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First Look At Ubuntu Touch, the Smartphone OS

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the is-it-nsa-approved dept.

Cellphones 60

colinneagle writes "The first developer preview of Ubuntu Touch – aka 'Ubuntu for Phones and Tablets' – was unveiled just a few short months ago. And, just a few weeks back, it was announced that the team was shooting for having a fully functional (aka "can use it as your actual phone, on a daily basis") version by the end of May. May is now over, so Bryan Lunduke published some screenshots and analysis of the core features of the Ubuntu OS for smartphones and tablets."

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don't we already have Linux for smartphones (0)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974029)

hasn't this been done already?

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (4, Insightful)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974329)

Sure, but unlike Maemo/Meego/Sailfish, it was Not Invented Here.

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (5, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974349)

Which one? Android, Meego, Maemo, Tizen, WebOS, Firefox OS, Sailfish, etc? We have a lot, each one with their own strenghts and focus. Ubuntu Touch points toward integration between desktop and phones (as in you connect to a monitor and you have a desktop running from your phone) and having the same environment in phones, tablets and desktops (maybe in a bit smarter way than in Windows 8). And being Linux based, and in good part using common libraries (i.e. for a lot of them you can develop in qt/qml), or html5 apps, or being able to have compatibility layers (i.e. Preenv [maemo.org] to run WebOS apps in Maemo) there is the possibility that a lot of apps could be shared or ported between them.

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43974361)

That's like saying "Don't we already have Linux for desktops? Hasn't this been done already?"

Also, God forbid there should be a little variety, choice and competition in the smartphone OS market.

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (1)

lennier1 (264730) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974365)

Sure, but Android seems to be the only flavour that has gained enough of a foothold.

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (5, Informative)

Dusty101 (765661) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974541)

Well, if you're referring to Android, then I think the answer is yes & no. It's probably more accurate to describe it as a phone OS based around a Linux kernel, as opposed to a mobile incarnation of an open GNU/Linux (which a lot of people would simply refer to as Linux). I think it could also be accurately described as a less-open fork of Linux. The distinction is a pretty fuzzy one, though. And you're right, in that there are also things like the Maemo/Meego/Mer/Sailfish effort (as others have noted).

As I understand it, this Ubuntu effort is more purely an open GNU/Linux implementation, with added-on phone-centric bits. The cool thing about this is that if you have a high-end Ubuntu Touch phone, then you'll be able to plug it into a docking station and use it as a full-fat Linux desktop. This also means (of course) that it's more independent as a device, and doesn't rely on touching base all the time with the Google mothership, which might appeal to some users from a privacy point of view. If this does mature to the point of being very usable, I for one might be very tempted.

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43976051)

Ubuntu for phones uses a fork of Linux and a custom display server, just like Android. It is no more open than Android and the Canonical contributor agreement and license gives contributors less rights than the Android contributor agreement.

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (1)

mat8913 (2654467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43981409)

Ubuntu for phones uses a fork of Linux

Most distros use their own fork of the linux kernel. There's nothing wrong with that

Re:don't we already have Linux for smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43989997)

It might not touch base with the Google mothership, but don't be surprised it it does so with Canonical and their selected partners.

I wonder (0, Troll)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974049)

Will Ubuntu Touch come with the NSA backdoor, or is that going to be an aftermarket upgrade?

Re:I wonder (3, Insightful)

JohnnyMindcrime (2487092) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974475)

No, it won't. It's built on Open Source software, the source code is open and subject to constant peer review, any backdoors in their would be noticed.

Re:I wonder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43975209)

Ubuntu might be based on open-source, but it has never claimed to be 100% open-source and never will strive to be. Plus, it's run by a clueless company which already sells your local search info to Amazon, so why not the NSA?

