Status update 2020-11-15
#1
Hello!

Saying that the past few weeks have been a bit chaotic would be an understatement, but this is finally coming to an end! So, what happened?

First of all, we transitioned the kernel from 5.8 to 5.9. While this should normally be a minor upgrade, it turned into a nasty transition period, as we took the opportunity to get rid of some technical debt and make the whole system more future-proof:
  • We replaced our home-cooked boot process and kernel upgrade system with 'u-boot-menu': this widely used, well-tested debian package generates a boot menu file (in extlinux format) that can be used directly by u-boot, and makes sure to do so everytime a kernel image is (un)installed. This will avoid future issues with kernel upgrades (as we encountered during the 5.7 -> 5.8 upgrade, where the new kernel would be installed, but still boot on the old one) and allows persistent command-line customization
  • Our metapackages and tweaks were almost completely refactored in order to build upon a few new debian packages (meta-phosh & mobile-tweaks), and make future evolutions easier and more stable, and prepare for inclusion in Debian
  • The build recipes were also fully reworked to get rid of code duplications, and ease adding support for other devices and, over time, desktop environments
To be honest, I was surprised to see how many people were using Mobian, as we got a number of bug reports from people not reading this forum nor following the Matrix channel, which made this whole transition much more painful to many than I had anticipated. I apologize for that, and rest assured this shouldn't happen again. Nevertheless, I deemed this transition a "necessary evil", as it allowed us to make sure Mobian was now built on much more solid foundations, which will hopefully make such transitions in the future unnecessary.

The latest kernel brings some major improvements:
  • Improved audio quality during calls
  • Fixed the display clocks, making USB-C video output more reliable
  • Fixed the internal display refresh rate
  • And obviously, a number of upstream kernel fixes and improvements
On top of that, we also initiated and released, in close cooperation with Purism, a new audio routing daemon, which is device-agnostic and only relies on proper ALSA UCM profiles being available. As upstream 'calls' switched to using 'callaudiod' since version 0.1.9, we no longer need to patch 'wys' or 'calls' itself (actually, we don't need 'wys' at all on PinePhone).
This is a contribution we're very proud of, as it was a missing piece in the telephony stack, allowing different devices (PinePhone and Librem 5) to run the same exact software, automatically dealing with hardware differences.

The PineTab obviously benefitted from most of these improvements, with a few extra ones:
  • Automatic recognition of "docked" mode with the optional keybard attached
  • Better sizing of squeekboard, the on-screen keyboard, in both portrait and landscape mode
  • Default phosh orientation is now landscape mode
For the next few weeks, we'll switch our focus to more groundwork, and might use some help for the following:
  • Upload mobian metapackages and tweaks into Debian; this requires also packaging a few extra dependencies for Debian, but once this is all done, this will further reduce the number of packages maintained in a separate repo, and allow us to benefit from the automatic unstable->testing transitions (with the ability to block the transition if a bug is detected)
  • Implement a userspace power management daemon, based on megi's modem power driver
  • Work on the on-device installer and full disk encryption
Finally, we promoted the Friday 13th build as our new reference release, based on encouraging feedback from users.

We highly recommend that you reflash this release (or a more recent nightly build) instead of trying to upgrade. Upgrading from a build older than 20201113 will bring you into "unsupported and likely to break things" territory, and you'll be on your own here.

Hope you enjoy this new release anyway Smile
  Reply
#2
Thanks for the lengthy update post, @a-wai! 20201113 was the first Mobian build I flashed (right after giving the pre-flashed Manjaro a test run), not knowing that I had come in at the end of a storm. Big Grin

First thing I noticed is that the modem takes significantly longer to wake up (after CRUST kicks in?), before the 7th ring as opposed to before the 3rd ring on Manjaro. Could it be that Manjaro implements the power saving firmware differently or perhaps not as aggressively? Both Manjaro and Mobian have "Automatic suspend" in the Settings app set to 5m.
EDIT: I spoke too soon, it was the fact that I had Manajro on the eMMC and Mobian on SD; just tried Mobian on eMMC, 3 rings like Manajro.
EDIT 2: 2nd try after leaving the phone on my desk for an hour or so, about 5 rings before the modem finally woke up. Makes me wonder whether there are different levels of suspend, at least for the modem...

From your post, I'm interested in the following point:
Quote:For the next few weeks, we'll switch our focus to more groundwork, and might use some help for the following:
  • Implement a userspace power management daemon, based on megi's modem power driver
I don't have any experience with kernel driver development (or much programming at all), I'm just a Linux power user with a PinePhone. Big Grin Is there any way people like me could assist in this? Is there a dev channel where I could follow discussions and at least help with debugging?

Thanks for all your work!
  Reply
#3
@a-wai - first things go first - thanks for your work ! As I said in a different thread - Mobian is the most stable OS for pinephone as for now.

Don't be surprised how many people use it - just take a look at "Pinephone Software" section on the forum - "Debian on PinePhone" has almost twice as much posts as it's closest contender - UBPorts Smile

One question - if Plasma, in the future, matures - are you planning also Plasma edition of Mobian ?
  Reply
#4
(11-15-2020, 10:23 AM)a-wai Wrote: ...

Hope you enjoy this new release anyway Smile

Oh yes - thank you Big Grin

Went for last night nightly despite the temptation of Friday 13th version - not sure if it is Schwabian or just Porsche belief that it is very lucky? Certainly as long as Ferry Porsche was around I believe all their major facilities opened on a Friday 13th.
* ROCKPro64 v2.1 2GB, 16Gb eMMC for rootfs, SX8200Pro 512GB NVMe for /home, HDMI video & sound, Bluetooth keyboard & mouse. Started Bionic minimal - now "focal", Openbox desktop for general purpose daily PC.
* PinePhone v1.2a 2/16Gb playing with Mobian/Phosh
* PinePhone BraveHeart now v1.2b 3/32Gb daily driver with Arch/f2fs/Phosh
  Reply
#5
Nice work with Mobian for the Pinetab, certainly better than UBports atm.

Is it possible to use all of the gsettings, e.g. changing trackpad and scrolling?

Also, is it a good idea to use zram with Mobian? I tried that on my previous install, but not sure if it helped.

The standard web browser seems broken. I thought it had to do with my previous Mobian install, but the problem remains after reflashing. Page loads, but browser window is blank.

Thanks for working on this!
  Reply
#6
Has anybody taken the stable 11/13 and updated through the SW center today? Still booting/running OK?
  Reply
#7
(11-16-2020, 10:21 AM)vandys Wrote: Has anybody taken the stable 11/13 and updated through the SW center today?  Still booting/running OK?

I tested software centre, but it did nothing. It acted as if it was doing the update, but actually didn't do anything. I then went into shell and did an "apt update" and the "apt upgrade" ... no issues, even rebooted okay.

To confirm, this was using the 11/13 reference image.
  Reply
#8
Phenomenal Work!
You can find me on IRC, Discord and Twitter


  Reply
#9
Great job!! I can't wait to try the new image, probably this time on the eMMC and see how it goes. We are close to have an almost usable phone with Debian, I can't believe it! I am waiting for the Debian Community Edition!IIf only I could help in any way, but I'm more a passionate person than a power user
  Reply
#10
Thank you
I manage to use Japanese input system, IBus-mozc on the new image. 
BTW, bluetooth isn't recognized at all in my pinetab. Is it software problem or my  hardware problem?
  Reply


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