Ubuntu Touch Q&A 110
OTA-20 coming, Convergence, Mir tree and Focal development


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News and Update

UBports Q&A 110 on 9 October 2021

Presenting this time were Alfred, Marius and Dalton.
Go to devices.ubuntu-touch.io for info about whether your device is supported. The documentation to help people port devices to UT has been greatly expanded and improved, so make sure to check it out.

Volla Q&A

Alfred mentioned that he joined the Volla team for a Q&A recently. If you understand German it is well worth checking in for a listen.

Linuxafterdark podcast

Dalton reminded everyone about his new podcast at www.linuxafterdark.net . Episodes are released on Fridays and it can be accessed by any podcast app.

B1 Linux

In news, B1 Linux is celebrating its anniversary by donating €30,000 to a project. UBports is on the shortlist and anyone can register a vote with them, in favour of the project they would most like to see get the money. All of the projects are worthy but we are calling on our community to vote for UBports.


OTA-20 is not far off. Just to clear up any confusion, this is just our numbering system at work. This is Xenial based, it is NOT 20.04.

The CA certificate for LetsEncrypt expired recently and caused all kinds of chaos. Anyone using OTA-19 to connect to LetsEncrypt services is having trouble. It isn’t a problem in browser but it is for things like Calendar sync, emails etc. Switching to rc channel will find the fix.

A regression involving loss of microphone has been remedied in the browser and we now have a custom messaging sound option for SMS receipt.

As always, for all changes it is important to have test feedback before they pass into Stable channel.

Device updates 

It isn’t possible for Dalton to gather together a round-up of news for device ports but just as we have Mateo putting news together for apps in OpenStore, it would be great to have a volunteer or volunteers to bring us device updates. Those can then be fed into this section.

Marius works 

Marius noted that one of the things which always gets commented on about UT is our ‘convergence’ or ‘desktop’ mode. [A reminder again: what we mean by that is OpenStore apps which transform automatically, so that they look right and work right on a big screen. Nothing more, nothing less. We do NOT mean ‘a desktop in your pocket. Rant over…] In those terms, convergence on UT is working very well overall but it is interrupted too often by some annoying bugs and Marius has been spending some time working through those.

Marius has also been working to mesh together Halium 9 and the Mir tree. We have a lot of flavors of Android adaptation and he has been working to tie those together as far as possible, ready for Focal.

In addition, Marius has been working on a secret project. It is so secret that you definitely won’t be able to guess anything about it by looking at his recent Twitter feed. Definitely not…

UBports installer update

Jan Sprinz (@neothethird) has been working quietly in the background on the UBports installer. There has been a major UI makeover and it now not only looks much nicer but it is more helpful along the way. Unfortunately the big update was hit by a bug which forced a lot of users to revert to an earlier version but a fix is in and future versions should work fine.

If you have skills (especially in javascript) that would help in developing the installer, please reach out to Jan and offer. The installer is vital to getting people on board the UT train in the first place but it is a big and complicated project. We need more people working on it. Often, the issues people have when installing are simple failures to set up properly or tick the right options. We can make the installer better by adding prompts for those.

FOCAL news and development

On Focal, Rachanan has sent a prospective update to Ubuntu 21.10, designed to address a C directory/systemd mismatch. UT has a patch for it but it isn’t solid. If we can achieve submission to 21.10, that makes the change eligible in 20.04, which is where we need the fix.

SystemImageClient is in for tests and we appear to be building systemimage compatible images.

We are looking at how to move MediaHub over. That may take some time. What we do now have is ofonoubports and an upstream of ofono which has been modified to play nice with UT. That is a huge win because we will no longer have an ongoing fight with package incompatibility.

New apps

There are some new apps which have appeared in the OpenStore. Pixelorama is a sprite editor native to UT. UT-sysbench-Qt-gui is an attractively named app from Adam which does what it says. It is (at last) a bench marking app for UT. You will now be able to check out how the cpu in your UT device performs, compared with your neighbors device.

Please remember that OpenStore has a built-in option to donate to app creators and we urge you to use that button, so that more great apps keep arriving.

Alfred works

Alfred has been generally organizing the universe but found a few moments to do stuff for UT too. Among those have been a lot of kernel side changes for the devices which he maintains and for the Volla phone. Nikita sorted out Wireguard support for the Volla phone, which got Alfred moving on that, adding it to both Xperia X and Pixel 3a. For VPN you can now use the three devices via the command line. There is a UI app version in the OpenStore which still has some issues but those are being worked on.

Alfred also added exFat disk protocol support in a kernel patch. What that does in practice is to increase the maximum allowed capacity of the SD card you put in your phone. The changes are in for Xperia X and Pixel 3a and have been proposed for the Volla phone repository. As well as bigger overall capacity it also brings an increased maximum file size. Again, feedback please.

Third in line is V4L2 loop-back. This is a protocol which allows the camera to be used inside V4L2 capable apps. Foremost among those is Morph browser. This is about capturing what appears in the camera viewfinder directly, rather than uploading from Gallery. Obviously that is [one!] step towards a functioning video-chat functionality. Alfred has built a bridge which provides some functionality. It isn’t yet at al level where it can be shown as a demo but that should come soon. It needs some kernel side changes in order to respect apparmor. Once done, they will either be spawned out to other porters or if we feel it is safe to do so, the changes can be added to the upstream so that all or most devices benefit.

Lastly, the big one. EVDI and UDL support may not be very familiar but they are driver functionality necessary for Displaylink (in various versions). On their own, those are not sufficient and they will rely on tweaks to Mir. Displaylink will enable you to connect your phone to a compatible external display [in other words, similar to HDMI]. To get that whole package up and running will need a variety of updates brought together. That is likely to happen fairly soon but no date can be given for that.