Re:I wonder (1)

JohnnyMindcrime (2487092) | about a year and a half ago | (#43975327)

Not that I use (or particularly care about) Ubuntu anyway, I would assume that being the high profile company that they are in the Linux world, if they made any violations of the GPL or other licenses the software they use, someone would pick up on it fairly quickly.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43977203)

You have heard of the restricted and non-free repos haven't you? Everyone who wants NVidia chips to perform well on Ubuntu is using non-open-source software, and no, it does not violate the GPL.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43982565)

Ubuntu for phones runs on an unmodified Android kernel with the same proprietary drivers and firmwares, which means it will contain all the same backdoors as Android.

You don't think backdoors are implemented in user mode where they can be trivially detected, do you?

Re:I wonder (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974481)

At least the Amazon backdoor will come as a standard feature.

Re:I wonder (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974623)

which is easily solved with a simple apt-get purge unity

Re:I wonder (4, Insightful)

norminator (784674) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974683)

I'm sure it won't matter, since your carrier will pass on whatever call information and data used no matter what OS you're running on the phone. Also, any online services (Facebook, Google, etc.) are doing the same.

Re:I wonder (4, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year and a half ago | (#43975061)

sudo apt-get install NSA-backdoor

Re:I wonder (2)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43975175)

You sir, have just given me a new simlink to add to my Linux systems....

Re:I wonder (4, Funny)

RDW (41497) | about a year and a half ago | (#43976781)

sudo apt-get install NSA-backdoor

NSA-backdoor is already the newest version.
The following package was automatically installed and is no longer required:
      constitutional-rights
     

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43976675)

Actually, you've hit on a very important difference between Ubuntu and other tablet/phone OSes: You can examine the source code, compile it yourself, and know that there are no backdoors. Can't do that with any other such OS.

Re:I wonder (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#43981259)

I can with nemo or nitdroid.

Re: I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43981901)

Or Mer, or (I presume, since it's derived from Mer) Sailfish.

Interesting (4, Insightful)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974061)

It's interesting. I'm an Ubuntu and Linux Mint user at home, but I can't really see value in having it on a phone. Although it would be nifty if I had a docking station at home and work where I could just drop my phone into it to use it as a more portable computer with a full monitor, keyboard and mouse when available, and the regular phone touch interface when on the go.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43974223)

It provides competition and choice. No competition == No need to innovate.

I'm curious to see how it all turns out.

Re:Interesting (4, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974441)

The value in these devices might be if you could take your phone, plug it into a dock and suddenly it becomes a full blown Linux desktop. That's a useful thing to strive for. Otherwise not so much.

Re:Interesting (4, Interesting)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974687)

I could see this happening in the near future.

My Galaxy Note II isn't incredibly powerful compared to either my one year old Ubuntu Laptop or my four year old Linux mint machine, but it's certainly more powerful than the computer I built ten years ago and would be great for simple games, word processing, web surfing and e-mails. I like the stylus for writing texts and taking notes on the phone, but a full keyboard would be even more useful when available.

I could see this being really awesome with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, LAN connection and dual full screen monitors hooked to a docking station, which could really be done with an Android, iPhone or Windows phone. MS should have done this, they might have been on to something if they had implement Metor on Windows 8 for mobile devices that would switch to regular Windows 7 style desktops when plugged into a docking station, rather than the steaming pile of crap Windows 8 turned out to be.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43980235)

I have an Asus TF300 with a detachable keyboard, and I am eagerly awaiting this.

Re:Interesting (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | about a year and a half ago | (#43977555)

Or if the phone had a projector for the screen and keyboard like this [idigitaltimes.com] . I would get that right away if it ran Ubuntu.

Re:Interesting (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43979843)

Only a small handful of years ago I regularly used a single-core 1.4 GHz 32-bit processor and 2GB RAM, my phone is from 2011 and it's got 1.5 GHz and 512MB. Today's phones beat the living shit out of machines I still use. This is easily accessible.

Re: Interesting (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#43980729)

> Today's phones beat the living shit out of machines I still use.

