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January 2, 2013 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Canonical announces Ubuntu for phones
With all-native core apps and no Java overhead, Ubuntu runs well on entry-level smartphones – yet it uses the same drivers as Android.
After a short teaser countdown Canonical have announced their latest product: a new version of Ubuntu built for smartphones.

Mark Shuttleworth explains more in an industry proposition video

Jono Bacon [Ubuntu Community Manager] and Rick Spencer [VP of Ubuntu Engineering] hosted a Google+ hangout to talk about it.

Ubuntu's previously announced Ubuntu for Android won't be discontinued but its functionality will be integrated with Ubuntu for phones too.
This helps Ubuntu differentiate from other phone operating systems by Voltron-ing itself into a full-fledged PC when docked to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. (Ars Technica coverage)
Ubuntu for Android Previously
posted by xqwzts (182 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
yet it uses the same drivers as Android.

The ones that can't be redistributed by AOSP because of licensing restrictions? Good luck with that.
posted by GuyZero at 12:44 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tough field to break into there.

I guess Mozilla and Amazon will be trying this year as well do there'll be a big fight for third place.
posted by Artw at 12:48 PM on January 2, 2013


Artw: "I guess Mozilla and Amazon will be trying this year as well do there'll be a big fight for third place."

Hopefully this statement makes Ballmer's soul ebb just a little bit more.
posted by boo_radley at 12:48 PM on January 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


It may be because I work for Microsoft, but I don't entirely understand this. Has the non-Apple mobile market really become all about the marginal revenue that can be gotten via selling users to content providers for search, location and entertainment?
posted by Slothrup at 12:51 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because if there's one thing the mobile world needs it's yet another operating system.
posted by Talez at 12:52 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would kill for a solid open source OS on my phone and an application/development community to match.

I doubt it would change the way I use my phone very much, but it would certainly make my use of it just a little bit more pleasant.

I'm not sure Canonical are the ones to do that. They haven't been terribly committed to free/open software, and seem to be driving in a fairly commercial direction.

There's hope here, but it's going to take a lot of proving.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:52 PM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Has the non-Apple mobile market really become all about the marginal revenue that can be gotten via selling users to content providers for search, location and entertainment?

To be fair, Apple is trying to monetize it too, they're just proving to be incompetent at it.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Artw: "I guess Mozilla and Amazon will be trying this year as well do there'll be a big fight for third place."

Hopefully this statement makes Ballmer's soul ebb just a little bit more.


Well, Win7/Win8 will be in the mix too, it may even come in ahead of the others. I suspect they'll all kind of bob along failing to set the world alight together.
posted by Artw at 12:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would kill for a solid open source OS on my phone and an application/development community to match.

Buy a phone that has an AOSP build available.
posted by GuyZero at 12:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


To be fair, Apple is trying to monetize it too, they're just proving to be incompetent at it.

I don't think the iTunes Store could be described as "incompetent". iAd, probably.
posted by GuyZero at 12:55 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Buy a phone that has an AOSP build available.

Apart from the aforementioned driver issues (less of a problem outside the US, and specifically Verizon), this is spot on.

I don't think the iTunes Store could be described as "incompetent". iAd, probably.

I was thinking more of their attempts to divest themselves of other service providers for basic functionality, i.e. Maps and all the location-based interactions that are or will be derived from it.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, not sure how I missed this on the first read through... "Voltron-ing itself into a full-fledged PC".

What the hell does "Voltron-ing" mean? That the phone is aimed squarely at 40+ year-old life-long nerds? Has Voltron even been on TV in the last 20 years?
posted by GuyZero at 12:58 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]



Ubuntu 14.04 (the release in April 2014) will be one image that works across phones, tablets, and desktops.


This is part of my concern about the direction that Ubuntu is going. Hardware agnostic operating systems are not necessarily a good idea. The wider the range of hardware they support, the less optimal their support for any particular configuration becomes. A desktop and a smartphone are dramatically different in interface, viewing, and usage scenarios.

Interoperability is a fantastic goal, and I can understand the excitement there. I still don't know if I agree with the direction though. I think it makes more sense to turn my desktop into a server for my devices than to just have one device with multiple docking stations or input devices.

It's the free/open-source community and offerings that have attracted me to linux, and the philosophy that those are wrapped up in. That's something that Cannonical has a weird relationship with, and it's certainly not their focus. Their prime focus seems to be market share, which gives me cold feet every time.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:59 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Built for the phone industry

We have the needs of network operators, OEMs and ODMs in mind in bringing Ubuntu to the phone. It offers great performance on handsets with a low bill of materials, while opening up new opportunities for phone and PC convergence at the top end of the market. And its amazing user experience can be tailored to your brand, integrating your custom services, content and apps.


OK. So it's a build your own crapware OS for mobile providers? You can just make Verizon Phone™ with NFL™, FiOS™ streaming, Verizon Wallet™ and Verizon's custom app store filled with all your favourite EA™ and Activision Blizzard™ games.

I'm sure users will love BREW 2.0 as much as they loved the original.

To be fair, Apple is trying to monetize it too, they're just proving to be incompetent at it.

Apple made $41b last year selling devices instead of shoving ads down the user's gullet as much as possible. How much did you make last year?
posted by Talez at 1:00 PM on January 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Buy a phone that has an AOSP build available.

What does this mean? Is there a list of such phones? I had no idea there was such a thing as an open source phone OS. I might hate smartphones less if I were using one which wasn't trying to sell me out to some giant corporation all the time.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:01 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That the phone is aimed squarely at 40+ year-old life-long nerds? Has Voltron even been on TV in the last 20 years?

It has, and it's been revived for television twice. Because the grand end-game of children's television is turning out to be reliving the 80s and 90s in different permutations until the end of time.
posted by JHarris at 1:01 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would kill for [this].... I doubt it would change the way I use my phone very much, but it would certainly make my use of it just a little bit more pleasant. (emphasis mine)

*boggles*
posted by gurple at 1:02 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


"AOSP" is an open-source version of Android that's available for a limited subset of Android phones that have drivers available for redistribution in some form. You can build it from scratch on your own machine.

Once you install Foursquare it'll still be selling you out every time you check in though as the selling-out features are typically at the app level and not OS features.
posted by GuyZero at 1:02 PM on January 2, 2013



I would kill for [this].... I doubt it would change the way I use my phone very much, but it would certainly make my use of it just a little bit more pleasant. (emphasis mine)

*boggles*
posted by gurple at 1:02 PM on January 2 [+] [!]



I blame North American media's desensitizing effects.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:04 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apple made $41b last year selling devices instead of shoving ads down the user's gullet as much as possible. How much did you make last year?

Wow, way to make it personal there. Of course profitability is the final be-and-end all of worth, it is proven by the Worthington Law.

I think what he was saying is that Apple isn't as insanely profitable as they could be.
posted by JHarris at 1:05 PM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


(And if you get any free apps there's a 90% chance they'll have obnoxious adds included, and Apple gets their cut of all that, so you can't claim they're saintly, exactly.)
posted by JHarris at 1:08 PM on January 2, 2013


Talez: "Apple made $41b last year selling devices instead of shoving ads down the user's gullet as much as possible. How much did you make last year?"

This is a dumb counter to an argument you've misunderstood. Selling devices isn't the argument. The SLE trifecta is services and data acquisition. It's not like Apple ditched Google maps or nabbed AdMob & etc because of quality concerns. They want to sell the blades and the razors. iAd is clearly about selling ads (or shoving them, whatever) via 3rd parties.
posted by boo_radley at 1:08 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apple made $41b last year selling devices instead of shoving ads down the user's gullet as much as possible.

Did you miss where I was responding to the ad revenue question specifically, or was the mere mention of Apple doing something wrong unacceptable?

How much did you make last year?

$42b, so THERE.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:10 PM on January 2, 2013 [22 favorites]


This is a dumb counter to an argument you've misunderstood. Selling devices isn't the argument. The SLE trifecta is services and data acquisition. It's not like Apple ditched Google maps or nabbed AdMob & etc because of quality concerns. They want to sell the blades and the razors. iAd is clearly about selling ads (or shoving them, whatever) via 3rd parties.

They want to sell the ads in the OS for third party apps on the OS for the app publisher's use in their apps. They're not monetizing the ancillary services like iCloud by stuffing advertising in every nook and cranny.
posted by Talez at 1:10 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who works with user data for selling ads every day, let me say that user data is both extremely valuable and at the same time not really worth all that much.

An advertising service without user data is still somewhat useful. Witness, say, television.

User data without a money-making scheme is just a database full of legally touchy garbage.

So collecting user data is never an end in itself.
posted by GuyZero at 1:13 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Did you miss where I was responding to the ad revenue question specifically, or was the mere mention of Apple doing something wrong unacceptable?

Well you seem to be saying Apple are failing at turning iOS into this.

To me it's a feature not a bug.
posted by Talez at 1:15 PM on January 2, 2013


I think any conversation on this topic is doomed to the "OMG another smartphone OS? LOL Linux will never beat Android and/or iOS" misdirection. I see Metafilter is no different than anyone else currently discussing this.

Your phone is your laptop is your tablet is your desktop. As far as I can tell, Ubuntu is better positioned than any other platform for this goal. That doesn't mean they will get there, but that is why I find this interesting.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:15 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think what he was saying is that Apple isn't as insanely profitable as they could be.

Apple could do that, be even more insanely profitable for one quarter, then watch as users abandon them. The fact that they have not is one of the the reasons Apple has become a sustained success. They have been profitable for over a decade, and they're not willing to attempt to wrench a few extra dollars out of the users this quarter and have those users walk away next. They know the best salesman they have is a happy Apple user, who will then buy more Apple products.

Which is why, as said, they made $41B last year, and companies focus on profiting as much as possible on their users, by and large, lost money. So, hmmm, which tactic is better? Apple basically made more money than the entire industry combined.

So, yeah, when people say "They're doing it wrong, they should do more like X!", my first response is "Is X's profit per share higher than Apple's for the last decade?"

Because if it isn't, then, well, if you were Apple, why would you do what X did? That sounds like a fabulous way to lose money.
posted by eriko at 1:15 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


GuyZero: " You can build it from scratch on your own machine."

