Ubuntu Touch Q&A 134
Elections, Clickable, Development "buckets"



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News and Update

Ubports Q&A 134 on 17 February 2024

AppLee and Alfred presented.


Elections are coming up in May for the board of the Ubports Foundation and volunteers for the posts are needed. First, you have to be accepted as a trustee. In order to become a trustee you need to make an application and that should be based on at least six months of significant involvement with the community. Apply by email to membership@ubports.com. You must include your full legal name and the consent of your parent if you are not of age. It is a requirement that under your local laws you are not prevented from becoming a trustee of an organisation within the jurisdiction of Germany. You should set out the nature of your contribution to date and your intentions to contribute in the future.


The development vehicle for UT apps is Clickable and thanks to Jonatan we now have that packaged as a Snap. AppLee will be one of those using the Clickable framework to update their app to Focal. Alfred is continuing to work on his IDE to further assist UT app development. Docker is also available as a Snap.


In the last Q&A we introduced you to six development ‘buckets’ each with a priority subject for the future of UT. This time we introduce you to the people who will act as first point of contact for each work group.

Bucket one is app compatibility, such as Snap. Alfred is the main contact for the (fredldotme). We want to get Distrobox running and Notkit is looking at that. The idea is that it could provide what Libertine does now but in a more flexible way. If it works, it should bring new developers to UT. With Fairphone 4, the ability to use a display port could really open up the possibilities.

Bucket two is user experience. The first priority within that is VoLTE, which is especially important for our friends in North America. Ivan Ucherdzhiev is involved with UI. Backups are another issue. We are looking for a utility in Settings which will define folders to be backed up and enable users to choose where they should be backed up to. There would also have to be a restore function, which would be especially useful when setting up a new device. Volunteers are needed to work on this. Bear in mind that even if we succeed, there will likely be a compatibility drift between a backup and the OS, as the system changes. Another segment of this topic is to adapt to screen notches. We need to fit the indicators around them neatly. There are some workarounds already but they are not ideal.
Onboarding is the third bucket area we must address. When people start using UT we should make sure that they are given the advice they need to make the best use of it. This is also an opportunity to describe how our community works and the things they can do to get involved. There are boarding sessions already, run by Diogo Constantino.

The next topic here is system and app development, for which AppLee is the first point of contact. Documentation is a key part of that, so that developers can see clearly the steps they need to go through.

The website is also important for onboarding. Capsia has been doing a lot on that and is the natural choice for first contact. The most important page is Devices because everyone naturally heads there and it is where users pick up a lot of detailed knowledge. We have a mess of different domains and we need to tidy those up.

Bucket four is the display experience. Lomiri has a bug which affects mouse tracking. If you start in portrait and move to landscape, the mouse pointer is trapped inside a box. It looks like a simple problem but it seems to involve qtMir and perhaps Mir itself. Alfred is co-ordinating work on this but it is complicated and he needs help.

Development process is the next bucket. Ratchanan has taken over release management. Versioning, naming , the release schedule and urgent bug fixes all fall into this category and it will be a big shake-up. Security patching will be central to all of this of course. Users should be cautious about grandstanding on this subject. It is complicated and those working on solutions need sympathetic support. We would of course prefer to begin with app and system patches, before attempting kernel patches.

The sixth bucket is about support for porting to new devices. A kernel and INTRAMFS has to be present on every ported device, so that we have something to install onto. Oren has raised the fact that we don’t have a similar base for Mainline devices such as PinePhone. This is a drawback with access to OTAs. Mainline have to be updated with wired connection. A wired connection ought also to enable retrieval of logs etc and for that we need a recovery, just as we now have for ‘Android’ devices.


