and Ubuntu safely and expeditiously.”

systemd is certainly not going to make into Ubuntu 14.04 and there is no clear deadline as to when it will arrive. Mark says “It will no doubt take time to achieve the stability and coverage that we enjoy today and in 14.04 LTS with Upstart, but I will ask the Ubuntu tech board (many of whom do not work for Canonical) to review the position and map out appropriate transition plans. We’ll certainly complete work to make the new logind work without systemd as pid 1. I expect they will want to bring systemd into Ubuntu as an option for developers as soon as it is reliably available in Debian, and as our default as soon as it offers a credible quality of service to match the existing init.”

Lennart Poettering, the co-creator of syetemd welcomed the move, “This was a tough decision to make for Ubuntu! I am pretty sure it wasn’t easy for them. I certainly believe it is the right decision, of course. I’d like to welcome Ubuntu to the +systemd community! I am looking forward to a fruitful collaboration! Let’s hope we can leave the past behind us, and work together in future!”

With this move Canonical has slowed the alienation of Ubuntu from the rest of the Linux community. It also shows that Canonical also understand that it can’t fork it’s path too much from the mainstream Linux community, especially from mommy Debian. In a nutshell it’s a wise and welcome decision by Ubuntu leadership and will help them focus on more pressing issues which will help make Ubuntu better.