DevRelCon 2015 Trip Report

Huh, this turned out to be longer than I expected. Don’t feel obliged to read it, it’s more notes for myself, and to remind me of why I liked the event.


On Wednesday I went to DevRelCon in London. DevRelCon is “a one day single track conference for technical evangelists, developer advocates and anyone interested in developer relations” setup by Matthew Revell. I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between my role (defined as Community Manager) at Canonical and Developer Relations so figured it would probably have appropriate content for my role. Boy was I right!

DevRelCon was easily the single most valuable short conference I’ve ever attended. The speakers were knowledgeable, friendly and accessible, and easy to understand. I took a ton of notes, and will distil some of them down here, but will almost certainly keep referring back to them over the coming months as I look to implement some of the suggestions I heard.


The event took place at The Trampery Old Street, in Shoreditch, the trendy/hipster part of London. We had access to a bright and airy ‘ballroom’ and were served with regular drinks, snacks and a light lunch. Free WiFi was also available, which worked well, but I didn’t use it much as we had little time away from the talks.


The day consisted of a mix of long (40 minute) talks, some shorter (20 min) ones, and a few ‘lightning’ talks. Having a mix of durations worked well I think. We started a little late, but Matthew massaged the timetable to claw back some time, and as it was a single track day there was no real issue if things didn’t run to time, as you weren’t likely to run off to another talk, and miss something.

All the talks were great, but I took considerably more notes in some than others, so this is represented below in that I haven’t listed every talk.

Morning Talks

Rob SpectreTwilio – Scaling Developer Evangelism.

This started off well as Rob plugged in his laptop and we were greeted with an Ubuntu desktop! He started off detailing some interesting stats to focus our minds on who we’re evangelising to. Starting with the 18.2m developers worldwide, given ~3Bn smartphone users, and ~4Bn Internet users that means ~0.08% have the capability to write code. There’s a 6% year on year increase in developers, mostly in developing nations, the ratio is less in the western world. So for example India could overtake every other countries’ developer count by ~2017.

Rob talked at length about the structure of Developer Evangelists, Developer Educators and the Community Team at Twilio. The talk continued to outline how valuable developers are, how at Twilio their Developer Evangelists are the ‘Red Carpet’ to their community. I was struck by how very differently we (Open Source projects) and Ubuntu specifically treat contributors to the project.

There was also a section on running developer events, and Rob spent some time talking about strategies for successful events, and how those can feed back to improve your product. He also talked a little about measurement, which was also going to be covered in later talks that day.

Another useful anecdote Rob detailed was regarding conversion of talks into blog posts. While a talk at an event can catalyse the 20-100 people in the room, converting that into a detailed tutorial blog post can bring in hundreds or thousands more.

The final slide in Rob’s talk was “Would you recommend this talk?” with a phone number attendees could send a score to. I thought this was a particularly cunning strategy. There was also talk of using the external IP address of the venue WiFi as one factor to determine the effectiveness / conversion rate of attendees.

Cristiano BettaBraintree – Tooling your way to a great devrel team

Cristiano started off talking about BattleHack which I’d not heard of. These are in person events where teams of developers get 24 hours to work on a project fuelled by coffee, cake and Red Bull to be in with a chance of winning a cash prize and an amusing axe.

He then went on to talk about a personal project to manage event sign-ups. This replaces tools like Eventbrite and MailChimp and enables Cristiano to get a better handle on the success of his events.

Laura CowenIBM – Building a developer community in an enterprise world

Laura started off giving some history of the products and groups inside IBM who are responsible for WAS, the public facing developer sites and the struggles she’s had updating them

The interesting parts for me came when Laura was detailing the pain she had getting developer time to update documentation and engage with users and communities outside their own four walls. Laura also talked about the difficulty when interfacing developers and marketing, their differing goals and some strategies for coping.

I recognised for example the frustration in people wanting to publish everything on a developer site, whether it’s appropriate to the target audience or not. Sometimes we (in Ubuntu) fail to deeply consider the target audience before we publish articles, guides or documentation. I think we can do better here. Pushing back on content creators, and finding the right place for a published article is worth it, if the target audience is to be defended.