Don't be too sure. Megahertz-per-useful-act, anything from the Pentium-M (really, a Pentium III Xeon w/power mgmt) still totally spanks ARM7, even in dualcore-for-Android form (between power management & poor handling of apps not explicitly written to be SMP, a dual/quadcore Arm Cortex almost might as well be single-core). A 1.5GHz Krait running Android is roughly comparable to a 1Ghz P-III running XP in perceived performance. Yes, you can find optimized examples that give a dualcore Krait or quadcore Exynos a sligha edge, but x86/AMD64 cpus are *profoundly* optimized for getting good performance out of mediocre software under sub-optimal conditions compared to ARM7.

Re: Interesting (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43985027)

Don't be too sure. Megahertz-per-useful-act, anything from the Pentium-M (really, a Pentium III Xeon w/power mgmt) still totally spanks ARM7,

Who cares? Dual-core is now standard and quad-core is becoming so. My point is well-supported.

x86/AMD64 cpus are *profoundly* optimized for getting good performance out of mediocre software under sub-optimal conditions

What? x86 is shit. They are profoundly crufted because of the instruction set and the complete and total lack of general purpose registers, so you need more hardware to make up for these pathetic deficiencies. This is why a chip that does the same amount of shit will always use more power if it's x86 as opposed to ARM. amd64 is much better but there are no designs yet which are competitive with ARM in the low end. And the simple truth is that the low end is covering more and more people's needs today. A few of us need more horsepower on a regular basis, but most don't.

Re: Interesting (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#43994387)

Anybody who thinks ARM is remotely close to matching x86 performance should try this little experiment: get a 7-8 year old notebook like a Dell D600 w/1.6GHz Pentium M, install Ubuntu on it, and compare it side by side with any ARM netbook that has a CPU of comparable nominal speed, plus comparable ram and storage, and has the same release of Ubuntu installed on it. Configure both with identical desktop settings, and run the same apps (compiled for the proper architecture, of course). The 7 year old D600 will beat the ARM laptop like an unloved child in a trailer park.

Yes, if you have the resources of IBM or Samsung, you could cobble together a pimped-out ARM that's in the same league as a low-end x86-64 CPU... 2GHz+, multi-core, lots of cache, with speculative & out of order execution. The works. And if you do, congratulations... you've just invented a CPU with the computing power of a Pentium IV, but the slightly lower power requirements of a mobile Athlon 64.

There's no free lunch, and ARM is neither holy nor magic. If you take ARM on its own terms and use it appropriately for things that don't need a lot of computing power, it works well. If you try to pimp it out and cobble together an ARM-based PC with the raw performance power of even a lower-end modern x86-64 PC and use it to run the same (but recompiled) apps you'd run on a regular PC, you end up with an abomination that has all the drawbacks of ARM with none of its benefits.

Re:Interesting (4, Informative)

Insightfill (554828) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974889)

It's interesting. I'm an Ubuntu and Linux Mint user at home, but I can't really see value in having it on a phone. Although it would be nifty if I had a docking station at home and work where I could just drop my phone into it to use it as a more portable computer with a full monitor, keyboard and mouse when available, and the regular phone touch interface when on the go.

Sounds like Ubuntu For Android [ubuntu.com] I've got a regular Galaxy Nexus, so external video isn't for me, but sounds good in principal.

Re:Interesting (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year and a half ago | (#43975121)

I've seen that before, I imagine that's where the idea in my head came from. Thanks for point it out.

I only skimmed the site and I can't seem to find any place to actually get it, but when I have some time I have an older HTC Desire Z I'd love to try this out on. I'd also have to figure out where to get the docking station, which I did look for awhile back, but couldn't find anything at a reasonable price point.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43975179)

The value is that you can have a Linux powered phone without handing all your personnal data to Google (and who knows else considering the "practices" of some Android playstore devs).

Re:Interesting (1)

fido_dogstoyevsky (905893) | about a year and a half ago | (#43981249)

It's interesting. I'm an Ubuntu and Linux Mint user at home, but I can't really see value in having it on a phone. Although it would be nifty if I had a docking station at home and work where I could just drop my phone into it to use it as a more portable computer with a full monitor, keyboard and mouse when available, and the regular phone touch interface when on the go.

Maybe not for a phone (apart from being more open), but Really Good for a tablet.

