Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'work'

Michael Hall

Bicentennial Man PosterEver since we started building the Ubuntu SDK, we’ve been trying to find ways of bringing the vast number of Android apps that exist over to Ubuntu. As with any new platform, there’s a chasm between Android apps and native apps that can only be crossed through the effort of porting.

There are simple solutions, of course, like providing an Android runtime on Ubuntu. On other platforms, those have shown to present Android apps as second-class citizens that can’t benefit from a new platform’s unique features. Worse, they don’t provide a way for apps to gradually become first-class citizens, so chasm between Android and native still exists, which means the vast majority of apps supported this way will never improve.

There are also complicates solutions, like code conversion, that try to translate Android/Java code into the native platform’s language and toolkit, preserving logic and structure along the way. But doing this right becomes such a monumental task that making a tool to do it is virtually impossible, and the amount of cleanup and checking needed to be done by an actual developer quickly rises to the same level of effort as a manual port would have. This approach also fails to take advantage of differences in the platforms, and will re-create the old way of doing things even when it doesn’t make sense on the new platform.

Screenshot from 2014-04-19 14:44:22NDR takes a different approach to these, it doesn’t let you run our Android code on Ubuntu, nor does it try to convert your Android code to native code. Instead NDR will re-create the general framework of your Android app as a native Ubuntu app, converting Activities to Pages, for example, to give you a skeleton project on which you can build your port. It won’t get you over the chasm, but it’ll show you the path to take and give you a head start on it. You will just need to fill it in with the logic code to make it behave like your Android app. NDR won’t provide any of logic for you, and chances are you’ll want to do it slightly differently than you did in Android anyway, due to the differences between the two platforms.

Screenshot from 2014-04-19 14:44:31To test NDR during development, I chose the Telegram app because it was open source, popular, and largely used Android’s layout definitions and components. NDR will be less useful against apps such as games, that use their own UI components and draw directly to a canvas, but it’s pretty good at converting apps that use Android’s components and UI builder.

After only a couple days of hacking I was able to get NDR to generate enough of an Ubuntu SDK application that, with a little bit of manual cleanup, it was recognizably similar to the Android app’s.

This proves, in my opinion, that bootstrapping an Ubuntu port based on Android source code is not only possible, but is a viable way of supporting Android app developers who want to cross that chasm and target their apps for Ubuntu as well. I hope it will open the door for high-quality, native Ubuntu app ports from the Android ecosystem.  There is still much more NDR can do to make this easier, and having people with more Android experience than me (that would be none) would certainly make it a more powerful tool, so I’m making it a public, open source project on Launchpad and am inviting anybody who has an interest in this to help me improve it.

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Michael Hall

Screenshot from 2014-03-20 21:57:06Yesterday we made a big step towards developing a native email client for Ubuntu, which uses the Ubuntu UI Toolkit and will converge between between phones, tablets and the desktop from the start.

We’re not starting from scratch though, we’re building on top of the incredible work done in the Trojitá project.  Trojitá provides a fast, light email client built with Qt, which made it ideal for using with Ubuntu. And yesterday, the first of that work was accepted into upstream, you can now build an Ubuntu Components front end to Trojitá.

None of this would have been possible without the help up Trojitá’s upstream developer Jan Kundrát, who patiently helped me learn the codebase, and also the basics of CMake and Git so that I could make this first contribution. It also wouldn’t have been possible without the existing work by Ken VanDine and Joseph Mills, who both worked on the build configuration and some initial QML code that I used. Thanks also to Dan Chapman for working together with me to get this contribution into shape and accepted upstream.

This is just the start, now comes the hard work of actually building the new UI with the Ubuntu UI Toolkit.  Andrea Del Sarto has provided some fantastic UI mockups already which we can use as a start, but there’s still a need for a more detailed visual and UX design.  If you want to be part of that work, I’ve documented how to get the code and how to contribute on the EmailClient wiki.  You can also join the next IRC meeting at 1400 UTC today in #ubuntu-touch-meeting on Freenode.

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Michael Hall

Starting at 1400 UTC today, and continuing all week long, we will be hosting a series of online classes covering many aspects of Ubuntu application development. We have experts both from Canonical and our always amazing community who will be discussing the Ubuntu SDK, QML and HTML5 development, as well as the new Click packaging and app store.

You can find the full schedule here: http://summit.ubuntu.com/appdevweek-1403/

We’re using a new format for this year’s app developer week.  As you can tell from the link above, we’re using the Summit website.  It will work much like the virtual UDS, where each session will have a page containing an embedded YouTube video that will stream the presenter’s hangout, an embedded IRC chat window that will log you into the correct channel, and an Etherpad document where the presenter can post code examples, notes, or any other text.

Use the chatroom like you would an Ubuntu On Air session, start your questions with “QUESTION:” and wait for the presenter to get to it. After the session is over, the recorded video will be available on that page for you to replay later. If you register yourself as attending on the website (requires a Launchpad profile), you can mark yourself as attending those sessions you are interested in, and Summit can then give you a personalize schedule as well as an ical feed you can subscribe to in your calendar.

If you want to use the embedded Etherpad, make sure you’re a member of https://launchpad.net/~ubuntu-etherpad

That’s it!  Enjoy the session, ask good questions, help others when you can, and happy hacking.

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Michael Hall

It’s been a crazy busy week, and it’s only Tuesday (as of this writing)!  Because I’m exhausted, this is going to be a short post listing the things that are new.

New Roof

I wrote earlierthat I was having a new roof put on my house.  Well that all starter unceremoniously at 7:30am on Monday, and the hammering over my head has been going on non-stop for two full working days.  Everybody who joined me on a Google+ Hangout has been regaled with the sounds of my torment.  It looks nice though, so there’s that.

New Developer Portal

Well, new-ish.  We heavily revamped the Apps section to include more walk-through content to help new Ubuntu app developers learn the tools, the process and the platform.  If you haven’t been there yet, you really should give it a read and get yourself started: http://developer.ubuntu.com/apps/

New HTML5 APIs

In addition to the developer portal itself, I was able to publish new HTML5 API docs for the 14.04 release of Ubuntu.  Not only does this include the UbuntuUI library from the previous release, it also introduced new platform APIs for Content Hub, Online Accounts and Alarms, with more platform APIs coming soon.  The Cordova 3.4 API docs are proving harder to parse and upload than I anticipated, but I will hopefully have them published soon. If you’re an HTML5 app developer, you’ll be interested in these: http://developer.ubuntu.com/api/html5/sdk-14.04/

New Scopes

While not exactly a secret, we did start to make some noise about the new Scopes framework and Unity Dash that bring in a lot of improvements. As much as I liked the Home lens searching everything and aggregating results, it just wasn’t reaching the potential we had hoped for it.  The new setup will allow scopes to add more information that is specific to their result types, control how those results are displayed, and more clearly brand themselves to let the user know what’s being searched. You can read more about the enhancements at http://developer.ubuntu.com/2014/02/introducing-our-new-scopes-technology/ Like I said, it’s been a crazy busy week.  And we’re not done yet!

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Michael Hall

Ubuntu API Website

For much of the past year I’ve been working on the Ubuntu API Website, a Django project for hosting all of the API documentation for the Ubuntu SDK, covering a variety of languages, toolkits and libraries.  It’s been a lot of work for just one person, to make it really awesome I’m going to need help from you guys and gals in the community.

To help smooth the onramp to getting started, here is a breakdown of the different components in the site and how they all fit together.  You should grab a copy of the branch from Launchpad so you can follow along by running: bzr branch lp:ubuntu-api-website

Django

First off, let’s talk about the framework.  The API website uses Django, a very popular Python webapp framework that’s also used by other community-run Ubuntu websites, such as Summit and the LoCo Team Portal, which makes it a good fit. A Django project consists of one or more Django “apps”, which I will cover below.  Each app consists of “models”, which use the Django ORM (Object-Relational Mapping) to handle all of the database interactions for us, so we can stick to just Python and not worry about SQL.  Apps also have “views”, which are classes or functions that are called when a URL is requested.  Finally, Django provides a default templating engine that views can use to produce HTML.

If you’re not familiar with Django already, you should take the online Tutorial.  It only takes about an hour to go through it all, and by the end you’ll have learned all of the fundamental things about building a Django site.

Branch Root

When you first get the branch you’ll see one folder and a handful of files.  The folder, developer_network, is the Django project root, inside there is all of the source code for the website.  Most of your time is going to be spent in there.

Also in the branch root you’ll find some files that are used for managing the project itself. Most important of these is the README file, which gives step by step instructions for getting it running on your machine. You will want to follow these instructions before you start changing code. Among the instructions is using the requirements.txt file, also in the branch root, to setup a virtualenv environment.  Virtualenv lets you create a Python runtime specifically for this project, without it conflicting with your system-wide Python installation.

The other files you can ignore for now, they’re used for packaging and deploying the site, you won’t need them during development.

./developer_network/

As I mentioned above, this folder is the Django project root.  It has sub-folders for each of the Django apps used by this project. I will go into more detail on each of these apps below.

This folder also contains three important files for Django: manage.py, urls.py and settings.py

manage.py is used for a number of commands you can give to Django.  In the README you’ll have seen it used to call syncdbmigrate and initdb.  These create the database tables, apply any table schema changes, and load them with initial data. These commands only need to be run once.  It also has you run collectstatic and runserver. The first collects static files (images, css, javascript, etc) from all of the apps and puts them all into a single ./static/ folder in the project root, you’ll need to run that whenever you change one of those files in an app.  The second, runserver, runs a local HTTP server for your app, this is very handy during development when you don’t want to be bothered with a full Apache server. You can run this anytime you want to see your site “live”.

settings.py contains all of the Django configuration for the project.  There’s too much to go into detail on here, and you’ll rarely need to touch it anyway.

urls.py is the file that maps URLs to an application’s views, it’s basically a list of regular-expressions that try to match the requested URL, and a python function or class to call for that match. If you took the Django project tutorial I recommended above, you should have a pretty good understanding of what it does. If you ever add a new view, you’ll need to add a corresponding line to this file in order for Django to know about it. If you want to know what view handles a given URL, you can just look it up here.

./developer_network/ubuntu_website/

If you followed the README in the branch root, the first thing it has you do is grab another bzr branch and put it in ./developer_network/ubuntu_website.  This is a Django app that does nothing more than provide a base template for all of your project’s pages. It’s generic enough to be used by other Django-powered websites, so it’s kept in a separate branch that each one can pull from.  It’s rare that you’ll need to make changes in here, but if you do just remember that you need to push you changes branch to the ubuntu-community-webthemes project on Launchpad.

./developer_network/rest_framework/

This is a 3rd party Django app that provides the RESTful JSON API for the site. You should not make changes to this app, since that would put us out of sync with the upstream code, and would make it difficult to pull in updates from them in the future.  All of the code specific to the Ubuntu API Website’s services are in the developer_network/service/ app.