Lightning Talks

Shaunak Kashyapelastic – Getting the measure of DevRel

In this short talk Shaunak gave some interesting snippets on how elastic measure community engagement. I found a couple interesting which I felt we might use in Ubuntu. Measuring “time to first response” for questions and issues by looking for responses from someone other than the first poster. While I don’t think they were actively using this data yet, getting an initial base line would be useful.

Shaunak also detailed one factor in measuring meet-up effectiveness. Typically elastic have 3-4 meet-ups a week, globally. For each meet-up group they measured “time since last meetup”. For those where there was a long delta between one meetup and the next they would consider actions. This could be contacting the group to see if there’s issues, offering assistance, swag & ‘meet up in a box’ kits, and finally disbanding the group if there wasn’t sufficient critical mass.

I took away a few good ideas from this talk, especially given recent conversations in Ubuntu about sparking up more meet-ups.

Phil LeggetterPusher – ROI on DevRel

Phil kicked off his short talk by talking about the ROI on DevRel by explaining Acquisition vs Activation. Where Acquisition of new developers might be them signing up for an account or downloading a product/sdk/library. Activation would be the conversion which might be measured differently per product. So perhaps “purchased paid API key” or “submitted app with N downloads”.

Phil then moved on to talk a bit about how they can measure the effectiveness of online tutorials or blog articles by correlating sign ups with traffic coming from those online articles. There was some more discussion on this later on including the effectiveness of giving away vouchers/codes to incentivise downloads, with some disagreement on the results of doing so.

Afternoon Talks

Brandon WestSendGrid – Burnout

I’ve been to many talks and discussions about burnout in developer communities over the years. This talk from Brandon one was easily the most useful, factual and actionable one. I also enjoyed Brandon’s attempts to inject Britishness into his talk which lightened the mood on a potentially very dark topic.

Brendon kicked off with a bit of a ‘woe is me’ #firstworldproblems introduction to his own current life issues. The usual things that affect a lot of people, but all happening at once, becoming overwhelming. We then moved on to defining burnout clearly, and what types of people are likely to suffer (clue: anyone) and some strategies for recognizing and preventing burnout.

A few key assertions / take-aways:-

“Burnout & depression are pathalogically indistinguishable”

“Burnout and work engagement are not exclusive or correlatable”

“Those most likely to burnout believe they are least at risk”

“Learn a skill on holiday – the holiday will be more rewarding”

Tim FogartyMajor League Hacking – Hackathons as a part of your DevRel strategy

Another great talk which built upon what Cristiano talked about earlier in the day – hackathons. Tim introduced different types of hackathons and which in his experience were more popular with developers and why.

Tim started by breaking down the types of hackathon – ‘hacking’, ‘corporate’ and ‘civic’ with the second being least popular as it’s seen as free labour by developers, and so they’re distrustful. He went on to reasons why people might run hackathons including evangelism, gathering (+ve and -ve) feedback, recruiting and mindshare (marketing).

He then moved on to strategies for making an impact, measuring the effect, sponsoring and how to craft the perfect demo to kick off the event.

Having never been to an in-person hackathon I found this another fascinating talk and will be following up with Tim Later.

Jessica Rose – Stop talking about diversity and just do it

Well. This was enlightening. This talk was excellent, and covered two main topics. First the focus was on getting a more diverse set of people running / attending / talking at your event. Some strategies were discussed and Jessica highlighted where many people go terribly wrong, assumptions people make and excuses people give.

The second part was a conversation about the ways in which an event can cater for as many people as possible. Here’s a highlight of some of the ways we discussed, but this obviously doesn’t cover everything:-

  • Attendees and speakers should be able to get in under their own power
  • Meal choices should be available – possibly beyond vegetarian/vegan
  • Code of Conduct
  • Sign language for talks
  • Well lit and safe feeling route from venue to accomodation
  • Space for breastfeeding / pumping, with snacks / drinks nearby
  • Non boozy spaces
  • Prayer room
  • After party with low noise level – and covered by Code of Conduct
  • Childcare
  • Professional chapparones (for under 18’s)
  • Diversity tickets & travel grants
  • Scale inclusivity to budget (be realistic about what you can achieve)

Lots to think about!

Joe NashBraintree – Engaging Students

Joe kicked off his fast-paced talk with an introduction to things which influenced how he got where he is, including “Twilio Heroes”. The talk was focussed on the UK University system, how to engage with students and some tips for running events which engage effectively with both CS and non-CS students.

James Milnerersi UK – So you want to run a meet-up

James talked about his personal experience running GeoDev Meet-Ups. I found this information quite valuable as the subject is under discussion in Ubuntu. James gave some great tips for running good meet-ups, and had a number of things he’s clearly learned the hard way. I hope to put some of his tips into action in the UK.

Dawn FosterLessons about community from science fiction.

This was a great uplifting talk to end the day. Dawn drew inspiration from her prolific science fiction reading to come up with some tips for people running community projects. I’ll give you a flavour with a few of them. Each was accompanied by an appropriate picture.

Picture: Star Trek Red Shirt
Lesson: “Participate and contribute in a way that people will notice and value your work”

Picture: Doctor Who TARDIS
Lesson: “Communities look different from inside then when viewing as an outsider”

Picture: Enders Game
Lesson: “Age is often unknown, encourage young people to contribute”

Dawn is a thoughtful, entertaining and engaging speaker. I’d certainly like to see more of her talks.

After Party

We all left the venue after the last talk and headed to a nearby trendy bar for a pint then headed home, pretty exhausted. A great event, I look forward to the next one.

Easily port mobile HTML5 games to Ubuntu Phone

Article also available in Spanish at thanks to Marcos Costales.

I really like playing games on my phone & tablet and wanted some more games to play on Ubuntu. With a little work it turns out it’s really pretty easy to ‘port’ games over to Ubuntu phone. I put the word ‘port’ in quotes simply because in some cases it’s not a tremendous amount of effort, so calling it a ‘port’ might make people think it’s more work than it is.

Update: A few people have asked why someone would want to even do this, and why not just bookmark a game in the browser. Sorry if that’s not clear. With this method the game is entirely cached offline on the customer phone. Having fully offline games is desirable in many situations including when travelling or in a location with spotty Internet access. Not all games are fully offline of course, this method wouldn’t help with a large on-line multi-player game like Clash of Clans for example. It would be great for many other titles though. This method also makes use of application confinement on Ubuntu so the app/game cannot access anything outside of the game data directory.

I worked with sturmflut from the Ubuntu Insiders on this over a few evenings and weekends. He wrote it up in his post Panda Madness.

We had some fun porting a few games and I wanted to share what we did so others can do the same. We created a simple template on github which can be used as a starting point, but I wanted to explain the process and the issues I had, so others can port apps/games.

If you have any questions feel free to leave me a comment, or if you’d rather talk privately you can get in contact in other ways.

Proof of concept

To prove that we could easily port existing games, we licensed a couple of games from Code Canyon. This is a marketplace where developers can license their games either for other developers to learn from, build upon or redistribute as-is. I started with a little game called Don’t Crash which is an HTML5 game written using Construct 2. I could have licensed other games, and other marketplaces are also available, but this seemed like a good low-cost way for me to test out this process.

Screenshot from 2015-07-28 13-06-19

Side note: Construct 2 by Scirra is a popular, powerful, point-and-click Windows-only tool for developing cross-platform HTML5 apps and games. It’s used by a lot of indie game developers to create games for desktop browsers and mobile devices alike. In development is Construct 3 which aims to be backwards compatible, and available on Linux too.

Before I licensed Don’t Crash I checked it worked satisfactorily on Ubuntu phone using the live preview feature on Code Canyon. I was happy it worked, so I paid and received a download containing the ‘source’ Construct 2 files.


If you’re a developer with your own game, then you can of course skip the above step, because you’ve already got the code to port.

Porting to Ubuntu

The absolute minimum needed to port a game is a few text files and the directory containing the game code. Sometimes a couple of tweaks are needed for things like permissions and lock rotation, but mostly it Just Works(TM).

