News and Update
This Q&A was broadcast live from FOSDEM.
Presenting were Alfred, Ratchanan and AppLee.
FOSDEM 2024 meeting
At FOSDEM there were talks on VoLTE for Pine and VoLTE for FOSS, so this is a subject which is now attracting a lot of attention. The switchoff in Europe has pushed it to the top of the agenda.
Around 20 Ubports supporters got together before FOSDEM to have a discussion about the future of Ubports. In a couple of months from now we will come together to refine our plans from that meeting.
Ratchanan commented that the meeting was the largest and most varied in attendance we have had, so the discussion had a concentrated form and was very productive. It supercharged the normal community chat that we have though the Telegram groups. The Ubports Foundation was able to fund Ratchanan to travel and he expressed his thanks for that. The community has a lot of energy but that has to be given a focus in clear objectives.
The presenters gave a shoutout to the developers of some great apps. Syncthing by Terrence was the first. He made it initially for himself, so that he had a way to backup all the important stuff from his phone, on a daily basis. Indicator Weather is by Brian Douglass. It pulls a range of additional data into the dropdown. Next comes UTzipper by LionelD. As the name suggests it is a Zip archive opener but can handle a range of other formats such as .gz, tar and 7zip. There is a Tesla app. A few UT users have a Tesla… At the moment it is fairly limited but it seems that Tesla may be working on a more open API for third party apps. Level is a very simple traditional app but fun and useful.
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.
A roadmap was shared
Areas for action were assigned to six different bucket headings. Bucket 1 is app compatibility. The discussion was around issues such as Snaps, GTK and Clickable. Bucket 2 is the user experience, including reliability. UT is unique in having use by normal (non-geek) users as our objective. A phone requires solid reliability and we place that above tech suitability. Backups and contact syncing are a couple of ‘normal’ expectations that we need to address. Bucket 3 was a long discussion about the onboarding experience for new users. There is also the issue of onboarding for new developers, which as always depends on documentation… Bucket 4 was on the development process. The release model will be changing. More details about that in the near future. It was concluded that we should be doing far fewer messy workarounds and instead provide proper sustainable solutions.
Bucket 5 was porting and system images. We have in the past made compromises so that system images would fit on the devices with the least space. That has compromised on features and is probably an approach we need to rethink. Pine has not taken up much of our attention recently but needs to be addressed again. The improved kernel in the PineTab and the addition of Bluetooth make it a very functional all round machine now. The automation of testing for ported devices would be immensely helpful and would save a lot of time. It would be great if that data was relayed directly to the Devices page.
The infrastructure which Ubports uses to send updates directly to devices is unique among the FOSS mobile alternatives.
Bucket 6 is the display experience. This related especially to the use of ancillary screens, through direct or wireless connection. The edge case is the new generation of foldable devices, which are in practical terms dual displays. There are still bugs affecting the Lomiri/Mir experience. Mouse pointer limits are one.
There are no promises about delivery but the idea was to set out clearly what we want to achieve.
Fairphone 4 internet connection
There was a question from the forum about internet not working on Fairphone 4 running UT. The panel thought that this was not a specific FP4 issue. Marius has been working on a bug which makes mobile data drop when a handoff between cell towers operated by different providers fails. This happens most when on the move because then the phone is constantly switching between towers. Marius has found a partial fix, which is included in updates over the past few days. If you still have problems, toggle the mobile data indicator off and on. Also you can go to APN settings in Settings and reset those. There should be further refinements to the fix in future releases.
eSIM in UT
Mephaisto thanked everyone for OTA-4, which has just gone out. Is there any support for eSIM in UT? No, at the moment there is nothing. Some experiments have been done using a dual Android/UT setup. With that, it was possible to do the eSIM setup and then UT was able to handle it from there. So the main missing element seems to be the initial setup. Ratchanan added that there are probably carrier specific aspects to the setup process, so we would require multiple solutions. That would be a very big barrier. There is definitely no roadmap or project around getting eSIM to UT. If someone has some expertise around this to share with us we would be very glad of the help.
There was a question from the floor about Lomiri desktop. Marius is still working on it. There are lots of changes on the way. Right now you can use Lomiri within Debian and it will work to some extent. Using that combination is a very good tool for further development. It runs Mir1 at the moment and one illustration of the problems is that Snap installs are sometimes broken on arrival. It is possible to get it back up again with a patch but of course that is only for testers and experimenters, not normal users.
Going back to the issue of loss of mobile data, there will still be some problems so feedback to the UT issue tracker is still very important. A reminder on this as always for logs – where you upload logs to help debugging *never* include private data in that. Edit it out before upload.
24.04 development progress
What is the progress with 24.04 and what will be expected from porters? As mentioned earlier, we are reorganising the release model. That is something we want to get organised and tidied up before we release 24.04. We are working on both projects simultaneously but the release project comes first in line. When done, updates will be more frequent and getting them lined up for release will be less labour intensive.
On the stand, several people have been expressing concern that apps will drop away when 24.04 is implemented, as happened with the switch from 16.04. Well that transition was vast. It turned our world upside down, in system terms. The move to 24.04 is closer to ‘more of the same’ and our general expectation is that apps will just work. There are bound to be a few incompatibilities which need adjustment but nothing like on the scale we went through before. [Exactly the same thing applies with porters. They have already done the heavy work with the previous transition].
It is worth saying that even with the move from Xenial to Focal, we built in numerous fixes which allow a single version of many apps to run on both. If there is nervousness among app developers that they will be expected to maintain three different versions, we can generally put their minds at rest. There is no cliff edge coming with 24.04.
If you have code which is not part of the interaction with the UT system you may have to make some changes to that part of the code. Recompile, for sure.
There was a question in live chat which echoes something often asked, which is why the Ubports installer can’t use a process more like installing an Android ROM. As explained before, UT is not ROM based and the architecture is more complex. We use a custom recovery to install a system image (a form of tarball) so the installer has to be able to first apply that recovery. Some improvements could certainly be made but it would not be possible to ‘make it just like Lineage’ since Lineage is a very different animal.
Applause all round for our community and developers.
See you next time :-)