With the flood of ARM-based netbooks and tablets upon us (keep watch outside, the flood can come any day now, promise!), Linux distributions are trying to be ready for The Great Coming of ARM. A problem with ARM hardware, according to Jamie Bennett, an Ubuntu Mobile Developer working for Canonical, is that many 3D drivers are non-Free; this poses problems for Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix UI.
This UI requires 3D hardware drivers, and with Ubuntu’s goal being to run on any ARM device, they wanted to come up with a solution – and they found it. If you can’t count on 3D support, then you should come up with a UI that doesn’t require it.
That’s exactly what the Ubuntu developers have done. For Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx, the ARM release will have a new UI by default, written using the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries. The EFL are designed to be lightweight and easy on the hardware while still offering all the fancy effects and stuff people have come to expect.
“It’s a direct clone of the UI found in the 9.10 Karmic release on i386 although this one is based on Enlightenment Foundation Libraries meaning that its fast on non-accelerated platforms,” Bennett writes, “If there is 3D hardware available it can use that but it works perfectly fine without.”
This is great news for the Enlightenment team, and they are rightfully proud about it. “The Enlightenment team is proud its products are being used more and more on embedded systems, be they e-book readers, phones, or TV’s; x86, ARM, or MIPS; accelerated or non-accelerated hardware,” writes Gustavo Sverzut Barbieri.
“Enlightenment Foundation Libraries were conceived and developed with performance in mind,” Barbieri adds, “Started in 2000, the current incarnation was designed based on previous experience with Imlib and Imlib2, libraries known to be quite fast. Over the past 10 years, the API changed a lot to be easier to use, but the performance impact of each and every change was carefully considered and benchmarked using the Expedite tool.”
I’d better be able to get a non-Netbook UI installed with Ubuntu ARM then, i.e. standard GNOME. EFL have no support for at-spi and therefore zero accessibility at all.