I’m using an Ubuntu machine for all the packaging and testing, but in this instance I needed a Windows machine to export out the game runtime using Construct 2. Your requirements may vary, but for Ubuntu if you don’t have one, you could install it in a VM like VMWare or VirtualBox, then add the SDK tools as detailed at

This is the entire contents of the directory, with the game itself in the www/ folder.

alan@deep-thought:~/phablet/code/popey/licensed/html5_dontcrash⟫ ls -l
total 52
-rw-rw-r-- 1 alan alan   171 Jul 25 00:51 app.desktop
-rw-rw-r-- 1 alan alan   167 Jun  9 17:19 app.json
-rw-rw-r-- 1 alan alan 32826 May 19 19:01 icon.png
-rw-rw-r-- 1 alan alan   366 Jul 25 00:51 manifest.json
drwxrwxr-x 4 alan alan  4096 Jul 24 23:55 www

Creating the metadata


This contains the basic details about your app like name, description, author, contact email and so on. Here’s mine (called manifest.json) from the latest version of Don’t Crash. Most of it should be fairly self-explanitory. You can simply replace each of the fields with your app details.

    "description":  "Don't Crash!",
    "framework":    "ubuntu-sdk-14.10-html",
    "hooks": {
        "dontcrash": {
            "apparmor": "app.json",
            "desktop":  "app.desktop"
    "maintainer":   "Alan Pope ",
    "name":         "dontcrash.popey",
    "title":        "Don't Crash!",
    "version":      "0.22"

Note: “popey” is my developer namespace in the store, you’ll need to specify your namespace which you configure in your account page on the developer portal.

Screenshot from 2015-07-28 13-11-17

Security profile

Named app.json, this details what permissions my app needs in order to run:-

    "template": "ubuntu-webapp",
    "policy_groups": [
    "policy_version": 1.2

Desktop file

This defines how the app is launched, what the icon filename is, and some other details:-

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Don't Crash
Comment=Avoid the other cars
Exec=webapp-container $@ www/index.html

Again, change the Name and Comment fields, and you’re mostly done here.

Building a click package

With those files created, and an icon.png thrown in, I can now build my click package for uploading to the store. Here’s that process in its entirety:-

alan@deep-thought:~/phablet/code/popey/licensed⟫ click build html5_dontcrash/
Now executing: click-review ./
./ pass
Successfully built package in './'.

Which on my laptop took about a second.

Note the “pass” is output from the click-review tool which sanity checks click packages immediately after building, to make sure there’s no errors likely to cause it to be rejected from the store.

Testing on an Ubuntu device

Testing the click package on a device is pretty easy. It’s just a case of copying the click package over from my Ubuntu machine via a USB cable using adb, then installing it.

adb push /tmp
adb shell
pkcon install-local --allow-untrusted /tmp/

Switch to the app scope and pull down to refresh, tap the icon and play the game.


Success! :)


Tweaking the app

At this point for some of the games I noticed some issues which I’ll highlight here in case others also have them:-

Local loading of files

Construct 2 moans that “Exported games won’t work until you upload them. (When running on the file:/// protocol, browsers block many features from working for security reasons.” in a javascript popup and the game doesn’t start. I just removed that chunk of js which does the check from the index.html and the game works fine in our browser.

Device orientation

With the most recent Over The Air (OTA) update of Ubuntu we enabled device orientation everywhere which means some games can rotate and become unplayable. We can lock games to be portrait or landscape in the desktop file (created above) by simply adding this line:-


Obviously changing “portrait” to “landscape” if your game is horizontally played. For Don’t Crash I didn’t do this because the developer had coded orientation detection in the game, and tells the player to rotate the device when it’s the wrong way round.

Twitter links

Some games we ported have Twitter links in the game so players can tweet their score. Unfortunately the mobile web version of Twitter doesn’t support intents so you can’t have a link which contains the content “Check out my score in Don’t Crash” embedded in it for example. So I just removed the Twitter links for now.


Our browser doesn’t support locally served cookies. Some games use this. For Heroine Dusk I ported from cookies to Local Storage which worked fine.

Uploading to the store

Uploading click packages to the Ubuntu store is fast and easy. Simply visit, sign up/in, click “New Application” and follow the upload steps.

Screenshot from 2015-07-28 13-10-31

That’s it! I look forward to seeing some more games in the store soon. Patches also welcome to the template on github.

