Glimpse the future of the Linux desktop with the Wayland-based Hawaii

Catch a Wave

Article from Issue 168/2014

The Hawaii desktop relies on Qt Quick, supports Wayland, and comes with its own compositor. Thanks to the Maui Linux system, you can test Hawaii on a Live CD or on a VMware virtual machine.

The Linux classic desktop systems have been around for several years now. KDE and Gnome are each built around a native toolkit (Qt and Gtk+, respectively). Many of the other desktops are spinoffs of either KDE and Gnome, and the ones that aren't spinoffs are built with many of the same background tools. Slowly, however, a new generation of graphics tools and components is entering the scene. A pair of promising new tools include:

  • Wayland [1] – a protocol for graphics interfaces intended to serve as a replacement for the venerable X display protocol used with traditional Unix/Linux graphics systems.
  • Qt Quick [2] – an application framework that is used for fast development of custom user interfaces based around Qt.

A new desktop system takes a long time to build, so it takes a while for these new ingredients to actually get baked into something. The Maui project [3] began as an effort to build a complete Linux system around new tools like Wayland, Qt Quick, and the systemd startup daemon. At the heart of Maui is the Hawaii desktop [4] – a simple and (so far) experimental desktop system that runs on Maui and a few other Linux alternatives. Hawaii is still in the alpha stage, but you can try it for yourself using an Arch Linux package, a Live boot DVD, or a VMware virtual machine.

Early Stage

Maui and the Hawaii desktop are at an early phase of development. At this point, Maui is more of a curiosity and less of a project with the goal of enriching the Linux infrastructure.

Hawaii owns an impressive crystal-clear display with many Wayland widgets (Figure 1). Currently, Hawaii uses the Weston compositor [5], which was developed for the Wayland protocol. The Hawaii project is also working on its own in-house compositor known as Green Island [6], but according to the Maui website, the QtCompositor API, which the developers will need to finish Green Island, is currently unstable, so, for now, they must continue to rely on Weston.

Figure 1: No frills, but sharp thanks to Wayland – the Hawaii desktop.

When the full system is implemented, it looks like Hawaii will be the first desktop environment to implement full Wayland support under Qt and also include its own compositor. The developers have also integrated their own Swordfish file manager [7] into the Hawaii desktop. Other desktop tools include the Qupzilla browser (Figure 2) and the simple picture viewer, Eyesight.

Figure 2: True to the credo of the developers, Maui only uses programs that do not unduly burden the system, such as the Qupzilla browser.

According to the Maui project website, "Maui doesn't have the traditional packages; it offers an innovative update system with point-in-time recovery and lower bandwidth usage; applications are shipped as bundles (compressed images that don't need to be decompressed). Underlying this system is a tool called OSTree [8]. OSTree uses an approach that departs from the conventional, packet-oriented model and is more of a Git-like repository for the entire filesystem.

A quick and easy way to see Hawaii in action is to burn and boot the Maui Live CD, which is available at the project website [9]. Remember to burn the image file as an ISO image and configure your system BIOS for CD/DVD boot. The Live system appears buggy at this point  – results may vary depending on your hardware. Some versions of the Wayland-based RebeccaBlackOS Live system [10] reportedly also support Hawaii.

VMware Player

The second way to test Hawaii is to run Maui in a virtual machine, but be forewarned that VirtualBox and Qemu won't run the Maui system. The best option is to run the image for 64-bit systems [11] using VMware Player [12] and the DRIconf configuration tool, which you can install from your distribution's package repository.

After completing the setup, launch the player as root, open DRIconf parallel, and, in the Image quality tab, change the S3DC setting by clicking Yes (Figure 3).

Figure 3: For Maui to run properly on the virtual machine, you need to enable it with DRIconf S3D.

Now, locate the vmware folder in your home directory and look for the file with the .vmx extension. Open this file in an editor, and, at the end of the list, add = "TRUE". This setting enables any additionally required graphic drivers, which VMware disables by default.

As a last preparatory step, go to the VMware menu and check Accelerate 3D Graphics in Virtual Machine | Virtual Machine Settings | Display.

Now start the image in the virtual machine. In the terminal that then appears, enter the username root at the prompt, and press Enter. You can start the graphical interface using the /usr/bin/hawaii-terminal command.

Building Arch Linux

You can also test the Hawaii desktop using Arch Linux or one of its derivatives, Antergos or Manjaro. Arch is a good option because it simultaneously supports operation with a minimal basis and the latest software. You do not need an X server or other desktop environments. Just add the entry in Listing 1 to the pacman.conf file.

Listing 1

Adding Maui to the Pacman Configuration


Enter the commands in Listing  2. Line 1 downloads the required packages for both the desktop environment and Wayland to your computer. Although the test does not require an X server, Wayland does not work without drivers for the graphics card.

Once you have found the right graphics driver for your needs, you can install it (as shown for an Intel model in the example) using a command similar to line 3 in Listing 2. Then, launch the desktop with the command shown in line 4.

Listing 2

Installing Hawaii in Arch


For more convenience, you can use SDDM [13], the login manager favored by developers. It is soon to be used in KDE SC, which provides support for Wayland and QML, the language behind Qt Quick.

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