Sponsors were thanked.


The News section of our Forum is the best place to post questions for the Q&A. YouTube live chat,Telegram and Matrix are other places to post a question.

If you didn't know, the Forum questions get priority.

Look out for an announcement from Pine64 on 15 October :-)

Today Ubuntu Touch in hands of founder developers  

Totalsonic suggested that it would be fun and helpful if examples of some of the best functioning UT devices of today were put in the hands of some of those developers who worked on the initial launch of UT under Canonical. Mark Shuttleworth and Jonno Bacon spring to mind. A video of their reactions would be nice to see. They could reflect on what might have been and also offer their thoughts on what UT may become in the future. After all, we have been working on UT for a long time now.

Had the Ubuntu Edge project secured enough funding, the concept which developed would have been ‘Ubuntu on your Android device’. What we now know as UT (and convergence) would probably never have happened.

There are certainly former employees of Canonical who worked on the project there and use UT today.

A not of caution: it is a great and fun idea but well made videos are a lot of work and some expense. To take it forward we would also need contacts who count Mark or Jonno as part of their circle, who can raise the idea.


Alan [coincidental that he is a Canonical employee :)] had a question about Miroil. It is a module which aims to allow running Lomiri on system X but the upstream version of Mir is still incomplete in that aspect. If Marius has it working, is that because he has a workaround that he hasn’t shared yet? There is a Gitlab link attached which enables Miroil to run on Focal. It exists and works but at the moment it is a huge mess. It needs to be tidied up and added to the upstream.

Sony Xperia X

Mario.CH asked whether it is possible to try a port for the Xperia X (the F5121 and F5122). Alfred has experimented with Android 9 based Sony Xperia solutions. It involves a huge anount of work to replace the existing 7.1 solution and honestly the benefits are not great enough that it is really worth doing. An exception to that thinking is Waydroid. The ability to run that in the future would be a very big gain for some people but of little interest to others. It could be done but it is one of those issues where you might think it is better just for users to upgrade to a newer device rather than struggling to squeeze more functionality out of an old one. There are also some users who got their Xperia with UT pre-loaded. It would put them in a difficult position because a move to an Android 9 base would push them into a manual ‘repair’ process.


Rogier asked about the absence of Firefox from UT and especially misses its ad-blocking capability. Postmarketos has taken a different approach and have Firefox as their browser. Povoq asked about requests for wired headphone button support and how that is going? MessiSOS wondered what the situation is with voice calls on UT. Ari asked a more generic question about what happens if ‘X’ developer gets hit by a bus? We have a Foundation for financial and legal matters but it can’t guarantee continuity of personnel.

All of the principal contributors to the project have gone missing in action for at least a month in the last couple of years. Dalton himself recently wound down his involvement with everything internet related for a couple of weeks and then added another week in complete cold turkey.

Wherever we look in our community we can see things not done. There is no malice in that or saying that. Students have to go back to college and are submerged in course work. The gaps stem from unavoidable things in the real world but the only real solution is to have other people step up and do the work needed to write and apply fixes etc. This is not at all a ‘UBports problem’. It is a problem which confronts all volunteer organizations. One of the drivers is a mindset that those ‘at the top’ have sole responsibility for everything that happens or doesn’t.

This is a difficult thing to discuss. Placing responsibility on new people to step up and contribute can sound like an attack on those who are already contributing what they can. That isn’t at all the intention. All of the inputs big or small are valued. It doesn’t need anyone to authorize or instruct involvement. This is a completely open project and if there is something you want to run with there is nothing standing in your way.

We are active on Telegram, there is the Q&A… We are very accessible if you want pointers or advice. If there is an expectation that in order to help, you have to be supervised at every step of the way that is a misconception and anyway it would sink things because that would tie up key players in mentoring responsibilities. For almost any task, you can mostly make your own way, asking along the way for help from a broad range of community members.

We have recently taken someone on to take a detailed look at ofono. He has never done any Debian packaging and has never tackled ofono before. He will have to tidy up the three ofono stacks which are absolutely vital for the 20.04 transition. Dalton got him started on the way but many of the things he is doing are completely outside the scope of knowledge that Dalton has so he wouldn’t be capable of mentoring those even if he wanted to or had time. It hasn’t been a disaster. The necessary elements have been learned (and for good measure will be documented for future use).

We didn’t have documentation for this project when we started it. We had to learn as we progressed. New people have an advantage that there is quite a lot of documentation but still a lot will have to be created from the basics.

A complaint that really does chime is when people say that they struggle to get any response from people who might be able to help them because those people are too busy to respond. Well part of the answer to that is for others to remove part of the burden at one end, using their capabilities, in order to free up capacity at the other end. Something as simple as being friendly and helpful in Telegram groups and showing new people around can achieve that. Every small contribution matters and big scale involvement helps even more.

Alfred suggested that it is not altogether a good thing that new members of the community who have some developer skills typically start off with the idea “I must make an app”. Apps are important for sure but that constantly diverts resources away from fixing issues with our core software. Rather than starting with “this is a functionality that I would like” perhaps instead look at gaps in what the system itself can do and put some effort into addressing that gap at system level? We have a house and lots of people are interested in designing new cushions for the sofa. What we need is some builders to pay some attention to the floor the sofa sits on, to make sure it doesn’t collapse under the weight of the sofa, occupants and cushions…

[If you don’t get to see the Q&A, it was quite emotional at this point.]

As Marius said, we need to find a way to grow and develop, to the point where the project can shrug off the loss of one, two or five key people. Right now, we are not in that situation.

[There was no desperation or misery here. Just an attention to the facts of the matter.]

See you next time :-)

Invitation for Dutch local meetup