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Here’s why OnePlus doesn’t support Project Treble — yet

69e99_oneplus-5t-review-8-of-14-840x473 Here's why OnePlus doesn't support Project Treble — yet


Updates have always been a subject of hot debate within the Android community. Some OEMs deliver OS updates in a timely manner, and others, not so much. Google has a plan to help with that, and that plan is Project Treble.

The goal of Project Treble is simple really, and it is to make updates faster and easier for device manufacturers. In theory, this should help with platform fragmentation, but some devices aren’t able to reap the benefits.

Some such devices are the OnePlus 3/3T and 5/5T. After a lot of confusion from users, a OnePlus employee under the handle “OmegaHsu” made a forum post explaining why the devices in question will not have support for Project Treble. The reason? To prevent bricked devices.

The way Project Treble works is by separating manufacturer code from the operating system itself, which requires having multiple partitions on the device.

OmegaHsu explains:

However, because partitions were not required of Android N and previous versions of Android, all of our current devices do not feature a partition. According to our tests, if we were to modify the partition layout via OTA there is a risk that devices will brick during the partitioning.

OnePlus’ reasoning seems sound, they have to weigh the pros and cons of any large changes, and in this case, the danger of bricking outweighs the benefit of quicker updates. Even without Project Treble, OnePlus believes that they can still quickly and efficiently release Android updates. As a manufacturer, they have a duty to not cause unnecessary system-breaking bugs, and they are avoiding that risk by not supporting Treble in the short-term. While it’s a downer for current device owners, the good news is that most, if not all, 2018 smartphones should support Project Treble by shipping with Android Oreo and the new partition scheme.

Read: First OxygenOS Open Beta with Android Oreo arrives for OnePlus 5

What are your thoughts on Project Treble and OnePlus’ decision not to support it on current models? Let us know in the comments section below.

This is Why Nokia Android Phones DON’T Support Project Treble

Google’s Project Treble was designed as a way to mitigate the problems of Android fragmentation going forwards. However, the initial seeding phase of the initiative has seen some teething pains, and Nokia’s current run of Android phones are not immune.

Project Treble, at its core, is pretty straightforward: it separates the core Android OS framework (Google’s bit) from the vendor’s )the phone maker’s) customization so that updates can be pushed through to the phone OTA without the vendor needing to modify it.

This way, whenever a new update is ready, phones rocking Treble would receive the update OTA without the maker of the phone – LG, Samsung, Huawei, HTC – having to lift a finger. On paper, and in the future, it is a brilliant plan to solve the issue of Android fragmentation that plagues millions of devices in circulation.

However, in order for Treble to do its work, it needs to be up and running on the phone before it is shipped to the customer – and it is here where some brands are running into trouble. Over time this will not be an issue, as all Android phones should ship with it, but for now, there is a bit of catch-up going on.

And HMD’s Nokia brand is firmly in the “catch-up” camp, confirming that none of its current-generation Nokia Android phones will support Treble. Nokia says Treble cannot be retrofitted on a handset after it has shipped… but this isn’t entirely true.

Huawei, for instance, has confirmed that it will bring Treble to its older phones during the latter part of 2017, indicating that Nokia might just be telling porkies about not being able to install Treble on older handsets.

Huawei also confirmed, during its Note 10 launch, that it has been working closely with Google on getting Android P better integrated with its Kirin chipset. The company, which is fast becoming one of the biggest players on the planet, is keen to usurp Samsung as the king of the Android space and is working closely with Google to achieve this.

Perhaps Nokia should drop Huawei an email and find out how it’s retrofitting Treble on older Android handsets. I’m sure its punters would appreciate it!

Understanding Project Treble and future Android updates

bb7e1_Software-Update-840x490 Understanding Project Treble and future Android updates

The most common complaint about Android updates is that they are notoriously slow to release. Worse still, handset support is promptly re-evaluated once new models come along. Consumers have been complaining about this problem to OEMs and Google for years. The situation finally looks set to change with the arrival of Project Treble.

Project Treble is included as part of Android 8.0 Oreo and represents a major re-architecture for the OS framework. The initiative’s ultimate aim is to make updates faster and easier for OEMs to roll out to devices. Treble is arguably one of the biggest changes introduced to Android Oreo, but one that consumers won’t even notice as it works primarily behind the scenes. Here’s how it will affect the future of Android.

How Oreo is better than Nougat

Why the need for Project Treble?

In a word: fragmentation. It’s a criticism of Android that industry followers will be very familiar with, and it’s not unfounded. While iPhones receive major OS updates for three or four years, the most expensive Android smartphones are lucky to receive two, and lower cost models may never see an upgrade at all. Missing out on the latest features is unfortunate, but it’s the lack of security and increasing vulnerability of these older devices that is the real worry. Not just for users, but for Google also.

It’s the lack of security and increasing vulnerability of unsupported older devices that is the real worry

As smartphones take on an increasingly important role in using and securing our personal, financial, and otherwise important data, fixing security vulnerabilities is of utmost importance. As much flak as OEMs take for being slow with updates, there is a deeper reason for these delays that has, until now, made it difficult and expensive to support devices in the long term.

bb7e1_Software-Update-840x490 Understanding Project Treble and future Android updates

The core idea of Project Treble is to remove the requirement to rework vendor implementations, allowing the OS layer to be updated independently.

The slow update problem has to do with the way that Android software layers communicate with underlying phone hardware. In order for applications to run on a CPU or use a camera, the OS has to talk to connected hardware via a hardware abstraction layer (HAL). This is important if, for example, you want third party apps from the Play Store to work with any phone’s camera – HALs are designed to be low-level driver-agnostic. Below this is the Linux kernel, which handles the hardware specific communication between the HAL and the exact components in the phone. It has to be compiled depending on your handset’s specific hardware.

The problem with Nougat and older version of Android, is that there’s no separation between the vendor’s low level hardware code and the higher level AOSP operating system code that Google maintains. In Android 7.x and earlier, no formal vendor interfaces existed, meaning that device manufacturers had to update large portions of the Android code with each update. This includes waiting on hardware vendors, such as SoC manufacturers, to provide their code to hook hardware into the new OS.

Unfortunately, Android didn’t used to have much in the way of plug-and-play compatibility with low level hardware; code had to be heavily tailored. This takes a considerable amount of time, testing, and cost on the part of silicon vendors and OEMs. Project Treble is designed to solve this problem by separating the Android OS Framework from the vendor hardware code implementations, therefore allowing Google and OEMs to update the OS without having to reconfigure all the the lower level hardware parts.

Project Treble separates the Android OS Framework from the vendor hardware code implementations

OEMs will still want to introduce their own proprietary hardware and software features, which will add to development and testing time. And OEMs will still have to take extra time incorporating their unique features into the AOSP from Google after Project Treble’s introduction. Treble simply reduces the amount of work that needs to be done by third parties, particularly SoC vendors who provide much of the hardware code.

How new updates will work

It’s important to reiterate that Android uses the Linux kernel under the hood. A kernel is the part of an operating system which handles input/output and computer instructions from the application layer, essentially allowing the application software to communicate with the hardware. To make changes to the way Android handles this communication is to make some notable changes to the way the Linux kernel operates.

Linux kernel long term support extended to 6 years for Project Treble

To solve the hardware abstraction layer issue, Android O formalized the division between hardware sub systems like audio or camera, and their clients on the software side. These new formal divisions specify the interface between a HAL and its users. There are now around 60 formal interfaces for various hardware components, known as HIDLs.

The goal of a HIDL is to allow the framework to be replaced without having to rebuild HALs. HALs will be built by vendors or SoC makers and put in a /vendor partition on the device, enabling the framework, in its own partition, to be replaced with an over-the-air update (OTA) without recompiling the HALs. To update devices running earlier versions of Android to Android O, developers can wrap both conventional and legacy HALs in a new HIDL interface too.

Linux kernel support has recently been extended from 2 to 6 years for Project Treble

Equally as important, Linux kernel long term support has recently been extended from 2 to 6 years for Project Treble. This means that major fixes to the kernel are no longer missed over a device’s longer term life cycle. Previously a device would at best see a year’s worth of support left by the time it hit the market.

bb7e1_Software-Update-840x490 Understanding Project Treble and future Android updates

bb7e1_Software-Update-840x490 Understanding Project Treble and future Android updates

As you can see, the switch to Project Treble requires a little bit of work on the hardware vendor side too, as the way the vendor implementation is programmed to expose the hardware to Android is different to previous OS versions. Once this revised vendor implementation is on the device though, manufacturers can choose to deliver a new Android release to consumers by just updating the Android OS framework, without any reworking required from the silicon manufacturers.

Phones updating to Oreo from Nougat won’t necessarily be Treble compliant though

An interesting note in Google’s documentation is that “Project Treble will be coming to all new devices launched with Android O and beyond.” This implies phones coming to Oreo from Nougat won’t necessarily be Treble compliant. We’ve already seen that this is true with the unveiling of the OnePlus 5T, a phone that ships with Nougat and that won’t be seeing Treble with its eventual update to Oreo. Meanwhile, the original Pixels do support Treble, following their update to Oreo.

Here’s how Project Treble will improve security in Android

Devices shipping with Oreo out-of-the-box have to fully support Treble, as OEMs will be coding the vendor implementation in this way from the get-go and are now obliged to have a working version of AOSP on their hardware. As of Android 8.0, the new vendor interface is validated by a Vendor Test Suite (VTS), to ensure that the updated OS is compatible with the existing hardware setup.

