Ubuntu for Phones + Fair Phone?

Ubuntu for Phones

Ubuntu for Phones’ welcome screen – Ubuntu.com

Days ago, Ubuntu for Phones was announced to the masses. If for some reason you dodged the constant flow of articles and videos about it, you can start from the official launch keynote in which Mark Shuttleworth presents the product in order to start working with phone manufacturers.

A few days later, I discovered – via a post on Diaspora* – the FairPhone, an amazing project that aims at delivering a smartphone that is sustainably and ethically produced.

FairPhone | FairPhone brings a fair smartphone to the market – one made of parts produced and utilised without harming individuals or the environment..

As I read on the project’s website’s FAQ, they are considering selling it with Firefox OS but state that it is more likely that it will end up with Android preinstalled, as they are looking for a rock-solid operating system. Here is what they say:

We think transparency and open source design/hard/software are key to create a fair phone. Our approach though is a growing model. We have to take these things step-by-step and that means we have to work pragmatically. We can’t say how open the first model will be, as we don’t have that much influence (yet) as a small player on the design and manufacturing, but it is in our roadmap to make it radically open.

Regarding the OS we were thinking about launching it with Firefox OS, but we also have to balance between stability and openness. As we are a new product, we don’t want to take too many risks on this. We want to offer a very stable product for our customers, so we might wait until Firefox has proven itself and probably use Android for the first model. We also want a system that supports Dual Sim (Android does; Firefox doesn’t), as this is in line with our vision (less phones, more value in second-life markets like Africa).

FairPhone concept

What the FairPhone could look like – FairPhone.com

As I try to promote sustainable practices as well as OpenSource alternatives, I was very excited about those two stories, and I started imagining a FairPhone running Ubuntu for Phones. In order to know more about it, I decided to send them an email concerning the recent news that thrilled most of the Ubuntu community. Here is the response I got from Joe Mier, their Community Manager:

Hey Stéphane,

Thanks for your support!

That’s a good question about Ubuntu and what operating system we will use. It’s something we are still considering but let me tell you what we’re thinking about so far.

You’ve probably already read on our website how we are considering Firefox OS, but prefer Android because of its emphasis on stability and openness for our initial run of smartphones. Aside from that, we are planing to launch the phone with root access for the user, so they can decide for themselves which operating system they want to install (though, apart from the custom Android ROMs, they will probably have to write some code themselves to make it work with the hardware). Another option we are currently looking into is to launch the phone with Android, but fully prepare the FairPhone for Ubuntu. Ubuntu uses the same linux kernel as Android and can therefore be “easily” installed on any Android device.

Here’s a quick news item about some things to keep in mind about Ubuntu on mobile:


Thanks again for your questions! If you haven’t already, sign up for future news on the FairPhone: http://www.fairphone.com/register-for-the-fairphone/

All the best,

FairPhone Community Manager

It is good to hear that the Fair Phone will be designed with openness in mind, and that it will be very hackable in order to let the user choose their favourite OS.

They plan to start the production of the FairPhone in the third quarter of 2013, with a limited number of phones pre-sold before then. If you don’t want to miss out, make sure you subscribe to their newsletter on their website.

Main things about Ubuntu 12.10

Ubuntu 12.10, nicknamed “Quantal Quetzal“, was released on the 18th of October.
This version follows 12.04 LTS (Long Term Support), starting a new cycle geared towards the next LTS, 14.04, due in April 2014.

12.10 screenshot

The Quetzal brings a number of new features, in particular concerning web integration into the desktop.

This new version got rid of Unity 2D, giving all users a similar desktop experience with the default Unity environment (“Unity 3D”). This was made possible by using a extra piece of software, but it still means that this version is not made for low specs boxes. On my netbook (Samsung N310 upgraded to 2 GB of RAM), it is still pretty sluggish.

Another new thing is the integration of Web Apps: a selection of websites (like WordPress, Gmail, Google Calendar, Tumblr…) can be integrated in the desktop by installing a little plugin that will let you open and control those webstites firectly from the launcher, and often integrate them in different ways (notifications, indicators, quicklists…).

Web app notification for Twitter

You will also be able to add you online accounts details in Settings > Online accounts so social networks and other services are tightly integrated in the OS.

A new thing that wasn’t to everyone’s taste was the integration of Amazon search by default in the Dash. Now, by searching for a word, a number of online results from this website appear for you to spend your money. It is easily disabled by going into “System Settings > Privacy > Search results” and toggling “Include online search results” to “Off”.

Turn off the Amazon search in the System Settings

Proprietary drivers are now to be found in “System settings > Software sources” in order to activate them.
The freshly renamed “Software updater” also has a refreshed look, probably making it less confusing for the average user, but probably a bit frustrating for the more experienced user as there is no “Check for updates” button anymore.

New Software Updater

Finally, a major change landed in the Dash: by right-clicking on an icon, it is now possible to have an in-dash preview of the item. This makes it possible to get more information on an app before installing it, a product before buying it, a document before opening it. It makes it even possible to play tracks previews before purchasing an album!

App preview in Dash

Another obvious change in the Dash is the orange price ribbons overlapping icons to indicate their cost.

Price ribbons in the Dash

As this new version of Ubuntu has been released for nearly a month, the most annoying bugs are being looked at if not already fixed.

You can give it a go by downloading it from the official Ubuntu website.

Ubuntu Brisbane

Hi there!

This blog is under construction, but make sure you come back soon as it will quickly get better.

Its aim is to introduce Ubuntu and the whole FLOSS software world to you, and – if you are located in Brisbane – to let you contact me so I can help you install and use it!

See you soon.