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Ubuntu Touch: The Other Linux OS For Your Phone 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-look dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars takes a look at what Ubuntu Touch has to offer so far. From the article: 'It can't be stressed enough that even in this updated form, Ubuntu Touch is nowhere near usable as a mainstream mobile operating system. Canonical makes no claim that it is. For now, the software is about half development environment and half proof-of-concept tech demo. As such, we aren't going to be evaluating Ubuntu Touch using quite the same criteria we'd use for a shipping product—we're going to be focusing more on how the OS looks and works and less on how it performs. As we get closer to Ubuntu 14.04 and presumably Ubuntu Touch's retail availability, we'll certainly be revisiting it with a more critical eye.'"
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Ubuntu Touch: The Other Linux OS For Your Phone

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  • by Covalent (1001277) on Monday May 13, 2013 @08:17AM (#43708669)
    I'm an Ubuntu user on the desktop. I mostly love it (even Unity), though it does have its occasional bugs. Part of me really wants an Ubuntu phone OS so that my phone and my computer can speak the same language seamlessly.

    But part of me worries that this will result in the same fragmentation and lack of focus that has plagued Linux on the desktop since, well, since Linux on the desktop. Android is already fragmenting as so many phone companies won't update the OS on older phones. The result is 4 or 5 versions of Android running out there. Adding Ubuntu phone to the mix will further complicate matters.

    So, my dream wish is that the Android people and the Ubuntu people will get together (for their own financial good, I think) and decide on some actual standards....and then actually stick with them.

    As this makes a fair amount of sense, it will almost certainly not happen.
    • by gmuslera (3436) on Monday May 13, 2013 @09:05AM (#43708951) Homepage Journal

      Even in Linux for desktops or servers if well there are several distributions there is no big effect of fragmentation, most programs run unchanged in all of them. You can run KDE apps in gnome desktops (provided that you have installed the libraries, and that the app is not specific for the desktop environment, like being a plasma extension), the difference between distributions (package formats? location of files? names of daemons?) is usually easy to fix or consider in your code, and as most is open source programs can be recompiled if is for another architecture.

      If everything will be native linux, based on open libraries, probably won't be so hard to put a translation layer that makes easy to run the apps for one mobile OS into another (i.e. like Preenv for maemo []). And apps probably will be HTML5 (that most should run in all platforms, no matter if is linux or not, have Firefox OS apps running in my N9 with Hydra WRT []), or in QT/QML (that maybe could be able to run with minimal changes, or not too hard to port, in other QT/QML platforms, be BB10, Sailfish, Meego, desktop or even android, besides Ubuntu Touch).

      • It seems like fragmentation is an old argument to be regularly trotted out. It's not that it isn't a problem (it is in some cases where developers rely on package managers) but when it's been used so much then the argument starts with two of three strikes. If you're going to whine about fragmentation then at least have an example to site. The examples with Linux are starting to get thin, and with Android the examples are even thinner.

        The fragmentation problems that I have seen have to do with apps like H

      • The upcoming SailfishOS (descendant of Meego) will be able to run Android apps via the Alien dalvik engine.

        I am much more interested in Sailfish than Ubuntu Touch, though Ubuntu is getting all the press.

        • by exomondo (1725132)

          The upcoming SailfishOS (descendant of Meego) will be able to run Android apps via the Alien dalvik engine.

          It has the same problem that all these new mobile operating systems have: There is nothing compelling about them. It seems Firefox OS is just going to try and take a slice of the low end market so maybe they'll be able to get a foothold in a race to the bottom, but SailfishOS, MeeGo, Ubuntu Phone, Windows Phone, webOS, etc... are just not compelling, it's not that they are inherently bad, they're just not disruptive enough to make people want to change. You need a 'killer app' - in this case some great feat

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      Android is already fragmenting as so many phone companies won't update the OS on older phones. The result is 4 or 5 versions of Android running out there. Adding Ubuntu phone to the mix will further complicate matters.

      The frustrating thing is that Google could do something about it but doesn't, they have the OHA in which they enforce restrictions upon members (like not supporting incompatible forks) yet they don't place conditions on upgrades that would make the user experience far better and more consistent. Sure let them add their custom UI but at least mandate that they support X amount of version upgrades in a reasonable timeframe.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday May 13, 2013 @08:31AM (#43708753)
    It will be an uphill struggle to get this accepted while the other free OS, Android, has such a head start. A few people who want to be sure that metrics are not sent to google will go for it. A few more who want non-JVM centric applications too (or the complex NDK) might too, but I think it will be a niche market
    • As a niche person who wants to be sure that metrics are not sent to google, I am looking forward to Ubuntu phone.
      • Dude I am right there with you on that one. To date I'm still trying to find a good alternative to using a google account on my android. Looking at personal cloud servers to sync contacts/calendars/etc without having it filter through Google. I"m almost 100% that Ubuntu will require you to create an 'ubuntu user account' to use the phone. Just like all other companies, the phone is just hardware, the real profit comes from dissecting all the user info that is gathered from its use.
      • If you are super paranoid and don't want anything sent to Google then just install Cyanogenmod and don't install any Google apps.