Project Treble doesn’t necessarily mean that all handsets will see updates instantaneously, as Google is not handling them directly

Project Treble doesn’t necessarily mean that all handsets will see updates instantaneously, as Google is not handling them directly. OEMs are still free to tweak and skin the OS, as well as embed their own software into the Android OS release. So there’s still going to be some time taken for OEMs to build and test their own particular take on Android. However, by taking silicon vendors out of the equation, these updates should still be faster and software should be much easier to apply across numerous devices.

bb7e1_Software-Update-840x490 Understanding Project Treble and future Android updates

Implications of Project Treble

From a user perspective, OS updates will be delivered in exactly the same way as they are now. Vendors will still be able to push OTA updates, which you can download at leisure in the background without having to do anything more than tap a prompt. Hopefully we’ll end up seeing them appear a little quicker than before and for longer into a device’s lifetime.

Project Treble has some interesting implications for the revival of the custom ROM scene too, as there’s likely to be less work required to get software and hardware playing nicely. It could take just days, rather than weeks or months, to port AOSP to a device that supports Treble. XDA community members are already excited about the prospects. Developer OldDroid went as far as to call this a breakthrough, after booting Oreo on the Mate 9, which hadn’t even seen a single custom Nougat ROM. Other developers have also already shown off a single system image capable of booting on different devices with different processors.

For custom ROM fans, a single system image is now capable of booting on different devices with different processors

The prospect is that we may be edging closer to a time where Android software can be easily ported across a range of devices, much like how Windows can run on a huge range of hardware configurations with minimal effort. But that’s not the goal of Treble at the moment.

bb7e1_Software-Update-840x490 Understanding Project Treble and future Android updates

With Project Treble, Android is moving closer to Google’s idealized world of more frequent and longer running updates.

Closing thoughts

Project Treble sounds very promising, but it’s important to understand that it has limitations. First, this isn’t Google taking over updates. Product manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, and LG are still responsible for compiling and rolling out updates, and they won’t be anywhere near as fast as Google is with the Pixels. Treble is instead an OS structure optimization designed to speed up rollouts from manufacturers. Google has done its part, now it is up to the OEMs.

Second, only handsets with Android 8.0 Oreo or newer out of the box must support Project Treble. Phones that upgrade to Oreo from Nougat don’t have to fully support Treble, though OEMs can choose to if they wish. We’ll have to pay close attention to which manufacturers say what as they roll out their Oreo upgrades. It’s also unlikely that custom ROMs will be able to introduce Treble to many older devices, as lower level hardware access isn’t open source.

If you’re looking for a phone with Treble support now, currently Google’s Pixel series, the Essential Phone, and Huawei’s Mate 9, Mate 10, Honor 9, and Honor 8 Pro are your options. It’s not yet clear which other OEMs plan to support Treble on their existing handsets. Of course, next year’s flagships with Oreo installed will all ship will full support for faster updates out of the box. And that, my friends, will be a great thing for Android.

A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job

The XDA forums have been the central gathering of custom ROM development for years. It’s thanks to the hard work of developers on our forums that many older Android smartphones are kept alive by custom ROMS sometimes years after devices were abandoned by the device maker. Though most manufacturers release bootloader unlocking methods these days, frequent delays in kernel source releases has stifled custom ROM development on many smartphones. That may soon change, however, thanks to something called “Project Treble” which was announced near the release of Android Oreo. Thanks to Project Treble, the time it takes to port an AOSP ROM onto a device should no longer take weeks or months—instead it should take merely days.

For those of you who have followed the custom ROM scene for years, you might already be aware with how significant this news is. XDA Recognized Developer OldDroid called this revelation a “breakthrough” in custom AOSP ROM development. Thanks to Project Treble support, for example, I was able to boot a nearly fully functioning Android 8.0 Oreo ROM on the Huawei Mate 9—a device that until now hadn’t even seen a single AOSP Android Nougat ROM.

We may soon be seeing a revolution in custom ROM development thanks to the initial development efforts on this front by XDA Senior Member phhusson. After 20 hours of work researching, developing, and debugging with me, phhusson created a system image that can be booted on multiple devices from different manufacturers and with completely different SoCs. For example, the same system image that I booted on my own Huawei Mate 9 also boots on the Honor 8 Pro, Honor 9, Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact, and the Essential Phone. That’s 3 different OEMs (Huawei/Honor, Sony, and Essential) and 2 different SoCs (HiSilicon Kirin 960 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 835) where this single system image can successfully boot.

It’s possible that in the future, we could be seeing a single system image that can work on dozens of different Android smartphones, much like how Microsoft Windows can run on nearly any computer hardware. In order to encourage more development on this front, we’ve opened up a new forum dedicated to Project Treble enabled devices. The forum is geared towards developers at this moment, so please refrain from starting a new thread unless you are interested in contributing to development. If you wish to help test Treble-compatible system images, then feel free to leave comments on existing threads.

Join the Project Treble Development Forum

Given the significance of this development and the complexity of the topic, I thought I would approach this article a bit differently than the others. I’ll be running down a bullet point list explaining some common questions people might have as well as point out key facts regarding this latest development.


What is Project Treble?

2d8f5_Project-Treble-1024x556 A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job

Credits: Google

Project Treble is most commonly described as an attempt by Google to modularize the Android OS framework to separate vendor specific code. Let’s break things down a bit more:

  • The full update process to bring a new Android version to devices is a long and complex topic, but Sony has done a great job with this infographic which outlines the basic steps.
  • The “vendor” usually refers to silicon-manufacturers such as Qualcomm, but can also refer to the maker of any other proprietary hardware found in a device. The “device maker” or “OEM” usually needs to wait for the vendor to update their code so the proprietary hardware works with the Android OS framework in a newer version of Android.
  • However, what is happening with Project Treble is that Google is requiring that any vendor-specific code be separated from the Android OS framework and instead live in its own vendor implementation. Usually this means that there is now a separate /vendor partition on Treble-enabled smartphones that contains a bunch of HALs (Hardware Abstraction Layers).
  • Furthermore, vendors must implement code that lets the Android OS framework communicate with HALs in a standardized way. This is done via HIDL (HAL Interface Definition Language). With this in place, an OEM can work on an Android update without having to wait on vendors to update their HALs. Theoretically, this should speed up the entire Android update process as vendors can update their code at any time through the Play Store, for example.
  • To help understand what a HAL is and how it relates to Android, let’s consider an analogy. Imagine a car. The steering wheel and brakes are the HAL while the driver is the Android OS framework. The driver (Android) moves the steering wheel and presses on the brakes (the HAL) in order to control the movement of the car (the hardware).
  • Now imagine if we lived in a world where every car manufacturer decided to design their steering wheels or re-arrange their brakes in a completely different way. If you put a driver in a new car, they may be confused with how to initially handle the vehicle. But thanks to standards, every driver should be familiar with how to operate a steering wheel and brakes on almost any car. Further, driving school teaches all drivers the proper way to operate a vehicle. In this analogy, the vehicle standards are Project Treble and driving school is HIDL.

2d8f5_Project-Treble-1024x556 A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job

Android Oreo on the Honor 8 Pro. Credits: XDA Recognized Developer OldDroid

What devices will get Project Treble support?

  • All devices that launch with Android 8.0 Oreo or above must fully support Project Treble.
  • All devices that upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo are not required to fully support Project Treble.
  • The devices that have updates (official releases or closed betas) to Android 8.0 Oreo and do support Treble include the following:
  • It is unlikely for any devices to unofficially receive Project Treble support via custom ROM development. HALs are not open source after all.

Why is Project Treble so important for AOSP ROMs?

  • To ensure that the vendor code is properly separated from the Android OS framework in the manner that Project Treble requires, Google has set up a Vendor Test Suite (VTS) which devices must pass in order to be certified by Google. Google certification is important because without it a device are not allowed to ship with Google Play apps and services pre-installed.
  • One of the requirements in the VTS is that a Treble-enabled device must be able to boot a raw, generic AOSP build. Because of this requirement, OEMs have to ship devices that can boot AOSP without any issues.
  • Although the exact ROM that Google uses and shares with OEMs for VTS is not public, XDA Senior Member phhusson was able to figure out how to recreate this ROM from source.
  • Thus, we now have a working AOSP ROM that is guaranteed to be bootable on Project Treble devices. Most of the work was done by OEMs and vendors already, so no longer do independent developers on our forums need to mess around with kernel source code or HAL hackery. In theory, an AOSP ROM should “just work” which we’ve shown to be basically true on the devices we’ve tested.
  • At the moment, compatibility is not 100% with all devices the system image can be booted on. There are also some race conditions that need to be figured out. However, Project Treble significantly cuts down on the amount of development work that is needed to port AOSP ROMs onto non-Google devices. With the collaboration of more developers in our Project Treble forum, we expect to see Treble device development go a long way.

How do I try out Android Oreo on my device now?

