May 30, 2013 By: Conan Troutman
For most of us, Google I/O is probably beginning to feel like a distant memory—perhaps less so for those lucky enough to be browsing on your shiny new Chromebook Pixels. We’re all aware by now of the big stories from this years conference, but among all that was something that was of great interest to us here on the Portal, which you might not have noticed.
One of the sessions put on by Google was titled Voiding Your Warranty: Hacking Glass, the purpose of which was to show those in the Glass Explorer program how to root the device and run their own applications. During the session, the capabilities of Glass were demoed by showing not only how to gain root access but how to run a full desktop operating system, in this case Ubuntu. One of the tools used to achieve this was an application called The Complete Linux Installer that we featured here on the Portal just under a year ago. Considering that the application was written by our very own Recognized Developer and Forum Moderator zacthespack, we decided to track him down and get his opinion on the use of his application to help hack Glass and a few other things as well.
Well Zac, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
“Hello, I’m Zachary Powell (zacthespack on XDA) and I am a second year BcS Computer Games student at the University of Essex (UK). I have been on XDA since 2009, becoming a Recognised Developer in 2012 and a Forum Moderator earlier this year. My passion for both Android and FOSS has encouraged me to work on multiple projects, including Slap OS on Android, my newest joint-venture: XML Games, and of course; LinuxonAndroid. My other interest include computer games and computer game design. Virtual Worlds are a particular interest of mine because I enjoy seeing what a community can create within them.”
It must have been a bit of a shock to see your app being used by Googlers at IO. What was your initial reaction?
“Yes, it was quite a shock. It had never crossed my mind that the employees of Google could be using my app, never mind it being featured at their biggest event. I see it as a serious milestone in the project’s life to be included amongst Google’s work.”
Do you think that running a full desktop OS on a device such as Glass will become commonplace, or will users prefer to stick with a lightweight and minimal interface?
“I think that both have their places. Clearly for day-to-day use a desktop operating system isn’t practical, but it does have it’s uses – particularly when you are talking about using a command line and command line tools. Clearly, with the limited size of the glass’ screen, the use of a desktop GUI is prevented; it’s certainly not going to be able to run a web browser. However, when resolutions improve, this could become more possible. As it is, the screen is large enough for a command line and I like the idea of being able to develop and compile code from a HUD on the move.
I do feel that in general it won’t become commonplace for the average user to run a full desktop OS on the glass because for most people, a desktop operating system is a word processor and an web browser. There is no general need for them to have access to developmental tools. The minimal, easy to use system is preferred by the average user.
However for advance users and developers who want to tinker with their glass and unlock the full power of the device, running a desktop OS on the glass would make a big difference.”
What are your thoughts on Glass in general?
“I believe that the Glass is a fantastic product, and is something that I am itching to get my hands on. Obviously the idea of a HUD is nothing new, but I think that Google have taken the idea in such a way that the result is second-to-none. There is no other device like this and although there is still a lot of room for improvement, by the time Google release to the general public I think it will be a well polished and usable device. The fact it runs Android is great because you are able to run a far better range of apps, including my own. This also makes the process of ensuring apps are Glass compatible much easier. I am looking forward to getting my own Glass and discovering it’s full potential.”
What originally motivated you to begin the Linux On Android Project and is the project still going?
“The project originated from a desire to get Linux running on my HTC Desire S. The idea and method used in the project is nothing new, but we seek to make it a universally accessible platform (as long as you are rooted). After developing the project and creating a tutorial in XDA, there was a clear demand for the project as people started asking me to help them get it running on their devices. It was at this point that we started creating the universal method, and from there the project really took off.
Yes, we are very much still going. We are working on new improvements constantly, including new Linux Distros and making the app more universally accessible in terms of the languages it has been translated in to and the number of devices it can now run on.”
Considering our recent focus on helping those new to app development, could you tell us a little bit about your methodology, process, and perhaps any tips you might have for aspiring developers?
“Trial and error is definitely the key here. There is a great range of Open Source apps available which you can study the source code for and learn from. This is something I strongly recommend anyone to do. Although the phrase is “don’t fix something that isn’t broken”, I can’t help myself but to continue improving the app and adding new features.
