System images now the recommended way to deploy and update Ubuntu Touch

After over 3 months of development and experimentation, I’m now glad to announce that the system images are now the recommended way to deploy and update the 4 supported Ubuntu Touch devices, maguro (Galaxy Nexus), mako (Nexus 4), grouper (Nexus 7) and manta (Nexus 10).

Anyone using one of those devices can choose to switch to the new images using: phablet-flash ubuntu-system

Once that’s done, further updates will be pushed over the air and can be applied through the Updates panel in the System Settings.

Ubuntu Touch Upgrader

You should be getting a new update every few days, whenever an image is deemed of sufficient quality for public consumption. Note that the downloader UI doesn’t yet show progress, so if it doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t mean it’s not working.

Those new images are read-only except for a few selected files and for the user profile and data, this is a base requirement for the delta updates to work properly.
However if the work you’re doing requires installation of extra non-click packages, such as developing on your device using the SDK, you have two options:

  1. Stick to the current flipped images which we’ll continue to generate for the foreseeable future.
  2. Use the experimental writable flag by doing touch /userdata/.writable_image and rebooting your device.
    This will make / writable again, however beware that applying image updates on such a system will lead to unknown results, so if you do choose to use this flag, you’ll have to manually update your device using apt-get (and possibly have to unmount/remount some of the bind-mounted files depending on which package needs to be updated).

From now on, the QA testing effort will focus on those new images rather than the standard flipped ones. I’d also highly recommend to all our application developers to at least test their apps with those images and report any bug that they see in #ubuntu-touch (


About Stéphane Graber

Project leader of Linux Containers, Linux hacker, Ubuntu core developer, conference organizer and speaker.
This entry was posted in Canonical voices, Planet Ubuntu, Ubuntu Touch and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to System images now the recommended way to deploy and update Ubuntu Touch

  1. Maximilian Schleiss says:

    IRC is so busy with important stuff that I end up asking here. The wiki for the older images stated we can change the timezone using the commands in
    Worked like a charm but not with the new RO images ubuntu-system. How is one supposed to change it now? The datetime menu does not work for the moment.
    Thank you in advance for the kind answer and best greetings from Lac Léman 😉

    1. I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that one since I only really work on the underlying plumbing layer. Sounds like a bug report against the datetime indicator would be the best way to get that resolved?

  2. Kai Mast says:

    So Ubuntu touch is not using apt/dkpg to update the images? Is there a reason for this?

    1. That’s correct, see my comment below for some of the reasons.

  3. Daniel says:

    This is great news, but would it be ridiculous to ask why we aren’t just using a apt-get dist-upgrade equivalent?

    1. Because we needed something that’d produce a perfectly reproducable result, so that all devices at the same version will be bit for bit identical.

      The system images are also usually smaller and faster to apply and as they’re applied very quickly and in a single transaction, the risk of messing up the device on upgrade is much reduced.

      APT and dpkg are obviously still used as the way to produce the image but now we just do it once for everyone and push a very compressed image of the result rather than have every single device reprocess all the packages.

      Hope that clarifies it.

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