Episode 29

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
  • Ubuntu Developer Summit
  • Tizen Developer Conference

Mark Hatch and Peter Mui

Intro: Welcome to Integrated Computer Solution’s “This Week in Qt,” the podcast that keeps you informed of significant events that may impact your engineering projects. ICS is unleashing the power of modern devices with the best independent team of Qt developers in the world. Whether you are starting a new embedded or mobile multi-touch project, or need help solving a Qt development challenge, please contact us at sales@ics.com. To learn more about ICS, please visit our website at www.ics.com.

Mark: Hi this is Mark Hatch and I run the Qt business here at ICS. This week in Qt we’re joined by Peter Mui, one of our people out in California who had a recent opportunity to attend a couple of big conferences in the San Francisco Bay area, one of which was the Tizen conference and the other was the Ubuntu Developer Summit.

So Peter, what was the scene like at both conferences

Peter: So before we go there maybe I can give you just a bit of history about the two conferences and the people that attend them. So there was the Ubuntu Developer Summit that was a big conference that Ubuntu holds annually. I think they hold one in the United States, and one in Europe. And for those of you who aren’t familiar, Ubuntu is this very, very storied Linux distribution started by Mark Shuttleworth from South Africa. It’s very, very popular and it’s been going on for years and years. So to have the conference in the San Francisco Bay area… the Ubuntu Developers Summit was a big deal.

The Tizen conference has less of a history. Tizen is this alliance between Samsung and Intel. It’s now a Linux Foundation project that was started I don’t know, about six months ago. It was announced at the AppUp conference that Intel had in Seattle. And they’ve been working largely among themselves to try and develop a standard for this new Linux version that’s being hosted by the Linux Foundation for them. So the conferences were very, very different. At the Ubuntu conference, there were a bunch of people there who have worked together for years and years on various aspect of Ubuntu, and because it’s been going on for so long, they kind of know each other. Another thing is that it’s London-based. Ubuntu is sort of overseen by Canonical, which is a company that Mark Shuttleworth founded. It’s very interesting to see all of these people from Europe come over to the United States. They know each other and they’ve all been working together for years and years. It’s very much a t-shirt, hacker kind of crowd, and they know what they are doing going forward. In contrast to the Tizen conference over in San Francisco which was a lot of people in suits, and a lot of Asian people; all of the Korean’s from Samsung where there in large force all around the conference.

M: How about technical versus implementation and specs? What else is going on with the topics they were addressing?

P: So, at the Ubuntu conference you could tell that people had there favorite aspects of Ubuntu, or the ones that they had been working on for a long time, and they drilled down to work on all sorts of low-level issues. There was very much a non-conference kind of feel to the Ubuntu conference. New presentations would pop up spontaneously based on the outcome of a previous workshop or session that had just occurred. There was actually something I had hoped to go to on Thursday that I didn’t even know existed until Wednesday afternoon! So that sort of thing was happening there. The Tizen conference seemed kind of scripted. There weren’t a lot of sessions and content that was spontaneous, and the stuff that was there, a lot of it wasn’t directly related to Tizen. For example, there was a session on IVI security which was very general, and it didn’t speak to various specifics about how Tizen would implement IVI security, it was just broad strokes about why IVI security is important.

M: You know it’s strange because we don’t normally think of Ubuntu or Tizen as being specifically Qt related. Can you describe for our audience what the connection actually is here?

P: Oh sure. So what’s happening in Ubuntu is that about a year and a half ago, Canonical announced that they were moving away from… for the longest time they had been using the GNOME Shell and the GTK toolkit, obviously, for working with GNOME. Over time, Ubuntu had developed this unity interface. They saw the need to move the Ubuntu user interface paradigm away from the desktop to something that could be more broadly applied across tablets and touch screen devices like phones and stuff like that. So they developed this thing called Unity, and they used Qt to develop it. And so about a year and a half ago, they started including the Qt libraries with the distribution. They other thing that also happened was that Nokia changed it’s licensing, so that basically Qt had an LGPL licensing, and there was a major objection to it in the open source community, obviously, to adopting it prior to that. So what you see going on at the Ubuntu conference is sort of the ascendancy of Qt over GTK. I mean, you still have the people who have been around forever who are grumbling about “they shouldn’t move,” and they prefer the GTK and the GNOME interface better, but you see Canonical and Ubuntu moving very quickly toward a Qt-type environment. One of the cool things they showed there for example was a phone. I think it’s a Motorola phone that docks into a dock, and as soon as you dock it into the dock it moves all of your stuff to an Ubuntu based desktop. So, assuming you have a large display and a keyboard connected to this dock, your phone seamlessly goes back and forth between the Ubuntu desktop and Android that’s running on the phone. So if your phone rings while you are in the middle of your desktop experience, you can just lift the phone out of the dock, and put it up to your head and start talking. At the Tizen conference… when Intel announced Tizen at the AppUp conference last November, they claimed there would be absolutely no migration path for the existing Qt users who were working with the previous incarnation which was MeeGo, it turns out though that had been previous commitments made to various outsiders about Qt support going forward, specifically in the IVI arena. So at the Tizen conference you did see the Tizen IVI stuff talking about Qt related issues. That also said, they distributed a reference platform, a Tizen piece of hardware that they wanted people to develop to, and already the community has ported Qt 4.8 to it. So it looks like you will be able to do Qt development on Tizen whether it’s officially sanctioned or not.