My biggest tip would be to never stop learning. Always look to better your knowledge. The Android platform is always changing, and you have to change with it.”
Tell us a little more about the new projects you mentioned earlier.
“SlapOS on Android is a branch of LinuxonAndroid using our Ubuntu install as a base to then install the SlapOS software, allowing your android device to integrate with your SlapOS cloud, with this every Android device can become a cloud node!
XML games is a new project A friend of mine and myself have just set up and launched on kickstarter. XML Games aims to allow the players themselves to easily and quickly create new game levels using a predefined set of XML tags. Coupled with an XML web platform, players can view and share each other’s levels online, unlocking the possibility of endless new and unique gameplay!
Using XML to design levels allows for us as the developers to make the levels and games completely cross platform. This opens players to an ever growing range of different levels all of which can be designed by anyone on any platform.
Once you have made your levels, they can be shared on the XML Games website community. Allowing anyone to browse and download to play. The hope here is that users can head onto their PC, code their own levels with the help of our handy guide, and then head onto their phone, and download their own level!
We plan to start out on Android creating a few open source games, but with enough funding hope to expand onto other platforms and more games!”
Given the Linux theme here I have to ask, what is your personal distro of choice?
“Primarily I use Ubuntu for work as I like its stability, however I do enjoy playing with Arch Linux because of its customisability.”
If you’d like to follow up on anything mentioned by Zac, check out the links below.
February 25, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
There was more discussion about Ubuntu Touch this week, and XDA Developer TV Producer and News Corespondent Jordan reviews this and all the other important stories from this week on the XDA Portal. Jordan talks about the Ubuntu Touch Porting Guide from Canonical. Jordan mentions the article talking about porting Ubuntu Touch being similar to porting CyanogenMod.
In rooting news, Jordan talks about the root exploit for the Jelly Bean-laden Motorola Atrix HD. Jordan talks about the petition to stop the Sim Unlocking ban reaching the required 100,000 signatures. Pull up a chair and check out this video. And if you any news to report, feel free to contact any XDA News Writer.
February 22, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
The Ubuntu Touch developer preview is available for most current Nexus devices. That story and more are covered by Jordan when he reviews all the important stories from this week. Be sure to check out Jordan’s Video of Ubuntu Touch on the Nexus 7. Jordan talks about the Sony Xperia Z being rooted and the preliminary benchmarks of the new HTC One.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer azrienoch talks about the 5 myths of Android software, XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler released an XDA Unboxing of the JynxBox HD Network Streamer, and XDA Developer TV Producer TK released an app review of Contact Notification. Additionally, Jordan talks about the creation of new forums on XDA-Developers. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
Recently we mentioned that Canonical would be releasing their mobile device operating system, Ubuntu Touch. Well, true to their word, and unlike some other releases from other companies, it is live today. If you have a Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, or Nexus 10 and an Ubuntu desktop you can experience Ubuntu’s mobile offering.
The steps are provided on the Ubuntu Wiki. Don’t expect to get the image from the Wiki, you need to retrieve the image from the Touch Developer Preview Tools PPA on your Ubuntu computer. The Wiki has steps that take you through setting up the PPA, unlocking your phone (but we are betting your phone is already unlocked) to accept the new software, setting up the device and installing the product. There are instructions on how to restore Android if you wish to return.
“The Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview is intended to be used for development and evaluation purposes only. It does not provide all of the features and services of a retail phone and cannot replace your current handset. This preview is the first release of a very new and unfinished version of Ubuntu and it will evolve quickly. If you want to install this release, please follow the guide provided, which details the available features and how to navigate the user experience. This process will delete all data from the device. Restoring Android will not restore this data.”
The wiki says you can expect GSM connections on the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4, and you can get phone calls and texts on these devices as well. Also, it is said to have a fully functional camera on all devices, something that even CyanogenMod can’t always provide in alphas. Of course this is a preview and should be considered an Alpha release, so be sure to read up on the known issues and device specific known issues. So head on over and check it out.
