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Open Source Ubuntu Android Cellphones Handhelds Operating Systems Software Linux

Canonical Puts Ubuntu On Android Smartphones 155

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-my-phone-would-crash-less dept.
nk497 writes "Canonical has revealed Ubuntu running on a smartphone — but the open source developer hasn't squashed the full desktop onto a tiny screen. Instead, the Ubuntu for Android system runs both OSes side by side, picking which to surface depending on the form factor. When a device — in the demo, it was a Motorola Atrix — is being used as a smartphone, it uses Android. When it's docked into a laptop or desktop setup, the full version of Ubuntu is used. Files, apps and other functionality such as voice calls and texting are shared between the two — for example, if a text message is sent to the phone when it's docked, the SMS pops up in Ubuntu, while calls can be received or made from the desktop." ZDnet has pictures; ExtremeTech has a story, too, including some words from Canonical CEO Jane Silber.
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Canonical Puts Ubuntu On Android Smartphones

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  • Very nice!, nonetheless I'd rather see it run on my Notion Ink Adam. I like the hardware, but somehow still grab my laptop more often.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:04PM (#39113647)
    Why was there a big push for Unity if you're not going to use it in a small form factor? Why not just stick with a real desktop?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unity/Gnome debate is silly and you're really missing the point.

      • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:06PM (#39114425)

        Unity/Gnome debate is silly and you're really missing the point.

        I don't think he's missing the point - Canonical pushed the small touch-screen friendly Unity on everyone, and now that they have Ubuntu running on a small formfactor touch screen that is supposed to be exactly what Unity is good at, what do they do? They dump Ubuntu entirely on that small screen and only run Ubuntu on the big monitor with no touch screen.

        So tell me again what the point of Unity is if it's not for touchscreen devices?

        • Maybe Canonical released Unity for the same reason Adam Sandler made Jack and Jill?
          • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @05:45PM (#39116713) Journal
            You mean they too was paid by the CIA to develop a method of inflicting horrible pain without leaving a mark on the victim? Those bastards! At least Sandler had an excuse as they threatened him with being forced to work on the new SNL and having to have Tom Green write all his material, but what's Canonical's excuse? Maybe a lucrative contract to supply all of Iraq and Afghanistan with non touch enabled desktops to teach the children the futility of trying to fight the system? the mind boggles.
            • but what's Canonical's excuse?

              Employees trying to justify being yes-persons to Shuttleworth's "Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life" so they can continue to collect a paycheck, duh!

              Nobody's going to tell him his ideas are seriously out of date, that Canonical is a failure from the venture capital perspective, and that they should never have abandoned the goal of making the best desktop distro, period, instead of turning around and throwing their user base under the bus.

              That's okay - Canonical's

        • So tell me again what the point of Unity is if it's not for touchscreen devices?

          One device is not an entire market.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Apparently to piss people off and drive them away from Ubuntu. My lady's machine has been losing gadgets off the menu bar randomly and crap like that. If Ubuntu can't maintain a little basic quality I will have to move her to another distribution that will result in less questions I can't answer. (Or at least, I won't spend hours in digital forensics to figure out why the GUI asplode when I have other options.)

      • If its silly why did you post as an AC?

        You know damn well that it's not silly.

    • Why was there a big push for Unity if you're not going to use it in a small form factor? Why not just stick with a real desktop?

      Perhaps because Unity isn't as mature and feature-complete for use on a smartphone as Android is.

  • Unity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:05PM (#39113657) Homepage

    So let me get this straight...

    The Unity desktop was arguably intended for tablets and phones... so it's only active when connected to a full-size monitor?

    I appreciate the concept of a single computing device for everything, and having that device be tiny... but couldn't somebody other than Canonical do it? Please?

    • Re:Unity (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:44PM (#39114165) Journal

      So close yet so far. I'd buy a phone running Ubuntu but I have no use for Android. I'd have it run the same OS all the time, just using a mobile GUI (Unity or preferably Hildon) on the small screen and a traditional desktop GUI (I'm thinking XFCE) on the large screen.

      If I can make a Droid 4 run Ubuntu I'll buy one ASAP. Once you can run a regular GNU/Linux distro you can customize it to do anything the hardware is capable of. That's the only problem with my N900, the hardware's old and out of date.

      • by rdnetto (955205)

        If I can make a Droid 4 run Ubuntu I'll buy one ASAP. Once you can run a regular GNU/Linux distro you can customize it to do anything the hardware is capable of. That's the only problem with my N900, the hardware's old and out of date.

