End-Of-Life Smartphone? Penguins at PostmarketOS aim to revive It

Is your smartphone approaching its end-of-life? If so, the penguins at postmarketOS are working hard to revive it with a new version of their Linux distro. The project is based on the Lomiri smartphone UI, which was previously known as Ubuntu’s Unity 8. It offers X.org and Wayland support and a user interface that is reminiscent of Ubuntu’s Unity 8.

Linux distro for smartphones abandoned by their manufacturers

Many Android users have wondered if they can use Linux to run their end-of-life phones. Fortunately, the answer is yes. PostmarketOS is a Linux distro designed for phones and tablets, which is still in beta. It runs on a variety of devices, including Android-compatible Google Nexus and Amazon Fire HD tablets. Despite its limitations, PostmarketOS offers an appealing alternative to Android.

This new Linux distribution was built using the same SoC as devkit, which made it easy to port the OS onto the device. Its kernel and u-boot source code was identical to those of devkit, so the only changes were to the device package in postmarketOS. The configuration of the u-boot was slightly different, but it was just a matter of selecting the right defconfig during compile time.

X.org and Wayland support

The UI for postmarketOS is similar to that of a normal desktop Linux, except it includes X.org and Wayland support, and it features a wide range of user interfaces, including a plain text console and the Xfce desktop. However, these are not particularly useful on touchscreen-based handheld devices, and users can instead choose from the KDE-based Plasma Mobile and GNOME-based Phosh. Another notable feature of postmarketOS is its support for Simple X Mobile, which is a Linux-based alternative to the popular emulation-based X Window’s user interface.

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The X server provides a basic communication protocol between X clients and a Wayland compositor. Wayland clients must render their window contents to a buffer shareable with the compositor. However, these clients can use specialized libraries to implement this functionality. Besides the X server, Wayland clients can use high-level widget libraries with Wayland support.

Lomiri is based on Ubuntu’s Unity 8

After Ubuntu released Unity8, UBports continued development and renamed the desktop environment to Lomiri. The reason for the change in name is that the Ubuntu package name had many dependencies with “ubuntu” in it. This confusion led packagers to warn users not to package Unity8 packages for Debian. The change will also clear up verbal communication and prevent any confusion with the Unity game engine.

The renaming of Unity8 is not necessary for Ubuntu touch users. It’s simply a name change for an internal component. Developers who have built applications for the Ubuntu Touch operating system may notice a few changes. Lomiri will have the same name as Unity8, but the developer APIs used to build applications will be different. As a result, the new interface and applications will need to be rewritten.