  • Do we really need this? I would guess "yes" only if it enables people to update their old Android devices, (those which have been orphaned by Google and/or their OEMs) to replace previous versions of Android with unpatched vulnerabilities.

    Anyone got a take on this?

    • by Covalent (1001277) on Monday May 13, 2013 @08:50AM (#43708869)
      I agree with the orphaned phones idea. The one thing that Ubuntu is pretty good at is regularly updating their OS while keeping it runable on old tech. This might make it a good option for the low-end smart phone market, too.
      • One of the big challenges is to make Unity run fast. Currently it has always this slight laggy feel to it, even on C2D hardware.
    • by slim (1652)

      The demo video I saw (can't find the link now) showed a Samsung S3 (I think) with a normal Android UI on its touchscreen.

      They plugged it into a monitor with HDMI, and used a bluetooth keyboard/mouse, and got a fully-fledged Ubuntu desktop on the monitor.

      I'm not sure whether Linux was hosting Android, Android was hosting Linux, or whether both were hosted by a third layer. But they were able to share resources -- there were desktop apps that manipulated the Android address book for example.

      It does seem poten

      • That's Ubuntu for Android and a separate project. It actually, IMHO, has more usefulness than an entire Ubuntu OS for phones, which is what this thread is actually about. It's hard to search for information for one of these without getting information about the other.

        • by slim (1652)

          That's some confusing branding, right there!

          Thanks for the clarification.

  • ...until they can post, "I replaced it with Mint Touch and never looked back."
  • You cant make phone calls.

    I tried the first release a whole ago, neat concept demo but it turns your nexus into a useless brick. You cant even make phone calls because they have not eve started on the part that enables phone functionality.

  • Will end users pay for the OS? is it supported by ads? I would love to see this succeed but to succeed it needs to make at least enough money to fund development (even if you have many volunteers there are still costs for testing and qa)

    OS support wont sell as well for mobile as it does on big iron...

    • Presumably they'll create an appstore and encourage porting of Qt apps from Symbian/Meego/BB10 (however few in number)

  • If it runs a version of zeitgeist, no fucking way.

  • by anti-pop-frustration (814358) on Monday May 13, 2013 @10:36AM (#43709987) Journal
    Just to recap, the main Linux based Android alternatives currently under development are:

    - Ubuntu Touch []
    - Firefox OS []
    - Sailfish OS [] (based on MeeGo/Mer)
    - Tizen [] (Samsung)

    Software merit aside, Ubuntu seems like the least likely option to succeed. As far as I know (please correct me), they don't have much in terms of phone maker or carrier support. Firefox OS has Telephonica and GeeksPhone (still just a startup). Sailfish is developed by Jolla (a bunch of former Nokia employees), they seemed to be backed by a Finnish carrier. All these projects are relatively small scale compared to Samsung's Tizen. NTT Docomo is also backing Tizen which means the project both has the world's largest smartphone manufacturer and one of the world's largest phone carrier behind it.

    I want at least one or two of these projects to actually succeed. Why? Because we badly need open source/linux alternatives to Android, which has severe problems (not all caused by Google - the carriers/manufacturers bear a large part of the blame):
    - The security/updates situation is a mess, there's no way to deny it. Can you imagine a world where both PC manufacturers and/or ISPs must approve and deploy Windows updates before they reach the end user? This is Android right now.
    And before the inevitable "Buy Nexus if you want updates" answer: Do you know how insane that sounds? "Buy Toshiba if you want to access Windows update", that's how.
    - For Google, Android is just another platform to deliver adds, which means they built the system in a way that won't let the average user block them: The consequence is no effective root access for the user (in order to prevent - amongst other things - host file based and system wide ad blocking). This means Google or the manufacturer owns your phone, not you.
    And no, being able to unlock the bootloader and install an after-market rom because you have a Nexus phone is *not* enough. Regular users don't need to install a special version of Windows/OS X/Ubuntu to have root access to their computers. Why should it be different with phones?

    Linux is Free. Windows and OS X have to be purchased, Android on the other way is paid for by looking at Google's ads... hardly a sane and secure model for an OS. We need to get away from ad-based computing.
  • You mean they created that Unity abortion just because they wanted to? I was cutting them some slack because I thought it was supposed to be compatible with a mobile touch interface or something. I mean, I thought that was a little batty, but Holy shit, they're completely insane!

    Yeah, let's see, I want my phone UI to get cocked up just for the fuck of it at any future point at some moronic UI designer's whim... No, sorry Canonical. Screw me once, shame on me; Screw me twice...

    I'd rather use Firefox O

"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai