UBports: Packaging of Unity8 Desktop for Debian (part 01)

Before and during FOSDEM 2020, I agreed with the people (developers, supporters, managers) of the UBports Foundation to package the Unity8 Desktop Environment for Debian.

Why the hack???

Why Unity8? Because of its convergent desktop feature: Just one code base, usable on a phone, tablet and desktop. Unity8 currently is very well tested on the Ubuntu phone and on various tablet devices. The desktop implementation is lagging a bit behind, but that will be amended soonish, too.

Why Unity8 for Debian? Because there is no real good solution for tablets in Debian at the moment. If I see this wrong, please correct me.

Why Unity8 for Debian derivatives? Uploading software to Debian is always the best approach for bringing software into other distributions that are constantly derived from Debian (e.g. just like Ubuntu).

Making Progress

The progress documentation of the packaging work (something around 40 packages need to be touched / uploaded / adopted, at least, to get this task done) I will publish in +/- regular intervals on my blog (aggregated on https://planet.debian.org). I will also update people with interest via Mastodon in a more micro-steppish fashion (you may want to follow @sunweaver on fosstodon.org).

However, here comes the work summary of the last 2-3 weeks...

Work done - part 01

  • revive the Debian UBports Team on Salsa [1] and set up a team on tracker.d.o [2, 3]
  • create #debian-ubports IRC channel on the OFTC network (and let Salsa report Git changes to that channel)
  • request upstream releases of lib-cpp components [4]
  • move src:pkg properties-cpp from Debian Ayatana Packagers team to Debian UBports Team
  • adopt (and update) src:pkg process-cpp [5]
  • adopt (and update) src:pkg dbus-cpp [6]
  • package and upload src:pkg net-cpp to Debian unstable's NEW queue (already accepted into archive)
  • package (starting with upstream's debian/ folder) and upload src:pkg mir to Debian unstable's NEW queue (still pending for ftpmaster review) [7]

Some Details


The lib-cpp related packages really need some more love on the upstream side of things (and also regarding debian/*.symbols files) when it comes to non-Intel based architectures.

Mir Display Server

The the last line in the above itemization should be mentioned more loudly: Yes, the Mir Display Server (these days being 'turned' into a Wayland compositor by Canonical's Mir Server Team) is coming to Debian. The major time consumption while improving the upstream packaging was (a) writing a much more verbose and exact debian/copyright file and (b) providing man pages [8] for all those many Mir Display Server executables (these still need some more work, esp. proof reading by the upstream devs). Just for the feeling of it, getting the mir src:pkg into first shape for Debian took me 2-3 days (span over 1-2 weeks on and off).


Thanks to Alan Griffiths and Christopher James Halse Rogers from the Mir Server Team at Canonical Ltd. for answering my tons of questions.

Also many thanks to Florian Leeber, Marius Gripsgard and Dalton Durst for having me on the team.

Furthermore a big thanks to Luka Weiss for having worked on lib-cpp recently and having provided patches to move those projects away from multiple FTBFes against recent Debian unstable.