Unity for-Arch info and installation how to


Pinoy Techie
Unity-probably the most controversial desktop environment (DE) ever made for the Linux operating system (OS), was created by Canonical and introduced for the netbook version of Ubuntu Linux 10.10. It found its way to the desktop in Ubuntu's 11.04 version
(source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_(user_interface)).

Canonical's reasoning for Unity was simple: to have the same user interface across all platforms: desktop, smartphone, tablet, and TV. The move to Unity, however, was met by harsh criticism of many Ubuntu users, which lead to the downfall of Ubuntu as the world's most popular Linux distribution
(source: http://royal.pingdom.com/2011/11/23...popularity-fast-new-unity-interface-to-blame/).

Ubuntu is currently rated 2nd behind Linux Mint in popularity as rated by the number of hits per day for the respective OS's home page (source: distrowatch.com).

What makes Unity so controversial? Depends on who you ask. The Linux community is a varied and opinionated bunch, but that is one of the reasons why Linux has so much appeal to it's user base: the ability to customize Linux exactly the way you want. It's part of the core of the Linux philosophy. Many people say Canonical's move to Unity takes flexibility away from the user. Many say Unity performs poorly. Traditionalists mourn the loss of their beloved Gnome 2 (which is now resurrected in the form of the Mate DE), and have fiercely resisted the radical change. In short, there's no pat answer to the question.

Regardless of the controversy and criticism, Canonical continues to develop the Unity interface, and Ubuntu's current version, 14.04 LTS, has been highly regarded as the best version of Ubuntu since Unity's inception. Over the past year, Ubuntu is gaining ground on Linux Mint's popularity (source: distrowatch.com), with the difference between the two distros' hits-per-day down to only a couple hundred in the past month.

So, what does all that mean to Arch users? Not much, in all reality. With Ubuntu being a scheduled release distro and Arch being a rolling release, Unity-for-Arch is in a constant state of change. Ubuntu's current release is based on Gnome 3.10, and Arch is currently using Gnome 3.12 in the stable repos.

Unity-for-Arch's package maintainer, Chenxiaolong, has done an excellent job of maintaining patched versions of Ubuntu's packages for use with the Arch distribution. He worked tirelessly to get Unity-for-Arch prepared for the move from Gnome 3.10 to Gnome 3.12, and his work paid off. The transition was nearly seamless. Today's Unity-for-Arch uses Gnome 3.12 as a base, with the greatly improved Unity 7 interface from Ubuntu 14.04.

So, being the intrepid Arch user that you are, you want to give Unity a shot. Some people may think you're crazy, but hey, we use Linux... most people out there probably think that way about us already (you know, all those Microsoft zombies and Mac lovers- and both terms are used lovingly, by the way), so let's throw the saddle on this horse and hit the trail!!

Installing Unity-for-Arch

there are three ways to install Unity-for-Arch, all of which are listed on the Unity ArchWiki (https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/unity):

1. Unofficial repository, provided by Chenxiaolong
2. Building each package separately, using the AUR
3. From source

I'll be covering the installation of Unity-for-Arch using the unofficial repository. It is by far the fastest and most convenient option.

I STRONGLY recommend installing Unity-for-Arch using a clean install of Arch. Unity-for-Arch uses patched files (files that end with -ubuntu) for installation. These patched files are necessary for Unity to function in Arch Linux. Installing Unity-for-Arch after installing other DE's COULD break file dependencies needed for other DE's to function correctly.

My experience is that installing other DE's AFTER installing Unity-for-Arch keeps the -ubuntu files intact. For some reason, they are able to use the -ubuntu patched files without any trouble. This is not always the case, however.

I installed Arch on my desktop with only the Cinnamon DE, and for some time it was the only DE on my desktop. I decided to install Unity-for-Arch alongside Cinnamon as a troubleshooting aide for problems I was having with Unity-for-Arch on my laptop. So far, I have had no problems using either DE on my desktop.

