back to article Unity and Trinity: New releases for forks of abandoned Linux desktops

Two minority Linux desktop environments were updated this week. Coincidentally named Unity and Trinity, both are forks that continue projects long ago abandoned by their creators. With public testing announced, 7.6, which is the first update to Unity in six years, starts the process of modernizing Ubuntu's former desktop. …

  1. VoiceOfTruth

    YALD * 2

    Here we go again. There's are good reasons why these distros wither away, the main one being not enough people use them. And why don't they use them? Cos there's not any compelling reason to do so. They are YALD.

    -> When it was still part of the Ubuntu distro, there were three separate branches of the Unity desktop

    Yes, take one think and immediately divert resources to maintaining three lots of it.

    -> Saraswat has plans for the development of a new Unity-like desktop

    Oh wow. That sound really good. But it gives me a sense of deja vu, like all the 500,000 other Linux distros.

    -> Both Unity7 and the planned UnityX are entirely separate and independent from Unity8, Ubuntu's planned touch-driven mobile desktop. That isn't dead either: the UBports community is continuing work, and has renamed the desktop Lomiri.

    Yes, because a rename is really essential to give a sense of continuity. What family of OS is Windows 11 from? Is it by chance from the same family as Windows 2000? Who would have thunk it? But in the Linux world we have Lomiri which used to be called Unity8. Go figure.

    -> Canonical was also working on a new display server to replace the now elderly – duplicating much of the Wayland project.

    There you have it, ladies and gentlemen in black and white: DUPLICATION, AKA wasted resources and effort.

    -> However, concealing functionality behind hotkeys and hamburger menus leads to more time wasted hunting for functionality that used to be in plain view.

    Let me shorten that for you: it's unfriendly and hard to use.

    -> These may seem like small things, but such small paper cuts add up. They are the reason that whole teams of people get together and fork abandoned projects to keep them alive.

    That's half the story. The other half, the first half, is that these paper cuts are why the projects are abandoned in the first place.

    -> Today, there are half a dozen teams all maintaining separate Linux desktops

    Only half a dozen? I reckon that figure is under counted by at least 500 times.

    -> it was mostly written in C++, while Unix traditionalists tend to favor plain old C

    And now we have people demanding to rewrite things in Rust. Not to get ahead, just to get to where we are now.

    -> That's a huge amount of duplicated effort.

    Thank you again for mentioning the work DUPLICATED. It is also wasted effort.

    -> Something about divide and conquer?

    The Linux desktop groups have divided and conquered themselves. Instead of a couple of large settlements, there are now hundreds of villages. A quick history lesson: villages had to reach a size of about 500 people before they could begin to sustain themselves. The Linux world has hundreds of unsustainable villages.

    I expect to receive down votes from people who don't like my ladle of truth. The Year of the Linux Desktop is nearly here.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: YALD * 2

      The downvotes are because you are talking like "Linux" is some sort of overarching corporation that doesn't know what it;s doing. The reality is that these are all groups of people who are probably not in contact with each or related in anyway, all doing their own thing because they want to. You are trying to shoehorn their activities into some sort of monolithic desktop like Apple or MS. Remember when MS tried to do "everything everywhere" with Windows8 and it's phone/touch oriented desktop? Or the current fad from MS to minimise the user desktop customisation options and force change on users just because they can? The world of Linux desktops is the antithesis to that.

      You probably want to stop conflating "distros" with desktops too. There may be some overlap, but they are not the same thing at all. You can change either or both, but neither limits you to the other, except maybe in a few special cases.

      Personally, I don't care that much. I'll stick with what is a regarded as a "mainstream" FreeBSD desktop purely because it's unlikely that some random update will change things either visibly or workflow-wise, but al power to those who want something different and are prepared to put the work into making what suits them.

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: YALD * 2

        You are correct about why I downvoted him. His rant reads like someone who tried Linux one time in 1998, couldn't get it to work and has hated it ever since.

        Meanwhile, I'm happily doing everything I need to do on Fedora with the nice new Gnome desktop not caring how many other people agree with me.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: YALD * 2

          Your downvotes are obviously for using Gnome, like a heathen, instead of the glory that is $DE_NAME.

          1. Youngone Silver badge

            Re: YALD * 2

            Nice of you to notice Graham. As it happens I am something of a heathen.

      2. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: YALD * 2

        -> You probably want to stop conflating "distros" with desktops too.

        Look at the title of the article.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: YALD * 2

          I did. It mentions Linux Desktops, not Linux Distros.

          1. VoiceOfTruth

            Re: YALD * 2

            Can you name me a Linux desktop that does not require a distro? I don't count building everything yourself from source, as that is another distro.

            1. Zolko Silver badge

              Re: YALD * 2

              Can you name me a Linux desktop that does not require a distro?

              KDE: it doesn't require "a" particular distro, "any" distro will do. Heck, even "no" distro, as in Linux From Scratch (*), can work. And it doesn't even require Linux at all, it runs on *BSD

              (*) admittedly, I've never gone that far, I stopped at X11 and IceWM

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: YALD * 2

              Pretty much all/any of them. Just install the one you want. The only thing unique about a particular distros default desktop is that it has unique functions and scripts to handle stuff in the way that particular distro dev team want to do things. Underneath the GUI, there may well be different ways of doing some user-based tasks such has how packages are installed, eg rpm, yum etc., or it may be systemd/non-system-d, but again, it's still basically the same OS

              In most cases, it's a couple of commands or mouse clicks to install a different desktop.

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: YALD * 2

      "You're not wrong, Walter, you're just an asshole." -- The Dude

      I tend to agree that the Linux desktop world could use some consolidation. It would be kind of awesome if some of these teams could get together and coordinate their changes. There are clearly teams duplicating each others' efforts, when perhaps some of that developer time could be put into fit and finish rather than reimplementing the same basic UX metaphors in slightly different ways.

      And before the socks-and-sandals brigade comes after me, I have multiple different Linux distros running in my house. The only one whose display manager I care about is running ZorinOS, which is, you know, fine, in the sense of looking pretty and being basically functional, but there are some truly head-scratching UI choices and some total failures of functionality.

      Anyway, in my experience, Linux fanboys are like libertarians: they're all perfectly rational and correct, which is why no two of them ever agree on anything.

    3. nematoad

      Re: YALD * 2

      "Here we go again. "

      No, here you go again.

      For God's sake give it a rest. You sound like a broken record.

      You obviously have a problem with other people spending their time, money and brain power as they wish.

      Cool down, relax and realise that just because there is a lot of choice in the FOSS world doesn't mean that you have to follow every avenue that people are exploring. Or unless you want to help out, it doesn't cost you a penny.

    4. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: YALD * 2

      "I expect to receive down votes from people who don't like my ladle of truth."

      Ladle of truth is an interesting metaphor. I'm seeing dinner ladies in my school about half a century ago ladling out luke warm cabbage and mash but that's probably my problem.

      I think that perhaps the down votes are arising from your category error (distribution does not determine desktop or vice versa) and also from the implication in your post that 'someone' should limit the freedoms that people or groups of people have to exercise the rights that free/open source software provides them with.

      Personally I just continue to use xfce4 (good enough) and do stuff and waste a bit of time replying to posts on forums, but each to his own.

      Icon: may everyone find the network client UI of their dreams.

  2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    I get the fact that you (the article author) loved Unity as a desktop, and people are welcome to their opinions and experimentation and variety is a very good thing.

    However, as a productive UI, Unity was appalling. It only worked if the user only had at most a couple of applications open, and in general terms, if the user only had a couple of applications that they ever wanted to open. Anything beyond that and an attention span of a gnat and the UI was barely usable at best. I am definitely not alone in ditching the distro as a result of the UI - I switched to another version with the crippling UI, and then switched to another entirely.

    It's not that Unity couldn't have been fixed, and the operation of it amended so it was productive and usable and still kept some of the mechanisms... but the developers of it weren't interested in that and seemed to make it worse with every iteration.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It only worked if the user only had at most a couple of applications open, ...

      Well, OK. But this just goes to the point that VoT [1] doesn't ever seem to get-- i.e. that different people have different needs, and that those different people will not infrequently find that they would rather use different sorts of desktop, even if they might not know which one straight away. And good luck to them all, their weird and inexplicable choices, and to the people who code up many the different options we have available.