Making a Portable Persistent Ubuntu USB Stick

I recently wanted to make a slightly modified persistent bootable USB stick running a recent version Ubuntu. I made some notes and have put them here in case they’re useful to anyone else. It’s a bit of a manual process which could probably be streamlined / automated. This was just what I did as a one-off, take from it what you will.

USB3 sticks in a USB3 port work best as USB2 can be a bit on the slow side, especially for IO intensive operations like package installation or compiling.

Note: A few people have pointed out the fragility and short lifespan of USB sticks. This same procedure can be used to install on a hard disk or SSD in a USB enclosure. Once the image is copied to the external storage, simply use gparted to resize it up to take all available space.

The goal I had was to make an image which can be copied to USB stick to provide a persistent bootable Ubuntu SDK development environment. This could be useful for people who don’t run Ubuntu as their primary OS (Yes, these people exist, I know right!?) but want to dabble in Ubuntu application development. It’s also handy if you’re running an App Dev School where the computers aren’t yours, or run some other OS. The students could potentially take the sticks away with the full OS and all their work on. Just make the image and then copy it to multiple sticks before the class starts.

I also wanted to make it ask for locale and user details on first boot, so it could be easily configured and used in any language. This is pretty easy given the Ubuntu installer has all of that built in.

I used Ubuntu 15.04 i386 (but also tried with Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS) and an 8GB USB stick which leaves a couple of GB over for work. Obviously a larger stick gives more space to the user. It turned out though that using an 8GB USB stick was a bit tight for SDK work. I ended up with 76MB left after creating one 15.04 armhf kit. Maybe 8GB is good for desktop and qml/html5 only development (although still a bit tight), but not for cross architecture or other binary builds. 16GB would have enough room for multiple kits and could build binaries for devices.

Some of these steps can be done in the background while you do other things. It’s not a massively time consuming task if you have a decent connection and fast USB stick / hard disk, but as I mentioned, is a bit manual.

The result is a USB stick which you can boot from and work off with data saved to the stick. You can optionally enable home directory encryption during the final end-user setup if that’s important to you.

Step 1 – Prep

Have an 8GB (or larger) USB 3 stick handy. I am using Kingston 8 GB USB 3.0 DataTraveler G4 Flash Drive and later Kingston Technology 16GB Data Traveler G4 USB 3.0 Flash Drive. Faster sticks are available of course, but I wanted something cheap to prototype on.
Have a laptop with a USB 3 port (or ports) and supports kvm. I did all this on my Ubuntu Vivid Vervet (15.04) Thinkpad X220 laptop which has a single USB3 port.
Make a directory on a local disk to store scratch image – will need 16GB or more space
Install qemu-kvm and gddrescue on host
Download ubuntu-15.04-desktop-i386.iso from (torrent link).

Step 2 – Installation of base system

Make a blank image on local disk
dd if=/dev/zero of=./disk_image bs=1M count=7500
This should result in a file a bit under 8GB.

alan@deep-thought:/data/usb⟫ dd if=/dev/zero of=./disk_image bs=1048576 count=7500
7500+0 records in
7500+0 records out
7864320000 bytes (7.9 GB) copied, 34.468 s, 228 MB/s

Install Ubuntu into the image using kvm
sudo kvm -m 2048 -cdrom ~/Downloads/ubuntu-15.04-desktop-i386.iso -hda ./disk_image -boot d
This should boot off the ISO


At the A11Y (person = keyboard) icon, hit space


At the boot menu, choose language (this is just language for the installer, user will later choose which language to use)


Press F3 and choose keyboard layout


Press F4 and choose OEM install


Pick “Install” from the menu.



Follow the installer prompts as normal. I configured with no swap, but use the entire disk for an ext4 volume for the root filesystem.
Set a password for the oem user, which will be thrown away later, and the user will get to set their own password.
Shut-down at the end

Step 3 – Install the SDK

This is the part where you make the modifications to the image (if any). I wanted to install the Ubuntu SDK.