./developer_network/search/

This app isn’t being used yet, but it is intended for giving better search functionality to the site. There are some models here already, but nothing that is being used.  So if searching is your thing, this is the app you’ll want to work in.

./developer_network/related/

This is another app that isn’t being used yet, but is intended to allow users to link additional content to the API documentation. This is one of the major goals of the site, and a relatively easy area to get started contributing. There are already models defined for code snippets, Images and links. Snippets and Links should be relatively straightforward to implement. Images will be a little harder, because the site runs on multiple instances in the cloud, and each instance will need access to the image, so we can’t just use the Django default of saving them to local files. This is the best place for you to make an impact on the site.

./developer_network/common/

The common app provides views for logging in and out of the app, as well as views for handling 404 and 500 errors when the arise.  It also provides some base models the site’s page hierarchy. This starts with a Topic at the top, which would be qml or html5 in our site, followed by a Version which lets us host different sets of docs for the different supported releases of Ubuntu. Finally each set of docs is placed within a Section, such as Graphical Interface or Platform Service to help the user browse them based on use.

./developer_network/apidocs/

This app provides models that correspond directly to pieces of documentation that are being imported.  Documentation can be imported either as an Element that represents a specific part of the API, such as a class or function, or as a Page that represents long-form text on how to use the Elements themselves.  Each one of these may also have a given Namespace attached to it, if the imported language supports it, to further categorize them.

./developer_network/web/

Finally we get into the app that is actually generates the pages.  This app has no models, but uses the ones defined in the common and apidocs apps.  This app defines all of the views and templates used by the website’s pages, so no matter what you are working on there’s a good chance you’ll need to make changes in here too. The templates defined here use the ones in ubuntu_website as a base, and then add site and page specific markup for each.

Getting Started

If you’re still reading this far down, congratulations! You have all the information you need to dive in and start turning a boring but functional website into a dynamic, collaborative information hub for Ubuntu app developers. But you don’t need to go it alone, I’m on IRC all the time, so come find me (mhall119) in #ubuntu-website or #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode and let me know where you want to start. If you don’t do IRC, leave a comment below and I’ll respond to it. And of course you can find the project, file bugs (or pick bugs to fix) and get the code all from the Launchpad project.

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Michael Hall

Today was a distracting day for me.  My homeowner’s insurance is requiring that I get my house re-roofed[1], so I’ve had contractors coming and going all day to give me estimates. Beyond just the cost, we’ve been checking on state licensing, insurance, etc.  I’ve been most shocked at the differences in the level of professionalism from them, you can really tell the ones for whom it is a business, and not just a job.

But I still managed to get some work done today.  After a call with Francis Ginther about the API website importers, we should soon be getting regular updates to the current API docs as soon as their source branch is updated.  I will of course make a big announcement when that happens

I didn’t have much time to work on my Debian contributions today, though I did join the DPMT (Debian Python Modules Team) so that I could upload my new python-model-mommy package with the DPMT as the Maintainer, rather than trying to maintain this package on my own.  Big thanks to Paul Tagliamonte for walking me through all of these steps while I learn.

I’m now into my second week of UbBloPoMo posts, with 8 posts so far.  This is the point where the obligation of posting every day starts to overtake the excitement of it, but I’m going to persevere and try to make it to the end of the month.  I would love to hear what you readers, especially those coming from Planet Ubuntu, think of this effort.

[1] Re-roofing, for those who don’t know, involves removing and replacing the shingles and water-proofing paper, but leaving the plywood itself.  In my case, they’re also going to have to re-nail all of the plywood to the rafters and some other things to bring it up to date with new building codes.  Can’t be too safe in hurricane-prone Florida.

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Michael Hall

Quick overview post today, because it’s late and I don’t have anything particular to talk about today.

First of all, the next vUDS was announced today, we’re a bit late in starting it off but we wanted to have another one early enough to still be useful to the Trusty release cycle.  Read the linked mailinglist post for details about where to find the schedule and how to propose sessions.

I pushed another update to the API website today that does a better job balancing the 2-column view of namespaces and fixes the sub-nav text to match the WordPress side of things. This was the first deployment in a while to go off without a problem, thanks to  having a new staging environment created last time.  I’m hoping my deployment problems on this are now far behind me.

I took a task during my weekly Core Apps update call to look more into the Terminal app’s problem with enter and backspace keys, so I may be pinging some of you in the coming week about it to get some help.  You have been warned.

Finally, I decided a few weeks ago to spread out my after-hours community a activity beyond Ubuntu, and I’ve settled on the Debian new maintainers Django website as somewhere I can easily start.  I’ve got a git repo where I’m starting writing the first unit tests for that website, and as part of that I’m also working on Debian packaging for the Python model-mommy library which we use extensively in Ubuntu’s Django website. I’m having to learn (or learn more) Debian packaging, Git workflows and Debian’s processes and community, all of which are going to be good for me, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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Michael Hall

We wrapped up the last day of our sprint with a new team photo.  I can honestly say I couldn’t think of a better group of people to be working with.  Even the funny looking guy in the middle.

I mentioned that earlier in the week we decided on naming SDK releases after distro releases, and with that information in hand I spent my last day getting the latest API docs uploaded, so if you’re writing apps for the latest device images, you’ll want to use these: http://developer.ubuntu.com/api/qml/sdk-14.04/

In the coming week I’ll be working to get the documentation publishing scripts added to the automated build and testing process, so those docs will be continuously updated until the release of Ubuntu 14.04, at which point we’ll freeze those doc pages and start publishing daily updates for 14.10.  Being able to publish  all of those docs in a matter of minutes was a particularly thrill for me, after working for so long to get that feature into production.  It certainly proves that it was the right approach.

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Michael Hall

Second to last day of the sprint, and we’ve been shifting gears from presenting ideas and brainstorming to making solid plans and bringing all the disparate pieces together.  The result is looking very, very promising.

I started out this morning by updating my Nexus 4 to build 166, which brings some improvements to the Unity 8 and system apps.  I’m still poking around to discover what’s new.

I had a handful of great conversations with the Jamie (security) and Ken (content-hub) about how to deliver creative content via click packages in the new store.  It looks like wallpapers will be relatively easy to support, and Ken and I (mostly Ken) will be working on adding that to the Click installer and System Settings.  Theme support is unfortunately going to be more difficult, since our QML themes are full QML themselves, and can run their own code, which makes them a security concern. We’re going to try and support a safe subset of styling to be delivered via Click packages, but that’s not likely to happen this cycle.

After lunch we had another set of presentations, this time from Florian Boucault on the SDK team about app performance.  After briefly covering performance goals we need to meet to make our UI as smooth and responsive an iOS, he stunned us all by showing off live performance graphs overlaid on top of one of the Core Apps (sadly I didn’t get a picture of that) so you can see the CPU and GPU usages while interacting with the app.  This wonderful little piece of magic should be landing in device images in the next couple of weeks, and I for one can not wait to try it out. In the mean time, he was nice enough to sit down with me and walk me through using QtCreator’s Analyse tab to see what parts of my own app might be using more resources than then should.

Among the sessions I wasn’t able to attend today: More HTML5 device APIs are coming online, contacts syncing via the Online Accounts provider for Google got it’s first cut, the SDK’s StateSaver component got some finishing work done, and AppArmor optimizations that will speed up boot times.

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Michael Hall

Today we had a lot of good discussions around app development, starting off with an update on the state of GoLang support and what was needed to get the Go/QML bridge packaged and available for people to start using.

From there we moved on to the future of Content Hub, which is really set to reach it’s full potential now and we will hopefully see a wide range of system, core and 3rd party apps providing it with content.

After lunch Nick gave us all a quick lesson in how to properly use Autopilot, something I think we’re all going to become more familiar with in the coming months.  The key takeaway: Don’t Sleep.

Then we discussed QtCreator itself, and our various plugins for it.  We identified some easy fixes, and did a lot of brainstorming on how to attack the harder ones.  We saw the new packaging and cross-compilation support that’s being added to it now. Zoltan topped it all off by giving us a very short demonstration, going from the creation of a new project all the way, through creating a package, running package verification tests on it, copying it onto a phone and installing it, all in about 30 seconds!

We also discovered that the current SDK packages in the PPA were broken for Saucy and older releases (Trust was okay).  Daniel, Zoltan and David Barth spent much of the day intensely debugging the problem, providing a fix, shepherding those fixes though Launchpad and into the PPAs so that we could get it all working by the end of the day.  We then set aside time for a new session where we discussed what happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.  I’m pleased to say that some of those steps have already been implemented, and the rest will soon follow.

Finally we wrapped up the evening with chicken wings and beer, plus another fantastically entertaining card game courtesy of Alan Pope’s deranged humor.

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Michael Hall

Another day packed with meetings and discussions today.  Here’s some of the highlights:

We decided that SDK version numbering should mirror distro numbering, so instead of Ubuntu SDK 2.0 we will have Ubuntu SDK 14.04.

We worked out more details on the next App Developer Showdown, including what additions and changes to the SDK and store will be ready for the contest, and what prizes we will try to get for it.

After reviewing the current documentation on developer.ubuntu.com, we identified some areas where we need to improve it before the App Showdown.

Alan Pope and I guest starred in Jono’s weekly Q&A session, from the hotel bar, which was loads of fun.  Watch the full video to hear more about what we’ve been discussing here and maybe find answers to some of your own questions.

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Michael Hall

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m with the rest of my team in Orlando this week for a sprint. We are joined by many other groups from Canonical, and unfortunately we didn’t have enough meeting rooms for all of the breakout session, so the Community team was forced (forced I tell you) to meet on the patio by the pool.

We have had a lot of good discussions already, and we have four days left.  You’ll start to seem some of the new ideas and changes going into effect next week.  Until then, stay tuned.

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Michael Hall

Last week I posted on G+ about the a couple of new sets of QML API docs that were published.  Well that was only a part of the actual story of what’s been going on with the Ubuntu API website lately.

Over the last month I’ve been working on implementing and deploying a RESTful JSON service on top of the Ubuntu API website, and last week is when all of that work finally found it’s way into production.  That means we now have a public, open API for accessing all of the information available on the API website itself!  This opens up many interesting opportunities for integration and mashups, from integration with QtCreator in the Ubuntu SDK, to mobile reference apps to run on the Ubuntu phone, or anything else your imagination can come up with.

But what does this have to do with the new published docs?  Well the RESTful service also gives us the ability to push documentation up to the production server, which is how those docs got there.  I’ve been converting the old Django manage.py scripts that would import docs directly into the database, to instead push them to the website via the new service, and the QtMultimedia and QtFeedback API docs were the first ones to use it.

Best of all, the scripts are all automated, which means we can start integrating them with the continuous integration infrastructure that the rest of Ubuntu Engineering has been building around our projects.  So in the near future, whenever there is a new daily build of the Ubuntu SDK, it will also push the new documentation up, so we will have both the stable release documentation as well as the daily development release documentation available online.

I don’t have any docs yet on how to use the new service, but you can go to http://developer.ubuntu.com/api/service/ to see what URLs are available for the different data types.  You can also append ?<field>=<value> keyword filters to your URL to narrow the results.  For example, if you wanted all of the Elements in the Ubuntu.Components namespace, you can use http://developer.ubuntu.com/api/service/elements/?namespace__name=Ubuntu.Components to do that.

That’s it for today, the first day of my UbBloPoMo posts.  The rest of this week I will be driving to and fro for a work sprint with the rest of my team, the Ubuntu SDK team, and many others involved in building the phone and app developer pieces for Ubuntu.  So the rest of this week’s post may be much shorter.  We’ll see.

Happy Hacking.

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Michael Hall

Do you want a new OPPO Find 5?  Of course you do!  Well the awesome team at OPPO have given us a brand new Find 5 (x909 to be exact) for us to give you.  So here’s the deal, the first person to provide a working Ubuntu Touch image for this device gets to keep it.

Last weekend both Ubuntu and OPPO had booths at the first ever XDA Developers Conference in Miami.  While discussing both of our new products, the idea came up to hold a porting contest to get Ubuntu Touch running on the Find 5.  Jono announced the initial contest during his presentation on Saturday, with an initial challenge to have a winner claim the prize during the conference itself.  Despite having three separate developers build images and flash them onto the phone, none were able to boot into Ubuntu Touch.

So now we’re extending the contest and making it available to everybody!  To enter, you will need to send me an email containing links to the necessary files and detailed step-by-step direction for loading them on the phone.  I don’t have much experience with flashing ROMs, so treat me like a complete newbie when writing your instructions.  If your images don’t work, I will send you the output from adb logcat as well as any other information you request.  If your images do work, and meet the requirements below, I’ll be asking for a mailing address so I can send you your prize!

In order to win your phone, you need to get Ubuntu Touch running on the OPPO Find 5. Not just booting, but running, and is a way that makes it usable for other Find 5 owners.  So I’ve set out the following things that I will be checking for:

  • The phone boots into Ubuntu Touch (obviously)
  • I can launch multiple apps and switch between them
  • I can make phone calls (I have a SIM that works)
  • I can send and receive SMS
  • I can connect to Wifi, using WPA2
  • The screen goes to sleep when pressing the power button or after the set timeout period, and wakes up again when pressing the power button
  • I can play audio with the Music app
  • I can take pictures with the front and rear cameras

So, you want to take a crack at it?  Well the first step is to read the Ubuntu Touch Porting Guide.  Once you have an image you want me to try, send an email to mhall119@gmail.com with “OPPO” somewhere in the subject (just to help me out, I get a lot of email).  In that email include all of the steps necessary to download and install your image.  Again, be detailed, I’m a newb.  If you image meets the above requirements, I’ll put it in the mail to you!  After that, we can work on getting your image available for easy installation via our phablet-flash tool, so all the other OPPO Find 5 owners can try it too.

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Michael Hall

When we announced the Ubuntu Edge crowd-funding campaign a week ago, we had one hell of a good first day.  We broke records left and right, we sold out of the first round of perks in half the time we expected, and we put the campaign well above the red line we needed to reach our goal.  Our second day was also amazing, and when we opened up a new round of perks at a heavy discount the third day we got another big boost.

But as exciting and record-breaking as that first week was, we couldn’t escape the inevitable slowdown that the Kickstarter folks call “the trough“.  Our funding didn’t stop, you guys never stopped, but it certainly slowed way down from it’s peak.  We’ve now entered a period of the crowd-funding cycle where keeping momentum going is the most important thing. How well we do that will determine whether or not we’re close enough to our goal for the typical end-of-cycle peak to push us over the edge.

And this is where we need our community more than ever, not for your money but for your ideas and your passion.  If you haven’t contributed to the campaign yet, what can we offer that would make it worthwhile for you?  If your friends haven’t contributed yet, what would it take to make them interested?  We want to know what perks to offer to help drive us through the trough and closer to the Edge.

Our Options

So here’s what we have to work with.  We need to raise about $24 million by the end of August 21st.  That’s a lot, but if we break it down by orders of magnitude we get the following combinations:

  • 1,000,000 people giving $24 each
  • 100,000 people giving $240 each
  • 10,000 people giving $2,400 each
  • 1,000 people giving $24,000 each

Now finding ways to get people to contribute $24 are easy, but a million people is a lot of people.  1,000 or even 10,000 people isn’t that many, but finding things that they’ll part with $2,400 for is challenge, even more so for $24,000.

That leaves us with one order of magnitude that I think makes sense. 100,000 people is a lot, but not unreasonable.  Previously large crowd-funding campaigns have reached 90,000 contributors, while raising only a fraction of what we’re trying for, so that many people is an attainable goal.  Plus $240, while more than an impulse purchase, still isn’t an unreasonable amount for a lot of people to part with, especially if we’re giving them something of similar real value in return.

Now it doesn’t have to be exactly $240, but think of perk ideas that would be around this level, something less than the cost of a phone, but more than the Founder levels.

Our Limits

Now, for the limitations we have.  I know everybody wants to see $600 phones again, and that would certainly be an easy way to boost the campaign.  But the manufacturing estimate we have is that $32 million will build only 40,000 phones.  That’s $800 per phone.  That’s something we can’t get away from.  Whatever we offer as perks, we have to average at least $800 per phone.  We were able to offer perks for less than that because we projected the other perk levels to help make up the difference.  So if you’re going to suggest a lower-priced phone perk, you’re going to have to offer some way to make up the difference.

You also need to consider the cost of offering the perk, as a $50 t-shirt doesn’t actually net $50 once you take out the cost of the shirt itself, so we can’t offer $240 worth of merchandise in exchange for a $240 contribution. But you could probably offer something that costs $20 to make in exchange for a $240 contribution.

Our Challenge

So there’s the challenge for you guys.  I’ve been thinking of this for over a week now, and have offered my ideas to those managing the campaign.  Often they pointed out some flaw in my reasoning or estimates, but some ideas they liked and might try to offer.  I can’t promise that your ideas will be offered, but I can promise to put them in front of the people making those decisions, and they are interested in hearing from you.

Now, rather than trying to cultivate your ideas here on my blog, because comments are a terrible place for something like that, I’ve created a Reddit thread for you.  Post your ideas there as comments, upvote the ones you think are good, downvote the ones you don’t think are possible, leave comments and suggestions to help refine the ideas.  I will let those running the campaign know about the thread, and I will also be taking the most popular (and possible) ideas and emailing them to the decision makers directly.

We have a long way to go to reach $32 million, but it’s still within our reach.  With your ideas, and your help, we will make it to the Edge.

Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/Ubuntu/comments/1jqyas/submit_your_ubuntu_edge_campaign_perk_ideas_here/

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Michael Hall

There’s been a lot of talk about the Ubuntu Edge, and our associated Indiegogo campaign to fund it. There has been a lot of positive coverage on news sites, social media, Reddit and even one television interview. But there have also been a lot of questions about why we’re doing this, and why we’ve chosen a crowd-funding campaign to do it. Since I’ve seen so many of the same questions being asked by so many people, I wanted to take the time to try and explain things a little bit better.

What it isn’t

In order to fully understand and appreciate what the campaign is about, it might be easiest to first explain fully what it isn’t.  Once we’ve done away with these misconceptions, it should become more clear why it is what it is, and finally why that is important.

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, this is not a charity.  We have provided a $20 perk for people who want to see this campaign succeed but don’t have the means or desire to purchase one of the Ubuntu Edge devices.  But this is primarily a way for people to get very high-end hardware by paying for it’s creation.  I don’t have the exact numbers, but just going by what we’ve seen of the perks claimed, people have been contributing at levels that would get them a phone more than 3.5 times more often than the much less expensive founder’s perk. This tells me that people aren’t supporting this campaign because they think it’s a good cause, or because they like what Canonical is doing, by and large they are supporting this campaign because they want an Ubuntu Edge in return.

Secondly, and this is one that has been asked a lot, this is not a financial investment.  OEMs aren’t stupid, venture capitalists aren’t stupid, and Mark Shuttleworth isn’t stupid.  If there was money to be made in building bleeding-edge phones then we would have half a dozen to choose from at our local store.  The margins on hardware sales is much lower than many people realize, and without a high rate of profits available, only a very low level of risk can be assumed.  That’s the main reason nobody else has built a phone like the Ubuntu Edge, and why nobody is going to anytime soon if we were to try and do it using capital investments.  The Ubuntu Edge doesn’t need to prove that people want scratch-proof screens or high-capacity batteries, it doesn’t need to prove that consumers like more power and more storage, it needs to prove that those technologies are ready to be produced in high volumes without supply or manufacturing problems.  It doesn’t need to prove that people want a desktop available at home or work, but it does need to prove that the hardware and software are capable now of providing that convergence in a satisfactory way that previous attempts couldn’t.

Finally, it’s not a way of making money for Canonical or a last-ditch effort for keeping either Ubuntu or Ubuntu Touch alive.  Whether this campaign succeeds or fails, we will continue to work with OEMs to bring multiple consumer phones to market, most likely using slightly better hardware than the current generation of smart phones, where there is little risk involved on the hardware side.  But in order for Ubuntu to provide the kind of convergence and one-device experience that we envision, we needed skip the slow, safe evolution of hardware and spark the flames on a whole new class of phone.  So while we work on getting Ubuntu phones to market with our partners, the Ubuntu Edge will provide the seeds for the suppliers and manufacturers that those partners use, so they will be ready to build their new generation of superphones when the time comes.

What it is

Now that I’ve gone over what this campaign isn’t, let talk about what it is.  I spent some time over this weekend thinking about how to accurately describe it without going deep into the economics or politics of it, trying to find parallels in other industries (like Mark’s F-1 analogy) that wouldn’t fall apart when going into the specifics of either.  In the end, I decided that the thing this campaign resembles the most is an adventure.

Now that’s vague, I know, so let me give some more concrete examples.  I liked Mark’s F-1 analogy, but when looking into how F-1 actually operates these days it really doesn’t quite fit.  Instead it’s more like X-Prize competition that put the first private manned vehicle into space.  Even though there was a monetary prize in that competition, it was only a tiny fraction of the money that went into building any of the entrants.  The reason anybody participated was to push the bounds of technology and to try and birth a new industry, one where they would stand to benefit more in the long run than any possible profits they could have made by sticking with the status quo.

But those initiatives were largely funded by wealthy individuals, who probably didn’t expect to get much in return.  So for a more fitting analogy we need to go a bit further back in time, to expeditions into the Americas and Africa, some of which were funded only by those who were to participate in them, and who could expect little more than the thrill of participating.  While not pushing the limits of technology, these adventurers would certainly push the bounds of knowledge to new levels, and would fundamentally change the way the world looked.