If you’re really adventurous and want to try out one of these Project Treble builds on your phone right now, phhusson has the system images you need to download over on his thread in our Project Treble forum. There are a few things you need to keep in mind, though:

  • You will need an unlocked bootloader and need to be familiar with using fastboot commands to flash images.
  • Your device must already be running Android Oreo. These system images do not “upgrade” your device. If you are running one of the Huawei/Honor devices mentioned in this article, you can look on our forums for a guide or use the FunkyHuawei.club service to unofficially update your phone to one of the closed Oreo beta builds.
  • You must be willing to lose data or reflash factory images while testing. The best way to ensure this boots is to wipe the userdata partition, which includes wiping all of the contents on your internal storage. Of course you can make backups and transfer them over once you’re done.
  • These AOSP builds are currently not meant for use as daily drivers. They are extremely bare bones and do not offer many features or apps pre-installed. You will have to flash Google apps yourself. You will have to manually input your carrier’s APN settings to make mobile data work (if it works). Things will be buggy until more development effort is put forth.

Conclusion

Google wasn’t kidding when they said that Project Treble was perhaps one of the biggest changes ever to the way Android works. We can see for ourselves, right here and now, just how much of an impact it can have. Treble might be the push the development community needs to revitalize the custom ROM scene. It took less than 1 day to boot a nearly fully functioning AOSP ROM on the Huawei Mate 9. I’m excited to see the work that will be done for other Treble-enabled devices.

A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job

The XDA forums have been the central gathering of custom ROM development for years. It’s thanks to the hard work of developers on our forums that many older Android smartphones are kept alive by custom ROMS sometimes years after devices were abandoned by the device maker. Though most manufacturers release bootloader unlocking methods these days, frequent delays in kernel source releases has stifled custom ROM development on many smartphones. That may soon change, however, thanks to something called “Project Treble” which was announced near the release of Android Oreo. Thanks to Project Treble, the time it takes to port an AOSP ROM onto a device should no longer take weeks or months—instead it should take merely days.

For those of you who have followed the custom ROM scene for years, you might already be aware with how significant this news is. XDA Recognized Developer OldDroid called this revelation a “breakthrough” in custom AOSP ROM development. Thanks to Project Treble support, for example, I was able to boot a nearly fully functioning Android 8.0 Oreo ROM on the Huawei Mate 9—a device that until now hadn’t even seen a single AOSP Android Nougat ROM.

We may soon be seeing a revolution in custom ROM development thanks to the initial development efforts on this front by XDA Senior Member phhusson. After 20 hours of work researching, developing, and debugging with me, phhusson created a system image that can be booted on multiple devices from different manufacturers and with completely different SoCs. For example, the same system image that I booted on my own Huawei Mate 9 also boots on the Honor 8 Pro, Honor 9, Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact, and the Essential Phone. That’s 3 different OEMs (Huawei/Honor, Sony, and Essential) and 2 different SoCs (HiSilicon Kirin 960 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 835) where this single system image can successfully boot.

It’s possible that in the future, we could be seeing a single system image that can work on dozens of different Android smartphones, much like how Microsoft Windows can run on nearly any computer hardware. In order to encourage more development on this front, we’ve opened up a new forum dedicated to Project Treble enabled devices. The forum is geared towards developers at this moment, so please refrain from starting a new thread unless you are interested in contributing to development. If you wish to help test Treble-compatible system images, then feel free to leave comments on existing threads.

Join the Project Treble Development Forum

Given the significance of this development and the complexity of the topic, I thought I would approach this article a bit differently than the others. I’ll be running down a bullet point list explaining some common questions people might have as well as point out key facts regarding this latest development.


What is Project Treble?

2d8f5_Project-Treble-1024x556 A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job

Credits: Google

Project Treble is most commonly described as an attempt by Google to modularize the Android OS framework to separate vendor specific code. Let’s break things down a bit more:

  • The full update process to bring a new Android version to devices is a long and complex topic, but Sony has done a great job with this infographic which outlines the basic steps.
  • The “vendor” usually refers to silicon-manufacturers such as Qualcomm, but can also refer to the maker of any other proprietary hardware found in a device. The “device maker” or “OEM” usually needs to wait for the vendor to update their code so the proprietary hardware works with the Android OS framework in a newer version of Android.
  • However, what is happening with Project Treble is that Google is requiring that any vendor-specific code be separated from the Android OS framework and instead live in its own vendor implementation. Usually this means that there is now a separate /vendor partition on Treble-enabled smartphones that contains a bunch of HALs (Hardware Abstraction Layers).
  • Furthermore, vendors must implement code that lets the Android OS framework communicate with HALs in a standardized way. This is done via HIDL (HAL Interface Definition Language). With this in place, an OEM can work on an Android update without having to wait on vendors to update their HALs. Theoretically, this should speed up the entire Android update process as vendors can update their code at any time through the Play Store, for example.
  • To help understand what a HAL is and how it relates to Android, let’s consider an analogy. Imagine a car. The steering wheel and brakes are the HAL while the driver is the Android OS framework. The driver (Android) moves the steering wheel and presses on the brakes (the HAL) in order to control the movement of the car (the hardware).
  • Now imagine if we lived in a world where every car manufacturer decided to design their steering wheels or re-arrange their brakes in a completely different way. If you put a driver in a new car, they may be confused with how to initially handle the vehicle. But thanks to standards, every driver should be familiar with how to operate a steering wheel and brakes on almost any car. Further, driving school teaches all drivers the proper way to operate a vehicle. In this analogy, the vehicle standards are Project Treble and driving school is HIDL.

