We are the Engineering team behind Ubuntu for Android. We're working on a truly converged device, where your PC can fit in your pocket, and make phone calls.

We are:

  • Chris Wayne (cwayne18) - QA Lead
  • Matt Fischer (mfisch) - Tech Lead
  • Alex Chiang (chizang) - Engineering Manager

Don't forget to pledge to get the Ubuntu Edge! http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ubuntu-edge


Edit: There is a difference between Ubuntu Touch and Ubuntu for Android:

Ubuntu Touch is the same as Ubuntu Phone, and it is a phone/tablet OS (much like Android). Ubuntu for Android is software that allows you to use your Android phone as if it were a PC. You dock it/plug in a monitor, and a full Ubuntu desktop (the same as you can go download today for free) shows up on the monitor

Quick intro to UfA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv1Z7bf4jXY

Demo of UFA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bk9-v8Sl4yU

Edit: 1:32PM Taking a food break, back in an hour and a half

Edit: 5:11PM Sorry, took too long at dinner, this happened: http://people.canonical.com/~cwayne/oops.png

But we're back now for more questions!

Comments: 1355 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

discovolunte338 karma

Don't kill me for this (non-tech person here) but what exactly is Ubuntu and what are the advantages of building it out for an android phone?

cwayne18417 karma

Ubuntu is a desktop Operating System, a distribution of Linux. Ubuntu for Android is running Ubuntu from your Android smartphone. So basically, you plug in your Android phone to a monitor, and boom, you can use it as a desktop. (This works right now on a Nexus 4, and its AWESOME)

It basically gives you the ability to carry around a full PC in your pocket

Should_I_say_this110 karma

What distinguishes it between a desktop and a phone o.s?

BlackEco203 karma

Mainly the UI : you don't interact the same way with keyboard and mouse than with a touchscreen. Plus the UI is optimisez for smartphones/tablets' small screens.

cwayne18226 karma

What this guy/girl said.

Poggus45 karma

(This works right now on a Nexus 4, and its AWESOME)

As a linux user and a Nexus 4 owner... how did I not know about this? Is https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Touch/Install what you're talking about? I need to try this immediately.

cwayne1876 karma

It's not public yet, I have it because I use it daily to test it :)

Poggus77 karma

Oh... I was confused.

And now my dreams are crushed.

cwayne1893 karma

I'm sorry :( now I'm sad

notregistering26 karma

Is there a beta waiting list or something for those of us that are on the impatient side of the waiting spectrum?

cwayne1827 karma

Unfortunately not

OhMrBigshot8 karma

Hi! Thanks for this AMA, I've always been interested in this project. A few questions:

  1. Will it ever be available for phones that are not Ubuntu Edge? Will the Nexus 4 dual boot also be available for the end users eventually after the kickstarter project has ended? Unfortunately my current phone (Nexus 4) is newly purchased so I didn't want to spend that money on yet another one again, which is why I can't get the Ubuntu Edge and I'm really sad. Which leads me to the next question...
  2. I understand Ubuntu Edge will be available for Kickstarter backers only? Are you planning more smartphones in the future, supporting the same OS combo? Suggesting I switch phones like a year and a half from now, will I be able to get an Edge (or successor?)
  3. Do you just plugin your phone to a monitor and that's it? Or do you plug it to a PC running Ubuntu?
  4. Will UfA be a standalone package we can install on any Android? Sounds so bad ass.

Good luck with the project!!!

cwayne1811 karma

  1. We're trying to team up with OEMs to make UfA available on their phones.
  2. The Edge is only available to our backers, I'm honestly not sure what our future plan is 3) Just plug it into a monitor, and now your phone IS a PC running Ubuntu :) 4) It's not a standalone package, as it requires a customized Android ROM

Persica316 karma

Does writing software get you laid?

cwayne18612 karma


ballbusterbob123 karma

What smart phone features do you see becoming a possible reality in the next 5 to 10 years?

cwayne18375 karma

I see smartphones becoming your main desktop. But that might be because we're working on it now

daredevilk123 karma

Will it blend?

