Say hello to Ubuntu Frame

We use Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux on workstations, servers and clouds all the time. But Ubuntu also finds its place in narrower objectives. For example, Ubuntu Core Linux is often used in Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Now, with Ubuntu Frame, Ubuntu has an even more specialized role: digital signs and user kiosks.

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Ubuntu Frame makes it easy to build and deploy graphics applications for kiosks, digital signage, or any product that requires graphics output. In addition to providing an Ubuntu Linux base, it also comes with a built-in Direct Render Manager (DRM) and Kernel Mode Setting (KMS) for saving displays. This means that you will have less code to manage and less possibility of bugs and vulnerabilities in untested code. All of this, in turn, gives programmers more time to work on the content of the display rather than fine-tuning the display itself.

Frame’s goal is to minimize development and deployment time for building graphics solutions for edge devices. To do this, it leverages existing applications and strengthens security techniques. It is compatible with toolkits such as Flutter, Qt, GTK, Electron and Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) 2. It also supports HTML5 and Java.

You can deploy graphics applications on Frame-based hardware using snaps, Ubuntu’s next-generation package format. Snaps are containerized software packages. By design, Ubuntu Frame and the applications that run on it are isolated from each other and limited in the resources that they can access from the hardware. They are also controlled and operated so that unplanned or unauthorized access to privileged system APIs, parts of the operating system, or non-application specific user data is automatically blocked.

Put it all together and out of the box, Ubuntu Frame provides developers with everything they need to deploy fully interactive applications. It also supports GUIs, so you don’t have to worry about manually crafting application programming interfaces (APIs) to handle specific hardware drivers. It also automatically activates digital signage functionality, such as touchscreen input with support for many gestures.

“Ubuntu Frame’s reliability has been extensively field tested. 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 for Linux desktop and mobile users. As such, Ubuntu Frame is one of the most mature graphics servers available today for embedded devices. ” Michał Sawicz, Head of Smart Display Engineering at Canonical.

Ubuntu Frame also comes with built-in security. The shell provides secure client-server communications based on the Wayland protocol. Client and server snaps are in separate, secure containers, so applications can only communicate with Ubuntu Frame through a secure socket. This reduces the available attack vectors for malicious code. Finally, publishers of snapshot software can also benefit from automatic notifications on security breaches. Snaps also makes it easy to update deployed software with the latest security patches.

With Ubuntu Core, Ubuntu Frame is supported for up to 10 years. Since embedded devices are deployed for years, this allows you to deploy and support secure devices much longer than most IoT and embedded operating systems allow you to. With the security of IoT becoming a growing concern, it will make Ubuntu Frame-based hardware much more attractive to buyers and end users.

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