Ubuntu Touch Q&A 67 | Complete overhaul of Suru colors


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News and Update

The presenters were Dalton and Marius.

Dalton now has a tablet prompt. Very professional!

UT photograpy project

Lionel has initiated a photography project. You can now look at a gallery and see what to expect from a particular device. Huge thanks to Amolith for hosting the photos. If you have photos to upload to the gallery, please ping @lionelb either in Matrix or in Telegram .

Halium 7.1

There is now a Halium build for 7.1 which could now be used also as a basis for new builds to 5.1 devices such as Nexus 5. There will be better support for the new Fairphone 2 camera module along with that shift and we also expect it to get Nexus 5 video working, finally. Rajanathan has been doing a lot of work on these.

Florian wants Samsung S3 Neo users to contact him. His 5.1 build for it is progressing well and other users to help him with QA would make that go faster. This is the newer Neo version, not the original S3.

New Suru Colors for UT

Joan has been working with Dalton on a complete overhaul of Suru colors on Ubuntu Touch. This is one of those areas where we have relied for a long time on the work done by Canonical but now really need to improve on it. For example, the dialer app shows blue instead of green on the leaving a call panel. It creates a horrible contrast with the text overlay and cannot be read.

Qt use different Suru colors because of exactly that kind of problem. They are darker colors, to aid legibility. Sometimes light text is used and then in a very similar situation it switches to dark, so we need to standardize on one approach for light mode and another for dark mode. Lots of these changes are now in devel but they are still being worked on. You can see one of the improvements if you look at the focus indicator in OpenStore.

Thanks to Joan, that is now visible! Of course changes like this will never please everyone but warm thanks from us at least for the huge amount of effort that Joan has put in.

Window management fixes

The Unity 8 with Mir project has seen 58 bugs closed, many of them serious ones. Next comes OTA-12 progress. Fla was concerned that when he switched his FP2 to devel, he suddenly had lots of crashes. He asked whether we were going to prioritize integration or pursue stability first?

Well, when one issue is fixed, another may break. Many of these recent issues were window management "fixes". Everything in the system is impacted by that. Many of these fixes are also spread across several projects and are implemented at different times, in different places. That can easily cause conflicts. A great deal changed this time, so the potential for failures was inevitably higher than usual.

Today the FP2 crash problem has been fixed we think. There are at the moment three critical bugs delaying the re-opening of rc (although one of them only affects the Nexus 5).

Sponsors were thanked. Code Lutin is a new commercial sponsor!

A reminder that we will be at FOSDEM very soon. Patreon handshakes and hugs will be honored...


The News section of the Unity8 for Ubuntu 20.04? Mondane said he has been running 18.04 with Unity8 and can we have Unity8 for Ubuntu 20.04 by April/May this year? In the sense of having something available for download, then very likely yes. But usable definitely not. It still needs a lot of work on the desktop side. To expect something vaguely usable within the space of a year may be possible but we are making no promises on that. As with all work of this kind, more participation from experienced developers would help a lot. This is a highly advanced and specialized area though, so finding people will be difficult. There is a telegram group for Unity8 development.

3arn0wl: it is just his perception or is interest in Ubuntu Touch increasing?

Well, Softpedia, Phoronix and even OMG-Ubuntu are mentioning us a lot more and there is a lot of podcast coverage out there. If we measure by the number of PRs then activity has increased dramatically. See the recent keyboard improvements for just one example of the spike in activity. PinePhone is a big driver of that of course. There is a lot of excitement around it. People who had drifted away are also coming back to see what is going on. Marius thinks though that expectations are a bit skewed. [Cue his latest blog post on that subject!]

The idea of a normal desktop Linux stack on your phone – expressed as ‘GIMP on your phone’ is a pretty daft idea. With that form factor, why would you do it? It is just not appropriate for mobile scale and few desktop apps are. On a tablet maybe.

Libertine has not been a priority for us because it is honestly more of a party trick than a useful thing. The same Unity 8 working well on both phone and desktop is what we are focused on. The same basic environment, irrespective of form factor.

Dalton noted however that some people use VLC on their Nexus 5 because it is a way to play video:)

Erland asked about Mir being replaced with Wayland.

Does it mean that we will be able to run KDE apps

Marius explained that there is a misunderstanding behind the question. Mir is not being taken out, instead Mir can now speak the Wayland protocol. Wayland-speaking apps will be able to run under Mir. It is true that ‘Mir protocol’ is being replaced with Wayland protocol but Mir itself is staying. In effect, Wayland is the language used by apps to talk to the compositor.

Does it mean running desktop apps?

No it doesn’t but there is a Wayland project under way that we will need for the integration of Ubuntu Touch with PinePhone. To put it in context, Wayland will be there, doing its job but there will be nothing visible to the end user, to show that. It will just work.

This whole subject is very complicated so a better way to find out more is to read through the forum posts about it – if you can understand them :)

Will UT run in PostmarketOS or Fedora someday?

This question also seems a bit muddled. Ubuntu Touch is an entire operating system. What is probably being asked is whether it would be possible to run Unity8 on these other operating systems.

In theory, the Unity8 stack is portable to an extent so it cannot be ruled out. Of the two, Fedora has Mir, so perhaps that would be easier. There is an in-progress port of Unity8 to PostMarketOS. Debian is another possible candidate.

Uwe: which devices might eventually run UT based on 20.04 so would be a safe buy now?

7.1 Halium devices are ‘safe’ from that perspective - so Sony Xperia X and OnePlus3. The Nexus 5, Fairphone 2 and OnePlusOne will also be fine, the PinePhone obviously yes.

Dalton’s advice is buy for today though, not on the basis of what may or may not happen in the future. Then any added functionality is a bonus. The priorities of a person doing porting work now can change so there is no guarantee that a project which is already well advanced may not be dropped.

A very frequent question next - “Will you port UT to my device?” The answer is basically no. There are hundreds of devices out there, each one needing an individual port. If you want to have a go yourself, head to Porting guide on docs.ubports.com. There is a lot of attached information.

As a minimum, look for a 12.1 or 14.1 Lineage port for your intended device, before even considering it.

Someone asked whether Qt 6 will bring any nice things?

For information, we are using 5.9 at the moment. It will be very beneficial to us, yes. Compile QML will mean much better performance on the startup stack. It composes components together.

At the moment we rely on QML, a just-in-time language, with partially cached results but with lots of startup lag. The memory structure will change fundamentally in the new version and that will cut startup times. There will be many Wayland improvements. There will be a mass removal of unwanted legacy content.

In addition, it will be re-based on a more standard C++ library. Complicated but in summary, yes, lots to like.

Someone asked if a Norwegian bank ID authentication is now working on Marius’ UT phone.

It is a way to authenticate government type signings and it uses the SIM toolkit to generate a key which is then authenticated. It actually seems like a good way to go. Anyway, although Marius has previously made some progress, it is not ready yet. It is not just banking that uses the technology in Norway.

See you next time :-)


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