[Update] It has been pointed out in the comments that many of these expeditions had either deplorable intents or disasterous consequences for the native people.  While this was not at all what I had in mind, I understand that my knowledge of those histories is largely influenced by my own ancestry.  A better example, as also pointed out in the comments, would be the expeditions to both the north and south poles, or the scaling of Everest.

Why it’s important

Now both of these are extreme examples, and certainly far outshine what we’re trying to do with the Ubuntu Edge.  It is just a computer after all.  But on a smaller scale the reasons and motivations are the same, there is a desire to push the limits that currently confine us.  And that’s certainly not a feeling that’s limited to Canonical, over 15,000 people have contributed to the campaign in one way or another, and around 10,000 have committed to sharing the adventure with us from the beginning by claiming their own phone.  These aren’t wealthy investors looking to become more wealthy, nor is it good-hearted folks who are giving us money just to be nice, these are thousands of people who want go on the adventure because it’s exciting, because it’s audacious, and because it gives them the future they want to see made.

So there it is, we’re embarking on an adventure, and we want you to come with us.  If the Ubuntu Edge makes you excited for the future of computing, if you’re eager to see that future technology years before it becomes common place, if you want be on of the ones cutting new trails rather than following those well-worn paths cut years ago, then I invite you to sign up and add your name to the list of technology pioneers.

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Michael Hall

Yesterday I posted the first in a new series of Core App Update, featuring the Clock App’s development.  Today I’m going to cover the status of the Calendar

Calendar Features

Calendar View

The calendar now provides several different views you can choose from.  You start off with a full month at the top, and your events for the day below.  Swiping left and right on the month will take you back or forward a month at a time.  Swiping left or right on the bottom half will take you back and forward a day at a time.

Pull the event area down and let it go, and the month will collapse down into a single week. Now swiping left and right there will move you back and forward a week at a time.  Pull down and let it go again and it will snap back to showing the full month.

Finally, you have an option in the toolbar (swipe up from the bottom edge) to switch from an event list to a timeline view of your events.

Adding Events

You can current add events to the calendar app, and they will be stored in a local database.  However, after discussions with Ubuntu Touch developers, the Calendar team is refactoring the app to use the Qt Organizer APIs instead.  This will allow it to automatically support saving to Evolution Data Server as a backend as soon as it’s integrated, making calendar events available to other parts of Ubuntu such as the datetime indicator.  Being able to import your ical feeds is also on the developer’s TODO list.

Visual Designs

We don’t have new visual designs for the Calendar yet, but it is one of the apps that the Design team has committed to providing one for.  Now that they are done with the Clock’s visual designs, I hope to see these soon for the Calendar.

Release Schedule

Once again I worked with the Calendar developers to set release targets for their app.  The alpha release is targeted for month-2, this month, and should include the switch to Qt Organizer.  Then we plan on having a Beta release in August and a Final in September.

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Michael Hall

The Ubuntu Touch Core Apps project is a new kind of collaboration between Canonical and the wider Ubuntu community, with a goal of developing high-quality applications for Ubuntu Touch. A couple of months ago I set out the Core Apps roadmap to October, and it’s high time I got around to giving you an update on our progress.

I had originally planned on giving an update of each of the core apps in a single blog post, but I realized that was going to get very, very long.  And nobody has time to read a giant wall of text.  So instead I’ll be breaking them up, one post per apps, so you can spread your reading time over multiple days.

To kick this off, here are the latest developments going on in the Clock app:

Clock Features

Sunrise & Sunset

Recently added to the main Clock tab is a way to check the sunrise and sunset times for the day.  Simply tap on the clock face and it will switch to the sunrise/sunset view.  Tap it again to switch back.  Swipe up from the bottom to reveal the toolbar, where you can set your location (which is used to calculate your specific sunrise and sunset times).

Alarms

The Clock app developers are still waiting on a platform API to support registering alarms that will work even when the Clock app isn’t running.  But while they’re waiting on that, they’ve still be working hard on the interface for managing your alarms.  Their approach is both minimal and obvious, you drag the hour and minute hands around to the time you and and click Done in the center.  If you need more options, you can pick how often to repeat, what alarm tone to use, and whether or not to vibrate.

Now these won’t actually work until the platform API is in place, but you can already see how it will look to the user, and how simple it is to do.

Timer

Like the alarms, setting a timer is both minimal and obvious.  Unlike alarms, the timer is working today.  Drag the hand around to set how many seconds, tap the minutes part of the time and drag the hand to set the minutes.  Make more than one revolution around the dial and it will start adding hours as well.

Another nice feature is the ability to define custom timers that you can use again and again.  Swipe up from the bottom to reveal the toolbar again, select Add Preset, and set the duration using the same simple dragging motions on the dial.

Stopwatch

Finally we come to the stopwatch part of the app.  In addition to simple start, pause and reset functionality, the stopwatch lets you mark laps as it goes, and keeps a log of each one that you can view both while the stopwatch is running and after.

Visual Designs

Some of you may have seen the new visual concepts that the Design Team published last month, which received quite a bit of positive feedback.  Well this week they sent the Clock developers the completed visual designs for the Clock app, so we should start to get our first taste of those designs in action in the next few weeks.

Release Schedule

Starting a couple of weeks ago, I started working with each of the Core Apps developer teams to set release targets for Alpha, Beta and Final releases of the app, with a goal to have them all at a 1.0 version before the October release of Ubuntu 13.10.  For the clock, we decided to mark the month-1 milestone (May) as an alpha release, because of the progress they had already made.  We then picked month-3 (July) for beta and month-4 (August) for our final release target.  Furthermore we have work items assigned on a monthly release basis to track the progress we are making.

