New Graphical Interface for Ubuntu on ARM

Feb 25, 2010

Linux is the operating system of choice for devices with ARM processors. Unfortunately problems with graphics appear in most cases. Ubuntu wants to fix this with a new GUI.

No matter if a smartphone, smart netbook or embedded device, most hardware with an ARM CPU is currently running Linux. It's natural that Ubuntu therefore wants a large slice of the ARM pie, but, like many GUIs, is running into resistance from graphics drivers that in many cases don't support direct rendering

To address the problem, a team at Ubuntu around developer Jamie Bennett is working in Ubuntu 10.04 on a new netbook interface based on the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL). The ARM port from Lucid Lynx checks during installation whether the computer is running with active 3D acceleration. If so, the normal netbook interface gets applied, if not, the new 2D GUI comes into action.

Any difference from the standard UNR interface is hard to tell at first glance.


Apart from the classic netbook interface, the new EFL-based GUI provides at least one other benefit. Thanks to themes files in Edje format, fairly attractive themes can be generated without much programming. The EFL 2D launcher also provides a few very nice effects.

A few lines of code can produce an attractive theme for the EFL launcher.

As is the case with many free software projects, the EFL launcher is not restricted to a particular architecture, so that it's available for i386 and x86_64 systems as well. To try out the new interface with Ubuntu's upcoming alpha version, use the command

sudo apt-get install netbook-launcher-efl

Changing back to the standard launcher simply requires

sudo apt-get remove netbook-launcher-efl

Details on the new GUI are in Jamie Bennett's blog.

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