Ubuntu Touch Q&A 98
Bluetooth new docs, NFC coming, Pinephone modem resetting news


Looking for the Audio-only version

of the Q&A?  You're just one big orange

button away -->

News and Update

This time the presenters were Florian, Marius, Dalton and Alfred.
Go to devices.ubuntu-touch.io for info about whether your device is supported.
Questions were taken first this time round.


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.

Anbox campaign

Rik asked Florian whether he has any perspective on the GoFundMe campaign to advance Anbox on the UT platform. 

It is a community driven initiative, not directly from the UBports Foundation itself but it is a very welcome move. More funding is still needed towards the target. The good news is that they already have a developer lined up to work on the project. The core team does not have the resources to do everything the community would like to be done, so this is a way to get some activity around one of the items which gets left off the list. Florian’s view is that reaching the target would just be the first stage, enabling enough progress to be made that the Anbox sub-project could attract further funding over a period of years. This campaign is about getting it into a reasonable state. After that it will need to be maintained and improved. Like any software project, success cannot be guaranteed and the rate of progress cannot be predicted in advance. We do however have an outline of what needs to be done and we will see what happens when the project starts. Thanks to Rudi and Steve for organizing the appeal.

VoLTE commnets 

Rik thanked Florian for the detailed comments on VoLTE which he posted in the main Telegram group. All of that is very helpful as an explanation for Android devices but what about the discussion around the PinePhone? Postmarket OS apparently got (US) T-Mobile working on PinePhone, with their platform?

The PinePhone modem is nice because it will handle things like IMS, which are an important part of delivering LTE. That modem does a lot of the handling that UT and ofono do on other devices. There has not been as much research done into the PinePhone modem interface with ofono as there has been with the modem-manager package, which Postmarket and Mobian use. The modem is not a full solution for LTE but it gets us a good part of the way.

Dual-boot devices

PoVoq asked whether we have any view on the dual booting of devices. Could the installer provide both UT and Lineage, for example?

Well it is technically possible to dual boot on some devices. There would almost certainly be a problem every time you updated and you would go back to single boot. Of course, you could just re-flash and dual boot again. A crucial issue with dual boot is that you have a shared user data partition. You can utilise the A and B slot for the operating systems but the data will be common to both. We use apparmor for security, whereas Android uses SElinux, so it is fair to assume that security would be substantially undermined by that setup.

Files belonging to one partition could also be unintentionally wiped by the other partition. Lineage is in any case designed to encrypt the partition by default and there is no easy setting to disable that. It could be forked to remove that limitation but you can see that it all starts getting complicated. It is important to understand that the A and B partitions are only there to simplify the process of updating. Updates are queued in the second partition, ready to be applied. It was never intended that they should be used for dual boot, so a lot of adaptation is needed. It is a hack, an exploit, and it will be messy and short term if you do get it partially working.

As with many things, this is not something the core team have time to explore but others are welcome to do so and there is already an app in OpenStore which enables you to do boot switching.

Partial support for Hotspot

Noname asked about a heading in the device listing, where it says ‘partial support for hotspot’. What does that mean?

Well, if something is not fully working, there should be an open bug for that device, describing the aspect that doesn’t work. If you don’t find that, you can file a bug for the absence of an explanation. There is an issue with hotspot for all devices. While it is working it is fine but sometimes it just refuses to activate. That is what is meant by ‘partial’.

Nextcloud and Carddav syncing

Prog-amateur is  awaiting delivery of a UT capable device and asked about syncing Nextcloud, Carddav and Onecloud content. Several methods have been described. What is the officially supported approach and is it safe to enter username and password in plain text in a script file, to update contacts for example. Could a simple UI interface be provided? Kuba_65_pl asked a related question about Volla phone and their ability to get Carddav working but inability to sync contacts.

There is work being done on this but it is done by volunteers who have to juggle that effort with a lot of other things. Marty has been doing quite a lot of work on it. He is a great person to be doing it but like everyone he is busy. His approach is to use the Carddav plugin from Sailfish OS as a basis for improving implementation in UT. Of course more progress could be made if a team of volunteers was working together on it. If you have the right skills, please step forward! You can contact Dalton in the first instance. A workaround for the time being is to export your contacts as a .vcf file and then import that to Contacts, then manually add them back to Nextcloud. That is slow and tedious but gets the job done. Various people have also made script files which will do something similar for you, using syncEvolution.

Canonical and UBports UT property rights

Kuba_65_pl also asked about something said in Q&A 96 about the intellectual property rights held by Canonical but extended to UT. Could that theoretically lead to UT being killed off by them at some time in the future? What about some actions by a future President of the United States, by way of sanctions?

We are authorized to use the name ‘Ubuntu Touch’ and the symbol of the circle of friends. We can sub-licence those to e.g. hardware vendors offering UT pre-installed. The source code itself is open, so there is no possibility of licensing having any impact on the continuation of our operating system. Nothing stops us from renaming but we want to acknowledge all the hard work done by Canonical, which got us where we are. We have though renamed Unity 8 to Lomiri because that better suits its future. We keep the Ubuntu name in the OS but all the references to Ubuntu in components are being removed, so their forks can take their place in other distros.

