Ubuntu Touch Q&A 78
Third stable PinePhone update


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News and Update

Alfred, Dalton and Marius presented, this time around.


Dalton showed his PinePhone box, which has a design based on the UT circle. DHL are delivering now but other deliveries will be slower or problematic for some countries. If you missed out on this version, the same hardware will be shipping in July with Postmarket OS pre-installed and they will get the $10 donation. Since it will be the exact same phone you will of course be able to load UT. On the Pine64 forum there is a shipping blog.

The third stable update for PinePhone is now out. The suspend battery time has been improved by many hours and the indicator now shows your cell connection. A modem issue has been fixed for the USA. It was sticking with LTE rather than adapting to the signal available. We are currently tracking down a variety of new issues with cell providers, as many are being tested out with UT on the PinePhone for the first time.

If you have a new PinePhone you are welcome to join the new group which Florian has created on Telegram. Go to @utonpine to join it. The PineTab pre-order sold out within three days of going live, just last week. Congratulations to everyone lucky enough to get one.

Apps updates

On the apps front, Fluffychat on UT now has E2E encryption of chats if you use the Pantalaimon service [which you can run locally on a Raspberry Pi for example]. Sprint launcher for UT offers a more traditional Home screen, provided that Sprint is active. Of course Sprint can be kept on the UT launcher. Podbird has been upgraded with an improvement which allows imports from Antennapod on Android. Podbird is still maintained but you will find the page on Launchpad. Notes app comes preinstalled with UT. It will now update properly on Arm64 devices and there are UI improvements in progress. The overview screen now looks much better.

Porting updates

Alfred reported progress with porting. A lot of new devices keep appearing. Builds are now on the server for many although with graphical support in the form of the installer not as yet. Galaxy Note 4, Xperia Performance and others are now up.

Instead of individual branches under the names of those porting devices, everything now appears in a single channel. It is also immediately clear which version and architecture are involved, so it is much easier to understand and use.

Erfan has done a lot more. Android 9 device names show up correctly on the push server. Kernel patches have been implemented to remedy the missing battery charge indicator on some devices. Brightness, time settings and other indicators have all seen fixes.

Notkit has developed a working port for the F(x)tec device with the sliding keyboard!

Marius has UT 'running' on his PineBook Pro although it is not usable at all at the moment. There is for example no mouse at all...

Zach asked where he should go to get information about porting? You can ask in @Halium for the initial steps or in @UT_porting for more specific UT issues. Both on Telegram.

Ancaf asked whether he should switch to Stable on PinePhone, to avoid any issues with updating while on rc. At the moment that is not going to help because there is no practical difference between rc and Stable. As work progresses, we will move towards the same system as that used for devices previously on Android and then Stable will be appropriate for those who want more certainty.

Sponsors were thanked. 


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.

Full device encryption

Keneda asked whether we can expect full device encryption for UT? It is certainly something we want to do but it will be very complicated. Stability issues with the existing build come first in our priorities. To give one example, GPS is very hit-and-miss. We need to get to a point where it is universally reliable. We do have a unique advantage in that writable data is separate from our OS. In other words, you get to a login prompt before any user data is accessible. That advantage is a nice to have but does not in itself make the task a simple one.

PinePhone daily device build

Libremax asked when we can expect that the build for PinePhone will reach the same functional standard as that of the Nexus 5 build? Marius explained that probably the most crucial factor is that we have switched to Wayland for the PinePhone and we are using software that was not built for mobile, let alone been tested on a mobile device before. It is an exploration. There is a constraint that our new design OS must be back compatible with previous devices. Kernel changes have been needed too. Wake up needs to be Linux function, rather than an adaptation of the Android function, to give just one example. We don't know what we dont know. Google did some strange things with Android but as we study what they did to adapt Linux to mobile, their logic becomes more obvious and stops looking quite so random. They came up with some inventive fixes for the mobile platform because that is what they were designing for. To summarize, it is a slow process -- think in terms of months. We very much want UT on Pinephone to be daily driver ready but work needs to be done and it will take time.

Just to be clear, we do not claim at all that it is a sensible choice for daily driver right now. Having said that, there are users out there who are using it that way and we are very grateful to them because that accelerates bug reporting and that in turn accelerates development.

UBports merchandise stuff

Engineer asked if we could set up a merchandise stall for UBports stuff, to raise funds by selling stickers etc. That would be very cool but quite simply we are very busy with other things. We are able to ship things via Patreon sponsorship because they fulfill the supply of T-shirts and stickers on our behalf. Otherwise the answer is no, to be honest. Added to that, there are taxes and shipping issues and while we have developer skills, we honestly have no clue about retail.

New UBports website design coming?

Stanwood asked about the new UBports website and when it will be coming online? The design is indeed coming along very nicely but the work is being done entirely by community volunteers in their spare time. It will progress in line with time they are able to devote to it, so again a definite timetable is not on the cards. It will be great when it is done.

Xperia X stable channel

Dave asked whether it would be possible to soon have a stable channel for the Xperia X, as updates have sometimes failed and the installer has to be used again. The first point made by Alfred was to file a bug so that the issue can be identified and fixed. There is a known cosmetic error with Bitmap but maybe there are other things. A Stable channel has been requested a lot of times. Alfred himself wants that too! What is in Edge will go to Stable at some point. There is a known kernel stability issue and that will have to be fixed as part of that.

3D games on UT

Barz explained that as a 3D artist rather than programmer, it is difficult to see how they can help with the UT project, which they admire. It would be great though to present 3D games graphics to clients on a UT device. Is it realistic to hope for 3D support in UT at some point? First, on the practical side the UX team do a lot of amazing design work and are always looking for more people to join them. Perhaps you could help there?  There is no immediate prospect of 3D support in UT but it is interesting that there is a 3D project within Qt. Since we base on Qt that might open up possibilities for us. Our aim is to move all devices to Wayland so although we could imagine some options in Mir, it would not make any sense for us to pursue them. Adding 3D capability to Clickable would be wonderful of course. Getting Vulkan to work would need libhybris support and that is a major obstacle.

Ubuntu Touch circle lock screen

Zarek asked about the circle on the lock screen. Dalton explained that there is one dot for every day of the current month, with the dot for today enlarged. Other dots are highlighted if they hold data for the current metric (for example, SMS messages sent). With a double tap on the circle, you can progress to the next metric. It has never really had any practical use. It is just a fun thing that has always been part of UT. In principle, it could be modified to do something more directly useful. Ubuntu Touch lock screen blog

PinePhone daily device

Encaf said that version 3 of the build for PinePhone now makes it possible to use the phone as daily driver - if you carry a power-pack or two. As Marius said above, we don't recommend daily driver use yet, although the battery is no longer the main reason. We are up to14 hours on standby, so broadly in Android territory. It can now receive calls though, which is useful!

Going back to interesting Android solutions, there are audio chipsets in some devices which instead of having a capacity of a few hundred kilobytes as you would expect, are equipped with many megabytes of storage. That makes it possible to buffer a podcast or similar into the chipset and feed it from there, without involving the CPU. There are multiple things like that which enable them to squeeze more out of battery life.

Improvement to auto suspend and other things in UT have the potential to give us better battery life too.

See you next time :-)

Ubuntu Touch Q&A 61
Ubucon Europe, Unity 8 and new Mir