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.
One of the most impressive things you can do with an Android device is loading an entirely different operating system. Being able to run something like Windows or Linux on a device not only looks cool, but can even bring some fun new features and functionality. Motorola Droid 4 owners now have the option to install some Ubuntu goodness as well. XDA Forum Member greekchampion04 has posted a method that will get the popular OS onto the Droid 4 using a VNC client.
The process is a little complicated, and involves pretty decent knowledge of command line and vi. You’ll also be required to install a bunch of free applications from the Android Market, and, of course, you’ll need a rooted Droid 4. After that, it’s just a matter of putting a few command lines in and tweaking some settings and you’re off to the races. Says the developer:
This is a fairly involved process… especially when it comes to editing the .sh file in vi things can get very frustrating and hard, but just take your time and you will get it.
You can check out the original thread for full instructions, some troubleshooting, and all the download links.
March 5, 2012 By: Will Verduzco
Undoubtedly the vast majority of us are excited about the prospect of running Ubuntu on our handsets. In fact, we’ve covered several methods for users to get a mobile taste of the popular Linux distribution in the past. However, none of these are as simple or powerful as what Canonical wishes to accomplish.
Running atop the same kernel, and side by side with the Android operating system, the integration possibilities are enticing. Join us in this XDA TV episode as James Bricknell inquires about the nitty gritty regarding what Canonical is calling the “killer app for multi-core phones in 2012.”
February 23, 2012 By: egzthunder1
Ubuntu and the infamous HP Touchpad. For those of you around the HPT scene, you know that this is likely a comparable device to the HD2 in terms of flexibility. The device runs WebOS natively, Android (all the way to ICS thanks to the good people at the Cyanogen team), and as of October of last year, Ubuntu. At that time, the port was far from being something anyone would dare installing as it was, for the most part, completely useless. Today, while the port is still in alpha stage, it has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of capabilities and features. XDA member BodenM has done a great job in turning this project into a reality.
If you look through the short thread, you will find other devs helping with the project as well, such as XDA member CalcProgrammer1, who recently announced that he got BT properly working. Other recent feats include the usability of Wifi and a much more responsive touchscreen among several other features. Unfortunately, the road ahead is still long and there are things like sound which still require a lot of work. But it is a project worth following. If you know anything that could help in getting this off the ground, please chip in on the thread.
Follow the instructions carefully in order to get this to run on your Touchpad and remember, this is an alpha, so don’t complain if something doesn’t work right off the bat.
IF YOU DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW, BY INSTALLING THIS, YOUR WARRANTY IS PROBABLY VOID! I won’t be responsible if your TP bricks, needs doctoring, catches fire, skins adorable puppies and kittens, BBQs your “crown jewels”, eats your children, starts WW3, explodes or commits seppuku!
You can find more information in the original thread.
Want something published in the Portal? Contact any News Writer.
Thanks Virus for the tip!
As we are all aware, Android relies on the Linux kernel for its core services and to act as an abstraction layer between hardware drivers and the rest of the software stack. However, some of us aren’t content until we have a full Gnome interface and a cache of staple apps suck as Firefox, Thunderbird, and Open Office at our disposal. We’ve covered a couple of ways to load the popular Ubuntu in the past. However neither way was quite as hands-off as some users would like.
Thanks to a root-level application and a couple of images by XDA forum member zacthespack, we now have an incredibly user-friendly way to load one of the most popular Linux distributions on any rooted device running Android 1.6 or greater. Users can choose between two images—a 500 MB lightweight image with LXDE and other essentials, and a full 1.5 GB image with Gnome, LXDE, and several additional apps.
In the words of the developer:
I have working on a project in the form of an app, which guides you through the installation of Ubuntu within android via chroot. It includes a ubuntu 10.10 image I have been working on which includes lots of program to allow users to develop program/scripts etc within Ubuntu on there phone/tablet.
However I have I have yet to get much testing on this device and would like more feedback from users!
January 30, 2012 By: Former Writer
It’s hard to throw around some words in the Android development community. Some mods are superb, some ROMs get tens of thousands of users and their threads have millions of views. Some themes are universally loved and some things people just can’t imagine living without. Even so, there are very few releases that can be described as truly great.
So, as a result of my work, I would like to present the first ever Ubuntu Recovery. This will totally wipe your device. With the exception of the ROM Partition which contains serial information, every single partition will have zeros written to it then flashed with just enough to perform an initial factory reflash. Normally when you perform an update or flash of a device, it is simply formatted. A formatted device can be unformatted. A zeroed device cannot be unformatted. All information is overwritten with zeros.
This will also work if you’ve damaged the bootloaders or recovery partition.
The recovery will wipe your device clean sans some important ROM information and the parts that allow for a factory re-flash and could be helpful for those trying to restore back to 1.4.0 firmware on their Nook Tablets.
For additional information, screenshots, full instructions and even a nifty how-to on creating a recovery SD card, you can find everything you need in the original thread.