back to article Canonical: Flutter now 'the default choice for future desktop and mobile apps'

With an aim to expand the Linux app ecosystem, Ubuntu desktop engineering manager Ken VanDine has popped up in marketing material for Flutter to say that Google's cross-platform framework is Canonical's "default choice for future desktop and mobile apps". Flutter is a framework using the Dart language that targets Android, iOS …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I stopped using Ubuntu just before the Unity debacle...and they still don't seem to have a clue what they're doing. If they're so keen to be in the pockets of Google and/or Amazon why don't they just drop the pretence and be honest about it?

    There isn't anything wrong per se with a distro making these connections, but it's annoying when they still carry the "Humanity" and "caring" labels which increasingly don't seem to apply.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      They are just pulling a page out of Google's "Do no evil" manifesto....

      1. jake Silver badge

        Canonical should get with the times, then ... Alphagoo dropped the "do no evil" thing like a hot rock years ago. Seems it got in their way. I guess even the evil among us have ethics of a sort.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ubuntu really doesn't want to succeed on the desktop, do they? Constantly fiddling with incompatible and barely beta quality software that they shovel down users' throats.

    The first thing I do with an Ubuntu system is install *stock* Gnome and Mate. I *despise* Canonical's home grown desktop. For that matter, the vast majority of the UI components they developed in-house have been sloppy and bug-ridden, and it is long past time they started addressing such issues.

    For example, try installing Ubuntu Server on a box, and then try to upgrade to use the NVidia drivers. You can't, because the network management stack isn't supported by Ubuntu's desktop code. There is absolutely no technical reason it can't be done other than Canonical incompetence and slopiness.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Be nice to Canonical! They are doing their best to emulate Industry Standards, taking their lead from Microsoft. Is it any wonder they have been lead astray?

    2. guyr

      try installing Ubuntu Server on a box, and then try to upgrade to use the NVidia drivers.

      Why would you be installing NVidia drivers on a server box? Typically, servers don't employ graphical tools.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: try installing Ubuntu Server on a box, and then try to upgrade to use the NVidia drivers.

        I don't thing you do the same things with servers as the other guy. Maybe you've not heard GPU's can do more than drive your desktop GUI.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: try installing Ubuntu Server on a box, and then try to upgrade to use the NVidia drivers.

          The real problem with Ubuntu, both Desktop and Server, is that Canonical has done a sh*tty job documenting their systems, "cleverly" relying on crowdsourcing solutions like AskUbuntu (StackExchange with an orange theme) to fool users into thinking they've actually got it covered.

          You can in fact install NVIDIA drivers on Ubuntu Server, but it takes a lot of prep. A. Lot. Of. Prep. Out of the box (or off the torrent), Ubuntu Server is barely suitable for a virtual, let alone bare metal, server. With each release my personal list of "stuff that needs to be removed/added/fixed" grows exponentially. About the only thing Canonical has got better at in both their desktop and server releases is in making it harder to find reliable workarounds for the things that require workarounds.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: try installing Ubuntu Server on a box, and then try to upgrade to use the NVidia drivers.

            Why would you want NVIDIA drivers on a server? Most of my servers are headless, and don't have any kind of graphics card or GUI installed. Less to go wrong, cheaper, lower power requirements, what's not to like?

  3. cardich

    "if it's worth building a native app, it's worth building it properly, including an individual experience design for that platform."

    Build 6 different experience designs? Do you call this common sense? And who's paying the cost?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >Build 6 different experience designs?

      Don't see the problem, yes there is a cost to it, however, we managed it back in the 70's thru to 90's using more limited toolsets than are available today... Suggest if modern developers can't handle itthen it speaks volumes about their coding abilities...

      Now whether it is cost-effective and who is willing to pay that is a different question and yes downward pressure on costs means companies will want to build once for all platforms, but then expect to get the daftness of TIFKAM across all devices.

    2. thames

      Precisely, that is exactly the issue. The problem is that a lot of developers are writing for mobile first, with desktop as a secondary target. Ubuntu are bowing to the reality that if they want to get more application developers to port their apps to Linux then they need to offer development tools that those developers are familiar with on phones and tablets rather than expect them to learn all new ones for desktop.

      Right now a lot of cross-platform stuff is being written in things like Electron, which is rather sub-optimal to say the least. Flutter sounds better than Electron, although I haven't tried it yet.

      Ubuntu have been writing a new installer using Flutter to replace the two separate ones they use for Server and Desktop. They will do the same for some of their other system management GUI tools.

      I plan on giving it a try some time soon before passing actual judgment on it.

  4. Palpy

    I give Canonical some credit --

    -- for creating an exceptionally vigorous and popular (for Linux) branch on the Debian tree. Mint, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Zorin, Kodachi, Trisequel, etc. Snap application packaging, too, which at least occasionally keeps an install from dropping through the Earth's crust into dependency hell.

    I never much liked the stock Ubuntu desktops. But perhaps -- as similarly mentioned about Stallman in another comment thread -- it takes a brainstorming organization to breach some barriers, while more staid and thoughtful ones consolidate and refine the new territory.

    Maybe the Fluttery subject at hand will turn out to be a useful branch on the application development tree.

    Or not.