ORLY? (1)

preflex (1840068) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974073)

Bryan Lunduke published some screenshots and analysis of the core features of the Ubuntu OS for smartphones and tablets.

Did the submitter even read TFA? I clicked the link. No screenshots. No analysis.

Re:ORLY? (1)

preflex (1840068) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974099)

D'oh. Wrong link.

Re:ORLY? (2)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974125)

You have obviously not had enough coffee this morning.

Re:ORLY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43974459)

The problem is it seems to require Javascript to display some graphics and text.
Didn't HTML solve that problem a long time ago?

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43974159)

Just blegh. It looks unrefined and not finished. Boring, bland, plain fugly. More like an alpha version. Not the Gold RM version.
No mass market appeal at all.

Fail. Next.

Re:Meh (1)

deusmetallum (1607059) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974539)

Just blegh. It looks unrefined and not finished. Boring, bland, plain fugly. More like an alpha version. Not the Gold RM version. No mass market appeal at all.

Well... that's precisely because it is unrefined and not finished. At the moment, they're only running enough on there for it to work as a phone. The design team are putting together theming stuff right now. It's a brillian piece of multitasking, which all companies to. While one group is working on apps, and doing rather well, the other team is holding back on any designs until it is ready.

To say there is no mass-market appeal is too early to say right now. Sure, I don't predict that there's going to be a great deal of adoption, but I do feel that some people will really take to it. I'm personally keeping an eye on it for that moment that it does become a viable replacement for my android phone. It's not there yet, but I'm confident it will be.

An OMG article with video (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43974209)

http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2013/06/progress-on-ubuntu-touch-for-phones-demoed

Inferior to Android ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43974239)

Why chosse such an Operating System while Android is mature ? Take a look on what we can do with an Android device and reconsidere your choice : Android 4.1 : get the facts ! [youtube.com]

Re:Inferior to Android ? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974387)

Why run Windows while DOS is mature?

Re:Inferior to Android ? (2)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974513)

Android doesn't run emacs

Re:Inferior to Android ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43974807)

Why choose Windows NT when Window 3.11 is mature?

Surprisingly Nice (1)

Lazere (2809091) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974413)

I have to admit, I actually like this phone. As long as it actually does give root without voiding the warranty, I think I may actually buy one if they ever come out.

Attention to Detail (5, Funny)

norminator (784674) | about a year and a half ago | (#43974627)

I love how on Slide 9, he points out the attention to detail... except that in the largest text in the screenshot there's a glaring typo.

Not so much a gripe about Ubuntu Phone (since it's not a released product) as it is about TFA,

I don't really trust Ubuntu anymore (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#43975987)

if Debian came out with a linux version for phones I might be interested in that.

Re:I don't really trust Ubuntu anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43978277)

Agreed. I simply don't trust Canonical, anymore. Shuttleworth's own words sealed the deal for me. Eventually, there will be a port. A Debian phone would be nice. The first release should be codenamed Chatter [wikia.com] .

Re: I don't really trust Ubuntu anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43981947)

Debian already runs on some phones if you want it. For a desktop that works with fat-fingers, you'll probably want to look at E17 first. (Though at one time I had worked up a FVWM2 config for my N800 that worked pretty well for touch...)

Or just wait for Sailfish phones -- Maemo was basically Debian with a touch-friendly desktop bolted on, so I assume Sailfish, being based on Mer, is more of the same (but with less proprietary daemons, drivers, and such).

good start (1)

beefoot (2250164) | about a year and a half ago | (#43976507)

I think a linux presence on new smart phone hardware is long overdue. What's up for debate is -- ubuntu.

Brian Lunduke is the best we can do??? (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | about a year and a half ago | (#43980045)

Really? I didn't read the article, mainly because I refuse to read anything by him or Katherine Noyes. To me, he'll always be the same childish columnist who tried to bait Linux Hater Blog, pitching a hissy fit when LH refused to play along.

Click the video link (1)

Ralph Ostrander (2846785) | about a year and a half ago | (#43981029)

Awesome
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