UBports Q&A 104 on 17 July 2021
The show was presented by Florian and Dalton.
Go to devices.ubuntu-touch.io for info about whether your device is supported.
Indicator-network is finished and merged for 20.04. Mir 1.8.0 is done too. Rodney is working on ways to install .click packages without root, which we very much need because the old mechanism we used to achieve that will no longer be available. While doing all this we are working on ways to have this content work as an upstream source for others. Rachanan and Mike are currently working on scripts which will make that easier. You can find those in Devscripts in our Gitlab.
Incorporated into our Gitlab we now have ‘epics’ which set out the issues which need to be addressed to make 20.04 happen. In each epic you will see a list of milestones. They are not absolutely comprehensive but you will see a great many of the items we need to work on to reach our goal.
We start with system images for each device and then build that out with an app ecosystem which works nicely with those system builds. Testing comes next and that is where many more of you will be able to help us. We are aiming to support ‘all’ currently supported devices and although we have not met any device roadblocks yet, there is no guarantee that the 20.04 build will work with everything. It is a fairly lightweight style of project management, which has the advantage that Dalton is able to handle it without getting completely weighed down with the task.
We have just seen a couple of interesting updates to OpenStore. It now has a structure in place for the future support of apps which run on the Focal (20.04) build. This is about getting ahead of the game, so we are ready as soon as Focal comes on stream. Many thanks to Brian for his work on that. Aside from that, OpenStore now displays a version history for apps. Not only does it show them but it links to downloads for those older versions.
Jonny has been working on Clickable support ready for 20.04. It will need further modification alongside the ongoing preparations but again the intention is to have it completed by the time we make the formal switch.
If you are looking at those epics but you don’t have a device which runs UT you may be wondering how you might make use of it.
There was a Teleports update which Florian pushed right after his holiday. He urged contributors to finish off their Prs so that we could get the release out there. The big change that everyone will notice is the support for animated stickers. You might say that is not a very important change but when stickers are out there and being used by other platforms, the blank rendering in Teleports looked ugly and was a real pain. It isn’t serious or important but for some smiles, it was worth doing. Michele worked on this for months. Telegram use a very strange format called rloti which had to be implemented in Teleports. They are vector animations not gifts. As a result they are sharp and scalable which makes them look very nice but adding them was not that easy for us because the format is new and rather obscure. We had to ship 3D friendly libraries and add them to QML. In some sticker packs the animations run a bit slower than in the official clients. If you have an attached keyboard, pressing the ESC key will now close chats. When there were a lot of updates after a while of not being used there were some crashes but bug fixes have been applied to that. The main bug was linked to the use of forwarded messages. Too many of those caused overload. The bug involving empty chats has also been fixed. Images were not appearing in the chat when downloaded and only became visible some time later. That was very annoying and it has also been fixed. It was reported that some people were not able to clear the notifications count in the launcher. That happened if you went into a chat and read a few messages but closed before reading all of them. The unread count from that action was persistent. Seeing 5000 unread messages when really there were none was quite annoying. The main Telegram version has seen a load of new upgrades so it is practically inevitable that we will fall further and further behind but our aim is to maintain core functionality.
Bank card payment is now integrated in the official clients. We don’t have that specific expertise so if anyone out there can help with that, please get in touch with Florian. After one more version for fixing small issues, we will finally switch to a 1.0 naming convention.
Finally, when trying to forward messages, you couldn’t see a list of target options. Now you can.
Dalton has made some progress with PinePhone. There has long been an issue with the modem, which decides for some reason to disconnect from USB and then reconnect. The actions are handled in modem-manager, not in ofono. We need someone who really understands the inner workings of ofono in order to design an elegant fix but Dalton has put in place a hack which sets the name for the modem plugins. The old plugin will work but the new one sometimes doesn’t. Modem-remove disables the account but it should re-enable later. That doesn’t happen. So Dalton has disabled the disable function. It is still messy. Modem will still go down for around ten seconds but at least it will bounce back and you won’t be without for long periods of time. Yes of course we need a proper fix but after months we now have something that ‘works’ 99%.
