Ubuntu Touch Q&A 50


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Show Notes

News and Updates

Dalton is alone this time. He “fired all his co-hosts” [joke]. He announced that they plan to play around with the format a bit. In the case of this episode, to make it shorter. This is the 50th edition, so a good point at which to review how things are done.

One of the things this time will be more of a focus on the live chat. It is always noted obviously but this time a little more intensively.

First off, the OTA-9 release. This was hugely important. New Suru icons, Nexus 5 camera and QtQuick controls have all been implemented this time round. All about that is set out in our blog post on the subject. For those out there who still don’t know about the release, you can go to the Updates page of your UBports device and click on the update which is waiting there. You can find the page in Settings. It will work automatically, unless you have some pending app updates – which you should attend to first. Of course, if you don’t yet have a Ubuntu Touch device, you can head over to our devices web page and see if you have one that is supported.

There are some new apps in the OpenStore. Lionel Duboeuf has been on a roll, adding already built apps running Qt to the store. So we now have Stellarium app, the night sky app we all know and love. Shows where stars are etc. Sensor support is not available yet but it has the other features. He has also been busy with the Drumkit app. The very first iPod had an app like that. You can lay down beats and record them. Dalton declined to demonstrate as his sense of rhythm is not great currently.

Incidentally, Podbird has been updated and old episodes now appear in Downloads lists. Fixes to the dark theme and new translations to the core apps are other things you may have noticed but you can check out full details in a cool blog submitted by Brian, who maintains a commentary on the core apps.

Dalton at this point thanked our many sponsors.


Do we have a bank account, now that we are a foundation? Can we simply donate direct to that, without intermediaries? Actually, it isn’t quite as simple as that. We have met the initial requirement but there are still some admin things being done to finalize it. So we are not yet able to create a functioning bank account.

Discussions are ongoing with the Berlin authorities and we expect a result around the end of June. After approval is granted, there is still some more paperwork to be done. It sounds like moving the goalposts but that is the way the thing works.

Ewald (who you met at Q&A 45) is at an event hosted by Volla, more in a business capacity than a technical one. They want to use Sailfish, UBports, Nemo etc. as the basis for a new OS. With GPL software, that of course can happen. Jan had planned to be going but unfortunately he is ill at the moment so not able to attend.

Can we now obtain public grant funding?

Yes, that is something we are now allowed to seek.

On our ability to fund full-time development work. In principle that is possible. Both Dalton and Marius are working on UBports at present, at substantially below market rate. More funding would mean a greater ability to support arrangements like that.

What's the expected performance of the upcoming Pinephone, now in development?

It is the product of Pine64, the same company that make the Pinebook and there is a very large Pinephone topic already on the forum. It is based on the Alwinner64 chip. 2Gb of RAM. It uses the same Maui gpu as the original BQ 4.5. It has a slightly better pixel rating (1440x720) than that device. Performance between the two should be similar. We may be using the open source Lima driver with it, which would be a bit slower but would improve over time. Alternatively, we could use the Mali driver and that would allow us to harness the full performance of the chip. As we get closer to the release date, we will be trying out both.

How about bug bounties?

That topic has been discussed a lot on the forum. It is a way of crowd-funding getting bugs addressed. BountySource is a commercial expression of that idea. UBports project actually has an account there but neither Marius nor Dalton has succeeded in getting access to any seed funding through it. There is in any event a 10% cut taken through use of that intermediary. The main issue though is that people assume that ‘their’ bug will be sorted if they pay. But the work involved is not easy to quantify. It may be a very complicated process with a stubborn problem. The existence of funding doesn’t magically mean it becomes easy to resolve. There might be four components interacting in an unhelpful way, with an architecture rebuild needed to overcome that. The cost of doing that would be way beyond the say $50 put up to address the bug. Much better is to have a named person who has stepped up with an offer to fix something and who has specified a price for doing so, independent of the funding platforms.

We do follow the ‘Ubuntu Mate model’. Obviously there are privacy issues with disclosing the detail of any direct funding arrangement.

What about Wireguard?

Dalton noted that it is very fast and very easy to set up. It is however implemented in kernel. Is it 4.19? We by comparison are still using 3.4 or 3.10. We would therefore need to backport somehow or implement it independently in userspace. Support is not on any road map but it would certainly be an interesting feature. NetworkManager would incidentally be ready to support it out of the box. That would help greatly.

What's the potential for using Godot game engine?

Dalton has tried to use it before but failed miserably. At FOSDEM he visited their booth and attended a talk given by their team. The guys who maintain Godot are awesome. Dalton hasn’t looked at their device support much . Adding support for templates seems pretty simple. We have EGL but getting it to talk to Mir correctly is something that would have to be done. So we are “Waiting for Godot” [see Samuel Beckett for those that don’t know ...}

How about SPURV from Collabora project?

It is about running Android apps on Wayland, using surfaceflinger. Unfortunately it uses systemd nspawn tool. That rules us out. Anbox in any event makes it easier to run apps in containers. We run two binders with that to allow containment.

Are we in any specific discussions with Pine64 about the Pinetab?

The tab is another project from this public facing company. A 10.1 tablet with detachable keyboard. It is a nice project and yes we are in discussions with them. Finding a suitable touchscreen was a key point that needed to be sorted out and we believe that one has now been sourced, so the project should be coming back. There are lots of similarities with the Pinephone so porting should be fairly straightforward.

The Pinetab will have a similar performance to the BQ 4.5, so basically enough. The crucial point about all of these though is not amazing performance but that they are all in the range $100-150. That will allow developers to easily get hold of these new. Their real benefit is that they will put this hardware into the hands of those who can build Ubuntu Touch and its apps with them.

Will there be another porting video guide?

Yes, we aim to make one but haven’t got around to it yet. The last one had some volume control problems. Users in Germany and Austria have been discussing on the forum how to create some new porting videos. Hopefully they will come up with something soon.

Will the OnePlusFive work because OnePlusOne works?

Unfortunately, no. Partly because both contain lots of proprietary Android stuff. ARM and Android characteristics mean a separate port for every single device.

Has any progress has been made in making UT Halium compatible?

Netkit and Fredl have been doing a lot of work on that. It is continuing and we expect that it will lead to more ports being completed.

[Dalton very graciously thanked me, LionelB, for the work I do listening to these Q&A broadcasts and putting them into – hopefully- clear written format for the blog]

We are on lots of social media.

Feedback on how we should do these Q&A sessions in future is particularly welcome.

Ubuntu Touch Q&A 51
Christmas in June