Ubuntu For Android: A Lose-Lose

Ubuntu for Android has been the talk of the town for the last few days. What is purports to do is bring a Linux desktop experience to you from a phones docking station. It looks like they’re seriously pushing it for the motorola atrix. Reason being the motorola has HDMI out (something standard on androids nowadays) but it also is one of the few phones with a keyboard and dock. Sounds great, right?

Well, no actually.

For the power user, it’s a lose-lose because the power user probably has a linux desktop. There’s really zero incentive to run ubuntu in the background except to eat your battery and storage because you can’t access it while your phone isn’t docked. For the people that do actually use this sort of device, they probably already own a tablet or a laptop. More on the point, there’s two ports of openoffice to the droid, and there’s google’s own office offering along with document storage in the cloud. The services are already there for android without having to switch out from android to another OS.

The second glaring problem for power users is that you can’t install another Linux on the phone. Say my preference is RedHat’s desktop (which is actually the defacto linux desktop in business). What do I do with a phone with ubuntu installed on it? Not a lot, clearly. What if I want to load another OS on it? Too bad. What if I want to run a second android OS on the phone? Too bad.

That last bit is really important. The way the Android OS is engineered there’s a setting for the screen size (pixel density) to determine which apps run in which modes or which apps are compatible for a given device. What I would do if I were Motorola is instead of entertaining Ubuntu on the phone (which really doesn’t bring any value to the device) I would run a second android on the phone and leverage googles sharing services. The first android would be configured for battery savings (no HW acceleration) and the second android would be configured for speed (all HW acceleration). Dock it and you bring up the second android, which looks just like the first except all the settings are geared towards making it a tablet or desktop.

What about the casual users? Casual users will first notice a several GB partition missing from their phones which supposedly have 16GB of storage. Unlike the dual android setup above, each OS in this ubuntu-phone shit sandwich needs it’s own resources. Secondly they’re going to notice the apps don’t run correctly without pixel density being set correctly. Games, which you would reasonably expect to work nicely and look better on a PC screen simply aren’t going to work because their UI isn’t geared towards a keyboard and mouse. Finally why ubuntu at all? Casual users want either a Windows PC or a Mac. They won’t understand why the resources (documents, spreadsheets, etc) aren’t available in both. Ubuntu can use google’s cloud storage, but Android can’t use Ubuntu-One, which makes the biggest sellingpoint of an ubuntu tablet a liability instead of a bonus.

Finally, why a 2.x series android OS?

Ubuntu needs to stay the hell off my phone.

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2 thoughts on “Ubuntu For Android: A Lose-Lose

  1. dude .. you are an idiot. ubuntu doesnt “run in the backgroud”. The phone detects it is docked, then it fastboots to a different OS running on the same android kernel. Pretty much all your technical arguments are non-sensical, but im not going to address them here.

    The concept is brilliant – “contextual computing”. Im a major power user who runs ubuntu on my laptop and I would LOVE to see this happen. Im not suggesting it will replace my laptop, but it would be sweet to have this kind of flexibility of what you want out of a device based on a context.

  2. The above comment was left by someone who doesn’t know how android (or Linux) works. Since they’ve resorted to foolish arguments and grasping at straws, I’ll take the time to line item their stupidity for the genteel readers of this blog.

    Q) Ubuntu doesn’t “run in the background”.
    A) Actually it does, which is what it’s doing in the picture on the website which shows the phone docked. Try clicking the link next time and reading before opening your cocktrap.

    Q) Ubuntu runs “the android kernel”
    A) It does not. The 2.2 Android kernel has no HID support. Actually API16 (Android 4.0) doesn’t have HID support either but google got their android kernel changes into linux-trunk so it’s possible to do this with a version of android this phone isn’t running. Your keyboard and mouse wouldn’t work. This is actually a HUGE sticking point because the android kernel has special blocking IO which gives it real time access to the peripherals even if the UI isn’t blocking. Again, if you knew the slightest about which kernel they were using and had bothered to read the android sources, you’d know about the 2.2 kernel.

    Q) “Contextual computing”
    A) I’m guessing with PCs cheaper than a cellphone you’re going to have your dock at your PC and use the things I outlined above. This was covered in the blog.

    Q) But canonical!
    A) …is bankrupt. Don’t expect them to be able to afford this any time soon.

    My arguments are still valid, actually I think you made some great points about where people are going to be horrifically disappointed when this comes out. Typical ubuntu fanboyism at it’s finest.

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