What a fantastic release Ubuntu 10.04, aka Lucid Lynx was. Many, many people helped to make 10.04 rock and as some of them attend the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) this week to thrash out the roadmap for Maverick Meerkat, its a good time to look back at what happened to the ARM version of Lucid this cycle.
A new user interface
One of the most obvious changes is the user interface. The ARM version of Ubuntu’s previous release, Karmic Koala, booted to the default Ubuntu desktop. For some this was fine but typically today’s ARM devices tend to be different. At present, they tend to have smaller screens, less resources and little in the way of graphics acceleration. To overcome some of these limitations in the x86 netbook world, the netbook-launcher user interface was created. Based on Clutter, netbook-launcher could not run on the ARM devices Ubuntu was targeting due to a lack of 3D acceleration. Enter netbook-launcher-efl, a 2D version of the x86 netbook interface written using EFL packages.
Faster Live CD boots
Booting a Live CD is something that most new Ubuntu users do (and many existing users too). Its often their first experience of an Ubuntu release and should give a good impression. Well, on some ARM hardware, booting this Live CD image took over 3 minutes, not exactly the impression we would hope. So investigations happened into what was causing this slowness. In the end the final boot time was reduced by around 35% on all Ubuntu Live images, not just ARM ones.
Web Office and Web Mail integration
Open Office on a resource limited platform isn’t the greatest experience and to make matters worse, on the ARM architecture there are issues building it correctly. A new way of viewing, editing and saving office documents was needed and for the Lucid cycle a web-based solution was integrated into the desktop called webservice-office-zoho.
Similarly, Evolution could be considered too heavy-weight for ARM device needs. A solution was implemented to enable integration with several online mail providers.
Optimized Tool Chain Defaults
This release includes a complete archive rebuild using more modern tool chain defaults that the latest ARM hardware can take advantage of. As of Lucid Lynx, packages are built using Thumb-2 to reduce code size and improve performance, NEON for accelerate multimedia and signal processing, and are optimized for ARMv7A based chips. Although this means that some older hardware will not work with the latest Ubuntu release it does mean that the images perform much better on modern hardware.
Much bug fixing went on this cycle. The fail to build list (FTBFS), a list of packages that fail to build on a given architecture, was a focal point of activity. For the first time ever, the number of packages that failed to build on ARM from the main archive was zero (apart from libx86 which refuses to leave the build queue for ARM due to a bug), a great achievement.
The Chromium browser now works on ARM, rootstock, the tool to build ARM rootfs tarballs gained a gui frontend, we added support for the very popular OMAP platform (beagle board) and many small improvements were implemented, making this the best Ubuntu ARM release ever.
We here at Canonical are very proud of the Lucid Lynx on ARM and are extremely excited at what future releases will bring.