        Modifying an Android kernel to run Ubuntu isn't very hard, as long as you have the ability to flash the new kernel. There just isn't much interest in doing so right now given the lack of suitable mobile operating systems (compared to certain Android tablets, which can get by with desktop OSs), but I think it'll pick up once Kubuntu Mobile is released.

    • by AvitarX (172628)

      Arguably if complete lack of functionality on a touchscreen is your argument (requires hover).

      It was designed for netbooks, and after the fad of netbooks.

      Single low-mid (by todays standards) monitor is the target for Unity.

    • Re:Unity (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jonner (189691) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:10PM (#39114469)

      Canonical first officially released Unity as part of Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Currently, they call it "A powerful desktop and netbook environment that brings consistency and elegance to the Ubuntu experience." I don't think Canonical has said it was intended for tablets and phones, but others have incorrectly assumed that.

      I don't hate Unity as so many others seem to, but neither have I found it particularly useful. What I'd like to see is a way to run arbitrary Free *nix apps on an Android system in as seemless and integrated way as possible. At a bare minimum, this would require an X11 server, but integration of notifications would be another obvious thing to do.

  • Not ready (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guspaz (556486) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:08PM (#39113691)

    It's the right idea, but Ubuntu on ARM is nowhere near ready. It's crazy buggy, and you're going to miss out on hardware accelerated graphics for the vast majority of applications, because most apps still expect OpenGL, and can't take advantage of OpenGL ES.

    The other problem is that devices like the Atrix, while an interesting concept, aren't really ready to host desktop Linux yet. The performance just isn't there yet. I suspect that the next crop of smartphones, with dual core A15s or quad-core A9s, those will probably do a decent job at it.

    Disclaimer: my experience with playing around with this is limited to various versions of Ubuntu on a pandaboard, which is a TI OMAP dev board with similar specs to the Atrix.

    • I find that hard to believe. Win7 only requires a 1 GHz processor and 1G of RAM; surely you can tweak an Ubuntu distro to run fine on a current phone?

      If you use software that doesn't run smoothly enough on current phone, your requirements are likely to scale up with increased processing power so you'll never feel anything but a desktop is sufficiently powerful.
      • by VMaN (164134) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:34PM (#39114763) Homepage

        Sadly, all GHz are not created equal..

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        Win7 *requires* that to run, but that doesn't mean it will run well. Using modern websites and web apps on that sort of machine will be painful. Besides that, Windows counts on there being a certain amount of hardware acceleration for graphics, even if it's just GDI (2D) acceleration. But few smartphone GPUs have 2D components, so there's no accelerated 2D drawing. You end up basically drawing and compositing everything entirely in software, which puts a huge burden on your already underpowered CPU.

        A few th

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      It's the right idea, but Ubuntu on ARM is nowhere near ready. It's crazy buggy, and you're going to miss out on hardware accelerated graphics for the vast majority of applications, because most apps still expect OpenGL, and can't take advantage of OpenGL ES.

      This isn't limited to Ubuntu. Hardware acceleration is probably the hardest thing to get working on ARM Linux as it stands, because the drivers are binary blobs and Android has a completely different architecture (e.g. no X server). Everything else (bluetooth, audio, etc.) has a similar architecture which means that even if the driver is a binary blob, you can still just load the kernel module and use it. Realistically, getting hardware acceleration working would require a massive amount of reverse engineer

  • I would really like the ability to dock my phone with my TV, and turn my phone into a HTPC. Only challenges to overcome would be - content providers like (Hulu and Netflix), and a remote (bluetooth?).
    • by ganjadude (952775)
      wouldnt a wireless connection make more sense and have the phone act as the remote?
    • Been doing this for years on my N900, although I don't use Hulu or Netflix (one is region-locked and one uses DRM). I can hook up a BT keyboard and mouse and a DS3 controller. The big problem is that there isn't much processing power so you can't play HD movies.

    • by Merk42 (1906718)
      Some of the screenshots on Verge show Ubuntu TV. http://www.theverge.com/2012/2/21/2812663/canonicals-ubuntu-webtop-environment#3028281 [theverge.com]
  • by oakgrove (845019) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:14PM (#39113787)
    According to what I read, they're planning on keeping it from the community and only working it in with OEM's on future devices. Where did you go wrong Canonical?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:17PM (#39113847)

      Where didn't they go wrong lately?

    • keeping it from the community and only working it in with OEM's on future devices

      FFFFUUUUUUUUUUU

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The PCPro article says "Silber said Ubuntu for Android would be released under an open source license, but that Canonical expects it to mostly be pre-installed on specific hardware." I honestly hope they don't screw this one up, it's got the potential to be huge.

    • by fiver22 (637111)
      From the extremetech article: "The other problem is that while Canonical is pushing the build to hardware manufacturers and mobile carriers, it has no plans to release it to the general public for independent development. This means that you won't see a CyanogenMod ROM with this functionality built into it. While Ubuntu is open source, Canonical plans to control the release of this version." Spooky Canonical.
      • by nschubach (922175)

        The comment right above parent says:

        The PCPro article says "Silber said Ubuntu for Android would be released under an open source license, but that Canonical expects it to mostly be pre-installed on specific hardware." I honestly hope they don't screw this one up, it's got the potential to be huge.

        ...
        So is it going to be open sourced (where CyanogenMod can do it themselves...invalidating the extremetech article) or not?

        • by RDW (41497)

          From a reply by the author in the extremetech comments:

          'In my interview with Silber, I asked her specifically about releasing the software to 3rd party developers like Cyanogenmod to include in builds of Android. Silber replied that while Ubuntu is open-source, the implementation of the platform in this way isn't. I will certainly forward your question on to them and see if there is some clarification.'

          So the plot, apparently, thickens.

    • by zarlino (985890) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:30PM (#39114701) Homepage

      Canonical already made a great job in making the Linux desktop usable for the masses for free. They need to monetize their work if they're going to keep doing it. Giving Ubuntu for Android to the community as an unsupported do-it-yourself hack, would bring zero profit and lots of users whining.

      • by oakgrove (845019)
        I'm not trying to take anything away from Canonical. I wish them the best of financial success and have used every version of Ubuntu in some capacity since 2007. I hope they can work out a deal with every Android OEM in existence to become an integral part of their products. As a matter of fact, if they could team up with Google and be integrated with AOSP, I would be ecstatic. My problem is, why actively keep it from the community. That doesn't make sense to me. The ROM makers like Cyanogenmod aren't
  • the Ubuntu for Android system runs both OSes side by side

    Nice trick. Anyone knows if this scheme respects battery life?

    • by kvvbassboy (2010962) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:35PM (#39114073)

      How does it matter? You will be running Ubuntu only when it's docked apparently.

      From the website:

      Ubuntu for Android requires minimal custom hardware enablement, allowing fast and cost-efficient core integration. It requires a core based on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or any subsequent version.

      Ubuntu and Android share the same kernel. When docked, the Ubuntu OS boots and runs concurrently with Android. This allows both mobile and desktop functionality to co-exist in different runtimes.

      Shared services and applications are delivered using a Convergence API module which ensures the tight integration between desktop and mobile environments. Work is balanced across the cores of the phone. When the handset is not docked, both CPU cores transfer their full power to Android.

      This is simply brilliant! If I can get gcc, vim and python, and I managed to compile (if not just download) some packages I need, I don't think I will need to buy a full fledged desktop. :)

    • I've similarly run a Debian chroot on my N900, the only difference in battery life will come from the heavier desktop apps you might be running.

    • by Jonner (189691)

      the Ubuntu for Android system runs both OSes side by side

      Nice trick. Anyone knows if this scheme respects battery life?

      I strongly suspect this is a mischaracterization of what happens. Since both Android and Ubuntu are based on Linux, there's no need to run two kernels side by side. Most likely, Canonical just added their userspace, which is mostly general GNU/Linux stuff packaged by Debian. It's not the OSes running side by side, but the ordinary processes. When "Ubuntu" apps aren't running, they aren't consuming anything but secondary storage space.

      • Actually, you have to run them side-by-side. Canonical failed to deliver their "Android Execution Environment" that they announced withi such a big splash in 2009.

        It's simple, really - you use the existing hypervisor in the Atrix, and just replace the desktop os with the os of your choice.

        • by Jonner (189691)

          Actually, you have to run them side-by-side. Canonical failed to deliver their "Android Execution Environment" that they announced withi such a big splash in 2009.

          It's simple, really - you use the existing hypervisor in the Atrix, and just replace the desktop os with the os of your choice.

          If you're right, that's disappointing. I want to be able to run ordinary GNU/Linux programs on my Android device without special hardware requirements or running a separate VM.

          • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

            You can't run them "side-by-side" in the conventional sense. The hardware activates one OS image or the other. And none of this is new - here's a video of Debian running on the same device, back in August of last year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8-92J9hfkA [youtube.com]

            Canonical announced their "Android Execution Environment" 3 years ago, then abandoned it 2 years ago because they couldn't do it.