M: That’s interesting. Where there any interesting touch screen user interfaces or mobile developments? You mentioned the one example of the Android phone connecting to the Unbuntu desktop. What else is going on?

P: Yeah that was very interesting. There is this thing in the Ubuntu community that I am personally interested in and kind of leading the charge with, which is that right now, Ubuntu just released Ubuntu 12.04, which is their latest long term support release. And this was just released in the last month. And they don’t really have a process for… you have touch screen devices and tablets that are moving very quickly now in the commercial space, Ubuntu says they are not going to support touch screen, or actually they phrase it another way. They say that touch screen will be fully supported by Ubuntu 14.04, long term support, which is two years from now. And that’s way too late, in my opinion. So there was a lot of interest at the Ubuntu conference, and it wasn’t official, it wasn’t from Canonical, it was from people there about trying to move touch screen device stuff and tablet device stuff faster, because in our opinion the market can’t wait. And it would be wonderful to have 3rd party open-source alternatives available to Android and iOs. So there were touch screen tablets there running the various Ubuntu touch screen interfaces as they exist now. For example, KDE’s Plasma Active, Ubuntu Unity running on tablets, Kubuntu running the Plasma Active interface, there was the MeeGo and WeTab interface there. But there was also a new and interesting piece of hardware. There is this 3rd party, small hardware manufacturer called ZaReason here in Berkley that was there showing a new tablet they’ve come out with called the ZaTab. And they would like to release it with Ubuntu software running on it, and so they were working very ,very hard with people there trying to get something… some sort of touch screen UI running on their tablet. They’ve given a couple of them away to key developers in the KDE space, and so there is this hope that it will be running a weird kind of hybrid. It will be running Ubuntu on the underside which is the KDE version which is Kubuntu, and it will be running the KDE Plasma Active interface on top. So that’s very promising and I hope that it comes out sooner rather than later.

M: Now the plasma desktop is written using Qt, correct?

P: Correct that’s my understanding. So that’s definitely good new for those of us that care about Qt stuff.

M: Excellent. I can’t wait. It will be so nice… we have so many customers that come to us and they have some specialized tablet that they want developed for their application. Often times in the medical area. But they still want to be able to browse and to be able to do email when they’re not using the tablet for the medical or the FDA certified part of the process. So having an open source tablet without some of the overhead and constraints of either iOs or Android… there has got to be a market for that.

P: Right, and this piece of hardware is actually really nice. It’s got the same 4x3 format as the iPad, it has 10-14 hours battery life. I actually saw it running full-motion video for hours and hours and hours on end. It has a full complement of expandability and ports, so it’s a very promising piece of hardware too. You are not in a closed system like you would be in the iOs world, yet you have all the other benefits of having that nice lightweight tablet.

M: So how do you spell the tablet? What is the companies name so you can go google it?

P: Ok, so ZaReason is Z A R E A S O N, so like reason with za in front of it. And the tablet itself is ZaTab, Z A T A B. If you just type ZaTab into Google, or Bing or any search engine, it’s unique enough that it should come up very quickly.

M: Cool. I’ll do that when I get back to my desk.

So there was another event in the San Francisco Bay area last week. What was that?