cwayne18161 karma


IndeedOnline99 karma

Will you be able to use the phone as a mouse

cwayne1855 karma


nickdr86 karma

Does U4A work alongside any AOSP based ROM, or will the user be required to use a custom ROM from Canonical?

cwayne1840 karma

UfA will require a custom ROM (currently AOSP-based). There's several patches/additions to the ROM that won't be in any other ROMs

Deadible15 karma

Will developers be able to make these additions to custom ROMs themselves?

cwayne1825 karma

Many of the additions need to be made with the OEMs, so unfortunately not

BlackEco17 karma

Why don't you release these additions in order to let everyone bake its own UfA-compliant ROM?

cwayne1815 karma

See chizang's answer above

kaffeekosmos16 karma

this whole AmA sounds like Chinese

cwayne1818 karma


chizang44 karma

I think everything sounds like Chinese.

cwayne1826 karma


cm1863 karma

Has the NSA or any other clandestine organization approached you team to place back doors in Ubuntu for Android?

cwayne1859 karma


-phil51 karma

Will every Android application be accessible through Ubuntu for Android? Or are there certain limitations on what app one could reach on the Ubuntu desktop?

cwayne1870 karma

Android apps aren't used on the Ubuntu desktop. We did some user testing and found that the experience was subpar, as Android apps are simply not suited for mouse + keyboard. You can use the apps on the phone while Ubuntu is running though

-phil24 karma

But can you e.g. compose messages on the desktop?

cwayne1870 karma

Yeah, with Thunderbird (it automatically pulls your email account from the Android email app)

Edit: Oh you meant, SMS? If so, then yes, you can compose on the desktop in an Ubuntu app

nono6820022 karma

Will U4Abe available on Ubuntu Touch in Ubuntu Edge? Or will we have to boot on Android to launch Ubuntu PC? And how will be updates of Ubuntu on U4A? If I want to have for example 14.04 LTS, or 16.04 LTS in the future ?... Automatically or manual method? And free for life or depends of hardware?

cwayne1830 karma

Will U4Abe available on Ubuntu Touch in Ubuntu Edge?

The plan currently is to add the convergence to Ubuntu Touch in an update. So at first, it'll be available only on the Android side, but there would be an OTA update adding it in.

And how will be updates of Ubuntu on U4A?

Ubuntu updates are handled by our Android app (which is also how you initially install it, and start/stop it) You get a notification when an update is available, and can choose whether or not to update it.

akshay22221 karma

Do you ever use Windows? atleast for testing ?

cwayne1859 karma

Never. I've gotten to the point where I had to give my mom Ubuntu because I couldn't remember how to fix her Windows problems since it's been so long since I used it

sometimesijustdont1 karma

If they don't, then they aren't gamers.

cwayne181 karma

Hey man, I play kerbal space program on ubuntu.

tinti19 karma

Are you planning to add support Miracast or Chrome cast for the user interface in U4A?

Also, are you working for making U4A compatible with Android multiple profiles?

cwayne1821 karma

We are looking into different forms of wireless displays, although I don't think we currently have any plans for multiple profiles (at least as far as I know)

nickdr17 karma

I personally think Unity is great, but for those that are not a fan, would they be able to run Xfce, LXDE, or other desktop environments through U4A?

cwayne1828 karma

In theory it could work, although it wouldn't be supported, but you would lose some of the integration (especially the Contacts lens, which populates from your Android contacts)

PinGUY17 karma

Do you ever plan on releasing the image of the Webtop version of UFA that you had running on the Atrix? As shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6eEDZva1W8

As I still own the Atrix I would love to be able to use that version as it had the "Mobile View" window that allowed you to run Android apps inside of Ubuntu.

Webtop also had hardware acceleration so will run better then the "Ubuntu For Android" launcher that you are working on now that uses LXC. The Webtop version also had browser sharing, so a web-page I was viewing on the device once docked would open the same web-page in Ubuntu.

And why aren't you releasing UFA? What's stopping you releasing UFA V2 as a CWM zip so people can install it onto rooted devices? I see you have it running on the S3 and Nexus 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU6xcvo5KC4

If you have it running on AOSP there isn't any licensing issues stopping you from releasing it.