2d8f5_Project-Treble-1024x556 A Revolution in Custom ROMs: How Project Treble makes Porting Android Oreo a 1 Day Job

Android Oreo on the Honor 8 Pro. Credits: XDA Recognized Developer OldDroid

What devices will get Project Treble support?

  • All devices that launch with Android 8.0 Oreo or above must fully support Project Treble.
  • All devices that upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo are not required to fully support Project Treble.
  • The devices that have updates (official releases or closed betas) to Android 8.0 Oreo and do support Treble include the following:
  • It is unlikely for any devices to unofficially receive Project Treble support via custom ROM development. HALs are not open source after all.

Why is Project Treble so important for AOSP ROMs?

  • To ensure that the vendor code is properly separated from the Android OS framework in the manner that Project Treble requires, Google has set up a Vendor Test Suite (VTS) which devices must pass in order to be certified by Google. Google certification is important because without it a device are not allowed to ship with Google Play apps and services pre-installed.
  • One of the requirements in the VTS is that a Treble-enabled device must be able to boot a raw, generic AOSP build. Because of this requirement, OEMs have to ship devices that can boot AOSP without any issues.
  • Although the exact ROM that Google uses and shares with OEMs for VTS is not public, XDA Senior Member phhusson was able to figure out how to recreate this ROM from source.
  • Thus, we now have a working AOSP ROM that is guaranteed to be bootable on Project Treble devices. Most of the work was done by OEMs and vendors already, so no longer do independent developers on our forums need to mess around with kernel source code or HAL hackery. In theory, an AOSP ROM should “just work” which we’ve shown to be basically true on the devices we’ve tested.
  • At the moment, compatibility is not 100% with all devices the system image can be booted on. There are also some race conditions that need to be figured out. However, Project Treble significantly cuts down on the amount of development work that is needed to port AOSP ROMs onto non-Google devices. With the collaboration of more developers in our Project Treble forum, we expect to see Treble device development go a long way.

How do I try out Android Oreo on my device now?

If you’re really adventurous and want to try out one of these Project Treble builds on your phone right now, phhusson has the system images you need to download over on his thread in our Project Treble forum. There are a few things you need to keep in mind, though:

  • You will need an unlocked bootloader and need to be familiar with using fastboot commands to flash images.
  • Your device must already be running Android Oreo. These system images do not “upgrade” your device. If you are running one of the Huawei/Honor devices mentioned in this article, you can look on our forums for a guide or use the FunkyHuawei.club service to unofficially update your phone to one of the closed Oreo beta builds.
  • You must be willing to lose data or reflash factory images while testing. The best way to ensure this boots is to wipe the userdata partition, which includes wiping all of the contents on your internal storage. Of course you can make backups and transfer them over once you’re done.
  • These AOSP builds are currently not meant for use as daily drivers. They are extremely bare bones and do not offer many features or apps pre-installed. You will have to flash Google apps yourself. You will have to manually input your carrier’s APN settings to make mobile data work (if it works). Things will be buggy until more development effort is put forth.

Conclusion

Google wasn’t kidding when they said that Project Treble was perhaps one of the biggest changes ever to the way Android works. We can see for ourselves, right here and now, just how much of an impact it can have. Treble might be the push the development community needs to revitalize the custom ROM scene. It took less than 1 day to boot a nearly fully functioning AOSP ROM on the Huawei Mate 9. I’m excited to see the work that will be done for other Treble-enabled devices.

OnePlus 3/3T and 5/5T will get Android 8.1 Oreo but no Project Treble

0e87c_oneplus-5t-initial-review-aa-14-of-22-840x473 OnePlus 3/3T and 5/5T will get Android 8.1 Oreo but no Project Treble

It’s been a big week for OnePlus. Not only did it push the big Android Oreo update to the OnePlus 3 and 3T, but also started selling the newly announced OnePlus 5T.

Now, the company making a few more headlines and they all revolve around software. During an AMA on the OnePlus Forums, Staff Member Adam Krisko cleared up some confusion about the upgrades and features coming to previous OnePlus devices.

The biggest news by far out of the AMA is that both the 3 and 3T will receive an upgrade to Android 8.1. No time tables were shared, but OnePlus’ commitment to bring the update to its older phones is encouraging.