On the US presidency, if the imagined scenario did arise, our collective problems would be hugely bigger than any impact on our little operating system :)

Rust support

Fakone asked whether UT supports the Rust language for app development? We use Clickable as a development platform and that has a template for Rust, so the answer is yes. Choose Clickable >New or Clickable >Create and just choose Rust as your language.

Smaller format phone

Domubpkm asked whether UBports would consider promoting a smaller format phone, like the BQ 4.5? As 3g shuts down, that device will be deprecated. What device to choose in its place?
These days phones are nearly always bigger, so there are not many to choose from. Although a port isn’t complete yet there is some work being done on the Xperia X Compact. That is much like the BQ in size. The standard Xperia X is still relatively small though and works well, so right now that would be the recommended option.

Daniel Kulka asked the opposite question – what is the biggest phone supported? The answer is the Nexus 6P, easily.

How to help UBports project

If you would like to help out the UBports project but you are not sure how, we have a couple of suggestions. We would like to spotlight a couple of college level UT users, with their story of involvement with our OS. As it is a promotional thing, you would need to be happy with showing your face to the world as part of that.

Another way that users can help is by guiding people with their installs, in our Telegram Welcome group. Many installs go simply but some newer devices can throw up challenges and if you have succeeded with an install recently you may have some tips that you can share. The installer issue tracker is another venue to seek out, to find problems which you may be able to solve for new users. It is a very easy way to get started with giving back to the community and there is a real buzz when a new user manages their first install of UT.

Sponsors were thanked.

New Bluetooth documentation

There is new documentation available on back-porting Bluetooth drivers. If you are porting a device or helping someone who is porting a device, it will explain how to use current drivers to patch old kernels and get Bluetooth working on your device. Ari helped a lot with that. He also writing a lot of docs which will help with the porting of Halium 9. Where people failed with the GSI image approach, this may present them with another way that works better for them. Often the only way to assemble this type of documentation is to build it up anecdotally, as it isn’t even in rough note form to start with, just information that people carry around in their heads.

A better Sphinx scheme is being introduced, to improve the design of our documentation. It looks beautiful.

NFC project news

Alfred brought us up to date with his NFC project. The work so far has been merged into Devel and moved into RC, so it is ready for use by developers who want want to build apps around this new (for us) functionality. The implementation is directed towards app use, to enable reading tags but it also supports read/write for tags and P2P communication. Alfred showed a Volla phone and a Pixel 3a. Using the simple demo app that Alfred created for use as a test, he put them back to back and they exchanged a text.

What he is hoping is that app developers will produce some more adventurous apps using the functionality. One proposal put forward by a community member was to implement a scanner for the blood sugar monitors which are attached to the skin of people with diabetes. The framework version has also been built so you can target your application for 16.04.6. Clickable will reject NFC elements for now because it has not yet been updated to recognize them. That will be fixed very soon though. The NFC capability will not go into Stable until we have had some practical input from developers, so if you are a developer and you want to see it in OTA-17 you know what to do. Testing is key

PinePhone Teleports app fixed

One of the longest running issues with the PinePhone has been that Teleports was broken. Now it has been fixed. The problem was that the activity monitor which is supposed to spin even when the app is frozen, itself caused the app to freeze, by spinning… Interrupt the spinning and the app unfreezes. It is a Qt thing.

PinePhone modem resetting

Bhushan of Plasma Mobile fame has been working to stop the PinePhone modem resetting constantly. That leads to phone calls and SMS not working after the phone has come out of sleep mode. He spent more than a week this time trying to get to the bottom of it. In the implementation guide there was a brief note that a code put into the kernel would act as a fix. Actually it didn’t but that did provide the hint as to what was necessary. He has now written kernel patches which do work. There is still an outstanding issue we have where ofono doesn’t handle the network properly but we are nevertheless the closest we have ever been to a proper fix, thanks to his work. 

Developement insight

There have been some more updates based on 20.04 making their way into UT. SystemSettings is one of them, together with SystemsComponents. Indicators, biometrics and a host of other stuff had to go in too, to give this its functionality. There is a component (qmenumodel) which helps create menu models over dbus, across processes and then there is qmenuharness, which is a test suite for that. Or something :) Lomiri thumbnailer was also added. What that does isn’t so mysterious. Meanwhile, Rodney has been working on LomiriPush.

Florian explained that a new scheme has been rolled out for the Recovery. The nice UBports logo is back. This work was done by Luksus42. Marius has also tweaked the blinking pattern of Yumi on the load screen so that the blinks are random rather than regular. Much more lifelike! The original blinks were implemented by Marius and Jan for fun but we never got their rainbows and unicorns “for performance reasons”. Florian is trying to fork this new Recovery for use with Halium 7.1.

The Halium 7.1 port for the OnePlusOne is now ready for testing by all those who have the device but have no need of it as a daily driver. It is easily done. In your existing update area in Settings you will find a new channel called Halium Devel and you can switch directly to that. Having tested, you can also easily switch back the same way, without re-flashing. Two more PRs are needed but those should be in place by the time you read this.

See you next time :-)

Ubuntu Touch Audiocast 005 - Marketing with hot male