MirAL 1.3.1

There’s a bugfix MirAL release (1.3.1) available in ‘Zesty Zapus’ (Ubuntu 17.04) and the so-called “stable phone overlay” ppa for ‘Xenial Xerus’ (Ubuntu 16.04LTS). MirAL is a project aimed at simplifying the development of Mir servers and particularly providing a stable ABI and sensible default behaviors.

Unsurprisingly, given the project’s original goal, the ABI is unchanged.

The bugfixes in 1.3.1 fall are:

In libmiral a focus management fix:

When a dialog is hidden ensure that the active window focus goes to the parent. (LP: #1671072)

In the miral-shell example, two crashes fixed:

If a surface is deleted before its decoration is painted miral-shell can crash, or hang on exit (LP: #1673038)

If the specified “titlebar” font doesn’t exist the server crashes (LP: #1671028)

In addition a misspelling of “management” has been corrected:

SetWindowManagmentPolicy => SetWindowManagementPolicy

Mir and Zesty

Mir is continuing to make progress towards a 1.0 release and, meanwhile, Zesty Zapus (Ubuntu 17.04) is continuing to make progress towards final freeze.

Currently the version of Mir in Zesty is 0.26.1 and we’re not planning any major changes for the 17.04 series. We’re probably going to make a bugfix release (0.26.2). The other possibility is that work on supporting hybrid graphics is completed in time for adequate testing for 17.04. In the latter case we’ll be releasing Mir 0.27 to get that shipped.

For this and other reasons it isn’t yet clear whether there will be a 0.27 release before we move to 1.0.

The significance of a 1.0 release is that it will be the time we break the mirclient ABI and delete a lot of deprecated APIs, which will have a significant effect on downstream projects. We’ve tried to prepare by marking the deprecations in 0.26 and updating downstream projects accordingly. But while this preparation means that most downstream projects “only need recompiling” this is something we want to do at the start of a release cycle, not at the end.

The argument for a 0.27 release is that there is functionality we want to release and that this can be done without the disruption of an ABI break. So even if we don’t release 0.27 for 17.04 we may well do so once 17.10 is “open” in order to make this work available for Unity8 developers to use.

Either way, sometime early in the 17.10 cycle we’re going to release Mir 1.0. This will clear the way for Mir support in Mesa and Vulkan.

MirAL 1.3

There’s a new MirAL release (1.3.0) available in ‘Zesty Zapus’ (Ubuntu 17.04) and the so-called “stable phone overlay” ppa for ‘Xenial Xerus’ (Ubuntu 16.04LTS). MirAL is a project aimed at simplifying the development of Mir servers and particularly providing a stable ABI and sensible default behaviors.

Unsurprisingly, given the project’s original goal, the ABI is unchanged.

The changes in 1.3.0 fall are:

Support for “workspaces”

This is part of the enabling “workspaces” for Unity8 desktop. MirAL doesn’t provide fancy transitions and spreads, but you can see some basic workspace switching in the miral-shell example program:

$ apt install miral-examples
$ miral-app

There are four workspaces (corresponding to F1-F4) and you can switch using Meta-Alt-[F1|F2|F3|F4], or switch taking the active application to the new workspace using Meta-Ctrl-[F1|F2|F3|F4].

Support for “previous window in application”

You can now use Alt-Shift-` to switch to the previous in an application.

miral-shell adds a background

miral-shell now uses its background for a handy guide to the available keyboard shortcuts.

Bug fixes

Two bug fixes related to shutdown problems: one deals with a possible race in libmiral code, the other works around a bug in Mir.

  • [libmiral] Join internal client threads before server shutdown (LP: #1668651)
  • [miral-shell] Workaround for crash on exit (LP: #1667645)

MirAL 1.2

There’s a new MirAL release (1.2.0) available in ‘Zesty Zapus’ (Ubuntu 17.04) and the so-called “stable phone overlay” ppa for ‘Xenial Xerus’ (Ubuntu 16.04LTS). MirAL is a project aimed at simplifying the development of Mir servers and particularly providing a stable ABI and sensible default behaviors.

Unsurprisingly, given the project’s original goal, the ABI is unchanged.

Since my last update the integration of libmiral into QtMir has progressed and libmiral has been used in the latest updates to Unity8.

The changes in 1.2.0 fall are:

A new libmirclientcpp-dev package

This is a “C++ wrapper for libmirclient” and has been split
from libmiral-dev.

Currently it comprises RAII wrappers for some Mir client library types: MirConnection, MirWindowSpec, MirWindow and MirWindowId. In addition, the WindowSpec wrapper provides named constructors and function chaining to enable code like the following:

auto const window = mir::client::WindowSpec::
    for_normal_window(connection, 50, 50, mir_pixel_format_argb_8888)

Refresh the “Building and Using MirAL” doc

This has been rewritten (and renamed) to reflect the presence of MirAL in the Ubuntu archives and make installation (rather than “build it yourself”) the default approach.