            This is as "innovative" as UbuntuTV was - which was just Canonical customizing the freely-available samygo.tv software

  • Aw man, and I thought the idea I had for a single computer with multiple display formats for different input and output devices (keyboard/monitor, tablet, phone, digital music player, etc) was totally revolutionary. At least I can claim I thought it up on my own. And certainly, it was far more extensive than what Canonical is doing here, but what they have is the first step in that direction. So far it seems like they're running dual OSes with common data points, but my vision was a single OS that simply
  • This might make me switch from Fedora to Ubuntu. Red Hat has been sorely lacking when it comes to pushing new technologies. So this interesting little achievement might be the thing that pushes me off of Fedora into that world.

    • by KugelKurt (908765)

      This might make me switch from Fedora to Ubuntu. Red Hat has been sorely lacking when it comes to pushing new technologies.

      What are you talking about? Red Hat is the prime technology creator for Linux. Wayland, for example, started as Red Hat project and only later did the lead developer switch employers to Intel. sysdemd, Plymouth, GNOME Shell, PulseAudio, LLVMpipe, Nouveau, GTK, etc. are all primarily created by Red Hat.
      What's more important: Red Hat develops those technologies in a way that they can easily be adopted by others.
      Canonical OTOH rarely develops technologies and when it does, it does in a way to make it as hard a

  • WM8650 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Windwraith (932426) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:21PM (#39113903)

    I wonder if this can be made to run in a low-grade "Wondermedia" Chinese tablet? If so, would be a totally nice thing to make the most of the hardware. I'd get it installed like right now.
    It's mostly because I get mixed feelings for Android. While it certainly works for little things to do with a phone or tablet, I can't help but feel it lacks stuff to make it productive. It'd be so convenient to have a little bash+sed+awk+etc environment to do little scripts on the road, or a working python terminal**...and the market is convenient, but a lot of the stuff takes me back to the bad aspects of shareware. So I would really want to run Ubuntu on it, and use familiar apps like Pidgin with OTR, a bash scripting environment...etc. And I think Unity in a tablet is a good thing to have, even if just Unity2D.

    • Re:WM8650 (Score:4, Informative)

      by Spykk (823586) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:36PM (#39114791)
      Install a terminal emulator [android.com] and a copy of busybox [android.com] and you can have a bash scripting environment on android.
      • I have a terminal and, somehow, my tablet came with busybox installed, but I am used to Bash.
        I happened to find, not long after my post, a collection of basic binaries such as wget, grep, coreutils, bash, etc. That kind of does the work, but I require rooting to go any further.
        Because of the hard-to-identify-because-of-too-many-models nature of WM8650 tablets, I am not attempting flashing the ROM until I have recovery hardware (I bricked a tablet with a ROM supposedly custom-made for the model, got it repai

    • I'm with you - but I'm thinking I'd like to run it on a Droid phone sans SIM as a MP3 player. Why buy a new Droid or iPod for $240+ when I can buy a used droid phone for $80 off eBay, throw on Ubuntu and use it for the next five years as my portable media player?
  • by clarkn0va (807617) <apt,get&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:31PM (#39114005) Homepage

    the open source developer hasn't squashed the full desktop onto a tiny screen

    I think that's a given, considering Canonical hasn't squashed a full desktop onto a 30" screen in the past year or so.

  • by FunkyELF (609131) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @02:47PM (#39114201)

    If Microsoft allowed Windows 8 on ARM to have desktop applications this is what could have been.

    This sounds very intriguing. I hope something comes of this. I'm not sure I care about this for a phone but for a tablet it would be awesome.
    Imagine the Asus Transformer Prime running Ice Cream Sandwich as a tablet, and when docked its a full blown laptop.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So here's what I'm getting from this story. They have Ubuntu as a dual-boot(?) alongside Android and they use the Android drivers to get at the device's functionality from within Ubuntu, without having to write new drivers for each device. This might be a great first step from Canonical to get a foot in the door on smartphones and tablets before going full OEM. Hopefully when they release the source, the community will adapt it to run another distro (Debian with KDE Plasma Active anyone?), although I wouldn

  • One big holdup for me buying a webtop with my Atrix was that I needed to downgrade from unlimited data to 4Gig, then buy a separate tethering plan, which is absurd. This looks like and even better solution, because I can keep my unlimited plan.

  • Canonical announced an EEEpc with Linux [canonical.com], and that never happened. I'm wary of Canonical claims that they're "partnering" with somebody, when the other "partner" doesn't announce the deal too. Where's the announcement from Google?

