back to article Ubuntu for Android: Penguins peck at Nokia's core problem

Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop might be remembered as the Thomas Watson of our time, based on his remark you don't need quad-core processors for smartphones. "You don't need a quad-core phone unless you want to keep your hands warm in your pocket,” said the Yankee CEO brought in to re-float the Finnish ship. If we’re …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    help help

    Tell me what and why I would use this, smaller words and shorter sentances, pretend I'm a PE teacher.

    1. spencer

      Re: help help

      Android for tablet computing. Ubuntu Desktop for when you plug a monitor and keyboard in.

      Like the Motorola Artrix, but more useful.

    2. PJD

      Re: help help

      You only need to carry around one gadget - your phone completely replaces your laptop or desktop. On the go, you have a phone. When you're around a keyboard & monitor, you have a desktop machine. I've been waiting for the cpu power of phones to get good enough to do this for a while.. This probably isn't it, but in one more generation of gadgets it will be.

      1. Chet Mannly

        Re: Re: help help

        Yeah this would be awesome for travelling, where you mainly do a bit of web surfing, emails, the odd word document etc - except for the monitor part, may as well carry an ultrabook/air as it would be the same size as a monitor.

        Like the concept just not sure how it would work in practice...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: help help

      You would use this when people lock their computers from you, then you can yank out their monitor wire, pull out your Ubuntu Computer-Phone from your pocket, connect it to their monitor & use your own pocket computer.

      & please don't be so condescending towards PE teachers!

  2. James 51 Silver badge


    The Atrix is the first thing that came to my mind as well. Except it might be less ridicously expensive.

  3. alexh2o
    Thumb Down

    Elop wrong?

    Am I the only one who would actually prefer a phone to be just a phone - single core with good battery life over anything more! If I want to do more, I'll use a tablet/laptop/desktop. A smartphone that last more than a day is to me worth 10x the ability to play Crisis on it.

    The closest I've seen to something worthwhile was Nvidia's idea of a powerful multicore coupled to a weak core, so the phone runs on the weak core until it needs more power, then starts up the beefier cores. That could be useful!

    1. spencer

      Re: Elop wrong?

      The advantage of ARM chips is that they don't use battery if you're not using it.

      If you profile your phone energy usage you'll find it's the full length screen that will be eating most of the battery.

      If you don't turn on internet and the massive full length screen all the time then your phone will last longer than a Nokia 3310!

      1. Dr Trevor Marshall

        Re: Re: Elop wrong?

        My rooted, bloatware-stripped, Samsung Galaxy Note uses 1% of battery per hour when sitting on WiFi running GrooveIP. It's got a powerful, responsive, dual CPU -- but no power penalty.

        I hooked it up to an HDMI monitor, Bluetooth mouse and keyboard yesterday. Even Android ain't a bad desktop when displaying on a big monitor, at 1280x800 :)

        I am a happy camper... Maybe Ubuntu can make me happier... Time will tell...

    2. admiraljkb

      Re: Elop wrong?

      I'll tell you, you aren't the only one to just want something "simple" (more subdued?) and trade off performance for battery life. There are days I'd got that route. Almost need a second phone for it. One for heavy duty power usage, one for light duty... The issue is the phone software and expected capabilities required of the "phone" are about to outstrip most everything already available. This is a problem for any anemic single core and even lower clocked dual core devices now. Phones will shortly be expected to virtualize/paravirtualize to keep pace with the BYOD policies in the workplace, where your company's virtual phone will be running on top of your normal phone. (BTW - plus's and minus's there, and depending on which day it is, I'd argue on either side of it).

      Part of the reason I went with T-Mobile was they had the sole availability of a SGSII 1.5Ghz dual core which *should* last me two years. I don't have any confidence that the 1Ghz dual cores will make it that far with what I'm seeing on the horizon, like running a virtual desktop on top of your phone, or a virtual corporate device as part of BYOD. Course by next year I'll probably need a six core with unobtanium batteries to power it. :)

      Anybody remember when phones were used for phone calls? (well, Pepperidge Farms remembers!)