Bug fixes

  • [libmiral] Chrome-less shell hint does not work any more (LP: #1658117)
  • “$ miral-app -kiosk” fails with “Unknown command line options:
    –desktop_file_hint=miral-shell.desktop” (LP: #1660933)
  • [libmiral] Fix focus and movement rules for Input Method and Satellite
    windows. (LP: #1660691)
  • [libmirclientcpp-dev] WindowSpec::set_state() wrapper for mir_window_spec_set_state()
    (LP: #1661256)


mircade, miral-kiosk and snapcraft.io

mircade is a proof-of-concept game launcher for use with miral-kiosk. It looks for installed games, works out if they use a toolkit supported by Mir and allows the user to play them.

miral-kiosk is a proof-of-concept Mir server for kiosk style use. It has very basic window management designed to support a single fullscreen application.

snapcraft.io is a packaging system that allows you to package applications (as “snaps”) in a way that runs on multiple linux distributions. You first need to have snapcraft installed on your target system (I used a dragonboard with Ubuntu Core as described in my previous article).

The mircade snap takes mircade and a few open games from the Ubuntu archive to create an “arcade style” snap for playing these games.

Setting up the Mir snaps

The mircade snap is based on the “Mir Kiosk Snaps” described here.

Mir support on Ubuntu Core is currently work in progress so the exact incantations for installing the mir-libs and mir-kiosk snaps to work with mircade varies slightly from the referenced articles (to work around bugs) and will (hopefully) change in the near future. Here’s what I found works at the time of writing:

$ snap install mir-libs --channel edge
$ snap install mir-kiosk --channel edge --devmode
$ snap connect mir-kiosk:mir-libs mir-libs:mir-libs
$ sudo reboot

Installing the mircade-snap

I found that installing the mircade snap sometimes ran out of space on the dragonboard /tmp filesystem. So…

$ TMPDIR=/writable/ snap install mircade --devmode --channel=edge
$ snap connect mircade:mir-libs mir-libs:mir-libs
$ snap disconnect mircade:mir;snap connect mircade:mir mir-kiosk:mir
$ snap disable mircade;sudo /usr/lib/snapd/snap-discard-ns mircade;snap enable mircade

Using mircade on the dragonboard

At this point you should see an orange screen with the name of a game. You can change the game by touching/clicking the top or bottom of the screen (or using the arrow keys). Start the current game by touching/clicking the middle of the screen or pressing enter.

MirAL 1.0

There’s a new MirAL release (1.0.0) available in ‘Zesty Zapus’ (Ubuntu 17.04) and the so-called “stable phone overlay” ppa for ‘Xenial Xerus’ (Ubuntu 16.04LTS). MirAL is a project aimed at simplifying the development of Mir servers and particularly providing a stable ABI and sensible default behaviors.

Surprisingly, given the project’s original goal, the ABI is changed. This allowed us to address a couple of minor issues and the timing seemed good as downstreams are faced with Mir-0.25 moving some necessary APIs from libmircommon to the more ABI stable libmircore.

The changes in 1.0.0 are:

  1. The default movement of child windows can be overridden by the window management policy;
  2. A new “miral-app” script that runs the miral example servers as an application on an existing desktop;
  3. Bug fix LP: #1646431 “Examples fail to start under Unity8”;
  4. Bug fix LP: #1646735 “[miral-shell –window-manager tiling] windows are not correctly constrained to tiles”; and
  5. A couple of deprecated APIs have been removed.

Testing for Mir

Need a Mir server?

A couple of times in the last week I’ve been asked about a Mir server for testing. These requests have been from folks wanting to test their client-side work against Mir.

Most application developers will be using a toolkit or other graphics development library and not care if they are running on X11, Mir or even Windows. But the developers of those libraries will want to test with Mir.

For this purpose, the simplest Mir server to use is miral-shell. If you’re on Ubuntu Zesty Zapus then this is readily available:

$ sudo apt install miral-examples mir-graphics-drivers-desktop qtubuntu-desktop

If you’re on an earlier version of Ubuntu then you either need a ppa (such as the “stable phone overlay”) or, less risky to your system, just build and install it yourself. (If you’re not on Ubuntu this is still possible: there are some pointers here.)

What does miral-server provide?

Currently miral-server is the only Mir server to offer libmiral’s “basic window management”. That unique status is due to change real soon as this implementation is being merged into Unity8.

The simplest way way to run miral-shell is using Mir’s “Mir on X” support. From a terminal window just type:

$ miral-shell

Then you can connect your application from another terminal:

$ miral-run <application>

You should see your application appear in the “Mir on X” window.

A lot of the current work is focused on the placement of windows (menues, popup, etc.) and to help with this there’s a facility to trace the window management calls. Start miral-shell like this:

$ miral-shell --window-management-trace

And all the window management events and decisions are logged.

Another interesting option is to use a “tiling” window manager:

$ miral-shell --window-manager tiling

Which has a completely different approach to laying out the application windows.

For a full list of the option:

$ miral-shell --help

Documentation of the Mir “toolkit”API

A related question I’ve been asked is for documentation of the libmirclient API. You can find the documentation like this:

$ sudo apt install mir-doc
$ xdg-open /usr/share/doc/mir-doc/html/group__mir__toolkit.htm

This will open the default browser on the relevant page.

