Jamie Bennett Speaks

Thoughts from Jamie Bennett

The New UI for ARM Based Ubuntu Devices

Written by JamieBennett on February 15th, 2010 at 9:38 am in Linux,Ubuntu,Ubuntu Netbook Remix

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ARM based platforms traditionally have a problem with graphics drivers and free software. Encumbered by licensing issues, many platforms only ship with 2D based drivers whilst the 3D driver-enabled offerings only frequent the poshest of circles such as Nokia’s N900. There are exceptions, but its a painful reality at the moment.

Vendors are trying to work around it, especially as there is the expectation of a ramp-up in the availability of ARM based hardware. Super long-life netbooks, low powered touch based computers, and even a flurry of smaller embedded devices are forecast to hit the market this year, many of which will be based on the Linux operating system. Ubuntu would be a great match for this.

Ubuntu and ARM

Ubuntu runs very well on some ARM based platforms and there is a sustained effort to make it work more ubiquitously across many more. To that end our goal is to have Ubuntu running on any ARM based device (as long as there is hardware available). A lofty goal but one which we would like to see happen.

So what can we do about the 3D graphics licensing issue? Legally not very much. The companies that own the IP (Intellectual Property) rights to these drivers often want large licensing fees for their technology. This is a model for single product lines (take the Nokia N900 for instance) but for Ubuntu where we are targeting a more broad approach, this isn’t ideal.

So when you buy your new, ARM based netbook that has an obscene amount of battery life and you just want to install the 3D clutter based, wonderfully rich UI that Ubuntu Netbook Edition offers, what do you do?

Well Ubuntu recognizes this problem and as part of the Lucid Lynx release there is an effort to bring a similarly wonderfully rich UI to non-3D-accelerated hardware.

The new 2D EFL based Launcher

Default ARM 2D Launcher

Above you can see the default UI for Ubuntu’s ARM based releases starting from Lucid (10.04). It’s a direct clone of the UI found in the 9.10 Karmic release on i386 although this one is based on EFL (Enlightenment Foundation Libraries) meaning that its fast on non-accelerated platforms. If there is 3D hardware available it can use that but it works perfectly fine without.

Another great thing about the 2D launcher is that isn’t not restricted to ARM hardware only, in fact if you have Lucid installed now, getting the launcher couldn’t be simpler. At the command prompt just type the following (make sure you have the universe repository enabled):

sudo apt-get install netbook-launcher-efl

and voila, your UI switches to the new launcher. Of course a simple:

sudo apt-get remove netbook-launcher-efl

will remove it if you decide its not what you want.

Beyond Netbook Launcher

Default ARM 2D Launcher
Another of the great things about this launcher, as apposed to the 3D launcher shipped with Karmic, is that its extremely theme-able. The theme file is contained in:

/usr/share/netbook-launcher-efl/data/themes/default.edj

Theme files use the edje declarative layout format. By changing this file you can completely change the way the UI looks. For example, see the alternate UI screenshot above, both are based on the same code, the only difference is that they have a different theme file.

So if you have ARM based hardware but no 3D acceleration, fear not, you can get the same great user experience that your i386 cousins have in Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

65 Responses to 'The New UI for ARM Based Ubuntu Devices'

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  1. [...] and fastest ARMs ever in ubuntu … By ograblog As JamieBennet writes on his blog here and [...]

  2. This is great to see.

    Daeng Bo

    15 Feb 10 at 11:36 am

  3. i’m wondering if in the future i will change desktop OS from ubuntu to Meebo. it’s a little confusing at the moment. still happy about my n900 anyway.

    thomas

    15 Feb 10 at 4:18 pm

  4. Any plans to package this for Karmic? My wife likes the launcher but her laptop doesn’t have 3D hardware support.

    Sage

    15 Feb 10 at 5:49 pm

  5. There is a slightly older version of the launcher for Karmic at https://edge.launchpad.net/~launch-lite/+archive/ppa but as long as you satisfy the dependencies, the new launcher should work fine on Karmic.