The partial build for 20.04 now has a keyboard. Fairly soon this very early version with no apps and indicators will be thrown out their for play and development. We will not release bleeding edge images for all devices and in the early stages we will probably use just the Xperia X as a test-bed. You will of course also be able to try the early images inside Alfred’s PDK tool, which is now available as a snap.
The tool now has ADB support, so you can connect using TCP in order to run Clickable. As yet, there are no Focal images for Clickable. Alfred is working on allowing the tool to build Pinephone images. The OpenStore now has support for the new Click service. You used to be able to achieve that with package-kit but that module removes plugins, so we had to create something new.
For those asking, a build of UT based off 20.04 is not expected either for OTA-19 or for OTA-20 [similar numbering system but two entirely different things!!] maybe we should even skip ‘OTA-20’ altogether and call it OTA-21, so that people don’t get confused? :) If anyone has any strong views on how we should name releases, let us now in all the usual places.
Moving to a completely different topic, Dalton asked for feedback about the direction the Q&A ought to take. Lots of people have asked for more app news but while Dalton is happy to present that he just doesn’t have time to collect together that information. It would need an editor or editors who can get that information and tidy it up into a script that he can read from. The same applies to getting a summary of the latest news on device porting. Dalton simply doesn’t have time to follow all of that.
Long before we had anything like 60 devices ported, Florian and Alfred tried to put together a porting news podcast but the amount of work even then was not sustainable.
The Q&A is certainly open to having more contributors on the show.
On contributions, a reminder that financial gifts to the UBports Foundation are tax deductible in many parts of the EU, so your money goes even further.
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.
MMS on Pixel 3a Davedanger wanted to know whether there is any update on the difficulties with MMS on Pixel3a?
Usually the Q&A doesn’t talk about device specific bugs but on this occasion Dalton needs some help. There are several outstanding pull requests on this subject by LionelD and Jesek The changes involved are on a very big scale so in line with that we need a lot of thorough testing before we can risk pressing the button. They affect the way that several different components interact in UT. There is a Forum link. Please check that out and study the instructions on how you can test it on your device. We don’t want to go live with something that might break the OS on something as fundamental as messaging.
Povoq asked whether the fact that the new Anbox will only support Android 9 based devices will disadvantage Android 7 based devices or is there some way they could be modified to catch up? There has been good feedback from the Halium 7.1 upgrade for OnePlusOne and Fairphone 2. The upgrade for Nexus 5 is still causing some problems. At the moment, the Nexus 5 is still our most commonly used device and because it is relatively open and flexible, it is possible to imagine that we could take an additional step and create an Android 9 port for it.
Nobody in the core team has time even to experiment with that idea but some people want to run with that, it does have possibilities. In theory, if we could get that far, the Anbox build ought to run too. 32-bit is a big obstacle though and the rootfs issue would have to be resolved. The jump is not as great as switching from legacy ports to Halium based ports, which we have already done. It does need personnel to help out though. Everyone is mega busy. The 6P port had speakerphone working nicely but a patch killed it. Just one very small example of the work which is being slotted in to busy schedules.
Wayland support is mentioned in the OTA-18 change-log. Does that mean we can now run Wayland apps. Short answer, no. One element of Wayland support was fixed but that is only one part of the work that needs doing. The 20.04 builds will definitely have that but at present we are still dealing with some issues caused by the patches, which were found to be incomplete. Your devices at the moment lack a lot of the stuff which needs to be in the rootfs for new Anbox to work, so you will not be able to try it out yet. We will get there, so please be patient.
UBnewbie asked about the Pro1 FxTec device, which is the subject of a funding campaign. They have updated that they are making big advances but they didn’t set out how. Are you involved in this development and do you have any more details?
Florian in his official capacity as Foundation representative explained that while there is formal contact, the UBports core team is not involved in day to day development of that device. We are happy to contact them and to invite them onto the show if they would like to do that. The company has been affected by a commercial decision to stop selling a chip which they had planned to rely on, so overcoming that hardware challenge is the first step to delivering their project. The bottom line is that they need to be contacted directly about the progress of their project and UBports cannot really act as go-between.
On a brief note from the live chat:
Florian challenged the idea of a ‘full stack developer’ i.e. an expert in everything. That doesn’t work. Projects need specialists.
See you next time :-)