How to Test Mir and Unity 8 on Ubuntu 16.04

So, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is finally here and many of us are already getting our hands dirty with the final version of the most popular distribution that is using the X window system. While this long-term support release does look good, the upcoming major changes planned for Ubuntu 16.10 have generated great excitement. The two pylons of these changes will be the incorporation of Canonical's new EGL display server called “Mir”, and the new Unity version 8 which will be based on the Qt toolkit instead of Gtk+ for the sake of the new “convergence” plan. While these implementations are currently largely-bugged, you can already give them a test drive on Ubuntu 16.04, and here's how to do it:

If you're using an older Ubuntu version, start by upgrading to the latest version by typing the following commands in a terminal:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

This is important in order to receive the latest package versions available in the new repositories.

After the upgrade is done (or if you're already using Ubuntu 16.04), enter the command:

sudo apt-get install unity8-desktop-session-mir

Install Unity Desktop

This will install Mir and Unity 8 on your system (after the required confirmations from the user). Then click on the log-out option from the top panel menu on the right and you'll find yourself on the lightdm screen.


Login to Unity Desktop

Choose Unity Desktop during Login.

There, you may click on the Ubuntu icon located right next to the user name and select the “Unity 8” choice. After that, enter your user password and press Enter. This should take you to the new Unity. Although the difference in the looks will make it obvious, you can ensure that everything went right by opening a terminal and giving the following commands:

unity –version

(this will output the unity version number)

ps -e | grep unity-system-co

(this will display nothing if Mir is not running)

Unfortunately, my terminal on the Mir+Unity 8 session wasn't working, so I couldn't take a screenshot of what it is that you should be seeing, and this brings me to the final part of this quick guide which is the tips to make this work.

1. It won't work on Oracle's VM Virtual Box, or Gnome's Boxes. You'll have to install the system on your computer.
2. I found that enabling Nvidia's proprietary driver causes problems right now. Use “nouveau” instead.
3. Some people report that lightdm crashes and they fall in a blank screen when trying to enter the Mir session. In the case that this happens, press “ctrl+alt+f6” and then enter the following command:

sudo service lightdm restart

This will allow you to choose the default Unity 7 session and re-access your system as normal.

Don't expect much to run normally on the Mir+Unity 8 session as they are literally riddled with bugs right now. I personally didn't have much luck, but at least I got a glimpse of what's the state. Here are a few screens for those of you who didn't manage to get it running:

Unity Desktop screens - 1

Unity Desktop screens - 2

Unity Desktop screens - 3

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8 Comment(s)

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By: Troy Sweeney

WOW! Mir looks awesome!

By: Mik

Didnt work for me, just go a non responsive screen on log on

By: Diego

es hermoso, deberian sacarlo aun sin mir, solo por estetica.

By: Murat

Was able to log on to Mir+Unity 8 but unable to access anything as keyboard seemed completely dysfunctional as well as the unity 8 screen. Had to do a restart as that seemed to be the only working command (accessible from "system" menu). Unfortunately when you install the mir+unity 8 preview, it sets itself as default after a reboot from it. I had to uninstall.

By: TheChosenOne (Stick Figure)

I don't like the new flat look, reminds me of the ugly and crappy Metro UI from Windows 10. :(

By: Marc

Thank you for the howto. I've installed it and got it started up (17.02.2017).


What concerns Unity8 and MIR the only thing that I can say is: AWFUL!

The problems:

  - does not feel like a desktop environment, more like a private experiment originally written for DOS 6.21 (bad fonts, everything has strange edges, even the cursor in the password field looks like it is in the wrong place)

  - bugs everywhere, absolutely nothing works

  - strange commercial bullshit everywhere (that is possibly the true concept of scopes)

  - copies the worst effects from Windows presumably (some strange effect after the mouse cursor reaches the screen boundary, broad bar at the right)

My conclusion: Unity follows its tradition to rely on visual gimmicks stolen from other (badly made) desktops. Only this time it is not the occasional really strange bug, but one whole big bug. I will see if Wayland is already available with KDE or GNOME. I don't know if it can be worse.

By: john

Why don't these articles have dates? Is this obsolete or still to date in Sept. 2017?

By: till

The title says this is for Ubuntu 16.04, so if you are using ubuntu 16.04 (which is the current Ubuntu LTS release), then this tutorial is the right one for you. Dates do not matter for tutorials as the same steps will work now and in X years in the exact same way, what matters is for which version of a software or operating system a tutorial is written as the steps will only work for that OS version and this information can be found in the headline.