Living on the Edge

Last week I was asked to attend OSCON to help out on the Canonical/Ubuntu stand. This was my first OSCON and I was pretty excited, having already been briefed about plans for the Ubuntu Edge crowd-funding campaign the previous week.

Flying into Portland

I was also tasked with bringing two of the prototype Edge devices with me to pass on to Mark and Jono. I had to keep the prototypes safely under wraps because the announcement hadn’t been made at the point when I flew out. Also they cost an awful lot of money to make, and there’s only 3 of them in the world.

When I first saw the prototype my first reaction was “YES!”. I love my current phone, the iPhone 4S, but I’ve always been on the look out for something to replace it. I’ve never found anything which fulfils my personal requirements for a replacement device so I’ve carried on using the iPhone until something else came along. I’m 100% certain the Ubuntu Edge is the device for me.

I love the design, the openness, how it feels in the hand, the size of the screen and of course the software! It all seems just right to me, the perfect replacement for my iPhone. Of course it’s better than the iPhone in so many ways too. Being a converged device means I could use it as a PC in the kids playroom or work from offices where all I need is a display and keyboard, leaving me much less to carry around. I hope we succeed in our campaign to make the Edge. I realise that it’s a long way to go to $32M, but I think we can do it (with your help!).

Once at OSCON I met up with some members of the local community including Ben Kerensa who did a great job of mobilising Ubuntu community people to help us out! It was also great to have Phil Ballew who flew in to help run the stand too. We couldn’t have coped with all the people arriving at the stand without the community, they were awesome as always!


We setup the booth with our banners, a screen playing a video teaser trailer of Ubuntu Edge, and got some literature and swag out for visitors. We tried to make the stand as open and welcoming as we could. From the moment we opened the stand we got a constant stream of people coming by to talk to us. Some had heard of the crowd-funding campaign, others hadn’t & some had already backed the project before talking to us.

We had a lot of conversations with a really diverse set of people. Sure there were geeks who loved the idea of an open phone they could use as a desktop or media playback device. But we also spoke to journalists, business professionals and experts from the industry. We had friendly and open discussions with people we’re potentially in competition with, and I personally enjoyed all of the conversations we had.

Kate from Indiegogo dropped by to see us and gave us some great ideas for improving the stand. We put a laptop out showing the campaign page which Ben setup to auto-refresh and the progress graph in another tab.

Having the laptop was also convenient for showing off some more details about Ubuntu Touch developer preview. Lots of people asked us which devices were supported, where they could get hold of the software, and where to get the SDK. Having a tab open allowed us to very easily show answers to most of their questions.

We gave demos of the Ubuntu Touch developer preview on a few Nexus 4 devices on the stand. We showed the various swipe gestures and some example Core Apps (thanks core apps teams! :D). Surprisingly the attendee wifi held up most of the time, so we could show off some apps which require connectivity.

Sunny in Portland

I’ll be honest the demos were not always silky smooth, and I’ll be filing bugs where appropriate, and talking to the design and developer teams if there’s anything we need to improve or change. But having said that, the conference attendees were exceptionally forgiving. They appreciated the software isn’t finished yet, and were fine with me swapping a wedged phone for a working one to finish the demo.

One thing that was most apparent though was the effect of holding the prototype. The reaction from people who held it in their hand was really great to see. Many commented on how they loved the feel of the device, the size, the angles and the look of it. We had a few people go away and come back the next day telling us they’d backed the campaign after seeing it.

I was lucky enough to get a bit of time to wander around the other stands at OSCON and had some great conversations with people around the exhibition space and have a lot of them I need to follow up on. I enjoyed talking to Red Hat about oVirt, to the EFF and FSF representatives and was compelled to go and say “thanks” to Spotify for making a Linux client, and to FusionIO for paying Chris Mason to work on btrfs.

All in all it was a very exciting and tiring OSCON. I’m now sat at Portland Airport flashing my Nexus 4 with the latest build of Ubuntu Touch developer preview, ready to play over the weekend.

Flashing phone

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