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Elop wrong?

      Elops a fucking idiot. Everyone knows that the number of cores has nothing to do with how much heat it kicks out. TDP is what is responsible for that.

      Right now many of the dual-core phones are 800Mhz and the single cores are 1.4Ghz, and both punch roughly about the same...

      Many of the ARM devices can turn off cores, for example the Tegra3, which has a 5th ultra-low power core for when the device is not doing anything, all the other 4 "proper" cores are all turned off.

      Elop, you really are the wrong man for the job, when Barry Shitpeas can out-talk you technically.

      1. Doug 3

        Re: Re: Elop wrong?

        Elop is stating that single core processors are fine because he bet on an OS which only supports a single core. So he's justifying his poor choice by making stuff up.

      2. Richie 1

        Re: Re: Elop wrong?

        > Elops a fucking idiot.

        He's actually doing the smart thing here, given his situation. Microsoft needed to get an OS with a decent user interface out the door quickly, so they didn't bother supporting multicore in WinPho7.

        Elop needs to sell a lot of WinPho7 devices, so he's using a standard sales FUD technique. Sheer nonsense of course, but if it drives sales Nokia does better, which is what Elop wants.

        If the rumours are true and WinPho8 does support multicore (see, e.g.,,news-14074.html) then Elop will change his argument and declare that multicore technology has improved sufficiently over the last few months to warrant their inclusion in the latest Nokia device.

    4. Wrong ...

      Re: Elop wrong?

      Wrong thinking! Modern Dual-Core, often enough, using LESS power than older single core. And there is a use for multicore on phones. This report is ONLY ONE example !

    5. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Elop wrong?

      "Am I the only one who would actually prefer a phone to be just a phone - single core with good battery life over anything more."

      Well there are literally _thousands_ of models out there that literally just do that. They are called feature phones. I know the distinction between smartphone and feature phone is arbitrary, but feature phone typically are what you seem to want.

      So please stop trying to make smartphones dumber and dumber. If I buy a smartphone, and pay often 10 times as much or more than for a feature phone, I don't want to have a dumbed down device, I want something full featured.

      Of course what I'd really like would be a low power Linux phone with a text console and a keyboard. :) I could live without colour, though I like the screen of my N810 which turns monochrome in reflective mode.

    6. Jess

      Re: Elop wrong?

      Actually I want a phone that *is* a tiny computer. I rarely use the phone function (other than for internet.).

      But one big reason I don't really want an expensive tablet or laptop, is that I get mobile phone insurance with my bank account, not tablet or laptop insurance.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Elop wrong?

      "Am I the only one who would actually prefer a phone to be just a phone"

      Strange then that you've previously posted :-

      "I got an iPhone 3G at launch in 2008, I was out of the 18m contract by the end of 2009, when I got the HTC Hero. I didnt like it and found it vastly inferior to the iPhone, so replaced it with the 3GS after a few months and saw out the 18m contract. Then around the middle of last year I bought a GS2 and a sim only contract - which I gave to my dad when the Lumia launched and I bought that"

      1. alexh2o

        Re: Re: Elop wrong?

        There's some interesting debate going on here and it's nice to read the different sides.

        But I think I should clarify that when I say I want a phone to be a phone, that doesn't mean it shouldn't do things like web browsing, camera, music etc. I just don't see the logic in it booting a full desktop OS and becoming more than a phone...

        I want a *smartphone* that remains just a phone. My sole complaint is this current race to the top in processor power will be coupled with a decrease in the usability of the device as a phone. It's nothing against dual cores, it's just a problem when their performance seems to take preference to battery life.

        I'm still running an old Mesh computer that has a 900MHz Athlon processor and 384MB of RAM, which happily runs Windows XP (albeit slowly- but it's fine for web browsing/emails/document editing). So it just seems to me a smartphone could be optimised to work perfectly on lesser hardware and offer better battery life...