Have you ever tried to compile AOSP? It's a nightmare beyond measure.

Basically, you need to use a very specific (and rather old) version of Ubuntu, with a very specific version of GCC. It is the single most fussy piece of software that I've had to compile in quite a long time (and this includes xfree86).

Organizationally, AOSP is a complete mess too. The number of devices that they officially support is stupidly small, and the efforts to port it to other devices are fractured, disorganized, and hacky at best. CyanogenMod is the most valiant effort to date, but it's bloody embarrassing that CM is even necessary at all, or that they get so little cooperation from AOSP.

Bug reports and pull requests are often ignored, and rarely ever make it into the upstream (not that it matters, given Android's famously awful update cycle).

It's a textbook example of how not to run an open-source project, and it seriously discredits Android as a platform. I really wish that Canonical weren't inventing a whole new OS, but were making a better 'mostly-open-source' Android "distribution" instead. I'm pretty sure that there's a rather big market for that.
posted by schmod at 1:18 PM on January 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


Also, could we please not derail this thread into another Apple/iOS discussion?
posted by schmod at 1:18 PM on January 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


$42b, so THERE.

Hey there, buddy!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:18 PM on January 2, 2013


Big deal, I made 48 bits today alone.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:26 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Buy a phone that has an AOSP build available.

As others have already asked, I'd love to see the list. Is there one? Also, a step-by-step guide to actually accomplishing it.
posted by odinsdream at 1:26 PM on January 2, 2013


Digging around on the Canonical site is confusing. All I want to know is "About Canonical" who are they and where do they come from, yet its very hard.

If they have Shuttleworth's thinking and focus, then this might make sense as a tool available for the fastest growing mobile development market in the world.
posted by infini at 1:26 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the phone OS is as half-assed and buggy as their desktop distros, I will be staying the hell away from it.
posted by benzenedream at 1:27 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apple was very smart that it parlayed its success with MP3 players into phones. Phones are subsidized and the true cost is largely hidden for consumers. Not sure if that gravy train can last forever. T-mobile is ending subsidies and if other carriers follow suit I suspect cheaper phones will become more interesting to consumers.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:28 PM on January 2, 2013


I guess Mozilla and Amazon will be trying this year as well do there'll be a big fight for third place.

Bigger than you think - Jolla and WebOS just reached significant development milestones. You can run WebOS on Google Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus hardware, and they've adopted Apache Cordova as the development target, meaning WebOS apps will be insanely portable to other platforms. Big Asian hardware firms are putting a lot of weight behind Sailfish, as they don't like the idea of American tech juggernauts dominating everything everywhere, and they've got it up and running on the Nokia N9.

So, third place will be a race between a very slick and already-in-production OpenSource OS in Open WebOS, two big-name Open Source projects who have a lot of mindshare and deep pockets, and one semi-open OS vendor with a lot of industry support already lined up. And then there's Microsoft. Ballmer is probably checking out retirement villas as we speak.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:29 PM on January 2, 2013


Your phone is your laptop is your tablet is your desktop. As far as I can tell, Ubuntu is better positioned than any other platform for this goal.

I don't understand why this is desirable. While there is overlap between some of these devices, I use them for different things, different workspaces, different approaches. I want them to share data in a smart way, but there is no way in hell I want them all to be identical. Desktop metaphor on a phone interface? Sounds frustrating.
posted by rocketman at 1:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have you ever tried to compile AOSP? It's a nightmare beyond measure.

Seems like you measured it pretty well. :)

I don't think end-users running AOSP is such a great idea really, but if someone asks for it, there it is. CM is a better product but my understanding is that it's in a grey area with regards to how it handles drivers by pulling binary blobs off existing phones. Like I also said I don't worry that much about the OS as the real data capture is either from web requests or from apps rather than from the OS. The trickle of data that the OS sends back to whatever mothership that birthed it is uninteresting IMO but I respect that different people have different opinions.

As others have already asked, I'd love to see the list. Is there one? Also, a step-by-step guide to actually accomplishing it.

At the risk of being a jerk, if you have to ask, you probably can't do it. Heck, I probably can't do it. Or, per schmod, I simply don't have the perseverance to do so.
posted by GuyZero at 1:31 PM on January 2, 2013


In theory, I like the idea of using something open source instead of feeding the Apple monopoly-that's-obviously-1000-times-more-a-monoply-than-Microsoft-ever-was, but until Linux folks run their own worldwide phone network, your service provider is still going to give up every tiny little thing you've ever done to the government with no resistance whatsoever.

So not sure I see the point.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:31 PM on January 2, 2013


Good, because I don't know how to install Debian on my phone.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:32 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


As others have already asked, I'd love to see the list. Is there one? Also, a step-by-step guide to actually accomplishing it.

There's going to be an image released for the Galaxy Nexus in a few weeks apparently.

I might have to track one down so I can try it out.
posted by Talez at 1:32 PM on January 2, 2013


odinsdream: "Buy a phone that has an AOSP build available.

As others have already asked, I'd love to see the list. Is there one? Also, a step-by-step guide to actually accomplishing it.
"

It means buying a phone that's unlockable/ rootable and still relatively new. I have a Nexus One I bought in 2010 specifically for this purpose and it's not eligible for current AOSP. Even CM doesn't support it in the 10.x branch. Essentially, there's enough stuff in Android core that it can't run on a device with 512 MB storage.
posted by boo_radley at 1:33 PM on January 2, 2013


Apple made $41b last year selling devices instead of shoving ads down the user's gullet as much as possible. How much did you make last year?

Good point. Unless Ubuntu is out to monetize a mobile Linux platform with ads like Android does, an approach which seems antithetical to core open source ideals, Ubuntu can only succeed by taking away users from iOS, by being better at integrating data between Linux desktops and mobile devices than iOS and Mac OS X, which Apple's dominance in the mobile space (through those sales) shows will be a very high bar to meet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:34 PM on January 2, 2013


Have you ever tried to compile AOSP? It's a nightmare beyond measure.

Also, to be fair, AOSP isn't aimed at end-users. It's aimed at Android ecosystem partners. I really do have to fess up to being mostly rhetorical when I suggest building it. It's akin to building your own car - not impossible, but really impractical for almost everyone.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2013


It's going to be a really tough battle for them to convince software companies to devote the resources for building quality native apps for an OS that has such a very tiny piece of the market. Seems like an Android emulation layer would be reasonably easy; maybe that should be their first app...
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2013


At the risk of being a jerk, if you have to ask, you probably can't do it. Heck, I probably can't do it. Or, per schmod, I simply don't have the perseverance to do so.

It was just odd that you suggested "Get an AOSP phone" as a valid answer to Stagger Lee's problem. I don't think you're being a jerk, I do think that slightly digging into your answer proves it to be completely useless information.

There are people who really, really want a basic smartphone that doesn't sell them out to content providers.
posted by odinsdream at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"...by being better at integrating data between Linux desktops and mobile devices than iOS and Mac OS X, which Apple's dominance in the mobile space (through those sales) shows will be a very high bar to meet."

That's not at all what they're talking about doing. They're talking about one device with various docks/interfaces for other uses. They're skipping past integration entirely.

To my knowledge, that is relatively virgin territory. Whether it's desirable is a different debate.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2013


There are people who really, really want a basic smartphone that doesn't sell them out to content providers.

It's not the phone that "sells you out", it's the apps.

Besides, go buy a cheap Android phone and just make phone calls and browse the web. How exactly are you "sold out"?
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That video is maddening, goddamn it Shuttleworth speed it up I don't have all day here.

Seriously, dude is a slowtalker.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved the idea of running Ubuntu for Android under CyanogenMod as dockable machine. There are oodles of reasons for running Android applications on your computer and running native Linux applications on your phone. I'm less interested in yet another Linux based phone platform.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:40 PM on January 2, 2013



There are people who really, really want a basic smartphone that doesn't sell them out to content providers.

It's not the phone that "sells you out", it's the apps.

Besides, go buy a cheap Android phone and just make phone calls and browse the web. How exactly are you "sold out"?
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on January 2 [+] [!]


Could I emphasize something from my first comment here?


"I would kill for a solid open source OS on my phone and an application/development community to match."

Part of the reason that I don't think Canonical can provide this is their recent decision to include advertising/amazon links in their gui search function, and the inclusion of paid software in the software centre.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want them to share data in a smart way, but there is no way in hell I want them all to be identical.

Wouldn't one way of sharing data in a smart way be to have just one device?

Desktop metaphor on a phone interface? Sounds frustrating.

FWIW, that's not at all what Canonical is trying to do. The end goal idea is to present very different interfaces, depending on how you are using it.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:40 PM on January 2, 2013


What phone does Richard Stallman use?
posted by Artw at 1:44 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


So I'm curious why exactly you want an OSS phone, Stagger Lee.

Part of the reason that I don't think Canonical can provide this is their recent decision to include advertising/amazon links in their gui search function, and the inclusion of paid software in the software centre.

Run a web search from an iPhone and you get... google search results and google's ads. Same as an Android phone. Same as google.com. Same as any search engine. You want something on a phone that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world? And paid software in the software centre on ubuntu, yes, somewhat controversial. Less controversial on every phone/PDA platform, ever. Canonical is just doing what other companies do which seems uncontroversial to me. Again at the risk of being a jerk, you want a Richard Stallman phone? I don't think that's going to happen.
posted by GuyZero at 1:45 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw, you owe me a Coke(tm).
posted by GuyZero at 1:46 PM on January 2, 2013


What phone does Richard Stallman use?
Last I heard he doesn't have a mobile phone. For reasons that seemed really whacky back then, but are making more and more sense to me as the years roll on [the whole privacy/tracking thing foremost among them]
posted by xqwzts at 1:47 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Artw: "What phone does Richard Stallman use?"

READ THE FAQ, GODDAMMIT:
Cellular Phones
Was that so hard? Now let's all gather round the gitbox for a song about c.
posted by boo_radley at 1:49 PM on January 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


To my knowledge, over the years AOSP has supported: I didn't check which devices are currently supported by the Android 4.2 tree. Older devices obviously won't be supported by the current release.

Note that Google's own Nexus 4 is not supported, and numerous other Motorola devices have never made it to AOSP.

I'm sorry, but "Buy an AOSP Phone" is a bullshit suggestion. There are very few options, and right now none of them are current.
posted by schmod at 1:49 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


mcstayinskool: The end goal idea is to present very different interfaces, depending on how you are using it.

This is true, even if it is different displays on the same device. For example: A Padfone (2) running Canonical could quite possibly be a match made in mobile heaven.

Android really comes nowhere near the desktop experience when in a desktop form factor. That is where the power lies with a single OS that can provide the right interfaces for different configurations.
posted by samsara at 1:50 PM on January 2, 2013


So uh... can I actually install this on a phone or do I have to wait for an industry partner to sell me something?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:51 PM on January 2, 2013


Note that Stallman's objections to mobile phones predate the iPhone or any comparable smartphone-type device. Dude didn't trust a Nokia candybar.

I'm sorry, but "Buy an AOSP Phone" is a bullshit suggestion. There are very few options, and right now none of them are current.

Well "I need an open-source phone" is a bullshit request.
posted by GuyZero at 1:51 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Was that so hard? Now let's all gather round the gitbox for a song about c.

Just a minute, there's 3 billion people here who need to borrow your phone to make a call.
posted by grog at 1:51 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to chime in as a Linux user: I love having a phone that fits right in my ecosystem. I don't want to play with itunes/zune or their less-than-optimal Linux solutions.

I've got an N9, and until this was announced I was fairly certain my next phone would be running Jolla's Sailfish.

It's nice to have options.
posted by xqwzts at 1:53 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not the phone that "sells you out", it's the apps.

The entire Google ecosystem defines how Android has been engineered to work (at least, in order to make the best of it, you need to plug into the Google ecosystem). This, in turn, is defined by using your personal data to sell targeted ads to you (as well as to others, through larger-scale data aggregation efforts).

Google is an advertising company, first and foremost, one that makes no revenue from Android itself. The web, mail and location-based components of the operating system are therefore built to make up for that loss of revenue. It's essentially the phone — practically even before you open up any third-party apps. This is why Apple's Siri scares Google, why Google complained about the YouTube app being removed from iOS, and why Google complained about Apple's switch to its own mapping APIs.

A true open source operating system for mobile devices would be technically interesting, but without integration and apps, it's going to be a tough sell outside of a small population who are interested in open source operating systems. To be successful, there needs to be something compelling about this, other than emulating Android's business model. The end user might as well run Android, at that point, and get all the apps. Or run iOS and avoid most of the advertising.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:53 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well "I need an open-source phone" is a bullshit request.

It would have been simpler to start at this opinion so we could have avoided all looking around as if you were really suggesting a viable option.
posted by odinsdream at 1:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]



Run a web search from an iPhone and you get... google search results and google's ads. Same as an Android phone. Same as google.com. Same as any search engine. You want something on a phone that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world? And paid software in the software centre on ubuntu, yes, somewhat controversial. Less controversial on every phone/PDA platform, ever. Canonical is just doing what other companies do which seems uncontroversial to me. Again at the risk of being a jerk, you want a Richard Stallman phone? I don't think that's going to happen.
posted by GuyZero at 1:45 PM on January 2 [+] [!]


I stopped running Ubuntu because Canonical was doing what every other company was doing.

I'm not sure why you're conflating the application layer and development community with web content, they're clearly not the same.

Smart phones are small computers. I have the same expectation of my mobile computer as I do of my desktop computer.

I have a Richard Stallman phone. It's plugged into my wall.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:54 PM on January 2, 2013



Well "I need an open-source phone" is a bullshit request.
posted by GuyZero at 1:51 PM on January 2 [+] [!]



Well I'm sure glad you came out to say that.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:55 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


If your phone is plugged into your wall, obviously they know where you are when you use it!
posted by Pyry at 1:56 PM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


It would have been simpler to start at this opinion so we could have avoided all looking around as if you were really suggesting a viable option.

Look, I really do respect people wanting what they want. But if what you want is complex then why are people complaining about how complex it is?

AOSP exists. Do I think it's practical for "regular" people? No. Do I think that "I need an open-source phone OS" is the kind of request a 'regular" user makes? No. But AOSP does fulfill the requirement of being both open-source and a phone operating system.

I'd personally describe it as an impractical solution to an impractical request. I didn't start by calling things "bullshit" FWIW.
posted by GuyZero at 1:58 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your phone is your laptop is your tablet is your desktop.

This used to be a selling point for me, but I think rocketman has it - as long as they share data in a seamless way, I don't necessarily want to have the same experience from phone to tablet to computer.
posted by arcticseal at 1:58 PM on January 2, 2013


my verizon contract is up next month. the way i see it i have 2 choices. downgrade to a phone that just makes calls, or fork more money at them. i used 13 minutes out of my 450 last month, and under 150 megs of data. they won't grandfather my current plan, so i have to pay for unlimited text and minutes and a 300 meg data plan. this will cost me about $30 more than i am paying now. having facebook in my pocket just isn't worth it.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:59 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Note that Stallman's objections to mobile phones predate the iPhone or any comparable smartphone-type device. Dude didn't trust a Nokia candybar.

And, given the fact that we actually have hard knowledge that law enforcement has used mobile phones in the past as active surveillance devices, including those Nokia candybars, he was absolutely correct not to trust them.

Disagree with Mr. Stallman if you like, but I would suggest you not risk any money on it.
posted by Malor at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


I personally don't care about running Ubuntu on a phone but if this makes Ubuntu easier to run on ARM-based low-power computers that would be great. There are more and more devices coming out these days that run Android, and at least for me many of those devices would be better off using an OS that is more PC-like than Android.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


quonsarII: smfattof....

T-Mobile has a $30 no-contract, pay-as-you-go plan that has 100 minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data with the first 5GB unthrottled. It was the plan that made me finally get a smartphone.

I suspect that you can find even cheaper no-contract data plans if you seriously stick to the amount of data and minutes you listed month over month. Prices for cell and data service have finally reached the mostly reasonable level, particularly for light users.
posted by jsturgill at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder how you people would react if you opened a fortune cookie and it said:
You are are a very passionate defender of your telephone.
Me, I would find it weird, about as weird as some of the vitriol I'm reading here.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't necessarily want to have the same experience from phone to tablet to computer.

Nobody wants that. Just because it's one piece of physical hardware doesn't mean that it will present you with the same experience shifting from phone to computer "mode". The software would drive a different experience based on what you were using it for.

I'm not even sure that I even want this, but the idea of a portable phone-size device that could be docked and used as a "real" computer, complete with a real desktop experience, then undocked and used as a phone with a phone experience, is at least an intriguing concept.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


my verizon contract is up next month. the way i see it i have 2 choices. downgrade to a phone that just makes calls, or fork more money at them. i used 13 minutes out of my 450 last month, and under 150 megs of data. they won't grandfather my current plan, so i have to pay for unlimited text and minutes and a 300 meg data plan. this will cost me about $30 more than i am paying now. having facebook in my pocket just isn't worth it.

Your other option is to leave Verizon for one of the PAYG carriers - VirginMobile, Net10, etc in the US - My Virgin bill is $35 a month for 300 minutes with unlimited text/data. Yes, it's only Sprint's 3G network, and I had to buy my own phone, but the HTC OneV is a pretty nice deal, overall.

Would I play with an Ubuntu phone? Definitely. I used it as my sole OS for a few years until work and a new computer gave me other options. Would I go out of my way to do it, maybe not. We'll see what comes out...
posted by pupdog at 2:09 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not even sure that I even want this, but the idea of a portable phone-size device that could be docked and used as a "real" computer, complete with a real desktop experience, then undocked and used as a phone with a phone experience, is at least an intriguing concept.

Motorola tried that with the Atrix I think. Not that successful, but it was a crappy implementation from what I heard.
posted by pupdog at 2:11 PM on January 2, 2013


When I need to call someone, I ask someone nearby to let me make a call.

Free software Shabbos goyim. I wonder how many other people Stallman relies on to use non-free software on his behalf so that he can maintain his purity of essence.

I wonder how you people would react if you opened a fortune cookie and it said:
You are are a very passionate defender of your telephone.


Well, for some people (especially those with smartphones) it's a fairly significant expense. So suggesting that someone has chosen poorly is tantamount to saying "you make poor financial decisions." And for some people (like Stallman) it's a serious political issue, and you get people saying things tantamount to "your choice of phone is destroying my freedom" and "by using a cell phone you are collaborating with the police state." It shouldn't be surprising that people would get defensive in the face of such criticism.
posted by jedicus at 2:11 PM on January 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


T-Mobile has a $30 no-contract, pay-as-you-go plan that has 100 minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data with the first 5GB unthrottled. It was the plan that made me finally get a smartphone.

+1. If you are in the U.S., hate your $@#$! contract almost as much as actually talking on the phone, this is the plan for you. I have it and it gives me great pleasure to know how relatively little I'm paying for it.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:12 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


infini: "Digging around on the Canonical site is confusing. All I want to know is "About Canonical" who are they and where do they come from, yet its very hard.

If they have Shuttleworth's thinking and focus, then this might make sense as a tool available for the fastest growing mobile development market in the world.
"

Uh... Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu. It's pretty much privately owned by Shuttleworth. Most of their products have their own branding and domains, hence there's little need to publish the information you want to find.
posted by pwnguin at 2:16 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


jedicus: "Free software Shabbos goyim. I wonder how many other people Stallman relies on to use non-free software on his behalf so that he can maintain his purity of essence."

I just figured he'd ask to borrow a land-line.
posted by boo_radley at 2:20 PM on January 2, 2013


Ubuntu puts a slick shell on top of GNOME, but (in my experience) once you scratch the surface, things are woefully fragmented and kludgy.

In my experience:
-Poor backwards compatibility for software
-Poor software shell integration
-Bad handling of icon themes, with metaphors not carrying over due to a lack of specifications
-Glaring, painful UI bugs
-Duplicated/fractured functionality in control panel applets
-Bizarre software naming conventions. Naming your file browser "Caja" helps nobody.
-Two system trays: One for new GNOME 3 software, another using the old GNOME systray API. One is readily visible, the other is in a hidden floating toolbar kludge.

I wonder how they ironed this all out when porting it to smartphones?
posted by dunkadunc at 2:21 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have it and it gives me great pleasure to know how relatively little I'm paying for it.

I recently looked for a 5 GBP monthly option for my backup UK phone when I moved abroad (A shiny new Nokia 101!). Couldn't find one. In the Netherlands, the cheapest plan I could get is 20 EUR a month. Somewhere along the way, the minimum monthly spend has gone way up, even for very light users. At the same time, I find open wifi harder and harder to get, pushing more usage over to the 3G network.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2013


I'm interested in the idea of a device that morphs seamlessly between desktop and telephone mode. That sounds pretty cool, honestly. It would be very convenient. I'd rather not be dependent on the cloud, I'd rather be self-sufficient, and a powerful telephone would mean that, for the most part, I could be.

But I'm really, really not fond of Canonical anymore, ever since that disaster of a UI they foisted on us. Unity is focused on saving screen real estate above all other things, and it is absolutely maddening to use, because window controls fricking move around everywhere! Maybe that would make sense on a 640x480 handheld screen, but by god, my primary interface is a 2560x1600 monitor, and I do not need the hassle of hunting down wherever the goddamn window controls and menus have gone THIS time. Yay, you saved eight pixels, but you cost me twenty seconds to do it. NOT a good trade.

Basically, while a phone that seamlessly transitions between phone and desktop mode would be wonderful, I have very intense doubts that Canonical has the UI design chops to make it happen. They already fouled up my Linux desktop experience something fierce, and I'm not inclined to let them anywhere near my telephone.

I must admit, though, the idea of being able to develop in whatever darn language you want is appealing. Java is really fast, so speed isn't the issue most of the time with that language, but it has little aesthetic appeal. It's not as bad as Javascript (which is also wicked quick, these days), but it's so verbose, and has such a strange design.

I'd probably want to work in Python, if the phone would run it fast enough. It's a nice, comfortable language to work with. It's no speed demon, even on desktops, so it may be a real porker on a telephone. But I'd like to find that out, instead of being forced into the subservient mode of "Thou Shalt Use Java And Nothing Else, Luser."

But, thank goodness, at least we're moving toward phones you actually own. I might be inclined to buy one just on that basis alone.
posted by Malor at 2:23 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Stagger Lee: I'm not sure Canonical are the ones to do that. They haven't been terribly committed to free/open software, and seem to be driving in a fairly commercial direction.

I'm not aware of much that Canonical makes that isn't under the GPL or similar license. (The exception I can think of off the top of my head is Landscape, their enterprise server management system.) Aside from releasing software under a FLOSS license and upstreaming changes* what else is necessary to be "terribly committed"?

I'll also note that 'commercial' isn't necessarily the antonym of 'free/open source'. Everyone has to eat.

(Disclaimer: I previously worked for Canonical for several years, though have been gone for some time and have no particular dog in this hunt. Everyone I worked with was rabidly pro-FLOSS and incredibly concerned with being a good member of the software community.)

* When they're accepted; there are some historical political issues around Red Hat blocking acceptance of patches to GNOME that are old news and not worth derailing about here
posted by fader at 2:24 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see someone resurrect GNUStep for modern desktops/devices. Now that was a app framework that supported a properly integrated user experience.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:26 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah fader, as I mentioned in another previous comment, my specific concerns were the inclusion of paid content in the software center and amazon links in local search results, coupled of course with an ongoing drive to crank up market share.

They're still pretty clean, but they're pushing in a direction I don't really want to go. I understand pragmatic usability decisions like including drivers/codecs that aren't open, but these specific concerns seem to have been motivated largely by profit.

I don't necessarily begrudge their operating model, but there are other systems I prefer for my desktop. Clearly open-source software has a complicated relationship with capitalism, and a lot of funding still comes from the tech giants. I'm mostly concerned with my own relationship to the stuff on a day to day basis.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:28 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mostly agree with the criticisms just levied up page against Canonical re: Unity, though it's come a long way since its initial horrible release in 11.10.

What makes me generally okay with Unity is that it's up to you whether you use it or not, because Linux is so nicely modular. Unity can be infuriating, but it takes very very little effort to switch to Gnome 3 or MATE or Cinammon or LXDE or XFCE or Openbox or KDE or...

If Canonical had enough power over the Linux environment that the move to Unity literally took away all of those other options...well that would be different.

There is a lot of good stuff that Canonical has contributed to the Linux world (e.g. package management has never been simpler), but at this stage you have to look beyond Unity for it.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:31 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


god here we go again

BP: Google is an advertising company, first and foremost, one that makes no revenue from Android itself.

Here we go again with building up the FUD case.

Google is a strange company. Saying they're "an advertising company, first and foremost" seems like willful ignorance of a lot of their culture. I'm not going to point to their "Don't be evil" motto as I would have years ago back when they were getting started, they have certainly stained themselves since then, although I don't think you can say that they're any more guilty than anyone else, not Apple, certainly not Microsoft. (But if they kill Google Reader, I will put a red X next to their name.)

I have used both an iPad and an Nexus 7 extensively, and advertising on neither system, if you only use the stock apps, is especially noticeable. It takes effort to think of a place where one of Google's apps has advertised at me -- maybe in the Google search app, but the same thing happens if you load their website, or search from the iOS Google search app, and Apple doesn't even provide general web search services. Maps maybe? If there has, it hasn't particularly stuck out in my mind. I did a search for a restaurant just now and I did find a sponsored link, in the clearly-labeled pale yellow box, at the bottom of the results. I am almost stridently annoyed by advertising (I put notices on my YouTube posts if they have preroll ads for crying out loud), but it failed to arouse my wrath.

There are likely multiple reasons that Google bought and produce Android. Being an advertising platform seems like it must be fairly low on the list; I'd think strategy, making efforts to break Apple's mobile monopoly, would be higher.

A true open source operating system for mobile devices would be technically interesting, but without integration and apps, it's going to be a tough sell outside of a small population who are interested in open source operating systems.

CyanogenMod is such a thing, is it not? I don't think you can credit Google entirely with an open source moble OS for reasons others above have expressed more clearly than I can, but that CM is possible counts for something. It's certainly more open source than iOS, despite its BSD origins.

The end user might as well run Android, at that point, and get all the apps. Or run iOS and avoid most of the advertising.

BOTH Android AND iOS are overrun with advertising if you install free apps, and most people do. Sometimes you get the ads even if you pay for the app. That is the tragedy of mobile, and THAT'S what makes me see red when I install a new program.
posted by JHarris at 2:36 PM on January 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


My gripe with Linux is that a lot of it is written by separate teams, without a Linux-wide supervisory body.

As was just mentioned, this can be good- when the GNOME team bolloxed everything up, there was a fork and we got MATE.

Overall though, this is a weakness where usability is concerned. When there's so much fragmentation and so many competing desktops, nothing gets sufficiently polished. There's the need to reinvent the wheel. Software needs to play well with all the various desktops, so software can't take advantage of cool stuff that one desktop offers that others don't. Wouldn't it be neat to have a universal, extensible color picker control all apps can use? That's what we could have on Linux if it were developed as a whole, instead of all these competing packages.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:43 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thank you pwnguin.


Uh... Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu. It's pretty much privately owned by Shuttleworth. Most of their products have their own branding and domains, hence there's little need to publish the information you want to find.

Hmm, I thought he'd sold out and that was where he got the money for the Shuttleworth Foundation. But I was wrong, that was Thawte he sold. /end derail

Anyway, now that we have some background, here are some interesting data points to consider:

Africa tops global mobile market growth Nov 2012

mLab Southern Africa (SA) is a mobile applications laboratory, which accelerates innovation and entrepreneurship in mobile apps and services in the region


Shuttleworth addresses his detractors by saying, “If you’ve been arguing over software licenses for the best part of 15 years then you would probably be fine with whatever came before Ubuntu.” Essentially, he dismisses the hardcore Linux enthusiast by implying Ubuntu isn’t designed for them. Instead, he is focused on Ubuntu becoming approachable and usable by the largest number of people. [...]
The South African millionaire continues to explain that in the coming months, Ubuntu development will be focused heavily on moving into the tablet and smartphone space while simultaneously focusing on cloud computing.


VMK launch 'first African-designed' smartphone and tablet - BBC December 27th, 2012

Only one of the many lists going around right now highlighting the "Top African Startups"

Here goes:

MXit: Founded by Namibian techpreneur Herman Heunis, Mxit is a mobile instant messaging (IM) utility with services including social networking, mobile voice clips, multi-media, banking access and other community based applications. Mxit subscribers can also connect to other social networks and instant messaging. It boasts 10 million users.

Sembuse: A South African mobile social network & instant messaging platform similar to Mxit.

Yola: Founded by South African internet entrepreneur VinnyLingham, Yola is a website builder and hosting service which lets you create your own site with easy-to-use drag and drop multimedia features. It hosts 6 million users.

Dropifi:A Ghanaian web messaging platform which helps bridges website owners and their visitors to better analyze and respond to incoming inquiries.

Cobi Interactive: A South African mobile software development company that provides mobile technology and strategy consulting for top African corporations; this is done through custom software design and development.

FloCash: For anyone with an email address and mobile number who wants to send and receive money across Africa easily, as well as carry out mobile phone purchases.

Obami: A social learning management system for South African schools, teachers and students.

Bandeka: An invite-only online community where well-educated Africans can connect with other equally successful professionals, thereby building lasting relationships over the long term.

Jobberman: West Africa's most popular job search engine and aggregator.

Motribe: A mobile platform enabling users, brands, agencies and publishers across the world to build and manage their own mobile social communities.


2013 is going to get interesting, very. Lets think outside of the box.
posted by infini at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I look forward to the day when I can:
1. wake up to an alarm on my phone (already works)
2. Have the phone tell me how long it will take to get to work in traffic and tell me what time I need to leave by (already works)
3. Get to work and dock my phone, which is my computer, into a cradle that has my monitors and keyboard and mouse hooked up. The phone just looks like a clock now.
4. Work all day. Take voip calls through my computer/phone via some slick Cisco application, send emails and use the support tools I use every day via a hardwired ethernet connection.
5. Get up to leave work. Unplug phone from dock and my work desktop is seamlessly saved and squirreled away in some dark corner of the phone.
6. Get home using routes that avoid gridlock that my phone has precalculated and is relaying to me via spoken directions. (already works)
7. Get inside my house and dock my phone to my TV. I get an interface al-la Roku or XBMC that lets me watch saved and streaming media and use the phone as a jukebox. (already works)
8. Go to sleep.

I feel like this whole thing is only a year away, maybe two at most. It could be done easily with NFC-tagged docks. My work dock could have an enterprise security profile attached that would have to be present for my work desktop to even be opened. Modern phones have plenty of power already. They just need a little bit more RAM and faster storage and we'll be 80% there.
posted by tmt at 3:00 PM on January 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


it's up to you whether you use it or not, because Linux is so nicely modular

Nicely modular compared to what, I wonder? I've never found rearranging the GUI to be anything other than an unmitigated disaster of excruciating horribleness which frequently fails in ways that leave the system nearly useless.

Then again I haven't tried in almost a decade - thrice burned, doubly shy, more fool me, etc. It was just too awful. As far as I'm concerned if you want a different GUI setup you have to nuke your machine and install a different distribution that comes built that way.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:00 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nicely modular compared to what, I wonder?

Compared to OS X or Windows. There is a default, but I decide my windows manager in Linux. This is not true on the dominant desktop OSes.

I've never found rearranging the GUI to be anything other than an unmitigated disaster of excruciating horribleness

Then again I haven't tried in almost a decade

This means you are completely and totally not qualified to state the complaint you just made. Seriously, WTF?

It is very easy to switch desktop managers in Linux today. Don't spread FUD.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:09 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Talez:
To be fair, Apple is trying to monetize it too, they're just proving to be incompetent at it.

Apple made $41b last year selling devices instead of shoving ads down the user's gullet as much as possible. How much did you make last year?
Since zombieflanders was commenting on the marginal revenue that can be gotten via selling users to content providers for search, location and entertainment, you are actually supporting his position.
Talez: Did you miss where I was responding to the ad revenue question specifically, or was the mere mention of Apple doing something wrong unacceptable?

Well you seem to be saying Apple are failing at turning iOS into this.

To me it's a feature not a bug.
Ah, a fanboy. Nope, that's not what he was discussing.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:12 PM on January 2, 2013


[If you can't discuss this without calling other people names, please step aside and let other people have a real discussion. Seriously.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:17 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just to add my 2c, Unity is good now and worth another look if you hated it in 12.10. Of course it will be a little awkward at the beginning, as when switching to any new UI, but it is actually pretty good once you get the hang of it.
posted by Joe Chip at 3:23 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is very easy to switch desktop managers in Linux today. Don't spread FUD.

Ok then, how do you do it?
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:23 PM on January 2, 2013


Huh, I'd read repeatedly in the last couple of years that switching window managers on Ubuntu was usually not a very good idea, and that you were better off just reinstalling Xubuntu or Kubuntu, if you wanted XFCE or KDE. Is this no longer true?

I've been doing that, myself, just preserving /home.
posted by Malor at 3:25 PM on January 2, 2013


schmod:
  • LG Mako (Not actually a real product?)
  • [...]
Note that Google's own Nexus 4 is not supported, and numerous other Motorola devices have never made it to AOSP.
LG Mako is apparently the codename / development name for the Google Nexus 4.
posted by mbrubeck at 3:31 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh, I'd read repeatedly in the last couple of years that switching window managers on Ubuntu was usually not a very good idea, and that you were better off just reinstalling Xubuntu or Kubuntu, if you wanted XFCE or KDE. Is this no longer true?

It's not bad really. I don't prefer Ubuntu but am forced to use it at work, and have been trying out different window managers since Unity is a disaster.

I mean, nothing will be as well supported as Unity since Canonical has decided to ignore other window managers, but you can definitely use KDE or Cinnamon or Gnome3 or whatever.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:31 PM on January 2, 2013


LG Mako is apparently the codename / development name for the Google Nexus 4.

Thats correct. I'm pretty sure all Nexus devices are AOSP supported, and in fact that is something required of them.

So the "current" devices supported include the full current Nexus lineup - 4,7,10. [2 tablets and a phone]

Although the Galaxy Nexus is still a really good phone, it's only a year old, so at least 2 "current" phones by some definition, but at least one (Nexus 4, which is super nice).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:33 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is a lot of good stuff that Canonical has contributed to the Linux world (e.g. package management has never been simpler), but at this stage you have to look beyond Unity for it.

...look to Debian in this case, in fact?
posted by jaduncan at 3:34 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eh I meant if you hated Unity in 11.10 it is worth another look in 12.10.

Anyone know if you can actually download an Ubuntu image to flash onto your phone yet?
posted by Joe Chip at 3:37 PM on January 2, 2013


Anyone know if you can actually download an Ubuntu image to flash onto your phone yet?

I could be wrong but I don't believe Ubuntu have any particular plans to support this. All of their phone related releases have been of the "we don't have anything to show contact us if you are a manufacturer" variety, and as such, entirely un-interesting.
posted by markr at 4:20 PM on January 2, 2013


I tried Voltron-ing myself once. All I got was shame, and scorch marks on my weiner.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:25 PM on January 2, 2013


Here are installation instructions for the Nexus 7 with optional dual boot if you'd like to keep Android around.
posted by samsara at 4:33 PM on January 2, 2013


Voltroning is an apt description of operating systems pieces being shuffled around.  "I'll form the head. No, I'll form the head."
posted by jeffburdges at 4:34 PM on January 2, 2013


Smartphones in 2013: Tizen, Firefox OS, Sailfish to compete with Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone.

It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I'm particularly interested in Firefox OS.

The devs participating and the Mozilla Foundation really don't seem to have much reason to do this other than a shot at making a mark on the world and commitment to the values behind an open web (at least, I can't figure out any business angle).

Firefox might be the world's most famous open source brand and successful app, too. It can certainly claim a prominent place on a small list of pieces of open source software that *many* people who don't know much else about computing know about anyway.

Still an uphill battle, no doubt. But so was making headway in a niche utterly dominated by Internet Explorer.
posted by weston at 4:36 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Will this be like Ubuntu for computers, where I install it on an old, slow piece of hardware and all of a sudden it flies along and is snappy and fun to use again?

I work with piss poor grad students in digital history courses. Lots of them have ancient laptops with Ubuntu and Open Office and GIMP and the like. If they could pick up $100 older smartphones off Craigslist and slap this on them and have both a smartphone and a workable PC--that would be really damn powerful.
posted by LarryC at 4:37 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Java is really fast, so speed isn't the issue most of the time with that language, but it has little aesthetic appeal. It's not as bad as Javascript (which is also wicked quick, these days), but it's so verbose, and has such a strange design.

You ought to give Scala a look.
posted by flaterik at 4:39 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bigger than you think - Jolla and WebOS just reached significant development milestones.

Ubuntu Phone, FirefoxOS, Tizen, Amazon's not-all-that-secret phone, Facebook's somewhat-more-secret phone, Samsung's super-secret mobile OS (that's not Bada, their not-secret-but-nobody-cares mobile OS) Sailfish from Jolla (Meego resurrected), WebOS (also somehow resurrected, not sure how that's going to work out), all that on top of the iOS, Android, Windows Phone and presumably something from RIM this quarter.

If you're going to develop for mobile devices now, it's either iOS, iOS+Android via some complementary toolchain like PhoneGap, or (I think much more sensibly) - a native client for iOS and a webapp for everyone else.
posted by mhoye at 4:52 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


What, given this lineup, would be the best platform to consider if one's looking at an audience of primarily subsistence farmers?
posted by infini at 5:02 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Java is really fast, so speed isn't the issue most of the time with that language, but it has little aesthetic appeal.

Java-the-language is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things; it's Java-the-sandboxed-VM and Java-the-security-model that make it a compelling development environment for mobile OS owners. It's worth mentioning that part of the "overhead" of Java is a pre-existing, robust security layer, and even if you drop Java you'll have to have something that looks a lot like it in that slot.
posted by mhoye at 5:10 PM on January 2, 2013


What, given this lineup, would be the best platform to consider if one's looking at an audience of primarily subsistence farmers?

You snark, but: colleagues of mine whose products are predominantly (and in one case excusively) used in developing countries making the move from 3rd to 2nd world report that the answer to that is "the web as delivered by Opera Mini", and they have numbers to back that up.
posted by mhoye at 5:12 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't snark. Its my job. Thank you for the pointer, I totally forgot the number of Opera downloads and their locations from their annual reports.
posted by infini at 5:13 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


What, given this lineup, would be the best platform to consider if one's looking at an audience of primarily subsistence farmers?

Develop for Apache Cordova... It will run on "all of the above" except maybe iOS, but subsistence farmers are not really iOS's market. Firefox OS will probably reach them first, as it has insanely low system requirements, but Android will not be far behind, simply because economies of scale are poised to drive low-end Android hardware prices through the floor.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:37 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


, but Android will not be far behind, simply because economies of scale are poised to drive low-end Android hardware prices through the floor.

Ja, not even poised but there. I'm not the tech, only the observer and pathfinder. My hunch (and I could, of course, be wrong) is that the barrier to be cracked first is the UI/UX, given all the constraints and challenges.

How familiar would the Meego family be to those who've only known the entry level Nokias?
posted by infini at 5:43 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hopefully this statement makes Ballmer's soul ebb just a little bit more.

He has a soul?
posted by mattoxic at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2013


But I'm really, really not fond of Canonical anymore, ever since that disaster of a UI they foisted on us

Cue an army of zombie fanbois moaning "feeeeeeaaaar chaaaaaaange... youuuuu fffeeeeeaaaaarrrr chaaaaaannngggeee... LLUUUUUDIIIIIIITE"

I'll wait for Debian to do this democratically, I think.
posted by flabdablet at 5:45 PM on January 2, 2013


Honestly the biggest problem with Android phones for the developing world isn't the price but the power consumption. Nokia phones with relatively primitive browsers still have any smart phone beat on that front - they get days of battery life which is probably a bigger deal than running a native app.
posted by GuyZero at 5:48 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apple made $41b last year selling devices instead of shoving ads down the user's gullet as much as possible. How much did you make last year?


$125 000 After tax. But I'm not a huge corporation - but still, you're argument really stacks up.
posted by mattoxic at 5:51 PM on January 2, 2013


mhoye: It's worth mentioning that part of the "overhead" of Java is a pre-existing, robust security layer, and even if you drop Java you'll have to have something that looks a lot like it in that slot.

Why?

Calling Java security 'robust', btw, is interesting.
posted by Malor at 5:56 PM on January 2, 2013


Honestly the biggest problem with Android phones for the developing world isn't the price but the power consumption. Nokia phones with relatively primitive browsers still have any smart phone beat on that front - they get days of battery life which is probably a bigger deal than running a native app.

I believe *coughs delicately* they've got an app for that. But yes, agreed. Very big deal, hence the whimpering departure of the IDEOS.
posted by infini at 6:02 PM on January 2, 2013


if you drop Java you'll have to have something that looks a lot like it in that slot.

iOS seems to be doing OK without it or another VM. Process isolation and sandboxing doesn't actually require it.
posted by jaduncan at 6:03 PM on January 2, 2013


flabdablet: I'll wait for Debian to do this democratically, I think.

I was just experimenting today with Linux Mint 14.1, MATE edition. That's pretty nice, actually. MATE is the GNOME 2 fork, the codebase from before the GNOME devs lost their collective effing minds, and in just noodling around with it a little bit this afternoon, it felt very comfortable. I immediately copied my VM environment over to it from Ubuntu 10.04... I've been running that behind VMWare's NAT engine, but I'll be much happier on a codebase that's still getting security fixes.

I think that might be The Way Forward, at least for the desktop. Screwing up the desktop to make phones better is just not an option, as far as this user is concerned. Touch and mouse are very different things, and they need, in my view, different UIs. Unfortunately, it seems like almost every Linux UI developer disagrees.

Microsoft has that same disease. I was pretty excited about Metro, until I found out it was mandatory on desktops. I was very interested for phone and tablet use, but I am angrily against it being forced onto my enormous, non-touch-enabled monitor.
posted by Malor at 6:07 PM on January 2, 2013


Battery life seems pretty good on my Galaxy Nexus. Perhaps the phone carriers are loading down Android with crapware, and that's part of what's messing up power consumption?

I can leave my phone on idle mode for, hmm... I think about six days.
posted by Malor at 6:10 PM on January 2, 2013


I can leave my phone on idle mode for, hmm... I think about six days.

Not many background services?
posted by jaduncan at 6:18 PM on January 2, 2013


The devs participating and the Mozilla Foundation really don't seem to have much reason to do this other than a shot at making a mark on the world and commitment to the values behind an open web (at least, I can't figure out any business angle).

You can't? The Mozilla Foundation is well-compensated for making Google the default search provider on its desktop app. Presumably, they're looking for the same arrangement on mobile because desktop is apparently declining in importance.
posted by Slothrup at 6:24 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those of you wanting an open source mobile OS, Replicant is a fully-free distro of Android that's based on CyanogenMod. Here is a list of supported devices.

I use Replicant and I like it quite a bit. It only runs free (as in freedom) software, so I know that none of my apps are spying on me or tweeting things for me, and there are no ads. All the apps come from the F-Droid repository, which you can also try out with an Android.

It does lack drivers for wifi and the GPS, so I just do without those. 3G is sufficient for my browsing needs.
posted by agropyron at 6:40 PM on January 2, 2013


It only runs free (as in freedom) software, so I know that none of my apps are spying on me

One thing about these discussions that I don't quite understand is how B follows from A here.

Just because it's open source doesn't mean everything it's doing is well understood or happening for a good reason.
posted by flaterik at 7:24 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mars Saxman: Ok then, how do you do it?

Open the Software Center, click on the desktop environment you want to try, click "Install". Log out, click the Ubuntu icon next to your name on the login screen, choose the desktop environment you want to use. Put in your password and hit enter.

To save time, some search terms for the Software Center that will get you exactly one result are "kubuntu-desktop", "lubuntu-desktop", "gnome-shell", "edubuntu-desktop", "mythbuntu-desktop", "xubuntu-desktop".
posted by fader at 7:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the pointer, I totally forgot the number of Opera downloads and their locations from their annual reports.

The Opera people are actually doing amazing, amazing work in the mobile space, and as a consequence of their proxying _everything_ to make it work on ultrasmall screens, amassing a huge understanding of what the mobile web really looks like in the developing world.

Everyone always seems to forget about them, and in my opinion it's a huge mistake.
posted by mhoye at 8:08 PM on January 2, 2013


mhoye: It's worth mentioning that part of the "overhead" of Java is a pre-existing, robust security layer, and even if you drop Java you'll have to have something that looks a lot like it in that slot.

Why?


Because a cellphone is a direct pipeline to your wallet.
posted by mhoye at 8:10 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


How familiar would the Meego family be to those who've only known the entry level Nokias

Not at all. So much so that in the last year a small number of the most recent high-end Symbian phones were reskinned with the Nokia Belle updates to look more like Meego/Harmattan, which looks and feels both quite modern and nothing at all like S40/S60.
posted by mhoye at 8:15 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


>It only runs free (as in freedom) software, so I know that none of my apps are spying on me

One thing about these discussions that I don't quite understand is how B follows from A here.

Just because it's open source doesn't mean everything it's doing is well understood or happening for a good reason.


Of course, you are correct, as Canonical themselves demonstrated. For the most part, spyware is uncommon in free software because people are apt to notice it and remove it. So it would have been more accurate to say "I have good reason to believe that most of my apps aren't spying on me", where with my iPhone it seems that many of my apps existed for the sole purpose of spying on me.
posted by agropyron at 8:22 PM on January 2, 2013


Well "I need an open-source phone" is a bullshit request.

I don't really think that somebody who wants to be able to see what their appliances do, or have some faith that the appliances they've bought won't start randomly obeying somebody else's wishes silently over their own, are all that unreasonable.

If I told you your stereo would email a picture of your living room to the MPAA if it thought you were listening to a downloaded MP3 or that your anti-lock brakes would just flip on automatically if they thought you were going over the speed limit, you'd flip your shit. And rightly so.
posted by mhoye at 8:35 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't really think that somebody who wants to be able to see what their appliances do, or have some faith that the appliances they've bought won't start randomly obeying somebody else's wishes silently over their own, are all that unreasonable.

"You can understand what's going on inside!" is something that is only true for developers (and not even all of them). "You can trust it!" is only true for developers who understand it well enough to perform an in-depth security audit.

I don't believe that "I want an OSS Phone" is a bullshit request, but "Seeing what your appliance does" and "having faith that that they won't start obeying someone else's wishes" are far beyond the ability of software licensing models to fix. The number of people who have or will ever have the skills to perform (say) a basic security audit of an operating system is and always will be minuscule. Even assuming that everyone magically gains the power of code auditing, the underlying hardware, the application ecosystem, and so on are all still major issues.

I'm an OSS developer and have been for pushing a decade now, but I'm always extremely concerned about these unrealistic hypothetical user needs that my compatriots believe are "selling points" for OSS. For non-developers, "Open Source" means about as much as "Polyunsaturated," probably less.
posted by verb at 12:37 AM on January 3, 2013


I've got an N9, and until this was announced I was fairly certain my next phone would be running Jolla's Sailfish.

I've got an ancient candybar nokia, and was interested in a meego before nokia shut it down.

Jolla looks neat, but I'm concerned about the fact that it's basically a closed-source gui and closed source user applications, if I understand correctly. They're trying to maintain control and ownership of it, unlike a random debian or ubuntu install, where the ethos is: "Install us and tweak us wherever you like!"

Maybe they'll open it up; I hope so.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:40 AM on January 3, 2013


infini: "2013 is going to get interesting, very. Lets think outside of the box."

Except Shuttleworth emigrated from SA ages ago, and basically resides in the UK. Nothing I've seen suggests Canonical has any ability to execute in the African political, regulatory or economic environments.

If you're targeting subsistence farming, there's not much market there, by definition they eat what they grow. Presumably you mean poor cash crop farmers, who grow and sell things. They participate in the market at least somewhat, but their capital is so tragically low that a smartphone is perhaps not the most effective investment they could make given 300 dollars. Most of what I've seen in this space is SMS driven, because even ancient phones can do that.

There isn't a lot of open source tech that I know of that can build USSD or STK apps, unfortunately. Perhaps someone will adapt the Django framework to work with it, but for the most part I suspect the open source world assumes a level of affluence and won't trifle with it.
posted by pwnguin at 12:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samsung's super-secret mobile OS (that's not Bada, their not-secret-but-nobody-cares mobile OS)

Not so super-secret, it's Tizen - which you've already mentioned. Which itself is one of the continuations of the Meego project: The others being Mer and Jolla's Mer-based Sailfish.

If I told you your stereo would email a picture of your living room to the MPAA if it thought you were listening to a downloaded MP3

Microsoft Patents Kinect DRM That Detects Number Of Viewers
In many ways the patent's title says it all:
Content Distribution Regulation By Viewing User
posted by xqwzts at 12:42 AM on January 3, 2013


If I told you your stereo would email a picture of your living room to the MPAA if it thought you were listening to a downloaded MP3 or that your anti-lock brakes would just flip on automatically if they thought you were going over the speed limit, you'd flip your shit. And rightly so.

Quite possibly, but how many people would flip their shit -- and spend the next couple of years earning to program, learning the frameworks used in their favorite pieces of software and the firmware used in their appliances, then conduct a code review and security audit of said code?

Because the ability to do that is all that open source brings to the table in the situations you described above. It makes it possible to do things the vast majority of people have absolutely no desire to do, and often comes with significant user experience issues, to boot. Open Source is a powerful thing, but the kinds of "user benefits" you're talking about are only benefits to people who are already or are trying to become experienced developers.
posted by verb at 12:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


verb: "The number of people who have or will ever have the skills to perform (say) a basic security audit of an operating system is and always will be minuscule."

To borrow a term from economics, open source is a good screening device. Someone with a nefarious intent to mislead will not likely commit to publishing the source code, whereby their secrets need only be discovered by a single person to be effectively outed. Not that it doesn't happen, but the results are generally hilarious, not tragic.
posted by pwnguin at 12:47 AM on January 3, 2013


To borrow a term from economics, open source is a good screening device. Someone with a nefarious intent to mislead will not likely commit to publishing the source code, whereby their secrets need only be discovered by a single person to be effectively outed. Not that it doesn't happen, but the results are generally hilarious, not tragic.

The funny thing is that both of the examples that were described by the poster I replied to would be obvious to a technically adept user, even without any access to the source code. Your car's engine is locked to the speed limit? Rental car companies were auto-fining people if they exceeded the speed limit more than a decade ago, and it wasn't stopped by hackers who examined the source code; it was stopped by the courts. Your stereo uploads photos of your living room to the MPAA? Aside from the confusion about audio versus photographic versus video that seem to be present in that hypothetical, such a devices would have to use the existing network, and nerds with network activity monitors spot, publicize, and decry similarly invasive stuff all the time. Rarely does anyone care enough to change their behavior, and I don't see how discovering via a code audit will improve things.

I understand the strengths of, and advocate for, Open Source Software. Overhyping it -- pretending that OSS will solve complex systemic problems -- hurts rather than helps adoption, because it isn't a magic pill. It is a useful and sometimes necessary component of many solutions, but it will not have much effect on the kinds of scenarios that were described.

The worst privacy violations we see today are not due to closed source software -- they're due to people not paying attention to the information that is already at their disposal, or people deciding they they just don't care enough to bother mitigating said privacy risks.
posted by verb at 1:12 AM on January 3, 2013


How familiar would the Meego family be to those who've only known the entry level Nokias?


Entry level meaning Series 40? Like, the Asha range? And Meego family meaning the Nokia N9 and [future Sailfish phones]? Hmm... I'd say there are correspondences, but not enough to make it a compelling choice over any other smartphone just on those grounds.

MeeGo (or more precisely Meego 1.2 Harmattan, an instance of MeeGo created by Nokia, with a proprietary Nokia UI running on top of it) and by extension Sailfish are recognisably within a post-Series 40 smartphone tradition, and I'd say within a Nordic smartphone tradition also. But certainly recent UI elements in Series 40 have been informed by that tradition as well, as more "sub-smart" capability (and capacitive touch interface) has been pushed into the Asha range.

Here's a show-off of the Nokia Meego UI on an N9 - you can see the rounded app tiles on the default Series 40 skins...

This is Maemo on an N900 - arguably the one true quote-unquote mass market quote-unquote open phone.

And this is Sailfish, running on the N950 (the developers' version of the N9) - one of the challenges Jolla had was that the N9's UI, which was almost universally praised, was Nokia-proprietary, so although the Mer core is based on Meego (Mer is more or less explicitly MeeGo Phone - Nokia), the UI had to be at least somewhat different.

(Tying this back to the question about subsistence farmers, although you are probably more knowledgeable about this than I am, it's notable that the Asha browser pre-compresses images to reduce bandwidth demands in basically the way Opera/Opera Mobile does. And that Opera is part of the Sailfish Alliance...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:14 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Do I mean notable? Likely not. Probably I mean "noteworthy". And do I actually mean that? I may more accurately wish to say "a thing of possible interest"...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:38 AM on January 3, 2013


Yes running order squabble fest, it's almost like the platform Elop pointlessly jumped off was actually improving a lot.
posted by jaduncan at 6:21 AM on January 3, 2013


I don't see Elop lasting more than another quarter or two. His Microsoft strategy has been disastrous - it reminds me a lot of the "strategy" employed by the RISC/Unix workstation vendors in the '90s: give up and turn into a Windows NT/Itanium shop, despite the lack of track record in the segment. They're all out of business.

Don't worry, much like executives like Rick Belluzzo who ran their companies into the ground at speed, Elop will have a comfy spot at Redmond waiting for him after the bankruptcy and/or ouster.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:38 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't see Elop lasting more than another quarter or two.

No. What's annoying is that everyone but everyone said exactly this would happen. It's just such a depressingly predictable death spiral.
posted by jaduncan at 7:07 AM on January 3, 2013


Before I jump back into the mobile at the BoP conversation...

If I told you your stereo would email a picture of your living room to the MPAA if it thought you were listening to a downloaded MP3 or that your anti-lock brakes would just flip on automatically if they thought you were going over the speed limit, you'd flip your shit. And rightly so.

In September, the US Naval Surface Warfare Center created an Android app that secretly records your environment and reconstructs it as a 3D virtual model for a malicious user to browse
posted by infini at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


it's notable that the Asha browser pre-compresses images to reduce bandwidth demands in basically the way Opera/Opera Mobile does. And that Opera is part of the Sailfish Alliance...)

Ha!

I have a set of 20 slides from May2011 kicking their ass on this very point. Be happy to share them. Ha!
posted by infini at 8:43 AM on January 3, 2013


Anyway, to follow up on this farmer thingie... while I've got nothing to do with this one in Nigeria, the concept itself is becoming a "thing" especially as agriculture is one of those things we can't do without, globally. And if indeed we're going to go down this path, I don't want it to be yet another sinkhole sucking up funds to no avail like all the rest of the high tech stuff dropped by helicopter, hence the focus on getting the UI and all that good stuff properly figured out from the beginning.

The federal government of Nigeria has announced plans to distribute 10 million free mobile phones to its farmers in 2013 in order to deliver fertiliser and seed subsidies to e-wallets on their phones.
posted by infini at 9:59 AM on January 3, 2013


Has the non-Apple mobile market really become all about the marginal revenue that can be gotten via selling users to content providers for search, location and entertainment?

I recall that some guy said: If you're not paying you're not the customer but the product being sold.

Somewhat naive I always thought. Whether you're paying or not, you are going to be a product being sold if you possibly can be. On the plus side: If you have the power to walk and hurt the corporation by ceasing to use their products, whether you are paying or not, you are a stakeholder they have to pay some attention to.

But now the Ubuntu guys want to sell us too? Well, that is unexpected.
posted by philipy at 10:32 AM on January 3, 2013


Is the Nokia N9 the most underrated smartphone?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:33 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The N9 was really lovely - and actually, the N950, the developer edition, was very cool also... there are Nokia people from the MeeGo/N9 project now at Jolla and also Canonical, so there may be hope for those who missed or miss it, at least... although the build quality and aesthetics are going to be hard to match.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:10 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


it reminds me a lot of the "strategy" employed by the RISC/Unix workstation vendors in the '90s: give up and turn into a Windows NT/Itanium shop, despite the lack of track record in the segment. They're all out of business.

As opposed to the Unix workstation vendors who didn't follow this strategy?
posted by Slothrup at 2:47 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


As opposed to the Unix workstation vendors who didn't follow this strategy?

Well, I believe that Sun ended up being acquired much later.
posted by jaduncan at 2:48 PM on January 3, 2013


So when the ITU develops a global next generation broadband strategy and it fails to mention WiFi, do you think it might be because mobile corporations have an interest in promoting their own infrastructure rather? Do you think that when Google launches a campaign to Save the Internet that it is altruism or self-interest? When Facebook offers free access on mobile phones, is that because they care about the poor? Please don’t get me wrong, I am not some whining lefty moaning about how corporations are evil. Corporations are lovely. Google, in particular, in serving its corporate interest of having more bits consumed globally is in a position to do some very useful disruptive things in both the rich and poor worlds. Disruptive corporations in particular are lovely as they pry out the roots that monopolistic corporations dig in the ground. However, they are still not your friend. They need to be watched and called to account when they behave badly, especially when a big fat pile of money is on the table.
Corporate Narratives, ICTs, and Development by a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow, actually
posted by infini at 3:02 PM on January 3, 2013


I was just experimenting today with Linux Mint 14.1, MATE edition. That's pretty nice, actually. MATE is the GNOME 2 fork, the codebase from before the GNOME devs lost their collective effing minds ... I think that might be The Way Forward, at least for the desktop.

Have a good look at where XFCE is up to these days as well. I switched over to it after a careless full-upgrade of Debian Testing introduced me to GNOME 3 the hard way, and I've found no good reason yet to switch to anything else.

Ms. flabdablet's user account on this computer is set up with MATE and yes, it works, but for my money the current XFCE works better; I'm also happier with a project that has a history with its current developers as well as ongoing improvements and fixes.

Screwing up the desktop to make phones better is just not an option, as far as this user is concerned. Touch and mouse are very different things, and they need, in my view, different UIs.

It might well be that this (in my view obviously correct) insight is only available to those of us who did not spend our formative years attached to an omnipresent digital prosthesis.

Unfortunately, it seems like almost every Linux UI developer disagrees.

Microsoft has that same disease.


I call this the "everything is a phone brain worms". The CADT fanbois calls me a luddite. Which is funny, considering it's my machines that they are breaking.
posted by flabdablet at 7:12 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]



Ubuntu puts a slick shell on top of GNOME, but (in my experience) once you scratch the surface, things are woefully fragmented and kludgy.

In my experience:
-Poor backwards compatibility for software
-Poor software shell integration
-Bad handling of icon themes, with metaphors not carrying over due to a lack of specifications
-Glaring, painful UI bugs
-Duplicated/fractured functionality in control panel applets
-Bizarre software naming conventions. Naming your file browser "Caja" helps nobody.
-Two system trays: One for new GNOME 3 software, another using the old GNOME systray API. One is readily visible, the other is in a hidden floating toolbar kludge.

I wonder how they ironed this all out when porting it to smartphones?


Backwards compatability? poor? have you used a current distribution? packages are availible, even horrid gtk1 ones.

poor software shell integration? stuff like this and this or the search feature? or Oh i dont even..

bad handling of third party icon themes? yeah blame is with the themer not the shell, nice try.

duplicated xor fractured functionality in "control panel applets"? kindly elaborate.

glaring painful ui bugs, yeah i dont like purple either.. oh wait, i do. but seriously though, Fitt's law is still in effect, dont mistake bias for facts :)

bizarre software naming conventions? oh, right that old beast, the way it works is ProjectName-KindofProduct, i.e Epiphany-WebBrowser and is displayed as "Web Browser" but yeah, sheesh it's like Ubuntu doesnt know how to even implement a simple naming standard, amirite?

What I did as a senior technical infrastructure architect was to deploy over 800k SLED desktops within a certain multinational organization, this aside from the thousands of servers already running SUSE, I've worked with Canonical for municipal deployments of desktops and server infrastructure.
Whenever I hang out with new peeps in our different interest circles around europe, all within the 19-36 demographic, most of them seem to be running osx and ubuntu, these are not "technically literate" people, I always make it a point to ask why they use Ubuntu and the answer is more often than not that it's "free" and "looks good".

So yeah i'm sorry that Ubuntu isn't your cup of tea, oh wait i'm not, but they are doing interesting things in a field where everything tends to be a rehash of old concepts with new names.

Also, RTFA, unity isnt the phone ui, it's a qt solution that has the same look -- insert tirade about marketing, usability vectors, recog etc here --
What's interesting about Ubuntu Phone isnt that its an open source phone per se, it's that a) phone as desktop, we've talked about this convergence for years in maker/hacker circles b) hello phone as commodity -- finally i'll be able to treat my phone in much the same manner as I do my macs and pcs. c) holy shit, not tree players in mobile in 2013, but 9, the wonders this will do for commoditizing hardware will be on such an immense scale.
posted by xcasex at 11:38 PM on January 3, 2013


I don't know... hardware seems pretty commoditized already. In fact, the existence of a supply chain to churn out phones which run Android is enabling these competitor operating systems, which largely play nice with phones built to run Android. It's nice to see all of these options heading out there - although how many of them will actually get preinstalled onto a phone in 2013, and how many of those phones will enter mature markets, is another question - but...

Tizen theoretically has the best shot, because of Samsung, but those of us with long memories recall what happened not only to Meego with Nokia but also LiMo, another Linux-based mobile phone OS with the might of Samsung behind it. Or indeed webOS and HP...

Samsung's sheer production is so big that even a neglected OS like Bada can get a sizeable chunk of market share, but Tizen needs to have at least a couple of phones out there to do anything...
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:54 AM on January 4, 2013


As opposed to the Unix workstation vendors who didn't follow this strategy?

You mean IBM and Sun? They're still around, still making silicon, and still pulling in billions in revenue (tho Sun is now owned by a little database company you may have heard of after some trouble in the aughts.)

SGI transitioned to Linux-based clusters after nearly going out of business - their former chipmaking arm, MIPS, is still going strong and making money hand over fist. If they had remained together, SGI would probably be ruling the cloud computing market with fast, low-power systems running Linux.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:28 AM on January 4, 2013


(tho Sun is now owned by a little database company you may have heard of after some trouble in the aughts.)

That's a rather cheery take on being asset stripped by a patent troll.
posted by Artw at 4:38 AM on January 4, 2013


They're making more money off of the hardware than the patents at this point. The trial Did Not Go Well - and it was unlikely that was the goal of the acquisition. No, the goal was to become a vertically integrated data solutions company, a goal Oracle has been working towards since the '90s. They want to be IBM, and own the data center from soup to nuts and rack up huge money from service and support contracts and project consulting.

Overall marketshare has declined, but profitability has dramatically increased for SPARC-based hardware, and RD is finally ramping back up to where it needs to be to compete with IBM and HP, so the marketshare issue will sort itself out in time.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:05 AM on January 4, 2013


Ack! I've gotten old enough to have forgotten I used to sell SGI workstations door to door.1990 I believe.

hello phone as commodity -- finally i'll be able to treat my phone in much the same manner as I do my macs and pcs.

hardware seems pretty commoditized already.

The Commoditization of the Smartphone
posted by infini at 6:25 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't Tizen a webOS clone? I.e. a RESTful UI on a handset. I.e. if all you understand is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. Screw that garbage.

In all fairness, I refuse most site's mobile apps because I don't trust Android's sandboxing, an ultra-sandboxed system might inspire more confidence, but REST is mostly orthogonal to this.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:16 AM on January 4, 2013


You'd be shocked at the number of website apps that are just a shell for some markup. That said most apps for websites have no business existing in the first place and they should just do a decent mobile version.
posted by Artw at 7:20 AM on January 4, 2013


look beyond Unity...

to enlightenment! :P
posted by kliuless at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't Tizen a webOS clone? I.e. a RESTful UI on a handset. I.e. if all you understand is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. Screw that garbage.

Not quite. I don't have any direct experience with the codebase, but I was part of the team designing and implementing their new developer portal so I picked up some tidbits along the way. There are, if I understand correctly, provisions for native compiled applications. The bulk of the work, however, is going into the HTML Packaged Apps/Widgets toolbox. The apps built with those technologies are not simply "restful UIs" any more than native apps are "client server code"; they're designed to be able to use local storage, JS interfaces to native device capabilities like touch/phone support/etc, and don't need to make any "requests" in the traditional HTTP sense.

They can, of course, but the entire HTML5 Widgets standard is intended as a way of packaging truly self-contained apps that happen to be implemented using JS/CSS/HTML DOM.
posted by verb at 10:25 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your hardware roadmap is measured in years rather than months, you may have an issue
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


*checks reading glasses*
*adjusts Win 95 settings*
*inserts floppy*
posted by infini at 11:31 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


their former chipmaking arm, MIPS, is still going strong and making money hand over fist

Although (a) these days they make money selling IP rather than physical chips (much like ARM), and (b) they're about to break themselves up and the patents are worth much more than the operating business.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2013


As opposed to the Unix workstation vendors who didn't follow this strategy?
You mean IBM and Sun?


NeXT did OK, too.

The Mozilla Foundation is well-compensated for making Google the default search provider on its desktop app. Presumably, they're looking for the same arrangement on mobile because desktop is apparently declining in importance.

I guess I can see this. Mobile devices change what hosts/presents applications, so if you have some revenue stream derived from hosting applications, it's nice if you have a mobile OS to do that.

It still seems to me as though Mozilla's history, constitution, and philosophy position them pretty well incentive-wise to do The Right Thing™. They don't need to lock people in to hardware, the model they're pursuing doesn't create a walled garden, and they haven't shown any particular propensity to sell user data or eyeballs. And as I said earlier, they've won against an overwhelmingly dominant player with serious advantages in the past by basically creating a better product, so we know they can ship and do a pretty good job.

I do also see a number of ways they could go south, though:

* Microsoft as a company seems to care more about market dominance than product quality and so they were complacent. No such market state now.
* They were the clear single alternative for a while. Now they have to fight for the #3 spot with at least a half dozen others.
* While Firefox is great, let's face it, it does have some problems; they could fall over on the technical challenges.
* Corporate blind spot. I always wondered why the Mozilla folks didn't pay as much attention to a point-and-click network-wide install manager. I think if they had, IE6 would've died sooner and FF would still have a larger share than Chrome. By contrast, I hear the Ubuntu folks are paying attention to this.
* They could sell out. Maybe Google doesn't like the competition, and drops funding, or maybe Google coopts them. Either way, they look for other revenue sources: walled garden, ads on the phone, selling user data, whatever.

So, yeah. Like I said earlier, it could just be wishful thinking. But I think it's also possible the stars could align and they're somehow able to change the course of mass computing for the second time.
posted by weston at 12:31 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


speaking of e17...

"Wayland, in this perspective, is the C-coded library that supports the development side of the Wayland protocol. Weston is a reference implementation of the other side, the 'compositor,' which interacts more directly with hardware. Weston is constructed to port well to mobile devices and other limited-resource contexts."

"If everything targeted Wayland then would it be trivial getting Ubuntu to run on a phone..."
posted by kliuless at 2:56 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tizen is a non-runner, its the what-os-in-a-row from the asian conglomerates.
posted by xcasex at 12:46 AM on January 7, 2013


Well, it's probably not expected to run, in the sense of compete with the big-ticket OSes. It's possibly wiser to think of Tizen as a kind of back-pocket OS - like Bada, it would run on a few models in order to give a decent amount of public user testing feedback, but is not expected to be a flagship. Its main function is to maintain an in-house team able to run out a continuity option if there was ever a need to cut ties with the OHA.

Obviously, that kind of hawser-hewing would probably constitute market share madness, so it would require an egregious shift to trigger it. In which terms, having your own high-end smartphone OS is sort of like having aircraft carriers - probably not very much _use_ in a fight with a technologically equivalent rival, but being able to float one is a sign of prestige, and they can act as diplomatic bargaining chips...

(See also HP, which can't quite give up on webOS totally, and Nokia, which by effectively abandoning Symbian and Meego as open OSes led by in-house development teams showed its vulnerability in the view of many of its critics - and indeed many of its admirers.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:56 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ubuntu Smartphone Aims for Success in Developing Economies

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the company behind the Linux distribution, says the smartphone version will find a niche in countries where Ubuntu is already popular.

posted by infini at 3:30 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nokia Redirecting Traffic On Some of Its Phones, Including HTTPS
posted by jeffburdges at 1:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


running order squabble fest, you reminded me of LiMo! Wow, that takes me back.

A recent thread on the Wikimedia developers' mailing list ("Mobile apps: time to go native?") told me which way the wind was blowing: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Firefox OS, and Windows 8. (This is in addition to the Wikipedia Zero SMS/USSD stuff for developing countries.) I have an N9 and I know that native Wikipedia apps for MeeGo or any of its variants or progeny are not likely. Ah well. Mobile-optimized web it is. I got this device because I am a stubborn sentimental coot about freedom and the Maemo legacy, and knowing the app ecology would be lacking.
posted by brainwane at 6:25 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was good of Nokia to make their only Meego/Harmattan phone a really, really good one, wasn't it? In the same way, I had an HP TouchPad as my "out and about" tablet for a long time, because what it did do it did very well, and in particular had a killer news app.

(In the end, it was stolen at a train station. I like to think that the thief was slowly driven insane, trying to use or sell a tablet that dual-booted into webOS and a partial build of Cyanogenmod.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:46 AM on January 19, 2013


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