Optionally at this point, make a backup of your cleanly installed Ubuntu 15.04.1 system
cp ./disk_image ./ubuntu_15.04_install_backup

Boot the previously created install (note the additional options – these are handy)
sudo kvm -m 2048 -hda ./disk_image -chardev stdio,id=mon -mon mon
Once booted to the desktop, in the terminal on the host at the (qemu) prompt type this to switch the VM to the console (which is faster to do stuff than the GUI :) ):-
(qemu) sendkey ctrl-alt-f1
Login to the tty with the oem user/password set in Step 2.
Follow the usual guide to install the SDK and update the system:-
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-sdk-team/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-sdk
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get clean
sudo apt-get autoremove

Shut down the vm
sudo shutdown -h now

Optionally at this point, make a backup of your “SDK-installed” (or modified in whatever way you choose) OEM mode Ubuntu 15.04 system
cp ./disk_image ./ubuntu_15.04_install_sdk_oem_backup

Note: At this point you can boot the disk image and do further customisation – maybe adding other packages which may be of use, but I stopped here.

Step 4 – Prepare the OEM image for ‘shipping’

This is the point where we flip the switch in the installed image before handing it off to another user. On first boot they will get prompted to set locale and configure a new user.

Boot the previously created install which has the SDK installed
sudo kvm -m 2048 -hda ./disk_image
Click the “Prepare for shipping to end user” icon on the desktop – this sets the system to be ready for the first-boot experience for a new user
Shut down the system

Step 5 – Test this all worked

Make a copy of the master image for testing
cp ./disk_image ./testing_oem_install
Boot the test image to try it out
sudo kvm -m 2048 -hda ./testing_oem_install
At this point you should be prompted for the usual post-install setup tasks including language / locale / username & password. Setup as you would a normal machine
Open the SDK (or whatever you installed), test it all works
I tried creating a kit and do other SDK related things
Shutdown when done
Delete the test image
rm ./testing_oem_install

Step 6 – Copy the OEM image to a USB stick for shipping / use

Now we have a ‘final’ image (and optionally some backups) we can copy this to a stick for use by us / someone else. We can of course make more than one by doing this step multiple times with different sticks. On my system as you can see it took ~30 mins to copy the image to the stick. Faster, more expensive sticks may be better, these were pretty cheap.

Copy the disk image to an appropriately sized USB stick
sudo ddrescue -d -D --force ./disk_image /dev/sdX


alan@deep-thought:/data/usb⟫ time sudo ddrescue -D -d --force disk_image /dev/sdc
GNU ddrescue 1.19
Press Ctrl-C to interrupt
rescued: 7864 MB, errsize: 0 B, current rate: 1966 kB/s
ipos: 7864 MB, errors: 0, average rate: 4884 kB/s
opos: 7864 MB, run time: 26.83 m, successful read: 0 s ago

real 26m51.682s
user 0m1.212s
sys 0m30.084s

Step 7 – Test & use the stick

Put the USB stick in a computer set to boot from external media.
Test that you get a desktop and the usual OEM prompts you got in Step 5.
If that works then you can do step 5 again for the same stick or as many sticks as you have.


Comments and suggestions welcome!

FOSDEM 2015 Field Report

A little late, but here’s my report from attending FOSDEM 2015 back at the start of February.

I’ve been to FOSDEM a few times in the past, but not for the last few years. It happened to co-incide with other events, or other family things took priority and then got out of the habit, so I’d not ended up going for 6 years or so!

This year at the last minute I applied for some funds to go, was accepted and made the most of it. I’ve listed below all the talks & sessions I went to, with some brain dump notes I took about some of them. At the bottom I listed some sessions which I didn’t enjoy or get a lot out of, but are listed for completion. I’ve also linked directly to the videos of the talks if they’re available at the time of writing. If not I’ve linked to the directory they should appear in at some point in the future.