  4. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    I'd buy one.

    1. Drew V.

      Tempting, but I am still going to wait for the all-Ubuntu phone (if and when it arrives). No Android for me, not even to piggy-back on.

  5. Antony Riley

    I wonder if these guys have somehow all moved into an alternate reality where Ubuntu Unity is anything other than unusable and people actually want to use Windows Phone.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Yes, struck me as bizarre that the idiots trying so hard to dumb down desktop Linux think there's any point to this. Ubuntu is rapidly degenerating into something less usable than Android already is.

      1. toadwarrior

        I don't think unity is awesome but maybe you find it unuseable because you can not adapt to change rather than it being broken. It's better for someone to try and innovate even if they fuck up. There after all hundreds of linux distros I'm sure you can live if one goes off experimenting and you find yourself in capable of adapting.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          I could live with that

          If the distro in question was some back-water, experimental, geeky distro that's just great to play with in a virtual machine, but /not/ when it is the one that not only wants to be mainstream, but might, once, have had a chance of competing with the desktop incumbent

        2. JEDIDIAH

          Proprietary vendor nonsense.

          "innovation" is fine so long as it's not forced down everyone's throats. That is the Microsoft way. That's also how Apple does things. Bold experiments are fine so long as they don't trash the status quo. The fact that this is easy to do in Linux is why un-loved aspects of X11 are so handy.

          Defaults should be sane, useful, usable, and represent the widest use case.

          Unix does have some notion of UI guidelines.

          1. Christian Berger Silver badge

            Re: Proprietary vendor nonsense.

            Unix probably has some of the earliest "UI guidlines" in that there is a general concensus that UIs should be separated from the logic, and that if you have UI it shouldn't be captive of possible so you can always control it from another program.

            Unix carries the notion that openes does not stop at the source code, but goes beyond that. An open system also uses open file formats you can process with simple and common tools.

          2. Albert

            Re: Proprietary vendor nonsense.

            <smartarse comment>

            "Defaults should be sane, useful, usable, and represent the widest use case."

            The meaning of sane, useful and usable is open to interpretation. While 'represent the widest use case" means everything should look like Windows.

            </smartarse comment>

            I've been using Ubuntu since 7.04 and you know what Unity works for me after a few minor changes. I dock the apps l use in the Launcher/Panel (what ever it's called). Reduced the size to 32 pixels and disabled auto-hide.

            On the broader topic the great thing about Linux is there is choice, there is flexibility, there is the ability to customise. If you don't like what 1 person provides you can change. Get Lubuntu and forget about Unity.

  6. toadwarrior

    I like the move

    I'd still rather not have android as it's been a pita for me already but I like the move to real linux for phones. If it continues and we get a full fledged ubuntu phone I'll buy that.

    You have to give them credit for at least trying to mainstream Linux even if thing like Unity aren't so great.

    1. admiraljkb

      Re: I like the move

      Unity is OK on a netbook. It falls apart (for me anyway) moving up into larger display Laptop and desktop machines. Other people like it though, so c'est la vie. I personally switched to Kubuntu to escape Unity.

      The way things are headed with convergence, the mobile only OS's like iOS, Android and Winphone are all looking at the end of the line as the desktop versions move over onto the phones and tablets. Apple and the Linux vendors (like Google and Canonical and others) have a head start as they're already running stripped down BSD/OSX and Linux's with different layers running on the top obviously. A full blown OSX or Linux running on the phone with the iOS/Android (respectively) compatibility layer on top isn't out of the question. Microsoft is converging as well. It makes sense to only maintain one code base though.

    2. Ramazan

      the move to real linux for phones

      1. not going to happen anytime soon (not until all GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA and mind you WiFi patents too expire, in any case)

      2. while you wait for this, everyone else buys generations after generations of brave new LTE/gaga/googoo/blahblah iPhones and stuff and your point of reference moves ahead of you, again.

