Ubuntu Touch Q&A 70
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News and Update

Presenting this week were Marius, Dalton and Florian.

66 pull requests merged

66 pull requests have been submitted this fortnight, with 35 of those not being translations. Lionel Duboeuf has done several things - Morph now has select tags. We especially need feedback on this feature. He also did an on screen keyboard tweak, so it will hide when you view attachments. A guide to using external libraries with Clickable has been updated by Jonny and will be a great help to app developers. Joan has removed hard-coded colors on a large batch of items across the OS. Work on QtWebEngine has been carried out, removing some blockages which prevented us matching the latest version of chromium. There are new icons in the Sound app. Ratchanan fixed some old issues, including the blank keyboard that sometimes appears. The guide to installing on old BQ phones has been updated by Michele. Ratchanan has also fixed a camera focus fault. Marius has cleaned out some dependencies from our projects, to facilitate later pooling of software with other open source phone projects and with Debian. Allan has fixed many of the translation sources for sync-monitor, the software that tells you when your credentials are out of date.

Push update notifications

Ubuntu Touch is capable of starting to download updates on receiving a push notification broadcast. We have not used this functionality for many months, but we have fixed the problems causing its absence. Now devices will automatically download system updates (if enabled) and prompt you to install them.

The dual SIM version of the Xperia X 

The dual SIM version is partially ported and available in the UBports Installer. However, installing is not quite as easy as other devices. Check the forum thread for more information: Sony Xperia X in Porting/Devices.

PinePhone builds

There is a GitLab project especially for our PinePhone build. Please update us with your issues there please.

Destination Linux interview

Those who want to hear more from Dalton can now head over to episode 161 of Destination Linux, where he is interviewed.

Sponsors were thanked.


The News section of our Forum is the best place to pose questions for the Q&A. YouTube live chat, Telegram and Matrix are other places to post a question.

Streaming platforms in music app

Wayne Johnson asked about connecting Spotify and other major music streaming platforms into a combined music app. Experience shows that having one app doing everything often means it doesn't do each individual thing well. There is a better case for linking a cluster of apps into some kind of shared handling layer, so that playing in the background for example is properly supported. There are several unrelated apps currently in the OpenStore which can operate in the background, so mechanisms are there. Closed API etc are an issue, though if you are a premium user of Spotify you can use that API in Ubuntu Touch. 

PinePhone and external display support

PoVoq asked whether the PinePhone will be able to support use of an external display, as current devices do? The answer is yes, support will come eventually but a lot of software needs to be built for that and of course for us getting the PinePhone working well as a phone is our first priority. Extending external functionality will come later. The way things work with existing devices in still not as smooth as we would like and we need to apply improvements across the whole range of them. Libertine is another area where we need to see improvement but again this involves all our devices, not just the PinePhone. A supplementary question was whether legacy apps on the PinePhone were already working better in some respects than other devices. It isn't yet but we are quite clear that it will eventually. It is a simple fact that Xwayland works better than Xmir, so in the end the PinePhone build will be superior for running arbitrary legacy apps.

Qt update?

Jan asked when the Qt update will be achieved? There is no timetable at present but all are agreed on the need for it. A new Qt will probably come some time after OTA-13 but no promises on timescale. 

Video streaming service LBRY

Jan also asked if we could use the video streaming service LBRY, as it is closer to our aims than YouTube? It uses a technology based on Blockchain. Can be used? While YouTube is not ideal from an ethical standpoint, we have to be practical. We have a user base on YouTube so it would mean doubling up on effort. We have to be practical and have a clear focus on our priorities. Extra work would not be welcome. 

Joint plans with KDE

Applee asked about our joint plans with KDE to make convergent apps with them, as was discussed at the Sprint. There is full agreement among all the platforms that this is the way ahead and of course the Qt update is the key to that.

LBRY and LBRY sync

Silvernote said LBRY will move content for big channels at no cost. Dalton doubted that 'big' includes us. A drawback is that LBRY does not have streaming. We do both, with a live version then an edited download. Apparently there is LBRY sync, so maybe something we could look at if it is easy.

Python programming on phone

Chat asked whether Python programming can be done on the phone if it is attached to an external display? The answer is that it cannot do that natively but it is of course an option to run a Libertine container for Python use.