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Big Thank to Developers

At the same time we want to say a big thank you to our developers for bringing a lot of added functionality to our system. Splider is an app for splitting bills among a group. Kugi was unable to get to FOSDEM but does a huge amount of work related to apps. Recently they have made changes to indicators so that they render correctly in dark mode. CircleJump by abmyii is a cool game. Axolotl2 by Aaron and colleagues has been a long while in development. It is a client for use with Signal messenger. Alberto Mardigan has brought three updates. Cute VNC is a remote desktop client. Imaginario is a gallery app with a few edit tools and MiTubo is a client for viewing and downloading YouTube videos. It does that using gstreamer so it is pretty fast and doesn’t cause a big battery drain. There is a game platform app with an MIT licence called ‘Source of Tales mobile UT’ by Jhay06. Domoticz is a client by AppLee for using the Domoticz server. WifiScanner says what it does and is by Terence. Another example of clear naming is provided by WifiTransfer. It sets up an FTP server on your phone, allowing for easy transfer of files in either direction. It is by Aloys Liska. LionelD is the author of URL Dispatcher Tester. This gets around the usual sandboxing in a very specific way by allowing an application to act through a second application, where the second application makes use of access to a pre-defined URL. This is used by developers who want to see if their assumptions about the way their app is able to interact with other apps is correct.  Initiating a phone call would be one example of that. Daniel Frost has made a nice little note taking app called tedit. It has some fancy features such as the ability to create QR codes and to encrypt.

Seabass2 stands on its own as pretty ambitious development environment for use on the move. A big shoutout to Mikhael who is very active with improving and extending his app. It even allows spawning into a Libertine container so that Clickables can be built on the phone itself.

Another ‘big’ app is UT Tweak Tool which is a multi-purpose utility and tweaking tool for the things which you might want but which cannot be found in Settings. It helps with accessibility and is often used for clearing caches. Imran Iqbal is lead developer on that.

Qtwebengine update

domubpkm asked whether there is an idea of the timetable for another qtwebengine update? There are incremental changes taking place on a regular basis but those are still based on Qt5. These are mostly security tweaks. New features would only come with an update to Qt6. There is no timetable for when will make that move.

24.04 transition

Alagirialagiri asked about the transition to 24.04 and whether it will disrupt devices. The effort needed for the last version rebasing should not be seen as an indication. That was a much bigger project. This time there will be some tweaking but on quite a small scale. Porters have the responsibility to make those small changes for their device.

Focal move 

MrT10001 asked about what seems to be some confusion over which devices on the list function well with Focal and which still need some attention to bring them up to date. Someone had an issue with a Poco device which the page said was ready. Unfortunately it went into a bootloop. For now, they should switch back to Xenial and ask the porter what progress is being made.

He also asked about the apparent reluctance of some porters to move to Focal and suggested that we keep a two-tier Devices page, showing Xenial builds and Focal builds, rather than concentrating on Focal. We don’t have the resources and focus to be able to look after two families of builds. For us, Xenial is the past and we have moved on. Xenial devices will continue to function for a considerable time but we no longer offer support. If you are being held back by the lack of a (for your needs) an essential app, then feel free to raise that with the app maintainer or if you have the skills, port the app yourself if you don’t get a response. We have a schedule to deliver 24.04 and that cannot be sacrificed to trying to manage a defunct version simultaneously. If we try to do too many things we will fail at all of them. Sorry to be severe but it is necessary.

Returning to Android procedure

MrT10001 has the impression that some people are going back to Android. Would it be possible to do some work stressing the advantages and capability of UT? Could we offer more advice to those who decide to go back? A difficulty we have is that there is no single procedure which will return devices to Android. Each device needs its own tailored approach so a huge amount of work would be needed, documenting and updating the procedures. The guidance on each is a very specialist knowledge. Again, it is not somewhere we can direct our limited resources. If there are tips and links we can try to integrate them into our pages where possible but realistically the answers lie with forums and telegram groups. The questioner helps a great deal with the questions which come up from users.

The installer has to cope with all the hundreds of device-specific requirements in the UT direction. It is miraculous that it works so well.

Nearby share feature  

There was a question in livechat about whether it would be possible to build a ‘nearby share’ facility into UT devices? For sure that would be a ‘nice to have’ but not in our list of priorities. [First you have to find another user with a UT phone:)] Ratchanan commented from live chat that there is a similar functionality in the Chromium tree and it is open source, so perhaps there is a starting point.

See you next time :-)

Announcement of release model changes
starting with Ubuntu 24.04