      Users aren't all the same, so neither do they need their desktops or software applications -to be all the same.

      [1] VoT does have a point that excessive choice might be off-putting or disquieting to new users. But against that we should balance how the opposite "one-size-doesn't-fit-all" approach is quite off-putting [2] to those who do know what they want.

      [2] Or, in my case, as regards Outlook, more "rage inducing" than "off-putting", given how useless, willfully obscure, and obstructive it seems. But of course if you happen to like it, then you choosing to use it yourself is just fine by me.

    2. Valheru

      I use the Unity desktop daily with 3 or 4 Apps open at a time. I find it productive. What makes it appalling?

    3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      To a general approximation, the UI of Unity is broadly comparable to the UI of Apple macOS. That is, the best-selling general-purpose single-vendor desktop/laptop OS of all time, used by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

      Those users are famed for their devotion to the company and its products, and are regularly derided as "fanboys" and the happy customers as comprising a "cult".

      I am very happy for everyone and anyone to use whatever UI they like. I do not want to force anything down anyone's throat.

      You, on the other hand are insisting that your personal opinion has the force of law: you proclaim grandly that Unity is unusable, that it's appalling, that it doesn't work with more than "a couple" of apps open.

      Right at this precise moment, I have 7 apps open across 3 monitors, including a few dozen browser tabs in Waterfox on one screen, and 4 in Chrome on another, 2 chat clients and an email client, as well as my editor. All of these apps happily share the global menu bar, one per screen.

      It works very well indeed.

      To quote Oliver Cromwell:

      "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken."

      I know for a fact that your claims are wrong, because right at this very second, I am falsifying your statement.

      Do not make blanket claims that you do not know to be true.

      It may be that it wasn't usable _for you_ but it is a highly functional UI and works extremely well. After 26 years using Linux and more desktops and window managers than I can remember, when I say that IMHO this is the best there has been, I mean it, and I say it based on broad direct personal experience.

      I am not telling you that your choice is wrong. I am not saying that you should switch. Use whatever you like. Use whatever works for you.

      But stop telling other people that *they* are wrong over matters of judgement and preference. It is not a matter of objective fact that any one UI is best or worst. It depends on the user.

      Maybe you just didn't know how to use it effectively. Maybe you have a workflow that is very dependent on something else. Maybe you are not very flexible and stumble if there are major changes in your computer's UI. I don't know, and frankly, I don't really care. If you have something you like that works for you, good! Great! I am happy for you.

      But this 100% does work, and work well. The fact that it doesn't work _for you_ does not mean that it doesn't work for anyone else.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I old?

    Or am I the only one that remembered "Trinity" as a howto guide for hardening and minimizing unix systems (referred in the documents as "sharpening" if I remember correctly, someone was probably reading star wars novels and had slicer envy.)?

    I believe one of the base recommendations was to rip out the GUI entirely due to insecure network access in the x-server, enable and register per user keys in SSH, disable telnet and require SUDO instead of using root. Funny how that got abandoned and the name turned into another desktop environment. No surprise that the KDE refuseniks hadn't heard of it, and I can't really hold it against them, I tapped out and went to XFCE for the times I needed both linux and windows at the same time.

    But I would be nice if a good step by step hardening guide was being maintained in a place that was public and reasonably easy to find. Now stuff is spread all over the place.

    1. VoiceOfTruth

      Re: Am I old?

      Who remembers SATAN?

      1. cookieMonster Silver badge

        Re: Am I old?

        I still have the book :-)

        1. VoiceOfTruth

          Re: Am I old?

          I've just looked it up! There was indeed a book. I didn't know that.

    2. Short Fat Bald Hairy Man

      Re: Am I old?

      Had me confused for a while too! Trinity and UI? Really?

      And step by step hardening. Please! Have been looking for that Just.All.The.Time. Sadly, I cannot as am totally incompetent.

  4. captain veg Silver badge

    never got that

    "If you have half a dozen windows, each with its own menu bar, that wastes a lot of vertical space"

    Does it?