See also: Android 8.1 Oreo will “downgrade” inactive apps to save space

We’re also getting word that the company will not support Project Treble on either the 3/3T or 5/5T. Project Treble was introduced earlier this year and aims to bring faster updates to Android devices. It works by separating the OS code from the vendor code. This would allow vendors like Samsung or LG to push core OS updates to its phones without re-optimizing its own code.

Krisko didn’t elaborate on why Treble won’t be supported, but simply stated that OnePlus is not currently supporting Treble and does not plan to for these devices.

What do you think about OnePlus promising to update the OnePlus 3 and 3T to Android 8.1? Is the lack of Treble support a deal-breaker for you? Let us know down in the comments.

Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to …

One of the major issues for Android over the years has been device fragmentation. The Android version and Linux kernel version a device are on can have a massive impact on the device’s security and usability, and Google is making a concerted effort to improve Android’s update lifecycle with Project Treble.

At Linaro Connect San Francisco 2017, Google Project Treble team member Iliyan Malchev gave a talk on what Project Treble is attempting to do for Android, and on what it has achieved so far. He revealed that as part of their efforts to improve the security lifecycle for Android devices, Google has managed to get the Linux Foundation to agree to extend the support life of the Linux Long-Term Support (LTS) kernel branch from the 2 years that it has historically lasted, to 6 years for future versions of the LTS kernel, starting with Linux kernel 4.4. Greg Kroah-Hartman (GKH) of the Linux Foundation, the head maintainer for the Linux stable kernel branch (including LTS), felt that the timing was right to implement the change with the direction the entire computing market is heading, and gave Iliyan Malchev permission to announce the extended support life.

f1c8a_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to ...

Expectations

f1c8a_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to ...

Reality

This will have a massive impact on how easy it will be for manufacturers to provide security updates to devices on old software going forward. With the extended long-term support kernel life, OEMs will no longer have to backport security patches from newer versions of the Linux kernel into the kernel version that they use on their devices. Instead, the patches will still be available for their devices

Before this change, by the time a device was on the market, the long-term support lifecycle for the kernel version that it was built on would be almost up. While LTS would last for two years, it would often take almost that long to go from the beginning stages of kernel-specific driver development for a SoC, to the point where devices using the SoC were ready for release.

While this change appears to be headed in the opposite direction of Project Treble’s goals of driver independence and current kernel versions on devices, it is still a fantastic move which will help substantially both with Android’s current security update issues and with providing support for IoT devices for years to come. Making it easier to continue to support devices will make manufacturers more likely to extend support lives even further. It also is a key change for the ROM development scene, as it will allow developers to provide updates for older devices on legacy versions of Android with secure kernel versions for longer than before.

f1c8a_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to ...

2 Years of LTS patches

f1c8a_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to ...

6 Years of LTS patches

While we tend to focus on Android and other mobile operating systems here, the shift from two years of support for the LTS branch to six years of support will have positive impacts across the entire computing market, from phones to servers to routers and beyond. While this was glossed over a bit by Iliyan Malchev (as it wasn’t the focus of his talk), this change is especially important for IoT devices, and may be a critical part of fixing the current security nightmare that IoT devices create.

IoT devices often use legacy hardware for extended lifecycles (far longer than what we typically see with phones) and have limited budgets for software support, which currently results in an absolute mess of security bugs and unpatched devices that are constantly on and have full network access. It may not be possible to get these devices to be consistently updated to new kernel versions in the near future, across all manufacturers, but simplifying the work to “just” applying the latest patch for the kernel version that they are on may be enough to convince some companies to provide that basic level of ongoing security for their devices.

Check out the full talk where Iliyan Malchev dives into detail on what problems this will solve, what it took to make this a possibility, and why it was a change that needed to be made.

Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to Combat Fragmentation

One of the major issues for Android over the years has been device fragmentation. The Android version and Linux kernel version a device are on can have a massive impact on the device’s security and usability, and Google is making a concerted effort to improve Android’s update lifecycle with Project Treble.

At Linaro Connect San Francisco 2017, Google Project Treble team member Iliyan Malchev gave a talk on what Project Treble is attempting to do for Android, and on what it has achieved so far. He revealed that as part of their efforts to improve the security lifecycle for Android devices, Google has managed to get the Linux Foundation to agree to extend the support life of the Linux Long-Term Support (LTS) kernel branch from the 2 years that it has historically lasted, to 6 years for future versions of the LTS kernel, starting with Linux kernel 4.4. Greg Kroah-Hartman (GKH) of the Linux Foundation, the head maintainer for the Linux stable kernel branch (including LTS), felt that the timing was right to implement the change with the direction the entire computing market is heading, and gave Iliyan Malchev permission to announce the extended support life.