A GPS watch made of free software and hardware – Federico Vaga, Matthieu Cattin

Recycle your Android devices for anything: run real Linux on them – David Greaves
Talk video:-

  • Room was pretty packed with quite a few Jolla / SailfishOS friendly people at the front – managed to score myself a Jolla beanie hat from them :)
  • I was interested in this talk because it was focussed mostly on porting Mer & SailfishOS to Android devices.
  • We have a similar porting guide in Ubuntu but ours was outdated and inaccurate. This was fixed recently.
  • The Mer project had a nice overview of ports status online (, which I’ve shamelessly stolen for Ubuntu (
  • Interested in the community they’re building specifically around porting – dedicated irc channel, irc meetings and real world meet-ups are something we should probably consider for our (Ubuntu) porters because right now I think our porters feel a bit helpless at times

Are distributions really boring and a solved problem? – Lucas Nussbaum

  • Illuminating talk about some of the problems the Debian project faces currently
  • As I’m not a Debian developer it was interesting to me to learn a bit about the Debian Sausage Factory and some of the issues they/we face

GCompris goes Qt Quick with the help of KDE – Bruno Coudoin

  • A quick talk from Bruno about the work he’s done to port GCompris to the Qt framework
  • Learned that the development model for GCompris includes using In-App-Purchases on non-free platforms (Google Play store) to fund development of Open Source projects.

Copyleft in Europe: How does copyleft interact with Exhaustion Of Rights – Amanda Brock, Andrew Katz

  • This was a super fascinating and slightly complex legalese talk which I admit I didn’t completely follow, but Amanda and Andrew made it digestable for a layman such as myself :)

Fork and Ignore: Fighting a GPL Violation By Coding Instead – Bradley M. Kuhn

  • Brilliant talk from Bradley, one of the highlights from FOSDEM. Slides above are from a different event, but same talk as far as I can tell.
  • Was enlightening to see an alternative way to deal with a GPL violation than the default which seems to be to take legal action and sue
  • Not all forks are bad :)

Ubuntu on phones and beyond – Michał Sawicz

  • Michał gave a brief talk to a pretty packed room about the current state of Ubuntu for devices, and the future direction
  • Turned into more of a Q&A, which was beneficial as much of the audience had questions to ask
  • Was interesting to see some of the same questions come up again and again
  • Depressing to still get “Haha! LOL Amazon shills” comments and questions

Mobile == Web – Stormy Peters

  • Call to arms to developers to make their sites work well on the web for the next generation of smart phone users
  • Disappointed to see yet another Mozilla person preach about openness from the confines of a MacBook running OSX

Maintaining & Growing a technical community – Ali Spivak

  • Ali gave some illuminating stats about contributions to the Mozilla project and how that fluctuates over time
  • Lots of info about what motivates people to contribute to open source projects and Mozilla in particular
  • “Being open is no good if nobody can find your resources” – we (Ubuntu) have some fixes to do there

Internet all the things – using curl in your device – Daniel Stenberg

  • This was one of my favourite talks from FOSDEM. Learning how many projects use a simple (hah) tool like curl
  • Even learned about some command line options in curl that I’d not seen or used before.
  • Worth a watch

Living on Mars: A Beginner’s Guide – Ryan MacDonald

  • Fantastic talk to round off FOSDEM 2015. Ryan gave a fast-paced & entertaining talk about the Mars One mission plan and his part in it.

Porting Tizen:Common to open source hardware devices – Phil Coval

  • Another porting talk (to go along with the Jolla one above) specifically talking about porting Tizen to Open Hardware
  • Interesting to hear about the Sunxi community build up around porting

Reached milestones and ongoing development on Replicant – Paul Kocialkowski

  • Fascinating talk detailing what lengths Paul goes to in order to develop a fully Free Software implementation of Android
  • In short, it’s not ‘finished’, and with the limited number of devices it’s possible to ‘open up’ probably won’t be any time soon

GNOME – creating ripples in the Linux eco-system – Sri Ramkrishna

  • I was somewhat disappointed in this talk as it seemed to be billed as showcasing the best of what GNOME have done over the years, but came across as poorly thought through and the points a bit laboured.

Servo (the parallel web browser) and YOU! – Josh Matthews

  • Josh did a great job of showing the state of Servo right now and where gaps exist in the functionality, certainly worth watching for the Servo demo alone

Awesome Community is Awesome

While flash sales, conferences and trade shows happen, the Community Core Apps project rolls forward landing updates and fixes to Ubuntu Phone applications. Some are default apps on the devices bq customers will soon receive, others are easily installable from the click store. All are maintained by a community of Free Software developers. I’m incredibly proud of the work these people are doing and wanted to highlight some recent updates.