    I find that only one window has my main attention, so much so that I often have it maximised. I freely admit to being a man and finding multitasking strange and alien.

    When I first saw a Macintosh it had a really tiny monochrome screen and the single menu bar across the top of it seemed no more or less strange than any other UI paradigm. Today I can't understand in the slightest why a certain part of the globally shared screen real estate should belong exclusively to whichever app happens to have the focus.

    Mind you, I also don't get the idea of non-trivial GUI applications not having any kind of readily identifiable menu at all. Are we reinventing WordPerfect?


    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: never got that

      Well how else is that supposed to work ? Do you want your keypresses sent to the in-focus app or not ?

      Or am I getting this entirely wrong ?

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: never got that

        I'm referring to the strip hard up along the top of the screen displaying the menu of whichever app has the focus, even if its main window is completely disjoint.


  5. chololennon

    A new version of Trinity is always welcome

    I am running Trinity Desktop on Devian 11 in a venerable 32 bits Asus Netbook (EEE PC 1000HE) bought in 2009. The machine still has 7.5 hours of battery (9.5 hours when it was new).

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: A new version of Trinity is always welcome

      Q4OS Trinity (Debian-based) and EXE GNU/Linux (Devuan-based) both run well on old netbooks.

    2. CRConrad

      Devian 11?

      The bastard love child of Debian and Devuan? What does it use for an init; Schrödinger's systemd?

  6. Steve Graham

    I still haven't worked out what a "desktop environment" is for. I use a window manager (openbox).

  7. Lars Silver badge

    Divide and conquer

    Ever wondered about how many brands of cars and coffee makers there are.and songs about the same topic.

  8. CRConrad

    Unity, Trinity... Something missing in between.

    When I finally get my thumb out and create the One True Desktop Environment To Master Them All (and usher in the year of Linux on the desktop), it will obviously have to be named... Is there such a word as "Duity"?

    I mean, there is "duality", but that seems to mean the opposite of the other two: While "unity" means the wholeness of the one, or everyone / everything coming together as one, and "trinity" means something like the one-ness (or unity) of three (cf the Holy one), "duality" emphasizes how the one is split into two.

    Is there any word that emphasizes the same as the other ones, that two come together as one?

  9. MacroRodent


    Actually XFCE did not start by aiming to replicate Windows 95, but CDE (nobody remembers that, but it was used on Unix workstations, and pre-dates Windows 95). You can configure XFCE to be fairly Windows95-like, but it has its own feel, and is in no way a clone.

  10. ROC

    Stable/static UI is my only requirement

    Basically, I got comfortable with the original Gnome (2?) on Ubuntu (up until they forced Unity as the "standard"), and converted my teacher wife to it from Windows 95 about 15 years ago. And although I have dabbled in various distros and desktops/UI's from before that time (classic distro hopper), I kept going back to that thanks to Mint offering that interface with MATE.

    My wife would be totally lost now after 10-15 years on Gnome as she has gotten older and less flexible about dabbling in new paradigms. It was hard enough getting her up to speed on cell phones beyond feature flip phones, but Windows Phone 8.1 made it far easier than Android 4 which was current then. In fact I was happy to drop my Android phone after I retired, and did not have keep using biz-approved apps, when I saw how usable WP 8/8.1 was right up until MS yanked that out from under us after a few short years. Then I had to get enough of a handle on new Android versions to ease my wife into that mess, and we both get annoyed by it way too much even now.

    If Mint ever drops MATE as an option (or whatever keeps looking/working like it), I will probably have to just not "upgrade" her PC unless it absolutely keeps her from using email on Thunderbird/web browser, and accessing Facebook, and a few other of her favorite web sites.

    Ordinary, non-geeky people simply don't have the patience to waste time and effort on constantly changing UI's! And I am just tired of getting bogged down in it much myself anymore when there are other more "eternal" concerns on my mind...

  11. MaxAgave

    Why duplicate a dumb desktop?

    It is not duplicated effort when the Gnome implementation of the Unity paradigm is so bad.

    Gnome people are not known to accept contributions on design and vision. If you don't agree with what they do, why should you contribute?

    That's just stupid to call it duplicated. Why should I help you build your ugly house when I can build my own that will look decent?

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