  5. Dave 15

    Swapped from Microsoft for a reason

    The security was a headach but the real downer was waiting for everything. 20 or more minutes to do a bloody directory listing,hours to start up and shut down. Performance is required not negotiable

    1. daflibble

      Re: Swapped from Microsoft for a reason

      Was this on a 386 with 4MB RAM trying to run windows 95 by any chance?

  6. jake Silver badge

    Develop once for multiple targets?

    Where have I heard that before?

    I have this bridge for sale, one owner, lightly used, in great condition. Offered as is, where is. Any reasonable offer will be considered.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flutter, my pretties, fly!

    Why do I have the horrible feeling that anything developed with Flutter will be just stuffed to the waterline with multiple varieties of spyware cruft to phone home to the GRUgle base... ....sorry, lack of buzzword compliance, I mean "will include helpful telemetry to 'deliver a better user experience'"?

    Who watches the watchers, and who compiles the compilers?

  8. Warm Braw

    Successful applications such as...

    Much as I'm a fan of Audacity and a regular user of LibreOffice, I wouldn't have singled them out as exemplars of UI design. Though perhaps that's why they work reasonably well cross-platform: the UI is good enough, but not so good that the "uncanny valley" is much apparent.

    And there's the chicken and egg problem - it may well not be worth developing a fully-native UI until there is a demand on a particular platform but you won't get the demand unless you have something that will run on that platform. A cross-platform UI toolkit maybe what gets a chicken across the road.

    More intractable, I think, is trying to have a cross-device approach to desktop/tablet/mobile even if, notionally the same platform lurked beneath.

  9. anonanonanonanonanon

    Cross platform ok. Same interface for Desktop/Mobile, not so much

    I'm very dubious of cross platform solutions that attempt to cross the divide between mobile and desktop, they tend to do both badly and encourage almost exclusive desktop developers to think mobile devices are just like desktops with smaller screens.

    1. Daniel Pfeiffer

      Re: Cross platform ok. Same interface for Desktop/Mobile, not so much

      One place where that's gone wrong, is Apple's mouse. While I like its swipe-to-scroll hardware, they've got the direction wrong. On a phone, swiping feels natural, because I grab the virtual paper and push it around. But on a pointing device, which is far from the screen, that's startling. On the rare occasions I use one, I have to concentrate on doing it counterintuitively.

      Maybe there's no right or wrong here. Apple takes a document-centric perspective, while I prefer my first-person one, rolling the mouse-wheel in the direction I want to look…

      Unrelated to mobile, a similar ancient problem is Windows' click-to-point and raise-when-activated. Both do not reflect the real world, but have sadly been sheepishly copied by many Linux desktops, and been made the hard to change default!

      If I point at a picture on the wall, you'll know I mean that picture – no need to go and tap on it. Why then are desktops hiding the focus-follows-mouse option so well?

      Likewise, if I have several papers on my desk, the one I'm reading may be partially buried. I'll move it as needed, which will not make it magically jump on top. That's where I have and keep the notepad I'm writing on. Why then again are desktops hiding the raise-when-focused (=false) option so well?

      OTOH, at work we use Outlook 365. It's the sole app where I do want the notifier to pop up on top. Alas it does not, if I forgot to close the previous appointment. That buggy crap has made me late to some meetings already. :-( And even when it does remember to pop up, the above nuisance of an untimely click elsewhere may immediately bury it unnoticed…

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Cross platform ok. Same interface for Desktop/Mobile, not so much

        There's a free (?) Windows utility called "AutoHotkey" - originally written for games keystroke macros, but I use it for certain tasks where I want one window to stay on top, but maybe out of the focus, while I work in another.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Cross platform ok. Same interface for Desktop/Mobile, not so much

        Re: UI/UX issues: Apple mouse and Windows 'focus'

        There was much debate back in the 1980's and early 90's (Windows 3) around how these basic features should work and which was 'normal'.

        It irritates me that after Win3 MS locked the window furniture into the layout we still see today in W10 21H2. Being lefthanded, I found it useful when using a lefthanded mouse to have the top right buttons on the top left and the vertical scroll bar also on the left. Also there really is no reason why I should be limited to only having tabs across the top of a window, I should be able to have them at the side or at the bottom.

        From memory the SunView system made the window the mouse was hovering over the focus, however you had to click on it to bring it to the front. This assisted cut-and-paste operations, but could lead to problems with people who didn't practise good mouse control - who could find themselves typing in the wrong window.

        I get the strong impression that UI/UX design based on cognitive research was largely dead in the early 2000s, certainly, MS ceased any real science-based UI/UX innovation when they reset (aka killed) Windows Longhorn in 2004 and commenced work on Vista.

        But as you point out, what is intuitive on a mobile can be very different from a mouse and desktop.

  10. gedw99

    Been using flutter for web and desktop and mobile and rasp pi.

    It’s been great

  11. jimmy-o

    I'll pass

    I evaluated Flutter for a mobile project and passed in favour of React Native (still not perfect, but more suitable for my purposes than 2 native apps would be).

    Go to GitHub and gaze in horror at Flutter's 5000+ open issues before you commit to this platform. It seems to be a case of big brands pushing something which is not mature and has not got its quality issues under control, just so they can have their own brand in a space.

    For cross-platform desktop apps, I'll keep using Qt, as I have done for about the last 20 years.

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