Ubuntu Touch Q&A 83
OTA-13 and Qt news


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News and Update

This week those hosting were Florian and Marius.

OTA-13 in QA

The big item of news is that OTA-13 is finally being issued. It was supposed to be a quick and small release but turned out huge. There are over 60 items on the project board. QA will be a big task because there is a lot to check. If you want to help with that get rc channel, where it will be dropped before moving to stable. You will find the QA column on Github. You can test and write comments on them there. If you are are a bit nervous about using Github you will also find a Forum thread where you can pass on your findings. That means double entry though, so please use Github if you can.

The rc update will be out on Wednesday and should now be in Stable on the 16th of September. This is a change since the Q&A was broadcast and updated on the 7th of September.

ARM64 support and Halium 7 support is now present. Huge thanks go out to Notkit, Erfan, Alfred and Rachanan for the amazing work they put into that and of course a big shout out to all the Halium guys. It uses the same libhybris as ARMHF. Some 8 and 9 support has been added too but we are not quite there yet with those.

One effect of this is that devices using Halium 7 will now be able to use the installer and to get updates via the server in the normal way. Xiaomi Redmi 4 and OnePlus3/3T should be immediate beneficiaries of that, along with the little mentioned but nice BQ Uplus. That ease of install should extend the user base of those phones quite considerably. The Nexus 6P will be up soon too.

Qtwebengine 5.14 is in. It is independent from other Qt components so we were able to jump ahead a few versions with that. It has much better support for hardware acceleration, an effect which is very visible on the PinePhone. Stability and security is much improved. The browser is probably the most frequently used app so it needs to be good. Big thanks go to Chris and the Morph team.  There are still some bugs but with this version it is now one of the best apps we have. Browsers are incredibly complicated things and it would be hugely beyond our capability to build one from scratch. We are very lucky to have Qtwebengine.

The update to Qt as a whole to version 5.12 which Marius has been working on definitely results in a noticeable performance increase. On ARM64 startup is instant.

OTA-13 is packed full of bug fixes and there are some UI improvements. Apps now have a nice startup splash screen and some disappearing translations are now in place.

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.

Halium 7 based new devices

Danct6 asked whether the newer devices based on Halium 7 will get OTA-13. The answer is yes. There are quite a few Sony Xperia devices powered by that now. If you installed to one of those devices manually then your phone will not have access to the update system. If you re-install using the installer, then from now on you will be able to get updates through Settings in the normal way. Of course the porter has to upload the installer script for their device, before the installer will work. 

Qt 5.12 test build

Danct6 also asked whether the Qt 5.12 test build can be tried out for QA purposes yet? Well Marius has installed it but it was a difficult process. You would need to expand your rootfile system before trying to do it because the process is very slow. Then boot to recovery, use reset FS etc. Then repartition… So in other words it is basically hard to do. We want to get it into Edge or Devel channel as soon as possible and then it will be easy for you to check it out. It is best to be patient for a while and wait. One thing you won’t be able to see at this point is it working on a PinePhone. 

Core apps in OpenStore

Danct6 also asked about Dialer, Contacts, Morph and similar apps and why they are not in OpenStore, making it easier to update them? Part of the reason is that those apps are heavily permission based, so there is much more of a security issue with them. Beyond that, they actually provide components to the system itself, so they are ‘core’ structurally, not just in terms of their importance.  For instance, the QML wrapper from Morph is available to webapps and is not exclusive to Morph. It is also closely tied to Qtwebengine and that is of necessity a system component rather than an app. 

Qt 5.12 for OTA-14

Gizmochicken asked about Qt 5.12 and if it is any clearer whether it will be in OTA-14 or have to wait until OTA-15? If we have to wait until OTA-15 can we have a taster before? Well it is basically the same question as above and yes you will be able to preview in either Devel or Edge ‘soon’. Putting it in Edge first would be nice because then we would not interrupt the Devel cycle. 

Emoji font update

It was asked if there any updates on the emoji font? This question is about Openmoji font, displacing Emoji 1. We apologise for the fact that we are still on a very old emoji version, which means that newer ones received appear as blank squares. The Openmoji designs don’t fit well with our design guidelines but go to openmoji.org and see what you think?

Firewall in UT

Telnina said “don’t want to be nasty but” is there a plan or a timeline for a firewall in UT? We have not enabled a firewall in UT because the architecture is unusual. There are no ports open in UT by default. There are also no services running by default. A firewall would add a medium amount of weight to the system and would consume battery.  Provided that there is nothing open, there is nothing that needs blocking. It is one of those issues which is worth revisiting periodically and Marius will dig into it a little deeper with the Canonical engineers who initially decided to exclude it. 

Florian commented that if someone was able to do something malicious with UT, to force a port to open, then a firewall could play a useful role by closing it. One thing for sure is that a firewall is very dependent on the kernel and since we are often working with old kernels, that could make any introduction of a firewall messy.