Release the sources onto XDA and let the community port it to other devices.

cwayne1813 karma

Webtop was very limited in its functionality, it was really just a browser session, while this is a full destkop, with additional integration into the Android bits.

As for releasing the Atrix image, I don't think that will be released.

tinti17 karma

Will be there any SDK that will generate apps that can be run on Android-side and Ubuntu-side? Or the goal is to have a more dual-boot approach without too integration between the systems?

cwayne1823 karma

This is a very good question, let me look into. But I can answer the second part of your question, and there is quite a bit of integration between the systems. Some examples:

  • SMS messages are shown as notifications
  • SMS/voicemails shown in the messaging indicator
  • App to make/receive phone calls on the desktop
  • Contacts populated from Android

fweticus15 karma


cwayne1823 karma

What is the benefit of Edge and Ubuntu for Android over Android itself?

The ability to use your phone as a full PC replacement. A PC replacement that ties directly into your phone, with a desktop application that integrates your phone calls, sms, and contacts.

How are you going to manage handset security?

For the Ubuntu Edge? I don't know. For Ubuntu for Android, we use Android's security features (for example, UfA works with Android's encryption)

fweticus11 karma


cwayne1819 karma

It also fits a more general use-case for office work. You can multi-task much easier, and stuff like editing documents while on a conference call is fantastic on UfA. I don't think Android is good enough for the use-case where Ubuntu fits, because Android is not a desktop OS, nor was it designed to be. What UfA does is give you a full desktop, but with the mobility of a phone.

mfisch14 karma

To specifically address upstreaming, I'd like to say that our goal is always to push code as far upstream as possible. It benefits the community as a whole and on a selfish note, really reduces our maintenance burden and integration efforts. That said, so far none of our changes have made sense to upstream. If that changes, they will be sent into AOSP.

fweticus8 karma


mfisch13 karma

We made two main categories of changes. First we enabled LXC containers to work on Android. All of those changes were sent upstream to the LXC project. Second, we have an Android service that talks to Ubuntu over dbus. For example, if you get an incoming SMS, Ubuntu is signaled over dbus and you get a notification.

fweticus3 karma


cwayne183 karma

Do you also notify of incoming calls over dbus?


ChineseCracker14 karma

sorry for being mean, but...

don't you think the mobile-OS-market is already saturated?

even already-existing operating systems like BB10 or FirefoxOS seem like a waste of developing-time, since nobody will adapt them anyway. There is (arguably) simply no reason for them to exist.

With one major Open Source mobile operating system (Android) already on the market, with a huge share....why would anybody want to support a second or a third one?

wouldn't it be cleverer to rather put development-time in improving android (i.e. developing android-apps that scale up for desktop-usage), instead of trying to start a completely new OS?

cwayne1821 karma

Well, your question is more directed towards Ubuntu Touch. Ubuntu for Android is just the convergence, where you plug your Android phone into a monitor and get a full desktop.

Se7enLC13 karma

Does the Ubuntu/Android coexistence work more like a dual boot or more like a virtual machine?

In the past, one way to get a full linux installation on a phone was via a virtual drive and chroot, so it ran within the same kernel natively. The downside was that there was no nice way to interact with it - you could only get in via ssh or a terminal, or VNC.

Did you consider going this route when trying to get ubuntu onto phones/tablets? Instead of developing from the ground up again, just developing a better way to connect android to a chrooted linux system (replace VNC with a dedicated app X server)

cwayne1817 karma

Android and Ubuntu are running at the same time, with Android showing on the phone itself and Ubuntu showing on an external screen. It is running in an LXC container and uses Android's kernel. You can actually use Android and Ubuntu at the same time

Se7enLC4 karma

Very cool! Is there a way to get to ubuntu on the local screen, too?

Wrexem5 karma

Want! This! - May I suggest a four-finger swipe to flip the views? It would be nice sometimes to display the android side on the HDMI-out.

cwayne188 karma

Sounds like a good idea!

edvol4413 karma

This isn't a question, but, I love you guys. Please succeed.

cwayne1816 karma

We love you too.

aquaticteabag11 karma

How did you get such a cool job? I'm in college right now for EE and I plan on commissioning in the AF and getting my masters before getting out. Any tips on landing such a job?

cwayne1813 karma

I got lucky, I started here as an intern and worked my way up

jmac2179 karma

I assume you're tethering via HDMI into a monitor, correct me if not, but how would you connect peripherals - such as a mouse and keyboard or a controller for games?
Also considering processing power currently available in devices how does the desktop aspect compare to the average desktop?
Are there any battery issues when tethering?
Are Ubuntu desktop applications going to need Edge ports, or will .deb files work?

cwayne1812 karma

You can connect bluetooth peripherals, or you can use our app as a mouse/keyboard. See this video for a demo: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ubuntu-edge?c=gallery#

On the nexus 4 it feels a lot more responsive than you would expect (i.e. it is comparable to a normal desktop for normal use)

We haven't seen any battery issues, but we would suggest plugging in power while using Ubuntu

Most Ubuntu apps already have armhf ports, which will work on the Edge

nono682009 karma

How will work Ubuntu For Android on hardware? We have to buy a monitor with USB? Or Will we have a dock with USB ports?

cwayne1821 karma

Currently, you can use either bluetooth mouse+keyboard, or use our app and use the phone itself as a mouse and keyboard. You do need to have an HDMI monitor though

sethuthuthu8 karma

if we install Ubuntu can we still download apps from the android market?

cwayne1819 karma

This is more of an Ubuntu Touch question, but, no, Android market is not supported on Ubuntu Touch.

nickdr8 karma

As the project stands now, how easy is this to use for the layman? If you gave them the cables needed and said "plug this in and start this app" - is it actually that simple for someone to use?

cwayne1813 karma

To start Ubuntu, you open an app on the phone, and it tells you to connect a display, keyboard, and mouse. You do that, then tap "Start Ubuntu". That easy

chizang11 karma

cwayne18 -- can you make a video? ;)

cwayne1814 karma

Yeah I'll upload one tonight

Paradiesstaub6 karma

Beside the OS what really counts are apps and how the phone interacts with the “outer world”.

For example sharing files is still pretty complicated, especially if you use your smartphone. Or streaming media files to your PC/TV.

What do you plan to be better in interacting with the world than android?

cwayne1812 karma

Ubuntu for Android is the Ubuntu desktop running from an Android phone. I think what you're asking is more relevant to Ubuntu Touch (which is essentially Ubuntu Phone)

PhishGreenLantern5 karma

Can you help me understand these products and their relationships:

Ubuntu Phone

Ubuntu Touch

Ubuntu For Android

I have a galaxy nexus and a nexus 10 and wanted to play around with some of this. All I found was a developer preview of Ubuntu Touch, I think. I really wanted to try Ubuntu for Android but I don't think I found an actual install for it. Every time I searched for it I ended up back on the Ubuntu Touch install guide.

It seems like you guys are really on to something but there are a set of products and I'm not sure how they all play together or why I'd want which one.


cwayne187 karma

Ubuntu Touch is the same as Ubuntu Phone, and it is a phone/tablet OS (much like Android). Ubuntu for Android is software that allows you to use your Android phone as if it were a PC. You dock it/plug in a monitor, and a full Ubuntu desktop (the same as you can go download today for free) shows up on the monitor

Tru3Gamer4 karma

What do you think the performance will be like, particularly with Unity (which is known for being slow and bloated) as Unity is fairly slow on lower end hardware. I'm asking this as most consumers won't know how to install a de/wm or know much about linux in general.

cwayne1810 karma

The performance is pretty decent on a Nexus 4 now, I imagine that on the monster that is the Edge it will absolutely scream

qwertyflagstop4 karma

Will you release some sort of SDK/API for developing for the Ubuntu Touch?

cwayne186 karma

I believe it's already been released. developer.ubuntu.com/get-started/‎

protis3 karma

I'm thrilled to see the two open-source OS giants (ie. Ubuntu & Android) are working together to bring us the future of desktop/phone integration.