As with all the applications below, if you’d like to get involved in design, documentation, testing, translation or just plain writing code either get in contact with me, or with any of the developers listed below. They’re all very nice people.

Weather Reboot

Andrew Hayzen, Victor Thompson and Nekhelesh Ramananthan got together to help Martin Borho reboot the Weather App with new designs created in collaboration with the Canonical Design Team. With a cleaner look, easier to use user interface, and fewer poke-your-eyes-out colour gradients, the new Weather app is coming along nicely!







Doc Viewer

Stefano Verzegnassi has been working hard on the usability and performance in the Doc Viewer. It now directly pulls documents from ~/Documents on the device and can receive files via Content-Hub such as those downloaded in the browser. Rendering performance has been improved, using multi-core page rendering to make use of the grunt in powerful phones. It’s also now possible to manage documents directly in the app, so you can delete files from ~/Documents with a long-press and some taps, no file manager required. There’s also a Table of Contents revealed from a bottom edge swipe, and a new document grid view.










While not currently a default app in devices, it’s in the store and works really well on all Ubuntu devices. Upcoming is a refinement of the full screen reading experience to remove the header and some improvements to document zooming. Longer term we’re also investigating and prototyping support for common office file formats.


Filippo Scognamiglio recently updated the Terminal app to support configurable keyboard overlays. The overlay is a strip above the default OSK (on screen keyboard) which can be populated with keyboard shortcuts or full commands. These are designed to supplement the OSK and allow fast access to complex keyboard combinations or frequently typed commands. The Terminal app ships with a small number of sample keyboard overlays, but it’s easily user-expandable. Filippo blogged about it, read more there. If you create a cool overlay, do share it, and we may include it in a future update as a default. This update is in the store, available to install on Ubuntu devices.




Upcoming is a user interface change to easily switch on and off the keyboard overlays. So you may have 20 installed, but rarely use some, so can easily switch them off so they don’t clutter the main UI. In addition Filippo is working on breaking up the terminal app into a re-usable component to make it easy to ship click packages containing a command line tool and terminal together. So for example a developer could bundle mutt+terminal in a click package in the store. Clearly not a typical use case for many phone users, but it’ll certainly be useful for our early adopter hacker types :)


Kunal Parmar has updated the Calendar app with some nice UI and performance improvements. If you sync events with the Calendar then they should show up quicker in the app than previously. He also implemented the ability to move events around the calendar with a long press and drag. More recently we’ve noticed a couple of crashers which we’re trying to get to the bottom of. Renato has a patch for EDS which seems promising! The latest Calendar update is in the store and available for testing as always.





Calculator Reboot

Riccardo Padovani and Bartosz Kosiorek have been completing work on the Calculator ‘reboot’. We received a new design a while back which has been almost completed. We have some more design changes to make, but we plan to release this version to the store shortly as the default Calculator. You can currently test it by installing “Calculator Reboot” from the click store on your Ubuntu device. Feedback (and bugs) welcome as always.





Michael Zanetti and Riccardo Padovani have been really active with the Reminders app the last few weeks. Many bugs fixed, and a new offline mode for those that don’t want to connect to Evernote. There’s so many improvements which will require some additional QA before we upload to the store which should happen next week. This is a major update which has been a long time coming, and I’ll talk more about that in detail when it’s closer to landing.

Update: This update has landed in the store now!








Dan Chapman and Boren Zhang have been implementing designs provided by the Canonical design team in their Dekko Email app. The changes are coming thick and fast, and if you’d like to test some of the new features, then install the “Dekko (beta)” app from the click store.








Nekhelesh Ramananthan pushed a small but important update to the Clock app recently which makes translatable the cities which are listed in the app. Once that landed we asked the Ubuntu translators if they could kindly translate the 200+ strings. Over night ~30 languages were done with more coming in over the weekend. It never ceases to amaze me how fast and attentive the Ubuntu translation communities are!


A massive thank you to all the developers, designers, testers and translators who have helped improve all of these apps. As always, get in touch if you’d like to get involved!