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Open source port-a-thon brings Ubuntu to more phones, tablets

Now runs (badly) on more than just Nexus kit

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Curious to try out Ubuntu Touch but don't have any Nexus kit to install it on? You may soon be in luck, thanks to the efforts of the Ubuntu open source community.

When Canonical launched its new, Linux-based phone and tablet platform on Thursday, it made installation images available for only a few of Google's flagship Nexus devices, including the Nexus 4, 7, 10, and the older Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

On Friday, however, the company kicked off the Ubuntu Touch Port-a-thon, an ongoing effort designed to encourage open source developers to port the OS to as much new hardware as possible.

"We want to port Ubuntu Touch to all kinds of devices," the Ubuntu Touch Porting guide explains. "If you have experience in porting code to Android devices or are generally knowledgeable in terms of porting, working with the Kernel and other core bits and pieces of a distribution, this might be interesting to you."

A number of developers have already taken up the challenge, bringing the list of devices with an Ubuntu port in progress to 24, with more being added steadily.

Ports are now underway for all of the remaining Nexus-class hardware that Canonical passed over, including the Nexus S, Nexus One, and the Motorola Xoom fondleslab. Work is also being done to get Ubuntu running on the non-GSM versions of the Galaxy Nexus for the Sprint and Verizon networks.

In addition, developers are working to produce ports for a variety of non-Nexus kit, including the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S, and Sony Xperia series of handsets; the Samsung Galaxy Note; the LG Optimus 4X; the Huawei Ascend G300; and Asus Transformer and Samsung Galaxy tablets.

Ubuntu Touch borrows much of its kernel-level hardware compatibility code from Android, which means that – in theory, at least – it should be possible to port it to most devices that run Android today.

But there are always hurdles, and so far all of the Port-a-thon ports are in their early stages. The ones that do boot today all have their glitches. Some have UI problems, others lack support for certain hardware features, and still others just run poorly.

Then again, that's not so different from the official ports from Canonical, all of which have problems of their own.

And then there's the issue of what you will do with Ubuntu Touch if you manage to get it running. Many of the features that phone and fondleslab users expect from their devices are either unfinished or absent in this early phase of Ubuntu Touch's development, so if you do install it, you'd better be Linux-savvy.

Meanwhile, European Ubuntu-philes have another easy way to get the OS installed on their supported Nexus devices this week. Canonical engineers are attending the annual Mobile World Conference now underway in Barcelona, and they will be available to flash visitors' hardware with the Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview at the Canonical booth: number 81D30, App Planet Hall 8.1. ®

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