  • The Motorola Atrix was launched last year, and this was supported out of the box. It was the major selling point of the phone

    • by Jonner (189691)

      The Motorola Atrix was launched last year, and this was supported out of the box. It was the major selling point of the phone

      The Atrix was launched with Android, HDMI output and Webtop [motorola.com], which is certainly not a full-featured desktop Operating System. If Motorola said it was running Ubuntu or any other full-featured GNU/Linux desktop OS, they were lying.

      • Motorola's Webtop, which is being replaced here, was originally based on Ubuntu in the first place. While this iteration for the Atrix's successor may be more full-featured, the concept is identical. All of the features mentioned in the summary are already present.

        • by Jonner (189691)

          Just because Webtop was "based on Ubuntu" doesn't mean I can run Thunderbird, Emacs or Nethack on it. Everything I see indicates it is intended to run a browser and nothing else.

      • by N2UX (237223)

        Motorola never claimed to be running a full featured Ubuntu or other Gnu/Linux desktop, but the functionality to do so *was* built into the phone. All of the stuff you need to install packages is there.. You just have to be willing to root the phone so you can break out of the jail.

      • by Digicrat (973598)

        The Motorola Atrix was launched last year, and this was supported out of the box. It was the major selling point of the phone

        The Atrix was launched with Android, HDMI output and Webtop [motorola.com], which is certainly not a full-featured desktop Operating System. If Motorola said it was running Ubuntu or any other full-featured GNU/Linux desktop OS, they were lying.

        And within a few months of its release the fine hackers at xda-developers.com unlocked the webtop to work as a fully-featured desktop operating system. Hence, this is not new. This is simply Canonical claiming credit for re-packaging what's already been done.

        OT: Come to think of it, what has Canonical done in Ubuntu Desktop lately besides forcing Unity, adding an installer and a few configuration GUIs that isn't already in Debian? (Note: I do think Ubuntu does a great job of neatly packaging Linux for ne

        • by Jonner (189691)

          The Motorola Atrix was launched last year, and this was supported out of the box. It was the major selling point of the phone

          The Atrix was launched with Android, HDMI output and Webtop [motorola.com], which is certainly not a full-featured desktop Operating System. If Motorola said it was running Ubuntu or any other full-featured GNU/Linux desktop OS, they were lying.

          And within a few months of its release the fine hackers at xda-developers.com unlocked the webtop to work as a fully-featured desktop operating system. Hence, this is not new. This is simply Canonical claiming credit for re-packaging what's already been done.

          OT: Come to think of it, what has Canonical done in Ubuntu Desktop lately besides forcing Unity, adding an installer and a few configuration GUIs that isn't already in Debian? (Note: I do think Ubuntu does a great job of neatly packaging Linux for new users with user-friendly installers and such, but for myself I've been a lot happier since I switched over to Debian Squeeze.)

          Thanks for supplying more evidence for my assertion that Motorola did not provide a full-featured GNU/Linux destkop system on the Atrix as shipped. I'm not surprised that others have succeeded in getting a real GNU/Linux system working on the Atrix despite Motorola's attempts to prevent it.

          I think Canonical has done a lot of good by polishing Debian and making it easier to use in some ways, which is why I still use Ubuntu. I am not terribly impressed by Unity and am currently using GNOME Shell, but I'm sure

    • by scorp1us (235526)

      What the Atrix gave you was a half-assed linux environment, that was not networked. To get the webtop to talk, you had to tether it to you phone. Which means you had to downgrade your unlimited plan to 4gig, then buy a tethering feature. Meanwhile your phone was plugged into the lapdock port, which was behind the webtop LCD.

      The difference is this should not require any changes to your plan, and your phone should remain accessible.

  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:39PM (#39114835)

    I have had multiple window managers running on a machine before too...

    • But you have not created a major distro that does this for Android smartphones in a more polished and well supported fashion.

      Your running of multiple Xservers on the same computer on different ports or screens does fuck-all for a phone. So, yeah, it's big news (for nerds at least), and pretty damned interesting. For all the crap Canonical gets, at least they are trying new things, even though there is no shortage of people giving them shit for doing so.

  • by lennier1 (264730) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @04:04PM (#39115147)

    There's still some of it left which Canonical hasn't managed to ruin?

  • Really what they need to do is come out with a flash rom that you reflash your particular android device with and boom you're using ubuntu both in dock and undock mode... Doing it the way they are currently doing it, basically as an app running on the phone, is a step in the right direction, but really the road map should be to fully replace Android with Ubuntu. I think most people who use Android devices wish these devices were just running ubuntu, because ubuntu (and any desktop linux OS really) has a to

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