In association with heise online

20 July 2012, 11:23

Ubuntu's Unity desktop bolted onto Fedora

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Fedora Unity logo The GNOME:Ayatana project on the openSUSE Build Service now includes a repository of RPM packages that allow the Unity desktop – which was mainly developed by Canonical for its Ubuntu Linux distribution – to be installed in Fedora 17. The Ayatana page currently only provides a handful of details on the development state of the project. The project is also working on Unity repositories for Mandriva 2011, and for version 12.1 and the Factory (development) builds of openSUSE. Xiao-Long Chen, one of the project's four developers, replied to a query from The H's associates at heise Open by saying that the repository is "ready to be tested by developers"; however, Chen added that he is still working on several core package issues and that this may result in problems once an update is installed.

According to Chen, all indicators for Ubuntu are working. The same is true for the Dash lenses for applications, files and music, he added, as well as for global menus and the features for audio and date adjustments. However, the developer also notes that the Dash lens for video isn't working yet and that Unity Autohide is not currently functional. Additionally, various icons in the GNOME Control Center are being duplicated and the overlay scrollbars haven't been packaged yet.

However, to get Unity to run on Fedora, the developers are using considerable trickery that would not be allowable for the package maintainers of the Fedora Project, and those of the RPM Fusion repository used on many Fedora systems. For example, instead of using GCC 4.7, which is included in Fedora, Ayatana comes with GCC 4.6. Furthermore, the repository includes various libraries and programs that are already part of Fedora, such as NetworkManager-gnome, Compiz, libzeitgeist, Metacity, PulseAudio, and GTK+ 2 and 3. Some of the Ayatana packages even replace the software that ships in Fedora – as a result, desktop environments such as GNOME, KDE or Xfce that are included in Fedora can potentially develop problems once Unity has been installed from the Ayatana repository.

In a mailing list post, developer Nelson Marques, who started the Ayatana project, explained the reasons for this trickery to the Fedora developers; for instance, he mentions that Unity required some changes to GTK+ and XInput2 when he was still looking after the project. However, the developer added that these difficulties caused him to stop his development work, and he notes that he is not directly contributing to the current packages. It remains to be seen how long the GNOME:Ayatana developers will grapple with such problems, and how successful they will be.

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