Finally, tomorrow, February 22 at 15:00 UTC on Ubuntu On-Air we’ll have two of the lead developers in a Hangout to talk about the project too, which might be interesting for the more technically interested.
February 19, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
At the beginning of this year, Canonical announced that it was making an alternative mobile device operating system, called Ubuntu for Phones. With its lack of need for hardware buttons and use of screen sides as hot zones to initiate gesture commands, the underlying UI concept was vastly different from Android.
On the 15th of February, Canonical announced that the Touch Developer Preview of Ubuntu for the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus 4 will become available on the 21st. This is intended for developers and enthusiasts to get used to Ubuntu’s smartphone version. This same day tools and instructions for flashing this to devices will be released on the Ubuntu Wiki.
It is interesting that Canonical chose to release Ubuntu Touch on two Nexus devices. The Nexus line is known to be “Google’s flagship” device group. Perhaps the developer openness of the Nexus line is what allows Ubuntu to be flashed to the device. Additionally, Canonical has announced that attendees at this year’s Mobile World Congress will be able to stop by their booth and have the release installed onto their smartphones.
Also, Canonical has announced that smartphones aren’t the only devices that Ubuntu’s touch-based smartphone operating system will appear on. Ubuntu announced today, “Ubuntu for Tablets.” This adds another layer to the unified ecosystem that Canonical is trying to create: one interface for all your connected devices. However, some people, like KDE’s Plasma Active team leader Aaron Seigo, claim that while the graphics may look the same, the code, is in fact completely different, which could prevent seamless application integration between devices. Only time will tell if this issue actually crops up.
While at CES this year XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan and I got to see an Ubuntu for Phones demonstration. It is very likely that with the unification effort in the Ubuntu ecosystem, that Ubuntu for tablets will be very much similar, if not the same.
Additionally, Jordan asked Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon some questions about Ubuntu for Phones. Some of the answers did not have a clear answer, let’s hope they have come up with clever solutions to some of these concerns.
January 2, 2013 By: Haroon Q. Raja
If you visited the Ubuntu home page early this morning, you couldn’t have missed the countdown timer that promised something, “So close, you can almost touch it.” Most assumed it to be about a fully touch-optimized UI for the next version of the popular Linux distribution, but it turned out to be something even more significant. In an announcement earlier today, Canonical unveiled Ubuntu for phones, a fully working Ubuntu distribution meant for existing and future mobile handsets.
If you are thinking “Wait, wasn’t Ubuntu for Android already announced last year,” you aren’t alone. Upon first hearing the news, that was the first thing that came to my mind as well. However, this is a whole different project with a much more ambitious aim and broader scope. While Ubuntu for Android was built to run in tandem with Google’s mobile OS to offer a full Ubuntu desktop experience only when docked, Ubuntu for phones is a complete OS in and of itself, entirely independent of Android. Before we get into the details, check out a hands-on video courtesy of The Verge. You will notice significant amounts of lag, but don’t be alarmed because this could be due to this being a development build that is not yet ready for release.
Here’s another, much more detailed 22 minute video featuring the founder of Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth himself, presenting Ubuntu for phones:
An announcement like this one is bound to receive mixed reactions. The Linux and Ubuntu enthusiasts among you must be rejoicing at the idea of getting an official and fully native Ubuntu experience that’s tailored for the small screen, rather than being a mere port of the desktop OS. At the same time, the skeptics must be wondering why on earth Canonical decided to release yet another mobile OS. With Android and iOS dominating the mobile ecosystem, the chances of a new smartphone platform thriving don’t seem too bright. After all, we’ve seen the lack of commercial success in Windows Phone, which despite Microsoft’s efforts over the past couple of years, has yet to grab significant smartphone market share. Though before we jump to conclusions, let’s give Ubuntu for phone a fair chance to at least present itself. So enough talk, let’s take a look at what Canonical has to offer the smartphone world.