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Michael Hall

It’s official, UDS 13.05 is coming up next month, marking our second online Ubuntu Developer Summit, and coming only two months after the last one. While going virtual was part of our transition to make Ubuntu’s development more open and inclusive, the other side of that coin was to start holding them more often. The first we put into affect in March, and the second is coming in May. Read below for information about this UDS, and changes that have been made in response to feedback from the last one.

Scheduling

The dates for UDS 13.05 are May 14, 15 and 16, from 1400 UTC to 2000 UTC.  We will once again have 5 tracks: App Development, Community, Client, Server & Cloud and Foundations.  The track leads for these will be:

  • App Development: Alan Pope, David Planella & Michael Hall
  • Community: Daniel Holbach, Nick Skaggs & Jono Bacon
  • Client: Jason Warner & Sebastien Bacher
  • Server & Cloud: Dave Walker & Antonio Rosales
  • Foundations: Steve Langasek

Track leads will be in charge of approving Blueprints and getting them on the schedule.  If you are going to be responsible for running a session, please get with the track lead to make sure they have marked you as being required for that session. If you would like to get a session added for this UDS, you can do so either through registering a Blueprint or proposing a meeting through Summit itself.  Both approaches will require the approval of a Track Lead, so make sure you discuss it with them ahead of time.

Changes to…

Using feedback from attendees of the March UDS, we will be implementing a number of changes for UDS 13.05 to improve the experience.

Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts have a limit of 15 active participants (if started with a Canonical user account, it’s 10 if you don’t have a Google Apps domain), but in practice we rarely had that many people join in the last UDS.  This time around we’re going to encourage more people to join the video, especially community participants, so please check your webcams and microphones ahead of time to be ready.  If you want to join, just ask one of the session leaders on IRC for the hangout URL. We are also investigating ways to embed the IRC conversations in the Hangout window, to make it easier for those on the video to keep track of the conversation happening there.

The Plenaries

Most people agreed that the mid-day plenaries didn’t work as well online as they do in person.  There was also a desire to have a mid-day break to allow people to eat, stretch, or hold a sidebar conversation with somebody.  So we are replacing the mid-day plenaries with a “lunch” slot, giving you an hour break to do whatever you need to do. We will be keeping the introductory plenary on the morning of the first day, because that helps set the tone, goals and information needed for the rest of the week.  In addition to that, we have added back a closing plenary at the end of the last day, where track leads will be able to give a summary of the discussions and decisions made.

The Schedule

In addition to the above plenary changes, we have added an extra day to this UDS, making it 3 days instead of two.  The last day will allow for overflow of sessions that couldn’t fit into 2 days, or the scheduling of follow-up session when it is determined they are necessary following a discussion earlier in the week.

Registration

Registration to attend will now be done in Summit itself, rather than through a Launchpad Sprint.  So if you’re not a track lead, and you’re not registering Blueprints, there’s nothing you need to do on Launchpad itself.  This will help those who do not have a Launchpad profile, though you will still need an Ubuntu SSO account to log in.

To register for UDS 13.04, go to the summit page, and just above the schedule you will see an orange “Register in Summit” button.  If you don’t see that, you either need to log in to  summit or you’ve already registered.

Summit Scheduler

Chris Johnston and Adnane Belmadiaf have been working hard to improve the Summit Scheduler website, taking feedback from attendees to improve the interface and workflow of the site.  We will include as many enhancements as possible before the start of UDS 13.05.  If you are interested in helping improve it, and you have some web development skills, please find them on #ubuntu-website on Freenode to find out how you can get involved.

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Michael Hall

I’m happy to announce that today I filed for a Feature Freeze Exception to get the latest Unity stack into Ubuntu Raring.  It’s a lot of new code, but it should all be available in a PPA in the next day or so, and it’ll be available there for about two weeks for people to test and provide feedback before it lands.  I won’t go into all of the fixes, performance work and other technical changes, but if you’re interested in what this means for you as a user, keep reading.

Smart Scopes

Discussed during a UDS-style Ubuntu On-Air hangout back in January, Smart Scopes use an intelligent server-side service to decide when they should be used to search.  This allows a single process (the Dash Home) to run a query through only a sub-set of your installed scopes.  It also allows the scopes processes to be terminated when you close the dash, and only re-start those that are likely to produce a relevant result.  As defined by the spec, this service will learn as more people use it, providing more relevant results, so you don’t get unwanted Amazon product results when it should be obvious you’re looking for an application.  It also means fewer running processes on your local machine, and therefore less memory usage overall.

100 Scopes

While there won’t be quite 100 in this release, there will be more scopes installed on the client than in previous releases, and even more that we will be able to implement on the server-side.  Thanks to the Smart Scope Service, these additional local scopes won’t be using up a lot of your system resources, because they’ll only be run when needed, then immediately terminated.  You will be able to install 3rd party scopes, just as before, even ones that the Smart Scope Service doesn’t know about yet.  Plus we will be able to add more server-side scopes during the lifetime of a stable release.  So while we’re not at 100 yet, there is still a large and growing number of scopes available.

Privacy

Now I know I couldn’t get away with talking about changes to the Dash, especially ones that put more of it’s functionality online, without talking about privacy concerns.  With these changes we’ve tried to strike a balance between control and convenience, privacy and productivity.  So while we’re providing more fine-grained controls over what scopes to enable, and whether or not to use the Smart Scope service, the default will still be to enable the services that we believe provides the best user experience on Ubuntu.  In addition, 13.04 has already added more notice to users that their the Dash will search online sources as well as local.

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