    JamieBennett

    15 Feb 10 at 5:56 pm

  6. Unfortunately the EFL APIs move around like quicksand.

    foo

    15 Feb 10 at 8:01 pm

  7. Sage, With the EFL-based launcher, you do not need 3D Hardware support. EFL works just as well with 2D Hardware :)

    devilhorns

    17 Feb 10 at 12:05 am

  8. Thanks for the post Jamie, I did one at e.org to propagate that info:

    http://enlightenment.org/p.php?p=news/show&l=en&news_id=20

  9. Daaaamn thats good lookin ;)

    Toma

    17 Feb 10 at 4:11 am

  10. Great job!

    MoRpHeUz

    17 Feb 10 at 11:40 am

  11. Fonts are waaaay to small. My eyes are bleeding just looking at screenshots. Imagine that on 7″ screen with some good-DPI resolution.

    zui

    18 Feb 10 at 7:07 am

  12. I think this launcher idea is great especially for specialized distro’s. I think someone should make a education distro using this, I have Qimo on my sons machine and he loves it, wish they would adopt something along these lines for their work..

    James

    18 Feb 10 at 7:55 am

  13. This is looking nice.

    Zac

    18 Feb 10 at 9:20 am

  14. [...] Mehr Informationen zum neuen EFL-basierten Interface der Ubuntu Netbook Edition hält Jamie Bennett …. [...]

  15. [...] geben und Evas kümmert sich bei nicht 3D-fähiger Hardware um 3D-Effekte. Mehr Details sind dem Entwicklerblog von Jamie Bennett und dem Artikel bei Golem zu [...]

  16. [...] Al momento la nuova GUI non è limitata ai processori ARM; si può installare da subito su una qualsiasi versione Lucid di Ubuntu, seguendo le istruzioni riportate su linuxuk.org. [...]

  17. [...] isso faz todo o sentido para a Canonical reescrever o lançador usando as bibliotecas do Enlightenment: afinal, todo o esforço de ter uma biblioteca [...]

  18. On a serious note, this makes using a netbook a better alternative to an iPad (or iSlab for those of you who aren’t fans).

    Netbook adoption has been hampered (IMHO) by users expecting their full windows desktop condensed into a usable form on a much smaller laptop, but coming away disappointed because it’s slow and the UI doesn’t work for them.

    The netbook UI is great as it differentiates the device (from a desktop and from a smartphone) and you can read books, check your email (and send emails without getting RSI), and do a million other things. Making the UI work on devices where 3D performance is poor is great.

    Plus it’s great to see something using Enlightenment again, those of us old enough to remember Enlightenment being the best windows manager will be having a good smile about the good old days :)

    Stuart

    18 Feb 10 at 4:04 pm

  19. doesn’t auto start under alpha_2 64x even after restart. If you start it from the command line get a ton of errors about missing icons and theme stuff. Then it does show up but in-between the normal ubuntu gui and any app you start up fades out the rest but no way to switch between apps but minimize or alt tab. Hopefully fixed for the feb 25 alpha 3?

    datatec

    18 Feb 10 at 5:11 pm

  20. Not to rain on the party, but will Ubuntu support the ARMv5TE again like in 9.04? If not, why don’t they help out with handhelds mojo (http://mojo.handhelds.org) so that those of us with older ARM machines can use it?

    Mark

    18 Feb 10 at 5:33 pm

  21. At the moment there is no plan for ARMv5 support going forward.

    JamieBennett

    18 Feb 10 at 5:52 pm

  22. Any recommendation for an ARM SoC with free drivers supporting 3D graphics and/or accelerated video decoding?

    Christian

    18 Feb 10 at 8:05 pm

  23. Unfortunately not much hardware is out there at the moment that supports 3D acceleration but hopefully that will change this year.

    JamieBennett

    18 Feb 10 at 8:21 pm

  24. [...] Visto en | Linux UK [...]

  25. I want it for my eeepc right now.

    ZigmunD

    19 Feb 10 at 2:58 am

  26. [...] Phoronix | Imágenes: Linuxuk.org Leer más: arm, Atom, Canonical, clutter, EFL, Elightenment, Enlightenment Foundation Libraries, [...]

  27. Awesome :) This launcher might even be useful on some “normal” notebooks that are some years old..

    thp

    19 Feb 10 at 3:19 pm

  28. [...] próxima ola de netbooks y tablets basados en la arquitectura ARM, los desarrolladores de Ubuntu están preocupados porque muchos de sus drivers para gráficos están restringidos por licencias que no son libres. [...]

  29. [...] of UI’s, check out some of the new UNR themes. Fresh off some bad publicity for its later rescinded decision to remove OpenOffice.org from the [...]

  30. [...] próxima ola de netbooks y tablets basados en la arquitectura ARM, los desarrolladores de Ubuntu están preocupados porque muchos de sus drivers para gráficos están restringidos por licencias que no son [...]

  31. [...] Il risultato è già disponibile per tutti gli utenti di Ubuntu Lucid Lynx (basta installare il pacchetto netbook-launcher-efl) ed è utilizzabile anche su tutte le piattaforme supportate da Ubuntu. Maggiori dettagli tecnici sono disponibili sul sito di e17. [...]

  32. [...] próxima ola de netbooks y tablets basados en la arquitectura ARM, los desarrolladores de Ubuntu están preocupados porque muchos de sus drivers para gráficos están restringidos por licencias que no son libres. [...]

  33. [...] The New UI for ARM Based Ubuntu Devices ARM based platforms traditionally have a problem with graphics drivers and free software. Encumbered by licensing issues, many platforms only ship with 2D based drivers whilst the 3D driver-enabled offerings only frequent the poshest of circles such as Nokia’s N900. There are exceptions, but its a painful reality at the moment. [...]

  34. [...] The New UI for ARM Based Ubuntu Devices ARM based platforms traditionally have a problem with graphics drivers and free software. Encumbered by licensing issues, many platforms only ship with 2D based drivers whilst the 3D driver-enabled offerings only frequent the poshest of circles such as Nokia’s N900. There are exceptions, but its a painful reality at the moment. [...]

  35. [...] Interface gráfico en Ubuntu 10.04 para ARM [...]

  36. [...] Según Jamie Bennet desarrollador en Ubuntu, el problema se origina en la interfaz de usuario de Ubuntu Netbook Edition pues requiere de aceleración en 3D para los efectos visuales, sin embargo no existen los controladores gráficos para la plataforma ARM, el problema lo han solucionado al reescribir la interfaz gráfica para dar un rodeo y utilizar las librerías  2D Enlightenment Foundation Libraries en lugar de los controladores 3D. Sin embargo los usuarios no notarán la diferencia. [...]

  37. From the screenshots: somebody should patch Mplayer to provide a higher resolution icon. This issue is obvious and silly.

    Brian

    24 Feb 10 at 12:47 pm

  38. looks just as crap as gnome… thank god the Kde plasma netbook is released

    kaddy

    24 Feb 10 at 1:46 pm

  39. Will it work on small screen devices like the Zarus

    Will

    26 Feb 10 at 5:29 am

  40. this means lucid provides some recent efl packages? maybe even elementary and the python bindings? I’m unable to build them on karmic, but editje needs them.

    @Brian mplayer should provide a SVG icon

    Frederik

    26 Feb 10 at 7:48 am

  41. Some EFL packages will indeed be in Lucid.

    JamieBennett

    26 Feb 10 at 8:06 am

  42. This is a very fine GUI! Easy to use, I like it…

    Kai

    1 Mar 10 at 8:24 am

  43. Glad to see EFL used in more and more products !

    tresh

    1 Mar 10 at 8:33 am

  44. [...] Bennett, Ubuntu mobile developer, writes that 3D has been a problem on ARM due to graphics licensing issues. To solve this, the Ubuntu team is turning to EFL to create a rich 2D UI that’s suitable for [...]

  45. [...] [via Ubunutu-user/Linuxuk.org] [...]

  46. So, does this mean that I can run this on my arm based phone like, HTC Hero?

    OneZerOne

    5 Mar 10 at 9:02 am

  47. Unless you can get all the dependencies installed for the new launcher on your phone then I very much doubt it.

    JamieBennett

    5 Mar 10 at 10:12 am

  48. [...] les EFL pour réaliser exactement le même lanceur d’applications, mais en utilisant les EFL. Il a été écrit par Jamie Bennett, celui-ci travaillant pour Canonical en tant que développeur pour Ubuntu Mobile. Les avantages de [...]

  49. Ubuntu boots on the HTC Rhodium already (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=640785), and I have booted it on my Diamond with some minor (solvable) touchscreen issues. Currently uses FB but the devs might get xf86-video-msm working soon. Jamie, what do you expect will be the hardest enlightenment dependencies to cross-compile? When I have some time maybe I will try 10.04 on ARM… is there any hope of usability on 128-192mb RAM and QVGA,VGA,WVGA?

    eval-

    16 Mar 10 at 12:38 pm

  50. May it mean, what we are now have some chances to get iilume on arm-based smartphones?

    For example replace android in “wing-linux” or “androidonhtc” projects?