P: Oh yeah, yeah, so this is a different subject, but somewhat related. It was the Maker Faire, and the wonderful thing about the Maker Faire for those of you who don’t know about it our haven’t attended it, there is this whole maker culture that’s coming up in the United States these days, and Maker Faire is the holy grail of events. It’s this large thing that’s put on at the San Mateo fairgrounds out here on the peninsula. It’s kind of like Burning Man, without the sand and the naked people! But it’s a place where all these hackers and makers come to show all these cool things they’ve done like fire-breathing fire engines and stuff like that. And the Raspberry Pi is this new device that ICS is very deeply involved in. It’s this really cool credit card sized computer that has a 700 MHz ARM processor on it, it has full HDMI 1080p video out, it has 2 USB ports, it has Ethernet, and it has an SD card slot, so whatever operating system you put in the SD card slot, you just stick it in there and it boots. It has a bunch of other places you can do I/O, and drum roll… it costs a whopping $35. So everyone is excited about this. Apparently there are back orders of hundreds of thousands of these. Anyway, the Raspberry Pi was there, along with the Raspberry Pi founder from the U.K., Evan Upton. The Raspberry Pi foundation, their whole goal is to distribute these low-cost devices so they can accelerate programming education among children in the developing world. That’s their ultimate goal. But what they’ve done, is they’ve essentially come up with this wonderful low cost hackers device that has the potential to usurp any number of higher cost competitors like the PandaBoard or the BeagleBoard and then the low cost device of favor for the last little bit has been this thing called the Arduino. Right now the Raspberry Pi is new. It doesn’t have the Arduino’s expansion kits. There is a whole bunch of 3rd party stuff that expands Arduino to do all sorts of analog interfaces into the real world. Those aren’t quite there for the Raspberry Pi yet, but Evan Upton was here and showing it off, so there’s a lot of excitement about that. So the reason why that’s Qt related is because Qt runs on this sucker. So it’s gonna be really great to have these things out in the wild, as a low cost development platform for doing all sorts of Qt development. ICS is currently working with Intel’s Octo group. The Octo project at Intel is this very interesting project to roll-your-own Linux for all these various ARM and other types of processors, and ICS is working with them to try and get a combination of the Octo Linux and Qt 5 running on the Raspberry Pi. But there are lots of other initiatives working right now to get Qt running on the Raspberry Pi as well. There is the official Nokia Qt on Pi project as well. So that’s very exciting, and we’re starting to see the Raspberry Pi’s and they are starting to emerge right now.

M: One of the things that past listeners of our podcast probably remember is that the key thing about the release of Qt that’s running on Raspberry Pi is that it is a prerelease of Qt 5 which mean that it’s on Scene Graph, so that goes right to OpenGL and that allows you to get acceleration very easy, and I was amazed, we demonstrated these boards at one of the DevDays and the speed of video display was just amazing for a $30 chip. I mean, it was literally what you would expect to pay hundreds of dollars for and it was this $35 little board, and it’s just amazing. Also, one of the reasons why you should keep track of the “This Week in Qt” podcast, is that we told you originally, a long time ago, they said there was going to be 10,000 Raspberry Pi phase one’s produced, and I said to Justin when we talked about this, I said you know what, you better make sure you set your alarm because those things are going to be gone in a heartbeat. And the last count I saw was that there were over 300,000 back orders, and that was last week. I bet you there is over 400,00 back orders now for Raspberry Pi among all the distributors. So it’s very exciting and certainly a chip that people are getting very excited about. ICS is working with the Qt project and has helped sponsor that with providing additional Raspberry Pi boards to help kick start all the different projects there. And another thing that’s happening with Raspberry Pi is that there’s now a patch board coming out and I saw something the other day about a camera that was also going to be attached to the Raspberry Pi. And I have a sense there is one other board that I’m not thinking about that ‘s now available. These are some pretty exciting things.

So Peter, it was an exciting week for conferences in the Bay Area wasn’t it.

P: Yeah it was great. It was just wonderful all around for people interested in Qt development. This was a great week, with a lot of stuff announced and a lot of stuff to catch up on.

M: Yeah I think one of the things that people can take away is the fact of how pervasive Qt is. None of these conferences were directly related to Qt, but yet all of them had a strong underlying, so it’s become part of the base. It’s become part of the base for Ubuntu. Even though Tizen tried to divorce themselves from it, they can’t get away from it. And the Maker and Raspberry Pi? It’s right front and center.

P: Absolutely.

M: Well thank you Peter! We appreciate it and I hope everybody enjoyed this episode. It was a little different from what we normally do. We look forward to having you guys join us again with ‘This Week in Qt’ next time.