Miral on Dragonboard

Miral on Dragonboard

Having seen Kevin Gunn’s post on the mir-kiosk I thought I’d give it a try.  This is what I found.


First, I dug out the Dragonboard I’d been testing Mir on a few months ago from a drawer and borrowed the Logitech k400r keyboard I use in my “den”. (This is convenient there because it provides both keyboard and mouse input from one device I can use from my lap.)

There was still a micro SD card in the board, so I extracted that and inserted it via a micro SD adapter into my desktop. Then I downloaded the dragonboard image from the link in Kevin’s article, verified the checksum and discovered that “Disk Image Writer” was the default app for opening the file. That sounded promising, so I opened the file with it, selected the SD card and started writing the image.

While that was going on I found an HDMI/VGA adapter and an old monitor to connect to the Dragonboard and started checking how to install from the SD. The main thing was to get the boot switches on the back of the board into 0110 positions (which means it will boot from the micro SD card).

With all that ready I went to brew tea while “Disk Image Writer” continued reporting progress.

It boots!

Returning with my tea I found that the image was written, so I disconnected the card and put it into the Dragonboard and connected the power.

I was greeted by a blank screen.

After a bit of experimentation I found that I need to connect to a real HDMI monitor during boot, but can switch to the adapter+VGA monitor after that. Annoying, but it works. (As I’m not yet sure where the fault lies I won’t mention the brands.)

Setup is a few simple questions, the only annoyance I had was that the keyboard layout defaults to US which makes typing my network password “interesting” on a UK keyboard.

One thing that could be a trap is that it asked for my email address to connect to the snap store. I’ve never been there before but I took a punt and used my canonical email address. That seemed to work and pick up the credentials on Launchpad.

That meant I could ssh into the Dragonboard from my desktop.

Installing miral-kiosk

Installing the mir libraries and the miral kiosk looks really easy using the commands Kevin provides (in the ssh session):

$ sudo snap install mir-libs --channel=edge --devmode
error: cannot perform the following tasks:
- Download snap "mir-libs" (3) from channel "edge" (unexpected EOF)

Actually, before that message was shown I got one estimating the download time at over an hour! Try again…

$ sudo snap install mir-libs --channel=edge --devmode
mir-libs (edge) 0.1 from 'albaguirre' installed

That’s better! (And only took a few seconds.)

$ sudo snap install mir-kiosk --channel=edge --devmode
mir-kiosk (edge) 0.1 from 'albaguirre' installed

Wow, I see the orange miral-kiosk startup “splash” and a mouse pointer! miral-kiosk is running on the Dragonboard.

A Client Application

To get a client application kg’s blog continues with the instructions:

“Download the appropriate architecture of the mir-client snap and then copy that over to your running ubuntu-core image. “

In this case we’re arm64, so I followed the link and picked out mir-client_0.24.1_arm64.snap. And then copied it to the dragonboard (back to a desktop terminal session):

$ scp Downloads/mir-client_0.24.1_arm64.snap alan-griffiths@
mir-client_0.24.1_arm64.snap 100% 103MB 173.7KB/s 10:05

That took an unexpectedly long time. Back to ssh session:

$ sudo snap install mir-client_0.24.1_arm64.snap --channel=edge --devmode 
mir-client 0.24.1 installed

And there it is – kg’s sample client application running on miral-kiosk.

How to run X11 applications on simple Mir servers

There are a few “gotchas” in running X11 applications (via Xmir) on Mir servers so I’m sharing a short script to make it easier.

The following script will work with the example servers from the “mir-demos” package, the miral-shell (from “miral-examples”) and my own egmde project. (With Unity8 there’s a little more to it but as there is existing “magic” in place for launching X11 applications I won’t bother to discuss it further.)

The principle issue is that each Xmir session is seen as a single application by the Mir server, so we need to create an Xmir server for each application for everything to make sense. And that means each application needs a separate port to connect to its Xmir server.

For this to work you need to have a Mir server running, and have Xmir installed.

Here’s the script:

$ cat ~/bin/Xmir-run
while [ -e "/tmp/.X11-unix/X${port}" ]; do
    let port+=1

Xmir -rootless :${port} & pid=$!
DISPLAY=:${port} $*
kill ${pid}

The first part of this script finds an available port to run Xmir on.

The next part starts an Xmir server in “rootless” mode and remembers the pid.

Then we run the command passed to the script until it exits.

Finally, we kill the Xmir server.


Debugging mir server/toolkit interactions


A feature added to the lp:miral trunk yesterday is making life a lot easier for developers working on MirAL based servers, and the toolkit extensions that support Mir. The feature is:

miral-shell --window-management-trace

Actually, the –window-management-trace switch will work with any MirAL base server (so miral-kiosk and egmde support it too).

What this does is cause the server to log every interaction with the window management policy – all the notifications it receives and all the calls it makes to the tools as a result.

This means that it is easy to find out that, for example, a “modal” gtk based dialog window is being created without specifying a parent. (Which is why the behaviour isn’t quite as expected – Mir servers will treat it as non-modal.)

To use this feature before the next MirAL release you do need build it yourself, but this only takes a minute (depending on your kit).It really is the easiest way to see exactly what is going on and why.