      3. Return to p.1

      1. spencer

        Re: the move to real linux for phones

        1. not going to happen anytime soon (not until all GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA and mind you WiFi patents too expire, in any case)

        Confusing hardware and software I think.

        1. Ramazan


          Voice codecs are patented. They are software. Those are software patents. Even algorithms for background noise generation (during periods of silence), compensating for delay and jitter etcetera are patented.

      2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: the move to real linux for phones

        > not going to happen anytime soon

        Nokia 810 and 900 ran Maemo, a real Linux.

        Nokia N9 and N950 run Meego, a real Linux.

        1. Ramazan

          Maemo, a real Linux

          I didn't own Maemo/Meego device, but I'm pretty sure you don't get all kernel source (with all proprietary GSM/WiFi drivers) and cross-toolchain, so that's not _real_ Linux. Real is GPL, mind you.

  7. admiraljkb

    I'm already running this type of config

    Its *purely* an experiment so far, but truthfully it works quite well on an T-Mobe SGSII T989 OC'd to 1.7Ghz. Give it a quad core and it'd FLY. I used the the Ubuntu Installer app on my rooted device running Juggernaut (along with several manual steps not recommended for normal users). Basically fires up a headless Ubuntu which you then VNC into (from your phone or anything that supports VNC). Not ready for masses yet, but it works and the performance is OK when VNC'd in from my desktop with the resolution set at 1280x800. (performance is merely acceptable if VNC'd in from the device into itself).

    I'm still experimenting with it, but I can see some definite advantages to this being developed further for normal consumption. One I can have my "desktop" literally follow me where ever with REAL desktop apps, except its on my phone. Particularly useful is if you are out and want to check email/ebay/facebook/whatever from a friend's PC (VNC'd into my phone) without pontentially leaving your credentials on their PC. This way your authentication stays on your browser, rather than on the friend's browser. One of the other options is the whole VDI thing from VMWare, but running this sort of thing from an overpowered phone does seem to be a better utilization of resources.

    1. dogged

      Re: I'm already running this type of config

      > "Give it a quad core and it'd FLY for an hour"

      Fixed that for you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: I'm already running this type of config

        ...while its plugged into a dock, power is not an issue.

        laptops have had power management profiles for years to mange just this sort of thing...

        1. admiraljkb

          Re: Re: Re: I'm already running this type of config

          Bingo! Give that AC a prize. :) The other thing is more cores, with a slower clock, and newer manufacturing processes will actually reduce power requirements while increasing performance (if the OS/apps are done correctly). Or more cores with similar clockspeed and newer mfg process has the same power consumption as the device before it, but with turbo'd performance.

          What people forget is the reason for more cores is to maintain and sometimes reduce power consumption while still increasing performance. Adding cores is now the easiest way to boost performance without a power plant next door (or a battery backpack in the case of mobile devices). What the processor mfg's ran into years ago was a near brick wall on single core procs for power consumption/heat dissipation. So they dropped the clock speed and popped another core in for better performance in the same/better power envelope. Elop however is doing what any CEO of a company behind the 8 ball (with obsolete hardware and software) would do and is blowing smoke to keep folks buying current product until the real products (dual/quad core Win8 phones) get released.

  8. gaz 7
    Thumb Up

    I like this idea, and it warms me to Android - been hoping for a successor to my beloved Nokia N900 (best allround device out there). I would still prefer to see a native flashable Linux based OS for these devices.

    Oh, and I may be wierd, but I like unity and Ubuntu and use it on my personal laptop all the time! Windows 7 feels awkward and old fashioned when I use it.

  9. Greg J Preece

    Nice idea, and I genuinely think that a portable personal "core" that you carry and connect to shells tailored for a given task is a possible future of computing.

