Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Retiring my Ubuntu Phone after 1000 days

With some sadness I recently replaced my Ubuntu Phone with a Nexus 5. It lasted me just over 1000 days (almost three years) as my everyday phone, and I last wrote about it at the 500 mark.

Even though this is the end for me and Ubuntu Phone the hope of a true open source phone platform continues on:
  • The Ubuntu Phone project lives on ubports.
  • As I put my Ubuntu phone to rest the Purism Librem 5 project was funded with over $2 million!
I wish both these projects all the best.

My thoughts on my time with Ubuntu Phone:
  • It worked!
  • While the hardware (Meizu MX4) was reasonable hardware, it would have been nice to see it on something newer/faster and have gone through some more iterations on software performance.
  • The apps I missed most were:
    • An app for my bank and network provider (that I could use to quickly check balances).
    • Communication apps (e.g. Facebook messenger, WhatsApp)
    • Uber
  • I used a reasonable amount of webapps, which mostly filled the gap where apps weren't available. I does appear that most companies put more effort into their mobile apps than mobile web.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Snappy Sprint - London June 2017


I recently attended a Snappy Sprint in London, UK. As well as the Canonical people attending (including me) with experience in the whole Snappy stack (Snapcraft, the Snap store, snapd, snapd-glib) we had great representation from the Elementary, Fedora, GNOME, MATE and KDE communities. My goal was to help improve the Snap experience for desktop apps both on Ubuntu and other distributions.

We spent a lot of time working on improving snap metadata for use with desktop apps. Improvements included:
  • Exposing the title field from the store down to clients.
  • A plan to get standard license information (using SPDX) attached to snaps.
  • We made progress on a solution for projects that use AppStream to be able to easily build snaps and provide some AppStream data that doesn't fit the Snap metadata model to pass through to clients.
  • Fixing of many small issues in GNOME Software so it is suitable to work in Fedora and other distributions.
  • Plans for a tool that allows graphical configuration of snap interfaces.
  • A plan to solve the limitation on desktop clients able to install / remove snaps without a store login.
  • Discussions around metadata translations.
I helped the MATE Software Boutique and KDE Discover developers make use of snapd-glib using GIR bindings in Python and the Qt bindings to make their stores work. It was great to see snapd-glib working in these different use cases and got back some great feedback and a few patches.

Thanks to all the community for attending, I found it very productive to work in-person with them all. If you're interested in following Snappy development check out the Snapcraft Forum where you'll find discussions about what I've described above and much more.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Back to GNOME

With recent changes in Ubuntu I found myself suddenly swung back into the GNOME orbit. It’s been a long journey and my GNOME contributions had reduced over time but it’s good to be back! Iain has written an excellent post about the challenges we face trying to balance the best possible experience for Ubuntu users while also having a mutually beneficial relationship with our upstreams.

After missing the last five GUADECs, I will be at Manchester this year. I hope to catch up with as many people as possible including many old friends I haven’t seen in person for quite some time. If you have any questions about Ubuntu please find me or others from our team, we’re excited to collaborate.

I’ll be spending a lot of my time this development cycle working on GNOME Software particularly around snap support. We’re already delivered some good changes to upstream GNOME like reviews and paid application support. GNOME Software has changed from being a stop-gap solution in Ubuntu to being our permanent software management solution (and has been working really well for us).

It is with some sadness that I say goodbye to the Unity desktop. In particular some things I will miss:
  • The performance and stability of Unity. After some early teething troubles Unity was rock solid and reliable.
  • Fullscreen window management. Unity was super efficient at making use of screen space and reducing distraction. I hope we can get a similar solution into GNOME Shell .
  • Convervenge. While we weren’t able to make a commercial success of it in Ubuntu I hope it will return in the future when the time is right.
  • The development experience of Ubuntu phone and clicks. I hope we can get that experience (and better) soon as next generation packaging systems start to take over. Luckily the click packages I worked on for the phone are being taken over by others in the community (as is the whole Unity 8 project). So I wish these projects success in the future.
  • Unfortunately we have decided it’s not possible to continue to use LightDM in the default Ubuntu install. This project has had wide support amongst many distributions and has a number of features that I will miss.