From the details provided by Canonical and what can be seen in The Verge’s hands-on video, the OS clearly derives significant inspiration from the excellent but ill-fated Nokia N9. There are no on-screen or on-device buttons (it is running on a Galaxy Nexus, after all); and the OS is entirely gesture-driven. Edge-initiated swipes can be a great way to launch and navigate between apps, as we have already seen in case of the N9, and Ubuntu for phone makes full use of these gestures. Here’s how the UI works:
Based on the above, the user experience offered by the UI itself seems outstandingly intuitive. It was a pity to see this excellent gesture-driven interface not make it to the masses in form of the N9 due to Nokia’s decision to ditch the platform, and we hope things fare better for Ubuntu.
Smartphones of today have become powerful enough to be useful as our daily use PCs, but their size and form factor makes them unsuitable for getting serious work done. We have previously seen several attempts to do this by the likes of ASUS and Motorola, some of which have been successful in their niche, while others have faded into obscurity. One issue that keeps manufacturers from converging several devices into one is obviously commercial interest. It doesn’t seem to be a smart business choice to sell a phone that does it all for most users, when you can sell the same user a phone, a tablet, and a laptop or desktop PC. Nevertheless, with ~2 GHz quad-core processors, multi-core GPUs, 720p & 1080p HD displays, 32/64GB internal storage, and 2 GB RAM becoming the norm, this convergence is bound to happen sooner or later. While the likes of hardcore gamers, graphic designers and video editors will still buy PCs, these powerful phones have already adequate power for the average user who primarily only needs to play casual games, edit some documents, watch videos, listen to music, and browse the Internet.
With Ubuntu for Android, Canonical had aimed to converge our devices into one, offering a full desktop computer experience right from our phones when docked with a display, keyboard, and mouse. The same docking support is also there in Ubuntu for phones. Canonical aims to offer the OS on both mid-range and high-end devices, and the latter will be able to offer a full PC experience, allowing you to use your phone as your primary computer that you can carry around wherever you go. Being optimistic, we can even start expecting laptop and tablet terminals that only offer the screen, I/O devices, a few extra ports, and high-capacity batteries. These will then use our phones for the computation work itself, just like the ASUS Padfone.
From what we have seen above, things definitely look great for Ubuntu. Though the UI or docking support alone can’t offer a great experience, which brings us to the ecosystem.
Ubuntu for phones will ship with all the core apps you would expect from any mobile OS such as phone dialler, SMS & MMS, web browser, email client, camera, photo gallery, music & video player, calculator, alarm clock, and so on. Furthermore, all popular HTML5-based web apps will be readily available for the platform, and will work side-by-side with native apps, complete with their own icons and access to the notification system.
Apart from the web apps, the platform will also enjoy fully native third-party apps. And unlike Android, there will be no Dalvik virtual machine, which will force these apps to be written in native code. If you are a developer, this will be your primary interest, so let’s take a look at what the platform has to offer the developer community.
We have seen on multiple occasions (webOS and BlackBerry) how developer interest can truly make or break a platform. With almost every modern smartphone out there offering the hardware specs and every smartphone OS offering all the core features required from such devices, the number and quality of apps available for the platform is truly the deciding factor for many users when purchasing their next phone or tablet. This may be a little too early to say right nowm but in case of Ubuntu for phone, the future doesn’t look dark in this regard—even if not too bright just yet.
Canonical made the excellent choice to make Ubuntu for phones not a separate OS from its desktop variant, but rather the very same OS, merely with a different UI. This means apps written for Ubuntu PCs will run on Ubuntu phones and vice versa, with only minimal changes required in the code to support the different form factor and instruction set. The already established Ubuntu Software Center will also cater to phones as the application discovery, distribution, and installation platform. Ubuntu One is also integrated into the OS as the cloud storage medium offering plenty of free space, with optional paid upgrades for those who need them.
While only time will tell whether Ubuntu for phones stands against its major competitors in an already saturated market, or ends up suffering the same fate as webOS or Meego, the concept as well as the product itself are both promising. What we do see right now is a well-built OS, a promising app ecosystem, and the much-needed convergence between platforms. Combined together, these are all ingredients for success in this industry. That said, how things actually turn out will also heavily depend upon manufacturer support, as well as the marketing strategy adopted by both Canonical and device manufacturers.