    That said, quit pissing around and make a smartphone already! Maemo/MeeGo are dead in the water (again), and everyone and their dog's moving to dumbed-down walled-off systems that send a packet back to the manufacturer every time you pick your nose. Canonical making a phone is my last hope for a useful Linux-based device that drops the irritating hardware abstraction, lets me hack it to bits as I see fit, and is actually natively capable of performing advanced tasks and getting things done.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Spark Tablet

      1. Greg J Preece

        Re: Spark Tablet

        Genuinely not being a dick, but that's a tablet. :-p

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nokia had a dual-core Symbian device in the works but canned it a few weeks ago.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > dual-core Symbian

      I can see why they dropped it. I can imagine the salesman with two Nokia devices to sell:

      "Would you like the modern dual core hardware with the obsolete OS or the obsolete single-core hardware with WP7 ?"

      1. dogged

        obsolete single-core

        I have to ask, I mean really.

        Why the HELL is making phone chips more powerful and more thirsty regarded as a good thing? Why would I want to buy more expensive hardware in order to make up for the failings of a crufty and poorly optimized OS?

        In my little word, software needing more powerful horsepower is a bad thing. Your mileage clearly varies.

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: obsolete single-core

          > more powerful and more thirsty

          If you are stuck with single-core, as WP7 phones are, then more powerful is more thirsty. But multi-core does not necessarily mean more thirsty. Cores can go idle which saves battery, but only to a certain degree. With multi-core then some cores can be completely turned off while the one remaining can be put to idle. With a quad-core, instead of 50-60% saving, you could get 75% plus 50-60% of 25%.

          This is part of the reason that some phones last for days while Nokia WP7s seem to last less than a day.

          The other thing is that multi-cores do not need to be symmetric. There can be one or more fast core plus one or more slower but highly efficient core that idles at much lower levels of usage (plus a GPU for example). An OS that supports this (WP7 does not) could switch in whatever is needed at the time and thus may be blazing fast when required and yet have long battery life.

          1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

            Re: Re: obsolete single-core

            That doesnt address the main point both Elop and others are making us this core race is being driven not by any user need but by a poorly crafted bloated OS. It's patently obvious that out of the 4 main smartphone OSes Android is by far the most demanding on the hardware.

            1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

              Re: Re: Re: obsolete single-core

              > obvious .. Android is by far the most demanding on the hardware

              It is not 'obvious' that this is the case. It may be obvious that Android can handle more powerful, more varied, and more featureful hardware.

              While an Android phone may have dual 800MHz a WP7 (such as Nokia 800) has 1.4GHz single (because it can't handle more than a single core).

              Android can reduce its battery usage by using dual, or more, cores by switching some off and idling the lower speed cores, which increases the battery life.

              WP7 phones (single core) are made obsolete by MS talk of dual core 'SuperPhone' and WOA (and thus implied WP8) which _requires_ dual core.

              I noticed that some recent phones are qHD at 960 x 540 which makes it easier to upscale and downscale (and thus should be _much_ less demanding). WP7 is locked to only 320x480 or 800x480 (by MS directive and WP7 capability) which makes HD especially demanding on rescaling. This is supposed to be fixed by 'SuperPhone' (which also makes current WP7 phones obsolete).

              1. dogged

                Re: Re: Re: Re: obsolete single-core

                I thought this was about shoddy OS implementation driving ever hungrier chips. And you know as well as I do that all you fat dual-core smartphones guzzle juice like an American economy car.

                The continued "WP7 is shit because it doesn't support hardware you shouldn't need" thing is getting pretty old, dude. As well as not really relevant.

                1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: obsolete single-core

                  > The continued "WP7 is shit because it doesn't support hardware you shouldn't need" thing is getting pretty old, dude. As well as not really relevant.

                  Whether WP7 is shit or not is independent of how many cores it supports, and hasn't been discussed. However, support for multi-cores can have a beneficial effect on the battery, as pointed out with good reasons.

                  It seems to be that it is the 1.4MHz single-core that guzzles juice:

                  """The Nokia 800 ... it has had its fair share of issues regarding battery life and audio and camera quality."""


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