In a follow up, it was asked if it could have a role in blocking certain outbound traffic? Well the issue there is one of complexity. For the average user controlling functions like that would need a graphical interface and how would they make sense of the settings? That difficulty really suggests the option of an app installable from the OpenStore for those who do know what they are doing, rather than exposing a confusing settings dialogue in the installed system.

PinePhone Special session

Joelandsonja put a general question about the current state of play with the PinePhone. That is a big and important subject and really it would be nice to have a guest on a future Q&A who can concentrate specifically on PinePhone questions. We need to have a think about what format would be best for a ‘PinePhone Special’ session.

Difference between Lomiri and Phosh

Eb_ asked what we prefer about Lomiri compared with Phosh and why are we not going the Librem 5 route? There are some similarities between the two for sure but they also have important differences and they are not trying to do the same thing. Lomiri is intended to be platform agnostic. Phosh is short for ‘phone shell’ – as the name says, it is for one platform only. It is also heavily tailored to the Librem 5 device in particular, rather than being for phones in general. 

It actually goes further than that. With Lomiri it is not just a question of running on different devices but it uses the same code base for all. It is designed to detect the hardware and adapt to it seamlessly. Of course it follows that Lomiri is much more complex because it has to achieve much more.

Because it does much more, it is perfectly capable of use as a desktop environment by people who have never even heard of UT. 

Lomiri doesn’t use X11 at all, it only uses Wayland so it is not weighted down with legacy requirements. On Manjaro, with a newer version of Qt, it flies. At the moment, Lomiri development is not really looking at performance boosts but the areas of potential are clear and those tweaks will come in the next phase. Stability (on desktop) is of course the main focus for now. It is already very stable on the phone. 

Right now GTK is not a good solution for mobile phones. We don’t know what will be in GTK4 but there could be something to make it more attractive for mobile? But even then, Qt development is really very impressive indeed, so likely to remain our mainstay.

QA automated system

Tygerpro asked how the new QA system recently talked about is coming along? It seems not quite ready yet but Jan will be able to comment more on that. 

Swap changes on PinePhone

ThatGeoGuy asked four questions -  If swap changes are made on the PinePhone, those changes are always overridden by later updates. Why is that? The answer to that is that everything is written over because of the way the system architecture is designed. The update system is designed above all else for stability. No channel – not even Devel – has ever failed in stability terms, over the years of using them. Edge channel can fail because of bad code but the update system itself has never failed. (There was one apparent exception when too many packages were put into the cache partition, causing a crash, but that was human error not a failure of the update system).

Our updates are image based, which means that every single update on every single device is the same. Deltas are used, which replace those parts of your system which need to be altered. It doesn’t write the whole system, it edits instead. We give everyone the same thing in order to be 100% certain of stability. That is our policy because a phone is critical equipment. You can update just before a long flight and know that your phone will still work when you arrive. For the same reason, our file system is read only by default. 

Florian asked what would happen in the event that software downloaded with apt had messed with parts of the system. Would the installer recognize that something was wrong and do a full install or would it just apply deltas as usual and maybe get it wrong? It needs looking into more but there is an answer of course in the checksum. Each system ought to be the same and if it isn’t we can see that there has been a modification. Rodney suggested that it is more a file based process than a binary blob process. If so, it is a bit smarter than just a byte editor. 

It would probably be a good idea to generate a warning when it is clear that a root file system has been changed, so that the user can make an informed decision about whether to continue. 

ZRAM progress on the PinePhone?

This is a form of compressed RAM. It can be quite slow because of that. It might mean in this case that swap would be a better idea. Rodney interjected that swap is a bad idea on phones but actually we already use it in some places :)

Bug triage guidance

There is documentation on how to file bugs but as ThatGeoGuy pointed out, there is no guidance on how to triage bugs which have already been filed. For now, please reach out to Florian or others for assistance on how the process works. We will have to sort out some written guidance.


The components for Qt development still have Ubuntu in the name but shouldn’t they now say Lomiri?

There has in fact been some renaming. There is a repo on Gitlab where that has been done and it is already on its way to Debian. Despite the name, the components are not specific and work in Fedora, Arch, Manjaro etc. 

Powerhouse devices?

There was a question in livechat about UT coming to ‘powerhouse’ i.e. cutting edge (expensive) phones? Well, not everyone wants or is able to spend €600 on a phone.  However, Marius held up an FX phone, with attached keyboard, which is certainly a powerhouse. It has 6GB of RAM and has great convergence capability but it certainly isn’t cheap, as it is around that price. 

Alfred has made good progress with the Pixel 3A but for later devices in the series we have an issue that the Halium build for Android 9 is not quite ready yet and there is nothing at all for Android 10. 

There was a quick question about 5G. 

It is pretty similar to LTE so hopefully it won’t be a major problem for us to implement. 

See you next time :-)

Call for Testing: Ubuntu Touch OTA-13