Ubuntu Touch Q&A 139
5G, new browser alongside Morph, FP2 with Focal




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News and Update

Ubports Q&A 139 held on 27 April 2024.

Marius, Flo and Alfred presented. 

Recent happenings on Gitlab

Marius gave an update to recent happenings on our Gitlab. Some progress has been made on 5G and an indicator for that status has been added. The Settings page has been amended with the option to enable 5G. Lots of bugs have been fixed. Luca has brought in some features first developed within postmarketOS. Kugi has been fixing some bugs in Lomiri UItoolkit. The main focus has been to ensure compatibility with Debian and with the latest Ubuntu version. We are already about 90% complete on that objective.

QtMir is still split between Debian and Ubuntu modes, mainly because of version issues. Mirclient is still needed for UT at the moment. Getting Mir 2.0 to work with Halium is a huge task. Once we switch to Noble there will be two years until the next LTS, so plenty of time to catch up with Mir work.

We have a patch on accountservice, allowing greeter access. That is the last big piece of the puzzle to complete.

Test releases of Ubuntu Unity and lomiri have been made. They certainly are not ready for general use but as prototypes, Marius is finding that the basics work well. Once it reaches a threshold of functionality, that should draw in a lot of interest and get developers on board with shaping it. Our hope is that progress will accelerate.

LionelD has created a new Contacts back end and is calling for testing.

This should be a big step forward, as the hope is that it will enable seamless syncing of contacts. If you decide to help, please make sure that you have independent backups, as you may lose (especially any new) data. Our aim is to cut off from any dependency on Google for synchronisation and to build instead around Nextcloud backup.

Fairphone 2

Flo reported that Focal is at last working on FP2. It is still a very dated device and there will not be any stunning performance improvement. For those whose top concern is sustainability, it is however a great example of how the latest UT can run on ancient hardware. Thanks to Mohammed for persisting with this work. Nexus 5 may follow but that hardware really is showing its age.

New browser in development

Alfred has been doing some experiments towards a new browser for UT. A demo was shown. It is already very fluid. The URL bar is at the bottom and the keyboard swipes up. It runs on 60fps. It is fully compliant so it doesn’t need the permission tweaks that our current chromium based browser requires. The browser is based on the Apple webkit model. Unlike chromium there is gstringer support for multimedia. That means hardware accelerated video decoding is happening. Just to make clear, this is still in the early stages it is coming along well but is not a finished product yet.

Flo commented that since Morph is based on a late version of Qt 5, we cannot upgrade the webengine until we reach Qt 6. Unfortunately that is a big challenge and we don’t even have the resources to try at the moment. New HTML5 tricks are not compatible with the old Qt version, so some websites are just a mess. With Morph, that will only get worse as pages are upgraded. There are some webapps which no longer work because of those library issues. Potentially, those could be made to work again.

Planet Igalia have done a lot of work bringing Webkit into Qt and Alfred was able to build on that. There is upstream at Apple, which can be compiled to Linux, so there is a process of updating which we can simply hook into. In addition, we aim to have an incubation area where we can add independently to our fork. We can tweak the UI to suit our format.

Marius pointed out that the system is so integral to the operation of our current browser that it isn’t possible to upgrade Morph without also upgrading the system. That is a bit crazy. OpenSSL and newer Wayland libraries are used by Webkit so the modifications needed by webkit lead us straight to 24.04.

The future name and the detail of the UI are being kept secret by Alfred but he did say that the browser will be named after a person.

In response to a question, Marius said that we will be keeping Morph browser, so that there is an active choice. Decisions may be made about whether it is bundled with the system and if eventually we lose interest in supporting it, that could open up security vulnerabilities. But that is getting well ahead of ourselves. People should check out the beta when it becomes available and let us have feedback about URL bar at top v. bottom. The app will be fully confined, so it can be shared safely without having full OpenStore approval. The current file size is 50MB, which is trivial. Webkit uses cmake to compile. Webkit has OpenXR but whether we could ever put the drivers together is no clear.

Fairphone 5

Marius has continued work on getting FP5 to a usable state. That device has 5G, so Marius is using it to build implementation of 5G in UT. Marius has been experimenting with Voice Over Wifi. VoLTE has taken a back seat for past couple of weeks.

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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.

Apps development and updates 

Enteauth is a new unofficial client which will allow you to backup 2FA secrets.

Time Series allows the recording of data which evolves over time, such as health, rainfall etc.

Wegwijs is an app which shows traffic conditions and fuel prices en route.

Stremio webapp is a front end for the Stremio service, which integrates video feeds from a range of different sources. The aim is for it to become a native app.

Splider is an app for splitting bills. It is cross-platform so friends can do the calculations online.

WifiTransfer was a very useful app which stopped working a while back. Now it has been rebuilt so that it works on Focal.

Axolotl is now Axolotl2. It is an unofficial Signal client for UT. Bear in mind that it only functions as a slave app. To register the account, you must use an official mechanism, which might be an old Android phone.

Brian, who runs OpenStore has authored an app himself. It is called Gotify and is a simple messenger to run a self-hosted Gotify instance. Messages are limited to text format and the expected use case is to copy a URL while using your phone and send it to the Gotify app on your laptop.

Whatsweb is back and has been updated but as always may face difficulties and like Axolotl, it relies on a ‘main’ device which is not running UT.

Snap Store and OpenStore

JohnDoe asked about the relationship between OpenStore, Snap Store and UT: will the continue independently or will we get a hybrid store? Will OpenStore eventually disappear because we will no longer use Clicks? For the foreseeable future, what we intend is that the OpenStore will remain our one stop shop. It will dispense Click apps and it will (we hope) list direct links to Snap downloads.  Nothing is absolutely fixed yet, so we would value feedback.


Alberto in live chat asked whether Flatpaks can be installed in Libertine. Marius replied that it would actually be quite complicated to do that. Given the limits of the containerised approach, it would actually be much easier to concentrate on implementing Flatpaks within the OS. There is nobody available to work on that at the moment though.

Canonical and Ubuntu Touch

A question which got asked again is the attitude of Canonical towards current day UT. It seems to us that they like it a lot and the Canonical employees who we work with are certainly enthusiastic and supportive. We have a very good relationship. They don’t make grandiose public statements about UT as a matter of policy but the vibe is a good one. We stood on their shoulders and we are still immensely grateful. They did a great job.

24.04 when? *soon.

It is too early to give an estimate of when the next OTA will be released.

See you next time :-)

Ubuntu Touch Q&A 136
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