After the Android port for the HD2, developers are working on the port of Ubuntu, a Linux operating system for desktop computers and laptops. Beside the computer version, Ubuntu is also being offered for machines with an ARM architecture for some time now. However, Ubuntu had also to be adapted to the special hardware of the smartphone.
The HTC Linux community now offers their second built of Ubuntu for the HD2. At the moment, there are drivers for the touchscreen, the Wi-Fi and the phone including 3G communication. There is, however, no audio driver and therefore no sound, even not in calls. It also includes USB host drivers, which support mass storage, audio and networking devices.
On my phone, the boot process lasts 86 seconds until the desktop and its icons appear. The build uses its own Wi-Fi software (Wicd). You can switch between portait and landscape mode and access the Micro SD card. There is also an onscreen keyboard for text inputs.
As Ubuntu has its own software center, you can install virtually any program being offered. You can, of course, also install software which comes in a .deb archive and is compatible with the ARM processor. The build comes with Firefox, Evolution, GIMP and OpenOffice.org. Below, you see the loading / reaction times of several programs / actions and some pictures:
|Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, GNOME 2.28.1||loading of the entire system||86 seconds|
|Mozilla Firefox 3.5.3||web browser||10 seconds (without loading a page)|
|Mozilla Fennec||leight-weight web browser||8 seconds (without loading a page)|
|Midori 0.1.9||leight-weight web browser||7 seconds (without loading a page)|
|GIMP||image editor||26 seconds|
|Scribus 220.127.116.11svn||desktop publishing||20 seconds|
|Evolution 2.28.1||personal information manager||15 seconds|
|AbiWord 2.6.8||word processor||7 seconds|
|OpenOffice.org Writer 3.1||word processor||36 seconds|
|Audacity 1.3.9||sound editor||9 seconds|
|Ubuntu Software Center||software directory||12 seconds|
|Switching from portrait to landscape mode and vice versa (graphical user interface must be reloaded)||40 seconds|
Ubuntu on a HTC HD2 with dynamic CPU clock rate and a Class 2 16 GB Micro SD card
The speed of Ubuntu can be compared with an eight year old laptop. The further development might bring some speed increase due to better hardware support, but also by disabling unimportant services or choosing other software. Beside Ubuntu, a look at a leight-weight operating system, for example Xubuntu, might also be worth it.
But you should not expect wonders. Another big problem is the usability: Ubuntu was designed to be handled by a mouse. A smartphone with a resistive touchscreen and a stylus would also be possible. But as capacitive displays can only be handled by a finger, it is extremly difficult to hit small icons, menus or keys on the onscreen keyboard.
Nevertheless, I am already looking forward to test the next HD2 Ubuntu build, which is going to be based on Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat).