Ubuntu Touch after it’s end

As you may know, the Canonical (the company which develops Ubuntu) halted all development of the Ubuntu Touch earlier this year. That is, no new devices (phones, tablets) for the Ubuntu Touch systems, no system updates, no new applications. Some users already reinstalled their devices with the Android. And Canonical also halted development of the Mir display server and their complete Unity desktop (all these things were the base of phone GUI system for the Ubuntu Touch).

But there is a great effort of UbPorts folks – it was initially a group interested in porting of the Ubuntu Touch to other devices.
They not only released updated system images for most of previously supported devices but they also working on further development of the system and it’s applications.

Ubuntu Touch on a big screen

There is also a new App Store – the OpenStore was initially meant for applications that cannot obey security rules defined by Canonical (for example apps that need direct access to some hardware) but now it’s a home for all Ubuntu Touch applications. And there is a good flow of new applications: not only most of the interesting applications from old official App Store has been migrated here but also new ones have been appearing.

Of course, there are no new devices but the old can be still used.

Piel Frama Case + Jorno keyboard

I personally have wo Ubuntu devices: the phone (the bq Aquaris E4.5 – the low-end one) and the tablet (the bq M10HD – the best one available) and both are still useful. The E4.5 is my sole mobile phone and serves me very well. Actually, I haven’t noticed any stability nor other problems in last 12 months. There are some issues with Bluetooth input devices (the GUI may restart after the device is connected) but I haven’t used the keyboard with the phone for a long time (I even lost the keyboard and didn’t noticed that…). The Bluetooth speakers seems to work without such problem. To be honest, I finally have managed to remove all unnecessary stuff from the phone (to save space – it has only 8 GB of storage for everything * including the OS) and not there are only applications that I really use on the phone.

The tablet is an another story – the last update of the Ubuntu (in January 2017, I think) broke the external screen support. So now the X11-based applications work well on an external screen but the native (mostly) fail. So one can use the device in the desktop mode only if the internal (10″) screen is enough for his/her needs. There is also still the issue related to virtual keyboard for X11 applications – only specially prepared ones can use in. So the Firefox and the OpenOffice are OK but applications which are installed by the user can only work with an external hardware keyboard. And it limit’s the device usefulness on the move. This is not ideal, but for light work it may be OK.

So I actually use both devices: the phone on a daily basis and the M10 tablet mainly for testing of new applications and for lighter tasks (for example, it’s still better for WWW browsing than any of my computers except the Lenovo X61). During holidays I even used it as a desktop (on a stand with a keyboard, a mouse attached and speakers attached) without issues. It can use also the USB keyboard and mouse the GUI works without restart if no Bluetooth is involved…) but then it cannot be charged at the same time.

I’m still not brave enough to reflash my M10 tablet with the new system image from UbPort…

So things are not that bad as they may look.

Ubuntu Touch after it’s end

Keyboard and case for phone

It is obvious that the phone has to have a proper case. Even the Ubuntu Touch phone should have one. So I have got one (the Piel Frama Universal Book case for 5″ devices). That’s an expensive one (actually it cost me much more than the phone itself – I’m always late so I have had to get my phone as a second hand item – it was sold out before I decided to get it…).

There is not much to be said about the case – just that it is better to get a 5″ one even if the Aquaris has 4.5″ screen – the 4.5″ case seems to be small for this phone but 5″ case is perfect. The case is of very high quality and protects the phone very well. The “notebook” position is stable enough, too. But it’s something that is expected from the Piel Frama, isn’t it?

The colour is orange – they offer only 3 colours for this case (orange, black and maroon). The black is too boring and the maroon is too strange. So I have got the orange.

Piel Frama Case + Jorno keyboard

It is a less obvious to have the Bluetooth keyboard. It’s useful in situations when a table is available and a long text has to be entered. As I damaged my Stowaway one, now I have to use the Jorno keyboard. It’s expensive when new (once more, I have hot mine as a second hand item) but you can find the some device with a different branding and for lower price (I’m not sure what is copy and what is the original as the history of the Jorno is unclear to me).

It’s small, it’s hinges make no problems during writing (they look more terrible than they actually are) but the keys are smaller than normal and the Esc is only available as Fn+Esc, which is stupid. So writing needs more attention but it is still quite comfortable. The tactile feedback is nice (much better than on the most of mobile and notebook keyboards).

There is one caveat: only the centre of the keyboard is in contact with the desk. The left and the right parts are in the air. So if you have to press mre on the wings (well, the Esc+Fn is this case) then the keyboard may become unstable. Only a small movement is possible but still it is disturbing. So some training is probably needed here.

The biggest issue is, of course, the phone itself – the text can be entered via keyboard (including language-specific characters – the Czech just works!) but many of GUI things cannot be controlled via the keyboard and screen tapping is sometimes necessary. But Unity bar can be accessed easily and te Alt+Tab and the Alt+F4 shortcuts work as expected.

Anyway, it’s hard to say if I’m satisfied with the whole thing or not…

Keyboard and case for phone

Bluetooth Keyboard for Aquaris E4.5

As I wrote on Gopher, I have got a wireless keyboard (Bluetooth-compatible) – the Stowaway ThinkOutside Sierra. It’s externally almost identical to these ThingOutside keyboards which were designed to use with old good Palm handhelds (I personally have Palm III-compatible one but I’m not sure if there was version compatible with older Palm machines).

So it’s rather small and compact. The main difference is that there is no Palm-style connector. Instead there is a space for AAA battery and for Bluetooth electronics. The stand for the device is located at the bottom of the keyboard and it is used detached.

Stowaway ThinkOutside Sierra + bq Aquaris E4.5

As I have the keyboard for just a few days but it seems that it have eaten my alkaline battery in two weeks (I have no idea if the battery was OK initially so I will have to investigate this issue a bit more).

The biggest issue of the keyboard probably is its glossy metal enclosure (every tap of finger is visible here). It’s not a problem during use as these parts are on the bottom (they are visible only when the keyboard is folded).

The size was ideal when if was new: it is just about size of a Zaurus PDA and just lightly bigger than a Palm III. However, my current device (bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition) is much more slim and it is not so wide.

The typing on the keyboard is OK. It is foldable and it has 3 hinges and these hinges havesome influence on keyboard stiffness (my Palm-compatible one is stiffer and it less deformed in the center – I assume that is is related to what this particular piece of keyboard was shored and handled in the past).
The keys have normal size and distances. They have a short travel when pressed but it is comparable with normal notebook keyboard (yes, old ThinkPad keyboard is better but not much). There is even a numeric row. So typing (even in an arcane language like Czech) is easy and comfortable. The only important missing key is Esc (Fn+Tab here) and the right Shift and Enter are alightly smaller than
usual.

Of course, the non-standard Esc is a problem for us, active vi/vim users…

I typed this text on that keyboard which was connected to by E4.5 phone without issues (no missing/doubled letters and so). The only problem is too agressive energy-saving policy (the interval to disconnect the keyboard is too short) but
it should be an issue of the phone OS (the OTA-13 Ubuntu update didn’t changed this behaviour, by the way).

Bluetooth Keyboard for Aquaris E4.5

Summer stuff

I haven’t do too much computer related things during the summer. I have a new Aquaris M10 tabled for playing (there was an OTA-12 system update which improved many thinks), and a Pocket C.H.I.P. computer (which is not much used, yet). But most time I have used my SGI O2 desktop (even for a most of WWW browsing) and my Intel Compute Stick (just for modern WWW browsing and for connectin of my GPS and cameras because the O2 has no USB ports).

Retrocomputing

I still use the SGI O2 as a primary desktop. It’s nice for my programming (C, Tcl/Tk), for writting and typesetting (Vim/LaTeX) and so. I also often use it to get stuff from WWW to my Palm III for off-line reading (via the Plucker). I don’t work with graphics too much, most of my images is made by the XFig and the Gnuplot. Recently I have started to use weather forecast from the graph.no. There is a nice finger interface to the yr.no as you may know. I use a finger ostrava@graph.no command for this.

A bit more modern computing

I finaly have managed to use the FVWM window manager on my modern desktop. This modern desktop is an Intel Compute Stick with a pre-installed Ubuntu. It has a quite small storage space (8 GB) and only 1 GB of RAM. So using something ligther than the Unity desktop can be usefull. Actually the difference is not very noticeable as the stock Unity is surprisingly snappy. But the FVWM has much better customisation possibilities and I use in on the O2 for ages so now I have a consistent user interface on both of my desktops. I didn’t use the FVWM on modern Linuxes because there is no dock for notification icons. I have found one but then I realised that I don’ need it. So there were just two problems to solve:

  • Czech keyboard and keyboard switching (/etc/config/keyboard was to be edited),
  • Czech fonts support in the FVWM (well, it was easier to rewrite menus to English).

Work (sort of)

To use external disks I just run nautilus --no-desktop when I need it. And that’s all.

Cutting-edge computing

My most modern and up-to-date computer is the Aquaris M10 tablet with the Ubuntu Touch. It feels a bit experimental as it was initially availably with half-baken operating system and some things are still being finalised (or developed). At the moment the most of important things work: one can use LibreOffice (with a hardware or an on-screen keyboard), install other X11 aplications and use them quite easily (without on-screen keyboard for these apps – one must connect a hardware one to be able to enter text). The integrated WWW browser has the most of needed features (and it even goes fullscreen with the F11 key… and it works with the Technomorous site) and the Evernote client (the Notes) finally supports clipboard. The hardware keyboard layouts can be easily configured (one just has to select them in Preferences) and can be switched by pressing of Win+Space. That’s excellent – I never realised how to do something like this on an Android or Maemo handheld (I’ m not sure how these things work on the Apple stuff). The only missing thing is a keyboard status indicator (it is prepared by developers for the next update). I also installed the TeXlive and the gcc with many libraries and compiled some of my pieces of software (uFEM and MicroDef). Both ot htem works as expected (the uFEM shows some bugs on all modern ARM computers and I still have to fix them). After some testing I can conclude that the M10 is waaaaay slooower than the Comtute stick (which is has also a quad-core processor but an Intel Atom one). It’s much faster than my 16-year old SGI O2, though. 😉

bq Aquaris M10 + keyboard

This text was written on the Sharp Zaurus (SL-C760), of course.

Summer stuff

Ubuntu Touch OTA-12 Update

I installed the new update of the Ubuntu Touch today. Only on my tablet at the moment. There are some impressions:

  • External keyboard support is improved: easy switching by Win+Space, AltGr support, works well in X11/Xorg applications, too. No external keyboard layout indication is available, though.
  • Xorg support improved. I am now able to compile and run my own X11 programs. The whole thing seems to be more stable, too. There still is no working clipboard support between X11 and native applications.

The TeX works (the TeXlive can be installed), the gcc works and the GNU Octave works.. Well, the ParaView is even not available for install.

Freshly compiled uFEM on Ubuntu Touch

There are still many rough edges (for example the way how multiple windows in Xorg emulaton works – you have to switch them by clicking o a small symbol in an ugly titlebar) but at the moment I am able to use it as a notebook replacement (the only really missign thing is a support of external VGA screens: the 1920×1020 or so is not an option for the most of dataprojectors around).

Of course, lot of things is impractical and not very configurable due to the limitations of the mobile operating system.

Ubuntu Touch OTA-12 Update

GCC on Ubuntu Touch

Indeed, one can have less or more complete UNIX environment in the Ubuntu Touch device. Direct use of the “apt-get” is not recommended as the filesystem is purposely made read-only. But it is possible set up and to use chroot environment and the have a separate system for the tools.

A nice guide is here.

Vim on Ubuntu Touch

There are limitations, of course. You have a separate space with no link from inside to outside and there is no (simple) way to use GUI or graphical applications. But most of CLI stuff works well (the Octave, the GCC, the Lynx and the Links, the Vim and so on).

GCC on Ubuntu Touch

Aquaris M10: first few notes

Yes, I do have one of these. It is cool to have a real Ubuntu tablet. But don’t expect any wonders.

A few first impressions and notes:

  • It isn’t fast. The performance is rather average. But it was expected, I think. So no problem here.
  • There is a XMir to run full Xorg-based applications. But they look ugly (no theme is applied on them).
  • One cannot use virtual keyboard for these Xorg application. Just a Bluetooth one (so no Firefox or OpenOffice.org in the tablet mode…).
  • There is no way to switch layouts of the hardware keyboard at the moment. One can use, for example, a Czech keyboard (and it works well) but it is niot possible to change it to an English one in an easy way. It is delcared as a work in progress.
  • One cannot install more Xorg applications in an easy way. This isn’t nice. So you will be limited to the Gimp, the Firefox, the OpenOffice and the Gedit.

More on that topic later. I don’t say that I’m not happy with my tablet. But there is a bit more limitiations that I expected.

Aquaris M10: first few notes