6d054_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to Combat Fragmentation

Expectations

6d054_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to Combat Fragmentation

Reality

This will have a massive impact on how easy it will be for manufacturers to provide security updates to devices on old software going forward. With the extended long-term support kernel life, OEMs will no longer have to backport security patches from newer versions of the Linux kernel into the kernel version that they use on their devices. Instead, the patches will still be available for their devices

Before this change, by the time a device was on the market, the long-term support lifecycle for the kernel version that it was built on would be almost up. While LTS would last for two years, it would often take almost that long to go from the beginning stages of kernel-specific driver development for a SoC, to the point where devices using the SoC were ready for release.

While this change appears to be headed in the opposite direction of Project Treble’s goals of driver independence and current kernel versions on devices, it is still a fantastic move which will help substantially both with Android’s current security update issues and with providing support for IoT devices for years to come. Making it easier to continue to support devices will make manufacturers more likely to extend support lives even further. It also is a key change for the ROM development scene, as it will allow developers to provide updates for older devices on legacy versions of Android with secure kernel versions for longer than before.

6d054_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to Combat Fragmentation

2 Years of LTS patches

6d054_Android-Kernel-Development-Expectations-1024x576 Project Treble Brings Extended Linux Kernel Security Support to Combat Fragmentation

6 Years of LTS patches

While we tend to focus on Android and other mobile operating systems here, the shift from two years of support for the LTS branch to six years of support will have positive impacts across the entire computing market, from phones to servers to routers and beyond. While this was glossed over a bit by Iliyan Malchev (as it wasn’t the focus of his talk), this change is especially important for IoT devices, and may be a critical part of fixing the current security nightmare that IoT devices create.

IoT devices often use legacy hardware for extended lifecycles (far longer than what we typically see with phones) and have limited budgets for software support, which currently results in an absolute mess of security bugs and unpatched devices that are constantly on and have full network access. It may not be possible to get these devices to be consistently updated to new kernel versions in the near future, across all manufacturers, but simplifying the work to “just” applying the latest patch for the kernel version that they are on may be enough to convince some companies to provide that basic level of ongoing security for their devices.

Check out the full talk where Iliyan Malchev dives into detail on what problems this will solve, what it took to make this a possibility, and why it was a change that needed to be made.

Linux kernel long term support extended to 6 years for Project Treble

f5590_linux-announcing-6-year-lts Linux kernel long term support extended to 6 years for Project TrebleAndroid runs on top of the Linux kernel. All of Android’s memory management, input/output, processes, locks, networking, etc happens through and via the Linux kernel. Each new release of Android uses a newer version of the Linux kernel. But it can’t just use any kernel version, there has to be a measure of stability and support. When serious bugs are found or security vulnerabilities are patched in the kernel, these fixes need to make it onto our devices. To make that easier Linux uses at its base what is called the Long Term Support (LTS) branch of the kernel. This is a stable version of the kernel which is guaranteed to be maintained for two years with fixes for serious bugs and security issues.

The problem is that two years isn’t enough. When a silicon vendor like Qualcomm or MediaTek design a processor they pick the latest and greatest LTS version of the kernel at some point during the processors design phase. Once that processor is released to OEMs like Samsung or LG, and then the OEM actually makes a device that uses that processor, then up to a year (or maybe even more) has passed since the LTS version was picked by the chip maker. The result is that the actual device can receive less than 1 years worth of kernel fixes and then the LTS period ends.

To help fix the problem is slow device updates, Android 8.0 Oreo includes Project Treble, a major re-work of Android to make it easier, faster, and less costly for OEMs to update their devices to a new version of Android. But that re-engineering of Android is partly negated by the two year window of LTS kernels.

 

What is a kernel – Gary explains

Yesterday at Linaro Connect, Project Treble’s lead engineer Iliyan Malchev announced that Greg Kroah-Hartman, the current maintainer of the LTS kernels for the Linux Foundation, has agreed to extend the support period for LTS kernels from 2 years to 6 years. And this isn’t some far of in the future idea, the new Extended LTS (ELTS or XLTS) will start with Linux kernel 4.4.

This is a great change for everybody in the Linux community as it will not only apply to Android but to Linux on the desktop and more importantly to Linux servers. It will be interesting to see what companies like Ubuntu and Red Hat now do with the LTS versions of their distributions.

Here is Iliyan’s talk at Linaro Connect. Jump to this timecode to see the part where he announces the new extended long term support:

According to Iliyan (and looking at the announcement slide), Google would like to see all devices receive at least 4 updates during their lifetime, by update the context here is not just a security update (i.e. the monthly security updates) but new versions of Android.

Also, for those who have an opinion about is Android really just Linux? then you might want to watch Iliyan’s comments from around 2 minutes and 5 seconds!

What do you think about the new extended LTS support for the Linux kernel? What about Project Treble? Please let me know in the comment below.




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