I have donated to the indiegogo campaign, yet I was wondering, if the fundraising comes short of $35mil, will Ubuntu Edge still be released to Android users?

cwayne186 karma

Ubuntu Edge is the actual device we're trying to make. Ubuntu for Android is one part of the software that will run on the Ubuntu Edge. We're not sure what the future of Ubuntu for Android is if the funding comes short

Jezamiah3 karma

Will this replace a smartphone's OS completely? And can it be used normally with the phone or do you have to plug it to a computer first to get the full effects of the software?

cwayne184 karma

It does require a customized Android ROM, but as a user you wouldn't know the difference between it and stock android, other than the addition of being able to dock it and use it as a desktop. You don't have to plug it into a computer at all

JViz3 karma

Why do you require USB OTG? Why can't you use bluetooth HID and/or the device itself as a trackpad? How about a Chromecast and/or Roku channel for VNC?

Edit: I think the Chromecast question has been covered.

cwayne184 karma

We don't require OTG, we can use Bluetooth devices, and can use the device as a trackpad already

snail-gorski3 karma

Hi there! I am an "old school" ubuntu user. Will there be a sort of less demanding UI version (like 10.04) for less powerful devices? I know the Unity is much better and a lot easier to use but I still somehow love the old UI and I don't have enough money for something like Galaxy 3 or 4.

Will there be a software center on UfA?

Will it also work with MHL?

And will be the terminal available on UfA?

Thank you guys, you rock!

cwayne184 karma

Will there be a software center on UfA?


And will be the terminal available on UfA?


Will it also work with MHL?

The Ubuntu Edge has MHL support

As for other UI versions, we likely won't support it, but I'm sure the community will figure it out when the time comes :)

Bubba175832 karma

Im hearing more and more about Ubuntu for Android and i'm getting excited!

What would you say is going to be the biggest leap or struggle in the development process of the phone?

cwayne184 karma

Probably getting vendor-specific Android patches

know_comment2 karma

Having Open Office on my phone would be so great

cwayne189 karma

It's got LibreOffice

tehingo2 karma

How has the progress been in recent months?

We did not hear anything for a long while, and the renewed announcement of U4A came a bit as a surprise to most of us. Have you been constantly working on it, improving the experience?

cwayne186 karma

There has been quite a bit of progress in the last few months. We've been quietly working on it for several months now, and it's gotten much more solid in my opinion

nashvortex2 karma

Can Ubuntu for Android actually replace Android?

Will it have a mobile mode? It will have to be bundled with a WINE-like compatibility layer to run existing Android applications. But this should be substantially easier than the WINE-effort consider Android is at its core also Linux.

cwayne186 karma

Ubuntu for Android doesn't replace Android, it lets you run a full Ubuntu desktop on an Android phone.

IAmTheOneThatKnocks1 karma

Any advice to someone studying computer science at university?

cwayne181 karma

Contribute to open source as much as you can. Not only is it a great way to learn to program better, it builds relationships which can be very useful when you're looking for a job

avanasear1 karma

Will the Ubuntu edge be sold with any major carriers? Verizon, AT&T, etc.

cwayne181 karma

From the Indiegogo page:

Exclusive to Indiegogo backers. The Edge will NOT be available to buy at launch.

DerpsTheName1 karma

Any plans to make this work with windows phone?

cwayne184 karma


banksyyy1 karma

I understand you guys put a lot effort in this project for everything to be open source, but after the campaign ends would you release the code to be downloaded so people can switch their android os to ubuntu os?

cwayne184 karma

I think the Ubuntu Touch code is already open sourced, isn't it?

MyCyro1 karma

Are there Roms out for the galaxy nexus or nexus 4 to test?

Also, if the campaign doesn't get funded, what happens then?

cwayne181 karma

There's ROMs for Ubuntu Touch, but not for Ubuntu for Android (this is for commercial reasons as shown by chizang above).

If the campaign fails, we try to find an OEM partner.

oneAngrySonOfaBitch1 karma

I know someone in the opensource community will work on this. but will android apps work on ubuntu out of the box.

cwayne181 karma

Android apps will not run in Ubuntu for Android

Ashtone0 karma

lol.. heh.. is the NSA secretly forcing you to add a backdoor to your software like microsoft and god knows who else?

cwayne181 karma