Canonical Launches Ubuntu Frame To Ease Development Work For Digital Signage, Kiosks

October 12, 2021 by Dave Haynes

The company behind the widely-used version of Linux – called Ubuntu – has released a new product aimed at developers who do digital signage and interactive appliucations.

Canonical’s newly announced Ubuntu Frame is described as “a solution that allows developers to easily build and deploy graphical applications for interactive kiosks, digital signage solutions, or any other products that require a graphical output.”

“With Ubuntu Frame,” says Canonical in announcing Frame, “developers no longer need to integrate and maintain partial solutions such as DRM, KMS, input protocols or security policies to power and secure their displays. This means less code to manage, less opportunities for bugs and vulnerabilities in untried code, and more time for developing the content of the display.”

The PR continues:

When developing the solution, the goal was to minimize the development and deployment time for building graphic solutions for edge devices by leveraging existing applications and hardening security techniques. Ubuntu Frame is therefore compatible with toolkits such as Flutter, Qt, GTK, Electron and SDL2, and it also has a solution for applications based on HTML5 and Java, among others. It is also worth mentioning that Ubuntu Frame’s users benefit from easy configuration and deployment options thanks to snaps, the next-generation package format for Linux

Out-of-the-box, Ubuntu Frame provides developers with all they need to deploy fully interactive applications. Ubuntu Frame comes with all the interfaces applications need to securely communicate with the host machine, without developers needing to deal with the specific hardware. It also automatically enables all the functionality that end-users expect while interacting with digital displays, such as input from touch screens with a wide array of gestures, keyboard and mouse. Developers also don’t need to worry about windows behaviours and dynamics, they are all configured. There’s no need to integrate and maintain these partial solutions, all that is needed is one tool.   

“Ubuntu Frame’s reliability has been widely tested in the field. Its technology has been in development for over 7 years and in production for 5 years, using state-of-the-art techniques, and deployed in production to Linux desktop and mobile users. As such, Ubuntu Frame is one of the most mature graphical servers available today for embedded devices,” says Michał Sawicz, Smart Displays Engineering Manager at Canonical.

Trust in the security and privacy protection measures of consumer IoT devices is likely to remain a significant driver of adoption and market growth. Security is at the heart of Ubuntu Frame and snaps. The shell provides secure client-server communications based on the Wayland protocol. The client and server snaps are in separate, secure containers so applications can only talk exclusively to the Ubuntu Frame via a secure socket. This reduces the attack vectors available to malicious code. Finally, snaps’ software publishers can also benefit from automatic notifications on security vulnerabilities. Publishers will receive emails informing them about outdated packages in their snaps, so they can address them. 

This is more about making it easier to work with Linux for things like an interactive display, but you wouldn’t describe Frame as making it flat-out easy. The people who would use this are people who know their way around things like Flutter, Qt, GTK, Electron and SDL2, which are … something???

It has been harder to build a signage or interactive platform for Linux than it has been on operating systems like Windows and Android, and the thing here is Canonical/Ubuntu now have libraries and frameworks to make it easier for developers to work in Linux.
For companies who want to do digital signage, there are lots of front-ends that detach end-users and creators from Linux, so they don’t need to know anything about it. And companies like Intuiface have no-code solutions that allow creators to develop interactive experiences without needing to know anything about operating systems or developer toolkits.

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