Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 Release

6 March 2019

Ubuntu Touch is the privacy and freedom respecting mobile operating system by UBports. Today we are happy to announce the release of Ubuntu Touch OTA-8! OTA-8 is appearing as a staged rollout for all supported Ubuntu Touch devices over the next five days, completing on Sunday, March 10th. You can skip to How to get OTA-8 to get it right away if you're impatient, or read on to learn more about this release.

What's new?

OTA-8 is primarily a stability improvement release as we continue to work on using upstream technologies in Ubuntu Touch, increasing our project output.

Morph Browser

Chris has continued his work to make the Morph Browser better, bringing the following improvements:

Ubuntu Touch has an experimental system-wide dark theme that is supported by most of the core apps and many of the apps in the OpenStore. Since it is experimental, it can only be enabled using the UT Tweak Tool (though some apps such as Weather, FluffyChat and TELEports have it as a built in option). This update completes support for the dark theme in the browser:

This update also fixes the display of browser error pages, brings back favicon support for favorites, and allows apps to inject custom JavaScript into embedded Morph.Web views.

Test, test... 1, 2...

Until this point, we've been bad developers. In an effort to bootstrap Ubuntu Touch as quickly as possible, we disabled automated testing in our CI and relied on manual testing runs in the weeks leading up to our releases. That hadn't caused problems yet, but we knew it would. During this cycle, we re-enabled automated testing in our CI and watched as some packages failed to rebuild. Then, we got to work fixing those tests. In particular, Rodney contributed the fixes required to get the test pass for the UITK, the toolkit used to create Ubuntu Touch applications. While fixing tests doesn't usually result in user-facing changes, it ensures that we can make changes with confidence and work faster in the future.

Changelog

A full changelog for this release follows. This does not include fixes and improvements gained from upstream Ubuntu, just the changes made by Ubuntu Touch contributors during this cycle:

[Chris Clime]

[Florian Leeber]

[Rodney Dawes]

[Dalton Durst]

[Kugi Eusebio]

[Marius Gripsgard]

  • Fix Unity8 tests and remove Oxide dependency to enable ARM64 builds: ubports/unity8#91

[Joan Cibersheep]

[Brian Douglass]

[Alberto Mardegan]

[NotKit]

[Miguel Gutiérrez]

  • Autofocus the first text field on every page of the Welcome Wizard: ubports/unity8#80

Thank you

We'd like to extend our appreciation to everyone who made this release possible, especially those people who stepped up to test OTA-8 on a variety of devices after our call for testing.

How can I help with the creation of Ubuntu Touch?

Ubuntu Touch is a community project driven mainly by volunteers. You and all others in the community will benefit from your contribution. Everyone is able to do something to help! If you're not sure where to start, here are a few examples:

Development

We mark issues which probably have simple fixes with a good first issue tag. We also try to add hints which will help you fix the issue. These reports are kept waiting for a contributor so newcomers have a great place to learn the ropes. You may search on GitHub for issues with this tag using this search query.

We have documentation available to aid getting started with system software development. We're also building our app development documentation.

To get help and support when getting started with Ubuntu Touch development, you can join our Matrix room #ut_bootcamp:matrix.org. Developers gather there specifically to help newcomers get started with our development workflows. It is a friendly space, with the motto "There is no such thing as a stupid question!"

Writers

Great (blush...) posts like this don't come out of nowhere. It takes many hours to write, edit and publish the excellent content our community has come to expect. The Writers' Team is responsible for this process. If you're interested in writing user tutorials, op-eds, or other long-form content, you can join us at #ubports_writers:matrix.org on Matrix.

Design and Graphics

Our designers and graphic artists are responsible for the images in this post. Particular kudos for the banner created by Joan (AKA Cibersheep). Every aspect of the Ubuntu Touch user experience is evaluated and implemented by the Design and Graphics team. They primarily coordinate at @UBports_UX on Telegram.

How to get OTA-8

What you should know first

There are a few issues which we expect many users to still run into.

  • The viewfinder on the Nexus 5 freezes when taking pictures in succession. Similar issues have been reported on the Oneplus One and Nexus 4.
    • Workaround: Pictures can still be taken while the viewfinder is frozen. Switching apps and then going back to Camera restores the viewfinder.
  • On larger screens (such as the BQ M10 and Nexus 7), the browser will close after opening a selection box while in landscape mode.
    • Workaround: Either move the browser to a side stage (press with three fingers and drag to the right) or hold the device in portrait mode.
  • When switching between text boxes in the browser, the input type of the keyboard is not updated (for example, when going from a numbers-only text field to a URL field).
    • Workaround: Dismiss the keyboard before changing text fields. This can be done by swiping the keyboard downward or tapping on the page in an area that is not a text field.
  • In the browser, selection boxes open in a new window. This is expected to continue until a newer version of Mir is used, which will allow for drawing tooltips within the surface that created them.

Existing Ubuntu Touch users

Existing users of Ubuntu Touch in the stable channel (which is selected by default in the UBports Installer) will receive the OTA-8 upgrade through the Updates screen of System Settings. Devices will randomly receive the update starting today through March 10. This spread is to give us time to interrupt a bad update in the future (should that ever become necessary), not to accommodate any bandwidth restrictions.

If you would like to receive the update immediately, turn on ADB access and issue the following command over adb shell:

sudo system-image-cli -v -p 0 --progress dots

Your device should then download the update and install it. This process may take a while, depending on your download speed.

New Ubuntu Touch users

You will find instructions for installing Ubuntu Touch on your device at devices.ubuntu-touch.io.

"I found an issue!"

Have you found a bug? We want to know!

You can follow our Bug Reporting document to learn how to present the information we'll need to confirm and fix your issue. Every bit helps. The best way to improve Ubuntu Touch is to use it and then tell us about the experience.

You should always check to see whether your bug has already been reported on ubports/ubuntu-touch on Github. Browsing open bugs is worth doing, even if you have nothing to report. This ensures that you can watch for any of the open issues and help fix them by providing more information.

What's next?

It is not hard to see that this release is light on large user-facing changes. As we mentioned in the "What's next?" section of the OTA-7 release announcement, we expected this to be the case if we were not able to stabilize Ubuntu Touch with Mir 1.1 and the last version of Unity8.

We had a great time at FOSDEM meeting similar projects and learning how they have solved problems similar to ours. We hope that we can use these relationships to increase all of our projects' output.

A very important part of getting Mir 1.1 and the newest Unity8 ready is user feedback. To that end, we've merged these projects into our separate edge release channel. If you'd like to test this on your spare Ubuntu Touch device, check out Living on the edge in our forum.

There is another huge effort approaching in non-Android mobile handsets. Several vendors have announced new mobile devices that do not require an Android userspace or old Linux kernels to run. These remove the complexity of libhybris and the Android container we must use to enable Ubuntu Touch on most mobile handsets today. However, the system was designed around the Android compatibility and we expect to spend considerable effort to bring up these new platforms in the coming months.

As always, you can watch right here on the UBports blog for the most important information about the next releases of Ubuntu Touch. You can also find us on our forum, @ubports on Telegram, or #ubports:matrix.org on Matrix if you want to chat with us.