Ubuntu Touch Q&A 122



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News and Update

Ubports Q&A 122 on 5 February 2023

Florian, Alfred and Ratchanan presented the Q&A from FOSDEM in Brussels. They were joine by LionelD.

Q&A sessions

The frequency of the Q&A broadcasts has reduced sharply but that doesn’t at all mean that activity has ceased. In reply to a question, all of the Q&As including this one are stored on the YouTube archive and if you want you can go back to the first one for a bit of amusement at the amateur quality of it.

Ubuntu Touch still exists!

It was a great networking opportunity, particularly meeting up with people from postmarketOS, Mobian, Sailfish, KDE etc. As always, one of the standard things that people said was to express surprise that Ubuntu Touch still exists! Similarly, there was a lack of knowledge about Lomiri and what it does. Having had it explained to them they responded very positively. The conversations which flowed from that are something which you could really only get from attending a live event like FOSDEM. .


Alfred did an early morning talk, well attended, showing the phone. At first people didn’t realise that he was presenting from the phone but then there was the usual amazement. The slideshow was projected from his phone to the big screen and he held it up to show the presentation on the phone. With a small adapter
you can easily use HDMI input on a TV.

Ratchanan was so overwhelmed by the number of talks taking place that he just gave up on looking and instead went round stands having conversations. There was a lot of discussion around implementing more interoperation between UT and other systems. There is a lot more which could be done but of course we have limited resources and while lots of things are practically possible, we don’t have time.

For Ratchanan and LionelD it was a chance to meet the others in person after working together on UT remotely for years.

In the live chat Alfred was asked why he didn't use Document Viewer in his presentation. He replied that as it was a public event he went for maximum safety and that was a rendered HTML5 file. One of the things that pointed to is that we need a fullscreen mode for the browser when used on desktop.Maybe next time it would be fun to use LibreOffice in a container.

PinePhone and PinePhone PRO

There were lots of questions about how UT is porting on older phones but the surprise was that the team managed to get UT running on a PinePhone. We can say that Pine is back on for UT in 2023 although the thing which stopped us last time was having those few people who could take on that task. The PinePhone Pro still doesnt sleep well and the camera isn't working but it is pretty good.The older one should be possible too but honestly the hardware performance of that is pretty poor. It may be of interest if you have one in a drawer. Just to be clear about it, the PinePhone Pro is running 20.04. We are not yet using a full implementation of Wayland on it.

For now we are using patched Mesa. The performance even with the existing setup is pretty stunning so how will it be when Wayland is in place?  We got clarification from Pine64 that they are not planning any imminent replacement for the Pro so it will be around for quite a long time yet.  In the case of the PinePhone installation is so simple that you don't even need an installer, just a USB cable.

Sponsors were thanked. We are truly grateful for every donation. And making a donation is very easy to do. Select one of our options.


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.

Qt 6.0

There used to be a meme about our need to update Qt and it is as true today as it was then. It isn't easy for us because of our architecture. It might seem logical to skip to 6.0 but the reality is for us the next step will have to be 5.15. We can make things easier for ourselves by ensuring that popular apps don't have embedded obstacles to Qt upgrades. We need to have the same approach to our system. Although 5.15 will be the next step on the road, Rachanan has already spotted some serious technical problems with that, so we are not talking about an 'easy' intermediate stage.

Although it is a 'nice to have' for our particular needs having the most advanced form of Qt is not particularly important. It matters in terms of extending compatibility with other projects.The version of Qt6 which is around now is a very different thing from the Qt6 that was launched. There are extra challenges when the target keeps changing. We got our multimedia and camera working well with older configurations so unpicking those would be another very big challenge.

Focal and what next

There was a question about what comes after 20.04 but honestly we have plenty of time to address that and consolidation matters much more than chasing the cutting edge. Nevertheless our plan is to pick up the 22.04 tasks after a fairly short break. We want to keep some forward momentum going. Jumping to 24.04 has not been ruled out. We will decide by starting the process and making an assessment.

Live coding sessions

Ratchanan was asked if he would do some more live coding sessions. He is planning to do that but needs some feedback about whether that should be going through some worked examples or whether it should be addressing some major piece of work, showing all the stages of the development. At the moment, things are in the bug-fixing phase with 20.04. Is that interesting enough to cover though? If anyone has any specific ideas, feel free to get in touch and suggest them.