While you can’t try out the OS at the moment, Canonical has promised to make Ubuntu for phone available for several existing devices within this year, starting with the Galaxy Nexus. CES 2013 is just under a week away, and more details will be revealed at that time. Furthermore, you’ll be able to grab the binaries of the OS for your Galaxy Nexus within the next couple of weeks. However, devices with Ubuntu pre-installed aren’t expected to start shipping before 2014.
So what do you think of this newest combatant in the smartphone arena? Join the discussion and let us know in the comments below.
January 2, 2013 By: Former Writer
When it comes to running Linux on Android devices, the simplest method is by using chroot. It basically allows users to run Linux in a virtual box of sorts over top of Android. However, some developers have begun experimenting with replacing Android altogether. Great strides have been made in doing so on the ASUS Transformer TF700.
XDA Forum Member rabits has been working on running Ubuntu on the TF700. Not as chroot, either, but as the real deal. It’s currently on release version 0.6.2 and users who install it will get Ubuntu 12.10. Here are some of the feature highlights:
Dualboot with Android CleanRom 2.7.2 – Initrd now support dualbooting linux (from any sdcard or usb device) and Android with wifi.
Test Linux boot – Temporary boot image for AndroidRoot bootloader. After reboot you get your android back.
Graphical boot – You can login by ubuntu user in graphical mode.
Keyboard remapping – Special keys is replaced to default (Esc, F1-12, Ins, Print, Break, Del, Home->Alt, Search->Meta4) by evdev keymap.
Touchpad 2 fingers scrolling – Move 2 fingers up-down to scrolling. 2 finger tap – is mouse 3rd button.
WiFi – You can connect to internet or lan through wifi
OpenGL ES – 3D and games (eduke32, Jagged Alliance 2) and nice browsing by Chromium
Audio and Video up to 1080p – Use nvgstplayer to HW decoding FullHD video
nvgstplayer –sas=”audioconvert ! pulsesink” -i – Fullscreen mode
nvgstplayer –svs=”nvxvimagesink” –sas=”audioconvert ! pulsesink” -i – Window mode
To help keep users apprised of development progress, rabits has a working list of things that have been implemented and things that still need work. It’s about half done, and users can get a real Linux experience without too much difficulty. Of course, there are some issues, such as Unity having problems and some driver issues.
November 12, 2012 By: Jimmy McGee
On location in Kansas, your friend Jordan is here to update you on the exciting Android news from XDA. Jordan mentions the first custom ROM for the HTC One X+. Jordan also talks about the release of Safestrap for Kindle Fire HD, which Brings recovery to the device.
In Ubuntu news, Jordan mentions the release of a desktop installer for the Nexus 7. Finally, Jordan talks about ClockworkMod recovery beta being released for Motorola RAZR i. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
The wonder of being part of a community like XDA is that it doesn’t take long before someone catches an inspiration and starts finding ways to put different flavors of an OS on their device—or even a different OS entirely. One need only look at the HTC HD2 to find the perfect example of that inspiration with Windows Mobile 6.5, Android, Ubuntu and Meego all making an appearance on what was arguably one of HTC’s most notable devices. Every time a new, more powerful device comes along, it isn’t long before threads talking about how to load Ubuntu on that device start popping up. Most of the time it is in the form of such methods as chroot, but occasionally you’ll find someone like XDA Recognized Developer lilstevie porting full-blown Ubuntu to devices like the ASUS Transformer TF101.
A while back, Ubuntu informed the tech world that they would be bringing the full Ubuntu experience to dual-core Android phones, but the “how” was shrouded in marketing-speak for “we’ll leave it up to the carriers to figure out how to deploy it.” With the release of the Google Nexus 7, the first Nexus tablet, came the natural interest to get Ubuntu loaded onto this device and Canonical rose to the occasion.