If you use the above recommendation and install Unity-for-Arch with a clean install, the procedure is relatively painless. In the course of your install, when arch-chroot'ed into your system, use your favorite editor and add the following two repositories ABOVE ALL OTHER REPOSITORIES in /etc/pacman.conf:

SigLevel = Optional TrustAll
Server = http://dl.dropbox.com/u/486665/Repos/Unity-for-Arch/$arch

SigLevel = Optional TrustAll
Server = http://dl.dropbox.com/u/486665/Repos/Unity-for-Arch-Extra/$arch

Added September 21st, 2014 I forgot to mention this in my initial write-up- if you are installing a 64-bit system, you MUST enable the [multi-lib] repository in pacman.conf. If you do not, you will have missing dependencies.

If you don't put the above-listed repositories above all the others, you will have version conflicts with some packages in the community repo. Once you have added these repositories, save the file, then update pacman with the following command:

pacman -Suy

The output of this command will show you that pacman is syncing the repositories. Once its done, it will tell you there is nothing to do because you have not installed any Unity-for-Arch packages.

Complete the base install for Arch, exit the chroot environment, and reboot. Once you have your command prompt to continue your install, log in as root and install your sound, video, and other hardware drivers. Make sure they are functioning correctly before moving forward on the installation of Unity.

Once everything is tested and working, you're ready to install the base Unity-for-Arch packages. Install them with the following command:

pacman -S --ignore upower-compat $(pacman -Slq Unity-for-Arch)

Added March 9th, 2015- you MUST ignore upower-compat or you will not be able to install Unity due to dependency problems

This installs the basic packages needed for Unity to function in Arch Linux. It's a pretty extensive list, so be patient, especially if you have a slow Internet connection.

There are also the Unity-for-Arch-Extra packages to install. I have tried using just the base packages, but for some reason, installing just the base packages doesn't work on the systems I have tried to use them on. The login screen is all messed up, and Unity doesn't work correctly upon login. I typically install all of the packages in the -Extra repository, which, admittedly, adds quite a bit to the base Unity install. Those of you that don't like bloat won't like this, but for functionality as close to Ubuntu's Unity in Arch, install all the -Extra packages. To install them, use the following command:

pacman -S $(pacman -Slq Unity-for-Arch-Extra)

Added March 9th, 2015- When you issue this command, pacman complains that it can't resolve perlxml, which is a dependency of pidgin-libnotify-ubuntu. There is no perlxml file in any Arch Linux repo that I can find. You can safely tell pacman to skip that package. To get system notifications working for Pidgin, install pidgin-indicator from the AUR once you've finished your Unity-for-Arch installation

Again, the list is fairly extensive, so be patient. Once you have gotten all the packages installed enable Network Manager (necessary for the network manager applet in Unity's title bar) and LightDM (Unity's default display manager, which was installed when you installed the -Extra packages) using the following commands:

systemctl enable NetworkManager
systemctl enable lightdm

Reboot your system and you should be greeted by the lightdm-unity-greeter, Unity's login screen!

For those of you who wish to install Unity in an existing installation, follow the procedure for installing Unity-for-Arch from a fresh install by editing /etc/pacman.conf using your favorite editor, then syncing the repositories in a terminal. You'll use the same command to install the base packages. You may want to be selective of the packages installed from the -Extra repository, because the -Extra packages will overwrite your existing display manager and login greeter. You SHOULD be prompted to replace those packages by pacman. Although I have not tested any other display manager or greeter with Unity, any of them SHOULD work. If you want to review the packages in the -Extra repository, issue the following command:

pacman -Slq Unity-for-Arch-Extra

For any troubleshooting issues, please visit the Arch forums. There is a LARGE section in the forums dedicated to Unity-for-Arch. It's located here:


If you feel that there is a topic that I did not cover here for installing Unity-for-Arch, please let me know by posting in the group. I will be happy to consider adding to this document. I hope you enjoy using Unity-for-Arch!!!

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