PinePhone builds versus Edge channel builds

Gizmochicken wanted to know the differences between the builds for PinePhone and those hosted on the Edge channel? The biggest difference of course is that Edge still uses libhybris. PinePhone uses Wayland equivalents but apart from that the differences are minor. The Pinephone build is lagging behind Edge currently but that will change. Of course Edge is by definition experimental and unstable, whereas we are moving towards a stable version for the PinePhone build. They have very different purposes. Where you see xenial-edge-wayland labels that is where the basic differences are to be found. Quite soon, Ubuntu Touch will look the same, whether you are running it on a Nexus 5 or a PinePhone.

Fuseteam asked whether Unity8 could become a tiling window manager

Some of the hot keys you are used to from Unity 7 do work and there is snapping to corners or edges on desktop. As for other more advanced (think i3) functions, that is probably not where we want to go. 

Foundation bank account

We have been asked again if contributions can be made direct to UBports Foundation bank account. There is such an account but before we can give out details we need to put in place some very detailed accounting procedures, in order to meet the requirements of our not for profit status. Those detailed procedures are still being worked out but we will certainly let you know when we are ready to welcome your money by that mechanism. Meanwhile, put your money aside and be ready! (said in jest, thank you so much for your interest)

Home screen and pull down indicators.

Someone in the live chat asked what we plan to do with the blank 'home screen', now that scopes have gone. There has been a lot of debate and some controversy about that. At the moment there are no fixed plans. The discussion can continue. Potentially, we can add features but we need to take our time and decide. The only certainty is that we will not please everyone. We need proposals that also work for desktop, as we want to be convergent. We need to maintain navigability. Lots of discussion is still required. 

The indicator bar at the top does not pull down if you drag from below an area where there are no indicators. Pulling down below an indicator does of course work. We may change this aspect of the UI to make it more intuitive.

APT updates

Erland made some points about the PinePhone and why it would be that a device like that should be read only and not have apt updates?

This is a fundamental point about Ubuntu Touch which comes up often. Our first aim, as we state regularly, is to ensure that ordinary users (think family) will not mess up their daily driver phone. In many ways a phone is now an indispensable part of daily life and essential in emergency situations. It has to work.

The second point about this is that we have always had as our primary objective a phone not necessarily for technologists. It is not our 'business plan' to focus on the needs of developers and others who are very tech savvy. Often people who have just heard about Ubuntu Touch expect and want a desktop experience on a small device. They want 'full traditional desktop Linux'. That was not exactly the intention of Canonical and it is not ours either.

We are headed forwards to something more appropriate for a 'computer in your pocket'. Traditional desktop Linux would for us be a step backward in time. We accept of course that Libertine needs to be substantially improved, so that very technically competent individuals can import major elements of the desktop experience. We are not trying to shut that out. Modifying the core system to be a desktop emulator is not on our agenda at all though. A phone has a 'weird' design because it is a phone. Unlike a desktop, Ubuntu Touch confines apps. That is deliberate and done to promote privacy

GNOME, MATE, and XFCE on postmarketOS, Fedora, Ubuntu, and more, are working for PinePhone and PineTab. If you are looking for a traditional desktop experience, they will do it better than us.. The experience is unlikely to be great because of the form factor but maybe that is not your priority. We don't want to go backwards to a desktop

Take the example of writing a document and sending it by email. You have to go through the file system. In Ubuntu Touch, we have a Content Hub which handles those processes in an integrated fashion, easily understood by the average phone user. That is a big advantage. On desktop everything needs the file system. But Content Hub is also at the heart of our approach to privacy. Telegram does not have access to the photos in your Gallery. Via the Content Hub it has access to the one photo that you, the user, hand to it.

It is true that there is a File Manager too but why would you always make things more difficult for yourself by using that? The argument actually goes further than this. Our focus on mobile will feed back into desktop computers, making them better and easier to use. Moving our Content Hub architecture into Debian will be a concrete example of that. We are not alone. Apple is making desktop OSX ever more like iOS for mobile. Android and Chrome OS are popular because they work like this! Sometimes it is nice just to get the job done. You want to be able to use your phone as a phone!

We have an image based update system. Every phone has the same revision. We don't suffer from the problem of having an infinite number of different setups to contend with and their infinite potential to generate conflicts which wreck stability. Our stable is very stable. Tweaking and adding would inevitably sometimes blow it apart. Everyone who has ever used a desktop has had crashes and errors which left them with no option but to do a complete reinstall. We don't want that hassle with a phone.

Updating our way is very fast. We don't want to change to a slow update, which could leave users stranded and out of communication. In short, we believe we are headed forward, not back.

Finally, to a question in live chat, yes there is Russian language support in Ubuntu Touch - and many other languages as well.

See you next time :-)

Lomiri: New Name, Same Great Unity8