Last week, Ubuntu released the Ubuntu Nexus 7 Desktop Installer, a one-click process for installing Ubuntu 12.10 onto the Nexus 7. While it is only a developer preview and not a final release, it has been reported that the process works really well and is relatively stable. Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, was quoted on OMG! Ubuntu as saying:
“We’ve said that the driver of Unity was to build an experience that spans phones, tablets, desktops and tv. I think we can do that by 14.04.
So in 13.04 we’re focused on tuning the performance of the base system in mobile settings – memory footprint, boot performance, battery life, etc.
We’ve ported Ubuntu to the nexus 7 (it’s just the desktop) and will all be focused on that for 13.04.”
It’s no secret that Android is a Linux-based operating system. It stands to reason that ADB and the other Android SDK tools just feel more at home running on Linux. Many developers, ROM cooks and power users choose Ubuntu to run these tools because of its ease of use and low learning curve.
If you are a developer or power user running Ubuntu, XDA Recognized Developer lithid-cm has created an invaluable collection of Nautilus scripts that allow you to preform several crucial tasks with a simple right-click. This makes processes like signing APKs and running scripts as root quite simple. There are currently five right-click scripts to accomplish tasks such as compressing and signing multiple packages or compiling packages.
June 22, 2012 By: Jimmy McGee
Today on This Week in Development, Jordan talks about articles on the XDA Portal—surprising I know. Jordan talks about XDA Elite Recognized Developer, XDA New Writer, XDA TV Producer, and all around awesome guy AdamOutler‘s write up about Nvidia and closed hardware. Also covered is how to use Init.d with any phone. Jordan reminds you to check out AdamOutler’s XDA TV Android web server video.
Jordan then talks about the latest news for the Samsung Galaxy S III. This device gets its source code released, and can be loaded with Ubuntu and Backtrack. Finally in some administrative news, Jordan talks about the new Windows Phone 8 forums and the new XDA 2013 forum style.
Having an Android device does not necessarily mean that device can only run Android. As with the various devices can run Linux to some extent, it is always good when a new option is given to users. Using a desktop OS on an Android phone can bring a lot of features that Android can’t provide. But more importantly, it’s also a lot of fun. Samsung Galaxy S III users can join in on the fun, as they can now run Ubuntu or Backtrack Linux on their devices.
XDA Forum Member tiborr is responsible for writing the tutorial that gets Linux installed and working. A few pieces of the tutorial were transplanted from other tutorials—all credited of course—but the end result remains the same. The process takes some time and can be a little difficult if users aren’t familiar with executing scripts.
There are also a few peculiarities, however. Users are encouraged to be running a kernel that has loop support. As this can be hard to find in the features list of many kernels, tiborr recommends that users use the Omega V4 ROM. The applications Terminal Emulator and AndroidVNC are also required. Users are encouraged to be sure to have all the tools required before beginning the tutorial, as there is plenty of application switching during the process.
For the full tutorial, head to the original thread.
Installing a Linux Distro on an Android device is always an interesting prospect. The idea of having an operating system like Linux, which is meant for real computers but can be run on practically everything, brings even more functionality to a device than it had with just the stock software. Its small footprint and low spec requirements make it just as good for most Android devices as Android itself.
For those carrying the Archos Gen8, your Ubuntu goodness is right around the corner. XDA Forum Member CalcProgrammer1, who’s brought Linux to tablets before, has been working on a build of Ubuntu to fully work with the Archos Gen8. Unfortunately, there’s still a ways to go, but users can experience most of what handheld Linux has to offer with the first release. Despite some problems with the wireless drivers and the occasional bug here and there, the Linux experience on the Gen8 seems to be pretty complete as, at the very least, the essential functions all still work.
In the words of the developer:
The display is working and the touchscreen works as well (calibrated correctly as I copied my calibration from my 11.04 install). It boots into Unity 2D which is the default. I’m having issues getting the wl1271 wireless module up, I have had it running once but NetworkManager said device was not ready despite being able to iwlist scan and see a list of AP’s and then connect to them manually.
So while there is still a lot of work to be done, a lot of work has already been done and Gen8 users are very close to have a fully functional Ubuntu to play with.
Check out the modification thread for additional information, some really fun modifications, and download links.