jerdog · Feb 23, 2013 at 01:00 pm

Ubuntu Touch: Next Generation OS or Just Another Skin?

Since the dawn of Android tablets, and really ever since the HTC HD2, developers have been looking for ways to bring Ubuntu to the mobile space. It seems like every new device gets a thread devoted to showing users how to load Ubuntu. More often than not, that implementation requires you to boot Android and then utilize chroot in order to run a Ubuntu instance, but that doesn’t change the fact you’re still running Android.

So when news of Ubuntu Touch coming to the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 reached the interwebz, a collective shout of “Yippee!” erupted from the ranks. Then earlier this week Canonical, the creators of Ubuntu, teased us with a video showing Ubuntu Touch in all its glory on a tablet.

On Thursday, Canonical released instructions for installing the Developer Preview on the Nexus devices, and the XDA thread erupted with discussion around it. Then as people began to install the Developer Preview on their devices, one thing became very clear: While a lot of the data being shown in the video looked real, it all exists in the Developer Preview as dummy data. It’s not functional, and is not intended for the user as was displayed. No, this is very clearly an alpha and not intended for the normal user or as a daily-driver. It even is clear that Android is very much part of Ubuntu Touch, even down to a stripped down version of CM10.1 as the base, and chroot is still the process used to run Ubuntu, albeit in a much nicer (and cleaner) boot process.

On Friday they released the porting instructions and another suspicion was confirmed: If your device is in the CM10.1 device tree and can run CM10.1, you too can port Ubuntu Touch to your device relatively easily. And in Friday’s hangout that the Ubuntu Development team hosted they discussed the following key points (props to XDA Senior Member KMyers for not only joining the hangout, but also typing up the results):

Question : Is Ubuntu Touch stable enough for a Daily Driver?
Answer : No, most of the core “Applications” are non-functional . There is also no support for 3G Data

Question : What Devices can Ubuntu Touch Be Ported to?
Answer : As the Ubuntu Touch Preview is simply running in a Cyanogenmod10.1 chroot, theoretically you can port Ubuntu Touch to any device that Cyanogemod 10.1 Supports. Development happened on ICS and eventually moved to JB. Keep in mind that performance may vary. Instructions to port Ubuntu Touch can be found at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Touch/Porting

Question : Since this is running in a Cyanogenmod chroot, can it run Native Android Apps?
Answer : No – The Cyanogenmod Fork has been stripped of the Dalvik VM and all other components necessary to run Android Applications. There is a likely possibility that someone will develop a “bluestacks” like emulator to allow android applications to run, but this will most likely not come from the Ubuntu team. 

Question : Is dual booting possible?
Answer : Yes, thanks to the effort of the people at XDA-Developers, Dual Booting is possible. With this said, this is not something that the Ubuntu Team has any intentions of officially supporting. While Ubuntu seems to encourage community efforts, they stress that they do not want this to become a feature that the end user will expect to see officially supported. (I bet you all wish you got the 32 GB Nexus 7 or Nexus 10 rather then the 16 GB)

Question : Is the Ubuntu Touch UI using X11 or Wayland?
Answer : None of the Above. Ubuntu Touch is using the same Display Manager that is in use by Android, Display Flinger.

Question : What Kernel is in Use?
Answer : A modified Android Kernel is in use

Question : What about CDMA support?
Answer : Fear Not Sprint and Verizon users, it is being worked on. The Ubuntu Team said that the GSM Radio is the global standard and this was simply where they focused most of their attention as all of the developers had GSM devices. 

Question : Will Ubuntu be accepting merge requests for the Cyanogen10.1 sub system?
Answer : Yes, this is encouraged.

Question : Where is the Ubuntu chroot kept in relationship to Android?
Answer : The Ubuntu filesystem and all applications are kept in /data/ubuntu . If you use adb to browse this, you will see a familiar filesystem layout that most Linux users are used to 

Question : What Works?
Answer : As this is a Developer Build, dont expect much to work. The items that have been confirmed to work are;

  • Touchscreen
  • Sound (over speakers)
  • Display
  • Internet Browser
  • WiFi (No WPS)
  • Camera (Front and Back)
  • Video Player
  • ADB
  • Screen Brightness Controls
  • Automatic Brightness
  • Speech Driven HUD (Yes, it works)
  • GSM Voice (No APN Settings)
  • The SideStage Seems to be working

Question : What Does Not Work?
Answer : As this is a developer build, dont expect things to work properly, here are a few things that are not working

  • 3G/4G Data
  • Audio Out via Headphones
  • HDMI
  • Bluetooth
  • Most Applications and Menus
  • Charging Indicator
  • Software Center (Note : You can install simple shell applications via apt-get install … once inside the chroot)
  • Most applications are placeholders
  • MMS
  • CDMA Connections
  • SIM Storage
  • Auto Rotation (Or any rotation for that matter)
  • Random Crashes when swiping
  • Notifications (All of them are placeholders)
  • Most Applications that do function are web apps like m.gmail.com.
  • NFC

The issue with the release is that the focus in the video was that these features were working and is what would be deployed. What is painfully obvious instead is that the video highlighting those features was just PR and nothing else. Virtually none of the features displayed in the video even work, even on devices like the Nexus lineup that are generally the easiest to develop for, and already fully work on CM10.1. In fact, the calendar app is just a PNG placeholder and does not even function.

This doesn’t mean that we feel that there isn’t a future for this platform, but it does mean that there are definitely opportunities to improve. Here at XDA we publicly reach out and offer our services to the Ubuntu Touch project. We have more experience in the mobile development and mobile telephony space than most outfits, and have a lot to offer in what could be a tremendous collaboration. We look forward to seeing what such a collaboration would produce.


_________
Want something on the XDA Portal? Send us a tip!

jerdog

jerdog is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. Jeremy has been an XDA member since 2007, and has been involved in technology in one way or another, dating back to when he was 8 years old and was given his first PC in 1984 - which promptly got formatted. It was a match made in the stars, and he never looked back. He has owned, to date, over 60 mobile devices over the last 15 years and mobile technology just clicks with him. In addition to being a News Editor and OEM Relations Manager, he is a Senior Moderator and member of the Developer and Moderator Committees at XDA. View jerdog's posts and articles here.
Mario Tomás Serrafero · May 25, 2015 at 02:00 pm · 2 comments

XDA Office Space: Frankenstein’s Perfect IM Client?

The portal’s decentralized XDA office lies in a Hangouts chatroom, where we discuss the latest developments that hit the blogosphere, critique them and figure out what we can do to add a new or original point of view. We came to love this little virtual office, which sees messaging 24/7 due to the international nature of our team. The main problem that we have faced since early on is that Hangouts is not versatile enough for in-depth discussion.   What...

XDA NEWS
Emil Kako · May 25, 2015 at 12:32 pm · 4 comments

Which IM Client on Android is best?

With so many different messengers to choose from, it can be tough to find the best one for you and your friends to use. Hangouts, Whatsapp, Telegram and more are all battling it out for the number one spot. Let us know which IM client you think is best on Android and why.

DISCUSS
Jimmy McGee · May 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm · 2 comments

Android Factory Reset Security Flaw and More – XDA TV

Nvidia is releasing a 500Gb SHIELD TV Pro! That and much more news is covered by Jordan when he reviews all the important stories from this weekend. Included in this weekend's news is the announcement of an Android factory reset security flaw and be sure to check out the article talking about the Nexus Player getting TWRP. That's not all that's covered in today's video! Jordan covered the LG G4 First Impressions and Unboxing video from TK released this weekend...

XDA NEWS
Share This