App development documentation

A question from the floor was whether there are plans to update the documentation for app development for 20.04? LionelD suggested that the main thing really was to become familiar with Qt app development (which is well documented). After that, you are really just left with the peculiarities of our own system, which is not all that complicated to pick up.We have a unique filesystem so you need to know the principles behind that and how permissions work. There is actually some nice new documentation you can use.Check out Mimecar's tutorial, which is still very relevant.

Florian commented that the question was more specifically about updating Xenial apps to run on Focal.Only a few apps have made the transition and we need to help that process. Sadly, documentation never quite reaches the 'urgent' pile so there is always a lag while we focus on fixes. That is life. Some people love doing documentation. If that is you, please get in touch!The task of request and receive is always very complicated and varied but a QML wrapper has been created to simplify those calls and it is making a big difference to TELEports development, where that happens a lot.

Differences between UT Xenial and UT Focal

A questioner asked whether 20.04 makes UT something quite different than it was before? Alfred did not agree.  There are big changes in the backend but from the perspective of users everything will be very familiar and 'the same'. The very big difference is when looking at it as a foundation. Xenial was a dead end. Focal opens up new ways of doing things so we are moving away from maintenance and towards evolution.

The big changes will be what we choose to build on the new framework.We are aware that we have inherited something which was graciously given. We will respect that and we have duties and responsibilities based on that. A radical lurch would not be appropriate.

The packaging of Lomiri into Debian is now pretty much complete. We are in the pending licensing stage now.Having it in the Debian repository is effectively a mark of quality and its importance will be that it can be utilised by projects unrelated to ours.

Uploading files on TELEports

Someone asked about feedback from their girlfriend who used UT for a few days and found the uploading of files odd.This is really a Telegram issue not a TELEports one, as the way that they handle files is quite particular. Video calling has been integrated into the background, adding another huge layer of complexity. Android handles things with immense layered complexity (they can afford to) and their architecture is very different from ours.We use the Telegram API and we issue the upload requests but the handling is opaque to us. Encryption also has to be carried out and that is not visible to us either.

Problems in apps can be solved by shortcuts which rely on asking for more time but the consequence of that is activities which eat the battery. We are not in favour of that and what we want to see is refinements which improve the efficiency of handling instead. We might try to add an overlay which warns you if an app is a battery drain.

Fairphone 4 with preinstalled Ubuntu Touch

There was a question about Fairphone and when we can expect FP4 with UT pre-installed? They of course have quality criteria for their phone software and we will have to get through their tests. We will need to have it in a good state for sure. There would have been no sense in testing it with 16.04 so we have been waiting for a few final tweaks to the 20.04 build, before launching into tests. A partner company actually does the testing and it will be very interesting to see their assessment.One of the tests is of the emergency call system. Not something that we can do!

Someone asked how we can test out the prototype solution for the FP4 notch?

There is no specific Fairphone fix but you could try the same one as for Volla. Also discussed in this Forum thread.

Future of 16.04

There was also a question about whether Stable 16.04 would be left around to play with? Well there are no plans to delete the old channel and in the near future we will not have direct upgrades to 20.04 for devices which support it.

On apps, that is up to OpenStore and their policy. They are not a part of UBports. The transition to 20.04 is not going to be very fast so we can deal with these things pragmatically.

Exotic implementations and daily drivers

On the question about retro console with mainline kernel it wasn't clear what exactly was meant. Exotic implementations of UT are possible for sure but that needs people with the time and skills putting in that effort. Not something we are going to try.

There was a question about daily drivers. Both Alfred and Florian are using FP4.Ratchanan uses principally Android because banking apps are key to everything and even with Waydroid they will not work properly with UT.Actually a Samsung A33.That decision was based on a four year promise of OS upgrades.

Florian showed the little S3 Neo from 2014 on the stand and with some speed limitations it still works fine.LionelD has an Xperia X but wants a Pixel 3A. Alfred used to look after the Xperia X but he is swamped with other work. If you would like to assist with some patches etc you would be very welcome.

Upstart is being replaced by SystemD in 20.04 and that presents a barrier to many of the older phones. It has a newer kernel requirement, so there will be a practical cut-off.

Ubuntu Touch "Lite"?

The final question was quite confusing but on the subject of whether there will ever be a 'UT Lite' we can say probably not. But as a lightweight desktop, yes for sure.

Quick note Q&A sessions

For the future, we hope to get the Q&As going on a more regular schedule.

See you next time :-)

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