Mir 1.x and beyond



  • Some context

    A year ago I set out The Way to Wayland (for Unity8) which consisted of three pieces of work:

    1. Updating to Mir 1.x
    2. Updating Mir-on-Mir
    3. Updating to Wayland

    There's been progress on all fronts and, although none of these is entirely finished, it is time to look ahead again.

    1. On the UBports side, The "devel" channel is working on moving Ubuntu Touch to a Mir 1.x base (Mir 1.2 AIUI)
    2. On the Mir side Mir 1.6 introduced a Mir-on-Wayland platform that can, in theory, be used instead of Mir-on-Mir
    3. On the UBports side there's been some initial work to use Wayland in Unity8 for the 18.04 desktop

    The big piece of work outstanding is "Updating to Wayland":

    Updating to Wayland

     
    Using the mirclient API is also largely restricted to the phone and Mesa on 16.04LTS because GL rendering, like “Mir-on-MIr” depends upon Mir-EGL. That is a limitation on other distros, and other drivers.
     
    The natural solution is to switch to Wayland and, with a recent Mir version, that can work for a lot of applications. However, Unity8 and the associated applications used by Ubuntu Touch also make use of Mir features designed to support “Convergence” and the security model Canonical designed for the phone.
     
    This means that it isn’t possible to switch to everything Wayland without additional work. On the current phones that doesn’t matter for moving to Mir 1.x, as the mirclient APIs are still available and supported, but in the longer term there needs to be a way to support any features that prove necessary through Wayland. Fortunately, Wayland is designed to support protocol extensions and I would recommend this as the way forward.
     
    Mir doesn’t (yet) have a clean API for adding Wayland protocol extensions in a server and, in any case, those that are needed by Ubuntu Touch are simply exposing existing Mir functionality. So, once the necessary protocol extensions are identified, the Mir code is the place to implement them.
     
    A prerequisite for adding Wayland extensions is Wayland support in Mir, and that requires a recent version of Mir.

    The point of the Wayland transition is to move away from the mirclient based APIs that Mir will be dropping in further development.

    Mir 1.x is new and shiny, what is this "and beyond"?

    For the immediate future, UBports will continue using Mir 1.x and the Mir team will try to provide backports of useful features to the 1.x series. But that will become increasingly difficult as time goes by.

    The Mir team is in the process of removing mirclient specific stuff and that means there are already changes in Mir "master" that break all graphics using the mirclient API (if new features depend on those changes they won't appear in a Mir 1.x release).

    Because of the history of Mir, the mirclient API actually affects other Mir APIs, for example Taking the mirclient out of MirAL. That means the impact of dropping mirclient on UBports goes further than simply switching qtubuntu-[desktop|android] to qtwayland for all applications.

    QtMir

    The principle component of the Unity8 stack that is affected by all this is QtMir. This the library responsible for joining Qt to the Mir server to customise the scenegraph and rendering. The way it does this is inelegant for historical reasons and everyone that has ever touched it has felt the urge to "clean it up". (Indeed, @greyback and I had started on this before Canonical withdrew from the project.)

    Having these customisation points (animations, compositing and rendering) was one of the goals of Mir, and something the Mir team aims to provide in a more elegant way in the future. Ideally, one that isn't tied to Qt or GTK but can support alternatives. (Indeed @mariogrip has independently suggested the same idea.)

    This seems like an area that would, once other priorities are cleared by both teams, would benefit from collaboration.



  • @alan_g said in Mir 1.x and beyond:

    Mir doesn’t (yet) have a clean API for adding Wayland protocol extensions in a server and, in any case, those that are needed by Ubuntu Touch are simply exposing existing Mir functionality. So, once the necessary protocol extensions are identified, the Mir code is the place to implement them.

    Small clarification, that was a year ago. There's now a way to add Wayland extensions to Mir servers.


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