News and Update
Presenting this time were Marius, Florian and Alfred.
Matteo has as usual looked at new or improved apps appearing in OpenStore. There are two things courtesy of David Ventura, one of them Wireguard VPN and the other is an app which can read Keypass keys from a file. You can also store a password to file.
OTA-19 rc and OTA-20
OTA-20 is already under discussion and a few items have already been added to its homepage. The headline issue there is that the trust-store is not able to handle child processes properly. So in the browser for example a request to allow access to the microphone as part of some wider action is not recognized. Rachanan is working on some patches that look promising. Notifications with vibrations are still missing from all the devices using Halium 9 and 10. We are aiming to get a patch for that into OTA-20. We also hope to get the notifications and charging layers properly integrated into those devices next time around.
One thing which has been pending for a long time is the ability to import pre-configured VPN settings, so that setup is no longer fully manual. It should be possible to generate a config file on your computer for a particular service and then transfer that to your phone, to get a VPN service running. We are hoping that this too will be in OTA-20.
Some people have problems with Google logins while others do not. Some patches to ease that should also find their way into OTA-20.
Alfred tried building two different coder intermediaries, one through droidmedia and the other through the backend. One uses gstreamer and the other uses droidmedia directly. The bugs that we have in our system now were still visible with the droidmedia setup. It has illuminated what has been going wrong though and Alfred is currently working on a fix, based on those insights. Alfred relies very heavily on mirroring so he is very keen to get it done! There is a mismatch between the 64bit rootfs and and the 32bit media process on the Halium side. If anybody out there has a particular insight into the detail of that handover and would like to help, please get in touch with Alfred. There is no timescale for the fix but the strong hope is that it will be done earlier than than the move to 20.04.
With the shift to home working, it has become especially important to be able to do at least a few things by projecting the phone onto a large screen in desktop mode. Aside from that, being able to do presentations to a group on a large screen from your phone would be awesome.
Marius and Florian works
Marius has been working on XDG Decoration. It is controversial, with Canonical saying no and everyone else saying yes. It is a protocol for allowing the server to make a client-side decoration or a server-side decoration. UBports and Lomiri uses server-side decoration. This is because we want a consistent look from the core, rather than a fragmented appearance. Gnome does not support it but there is a PR up to implement it but it has been stuck there for a while without implementation. Gnome does however still support an earlier implementation of something similar. The client has to obey the rules that the compositor sets. The KDE variant says basically “I want you to do this but you can do it differently if you want. If for example Gedit is installed on UT it will look out of place because it has a header bar and shadow which ignore our UI rules. So Marius has been looking at how to resolve that difference of mechanism, to get us a step closer to compatibility.
He has also been working with Qtmir, cleaning up the Mir 2.0 implementation. Marius is using Lomiri as his daily driver on desktop now, not because it is perfect but because it prompts him to fix issues to overcome the pain it causes. Getting annoyed by bugs is a very good way of getting the motivation to fix them.
Florian has been playing around with a big screen and Libertine and getting better results than he expected, for instance with chromium. Aaron gave him a startup file which does get it going but at the moment it doesn’t accept any inputs, including mouse or keyboard.
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.
BQ devices future
As Marius said, we have a very small development team and we have to choose between maintaining how we are and moving forward to the future. We have decided to move forward by embracing 20.04 and that means we will have to leave some things behind.
UBP 5.1 is a slightly different case as it came after Canonical but it still lacks a lot of what we need. Where possible we can take devices forward to the Halium based 7.1 [thinking Nexus 5 and Oneplus One here] but if that turns out not to be possible those will also have to be dropped. If there are people in the community who want to keep the old stuff and are able to maintain it, they are welcome to do that but the core team does not have enough resources to do that.
The supply of working BQ devices [not meaning the Uplus…] is practically zero, so this is not about new entrants, only legacy. We know that the Volla phone has the number two place on our push server stats. That happened because you could buy it new from a store with UT pre-installed. Volla X is moving up fast for the same reason. Buying used you risk hardware problems and a tired battery.
We will not hurry to shut down server support for those stuck on 16.04 on older devices but we repeat what we have said before: it is time to get on the Android 9/10 train if you possibly can [and yes, we need some ported tablets…] 16.04 has some nasty security weaknesses, especially on the Bluetooth side. We really don’t want our user base to be open to those exploits but on those outdated phones we are in practice unable to protect you. Please move forward with us.
With Halium 9 (and even with Halium 7 to an extent) we were able to get improvements by swapping out droidmedia for example. With the adoption of systemd, we have kernel needs which cannot be satisfied by the old devices. Halium can evolve, while with old devices it was always about applying workarounds to get a fixed, unchangeable system to work. We have borrowed a lot from Sailfish and they have borrowed a lot from us. That is hugely beneficial but again we cannot get anything productive out of the redundant devices.
Android itself is a very fast moving target. If we fall too far behind we will find ourselves locked out. We must move forward all the time. Remember that we have supported these devices long after the manufacturer lost interest in them. The absence of LTE and 4G capability in the hardware [wifi bands too] is gradually making a lot of the older devices useless. When 3G switches off there will only be 2G, which is hopeless for most use cases. We need to be taking 5G seriously. It isn’t urgent yet but it is much better to get ready before it becomes urgent. “We don’t jump up the stairs, we walk up the stairs”.
Thousandtopics asked what UBports would do with €1 billion?
Top asks apps development votes?
Our big hope is that Waydroid will pull us out of this mud by delivering all of those applications in their native form.
If funding is available to help with app development, it should go to the developers who are working on them (such as nanu-c with Axolotl) rather than coming to UBports itself. The core developers don’t want to be the lead on app development. Providing the platform is their role.
Sharing apps across system distributions!
Linux provides lots of freedom but the result of that is lots of fragmentation unlike Mac OS and Windows, which are highly consistent but also completely rigid.
If we want to use upstream for apps, our problem is that if we adapt for one system, we become more closed for another. So we are a victim of the divergence. But having said that, Plasma uses the UT keyboard. Cooperation is real.
In the real world, we take care that the core apps follow our UX guidelines but even if we wanted to we don’t have the resources to monitor or enforce design guidelines on apps in the OpenStore. Even in Windows these days there is a lot of UX divergence. We want to provide a good user experience but at the same time we don’t want to remove your freedom to run whatever you want. Somewhere between the extremes of Android and Apple is probably about right. We respect the basic daily driver user and we respect the crazy experimenter [though we don’t offer support to the latter!] We try to provide for both but stability for the daily driver user always comes first.
Getting Wayland working well on Lomiri is being worked on and we will reach better compatibility as a result of that.
UBports Trustee applications status?
Volla X phone and Volla phone
Wireless Display and SlimPort
Convergence and Waydroid
One of the big issues we have is with handling application activity in the background and systemd has the ability to help a lot with that. It can balance conserving battery with some background services. It will enable cpu scheduling and an app priority system, so there will be some visible improvements to function.
UBports device web-page
See you next time :-)