October 8, 2020

Using ubports As My Daily Driver

Using ubports on my Nexus 6P as a daily driver.

So I love tech. I love tech and the Open Source community. But I’m no developer so I have to do other things to help out and contribute. So one of the ways I’ve decided to do that is by testing software and in this case I’m testing ubports for my old Nexus 6P.

I’ve been using different versions of Android for the past 9 or so years and over all I’ve been really happy but I’ve always liked the idea of different operating systems. As far as phones are concerned there are really only two main mobile operating systems, Apple’s iOS (or whatever they are calling it now) and Android. Now a lot of OEM’s customize their version of Android with features but it all remains the same AOSP (Android Open Source Project) base.

Now, I like Android. I hate Google, but I like Android and all the different versions that people have made over the years. My favorite is still AOSPA or Paranoid Android. I use AOSPA as my daily driver on my OnePlus 5T and it works wonderfully, but I’m always down to try new things. So I remember hearing about Ubuntu Touch years ago and thought it was going to be really cool. It was started by Canonical Ltd. the people behind normal, everyday, Ubuntu Linux. It was a mobile operating system based on Ubuntu and it seemed really promising. It had a cool UI, neat lockscreen with a strange “stats widget”. I don’t know, it was cool to me. But Canonical abandoned the project and it was taken over by ubports and it’s community. Any way, enough back story.

I don’t exactly remember what I was doing really when I stumbled on a post calling for testers for ubports on the Nexus 6P, but I found it and decided that my old phone could use some new love. I dug through the post and found some installer scripts and whatnot and proceeded to install ubports on to my Nexus 6P. And that was pretty much it, until I noticed that not a whole lot was going on in the thread and I wanted to see if I could help out. I replied to the thread and asked if they were still looking for testers. The OP said yes and asked if I could test the installer so he could get it officially supported in the installer. He also asked if someone could test using the phone one week without a reboot.

So that’s where our story begins. I will be using my Nexus 6P with ubports for one week to see if there are any serious bugs or problems with the system. I wanted to keep track of anything I found and I decided that maybe I should make a blog post out of it so here we are. This will be a recount of my journey.

Day 1:

So today was my day off. I didn’t really leave the house for anything so I don’t really have much “real world” testing info from today. The WiFi works fine but I did notice that when I switch from WiFi to Mobile Data and back, WiFi doesn’t work until I toggle it off and back on. I have gotten a few random freezes today where the phone will lock up for 10 or more seconds which is kind of annoying but nothing terrible. It did completely freeze once and I had to hard reboot the phone. But luckily this is still the first day so I’m not counting the reboot. Lol.

My main gripe so far has to be the lack of applications for the system. It seems like mostly everything in the Open Store is a web app. Which I guess isn’t a huge deal, but it sucks. Maybe I’m just spoiled from using Android for so many years. It kind of reminds me of the early days of Android when it seemed like all the “good” apps were on iOS only. Ubuntu Touch has been around since 2011 and it’s kind of weird that it doesn’t have a nice, native, Twitter client. They all seem to just be web apps. They work just fine, it’s just kind of annoying. I’m not entirely sure how the notifications will work with these (if at all) but I guess we will find out. The worst part is not having a Signal Messenger app that is built by Signal. Axolotl works, but it’s missing a lot of features and honestly, doesn’t look great. Push notifications don’t work without using a separate app to keep the app alive in the background. It’s messy but as long as it works. So that’s where I’m at right now. I miss my apps. I wish I had better apps on UT but this is what we have now. Maybe in the future more devs will make apps for UT. Let’s see what my first day of work with the phone holds.

Day 2:

Welp, today was my first day using the phone while at work… and I had some problems. Well, the phone locked up A LOT. I had to reboot it TWICE. So much for no reboot for week. The lock ups were really bad too. Also, I kept losing Bluetooth connection. I had a problem with the CloudMusic app. When the screen would lock, sometimes the next song wouldn’t play for a few seconds. Also, sometimes it wouldn’t play at all until I unlocked the phone. I don’t think this is a problem with the OS as much as with the app so I’ll report the bug there. I completely lost data at one point and had to reboot the phone again to get it back. Sooooo, yeah. It’s not been the worst experience, but it also hasn’t been the best. Tomorrow is another work day so I guess we will try again. Now I’m thinking that some of the locking up problems could be because my phone was effected by the BLOD so I had to disable 4 of the 8 cores.

Day 3:

Well, that’s all she wrote. I wasn’t able to make it very long without having to restart so many times. I really wanted this experiment to go better than it did. I really like ubports and I hope that soon it is a viable mobile OS. I honestly think it will be and it probably runs better on other devices. I hope to see more “native” application is the future instead of a heap of web apps. I know that is entirely dependent on developers adopting the system and creating apps and I really really hope to see it sometime in the future, but as of right now, it’s not going to be a stable daily driver for my Nexus 6P.

I ended up going back to my OnePlus 5T for the time being. I also have a Pine Phone sitting on my desk collecting dust. I can’t wait until the day that we have some really nice mobile Linux distros that can be stable daily drivers. But as for now I’ll be forced to stick with Android a little longer.

© Chance Monnette 2019

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