How free is the Ubuntu phone?

James Tait james.tait at
Wed Feb 18 18:24:29 UTC 2015

Hash: SHA1

On 17/02/15 19:46, Michael Kesper wrote:
> Am 16.02.2015 um 15:06 schrieb James Tait:
>> This all looks right to me. My understanding is that the device
>> boots into Ubuntu, and then starts a minimal AOSP environment in
>> an LXC [0] to get the device support, and the two communicate
>> over a UNIX socket - - at least for the Nexus 4 reference device.
>> Of course, this means that much of the core OS on the device is
>> exactly what you'd have on your Ubuntu desktop, though there are
>> obviously storage constraints on a mobile device, so it has been
>> slimmed down.
> So, there is also a (though minimal) android on there?

Correct (also for the BQ device, I've confirmed).  All the Dalvik
stuff is stripped out and it's just the core services and drivers.
It's similar to the approach taken by Jolla.  There's a pretty decent
talk by Ricardo Salveti at ELC 2014 [0] that describes in depth the
container and the interface.  Quick bookmarks:

 18:20 description of libhybris
 27:04 description of the LXC and minimal Android
 31:25 diagram of the overall system
 32:39 Android telephony (which uses the UNIX socket and rild)
 34:50 Ubuntu telephony (which uses the same UNIX socket)
 39:46 Ubuntu telephony overview diagram
 41:20 Ubuntu multimedia, using gstreamer and libhybris
 46:50 Ubuntu multimedia overview diagram
 48:32 Android camera service
 49:23 Ubuntu camera service, using libhybris

It's also worth mentioning that the bootloader is closed source, but
not locked, so you're free to flash another OS.  It's pretty much the
same as any Nexus device.

>> Touch apps are packaged as Click Packages and, yes, we do allow 
>> non-free packages into the store. All packages must specify
>> their license when they are uploaded, so it is possible to search
>> for packages released under a specific license (e.g. enter the
>> search string `license:"GNU GPL v3"` in the Store Search bar).
> This is already a very good step, I think!

There are very high-level plans for more fields to be made accessible
in the UI - I'm hoping that license filtering will be one of them!

> Thanks for the infos!

No problem!  It's an interesting learning experience for me as well.
I've been using Ubuntu on my Nexus 4 since some time in 2013, but
apart from referring to the Store Scope code, the emphasis has been
very much on *using* it.  I'll be happy to answer questions wherever I


- -- 
- ---------------------------------------+--------------------------------
James Tait, BSc                        |    xmpp:jayteeuk at
Programmer and Free Software advocate  |        Tel: +44 (0)870 490 2407
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