    Nikolay

    13 Apr 10 at 2:34 pm

  51. Hate to sound stupid but how can I change from default.edje to alternative.edje.
    Also can this be ported to something lighter such as Lubuntu, as when I tried it required gnome-session and gnome dependencies that seemed never met.
    Using it on Ubuntu 10.4 b2 and really like, but would like to trim it some and would really love it on Lubuntu since it just screams on my gateway lt3103u and fast on my older thinkpads, old tanks I just can’t break.

    JimfromOmaha

    17 Apr 10 at 3:14 pm

  52. Changing from the default to alternative is as simple and renaming alternative.edje to default.edje (of course backup default.edje before you do that).

    As for running it on a gnome-less system, there is going to be a session about that at UDS, its very much in our minds for next cycle.

    Jamie Bennett

    17 Apr 10 at 10:04 pm

  53. [...] Read more about the 2D EFL based launcher. [...]

  54. i wonder if i could tweak it to run on an itouch
    or even better (and harder) on an iphone

    LOGAn

    9 Jun 10 at 8:58 pm

  55. Will it work on ARM11 based machine @200MHz ?
    I just trying to attach another OS for my phone.

    stevan

    22 Aug 10 at 10:48 pm

  56. Ubuntu will only work on ARMv7 based devices (Cortex).

    Jamie Bennett

    24 Aug 10 at 8:46 pm

  57. Hello,

    First let me state the absolute obvious, I am a Linux noob!

    The previous statement seems to be contrary to the ubuntu that runs on my SmartQ V7 that uses an ARM11 @ 600Mhz. SmartQ says their version 5.5 is equivalent to 9.10. Trust me, I will learn from any clarification.

    MacFalic

    25 Aug 10 at 9:51 am

  58. Ubuntu has been progressing with what they require as a base-line from the hardware. 9.10 was ARMv6, 10.04 was ARMv7 so your SmartQ (ARM11 = ARMv6) will only ever run 9.10 and nothing later than that. To get the UI working on ARM11 you would need Ubuntu 9.10, a kernel that supports your hardware, and all the dependency libraries that the UI needs to run. If you have access to the kernel then its a real possibility that you could get it running. Otherwise its a bit of an up-hill struggle. Feel free to give it a go though and report back how you got on.

    Jamie Bennett

    25 Aug 10 at 10:20 am

  59. After reading some of the forums it does seem the kernel is accessible. In fact there has been quite a bit of experimentation but, as previously stated, it was indecipherable to me.

    It does run v5.5(9.10) rather well, better than the Android(2.1) and WinCE(6.0). I only started this search (through these different versions) looking for some games like sokoban and sudoku (got some I will try.)

    After a decent learning period, I will see what is actually possible and indeed, get back to you.

    Thank you for the information.

    MacFalic

    25 Aug 10 at 10:44 am

  60. [...] Die selbst gesteckten Ziele sind auf jeden Fall ehrgeizig. Enna oder auch die Erwägung die EFL-Bibliotheken im Ubuntu Netbook Remix für die ARM-Architektur einzusetzen zeigt, wo Enlightenment wohl in Zukunft eher eine Rolle [...]

  61. [...] based on netbook remix and is supposed to run better on ARM based devices than regular installs. The New UI for ARM Based Ubuntu Devices at LinuxUK – Jamie Bennett Speaks Reply With Quote + Reply to [...]

  62. ubuntu only works on ARMv7 systems

    matt desk

    16 Sep 10 at 10:05 pm

  63. [...] problème avait déjà été réglé par Canonical qui fournit depuis Ubuntu 10.04 une version 2D d’Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Cette dernière repose sur les EFL, pour Enlightenment Foundation Libraries, connues pour [...]

  64. [...] problème avait déjà été réglé par Canonical qui fournit depuis Ubuntu 10.04 une version 2D d’Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Cette dernière repose sur les EFL, pour Enlightenment Foundation Libraries, connues pour proposer [...]

  65. Thanks for such a wonderful post. It was a great read.

    Mayank

    7 Jun 12 at 4:53 am

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