Going to Android

Over two years ago I was thinking about next cellphone and wrote that it would be something with Windows Mobile. There were comments that I should go for Android which was not on a market yet. In first week of 2009 I switched to Nokia E66 running Symbian. There were apps for this device (I even bought one: ProfiMail) and community existed with lot of tricks, hints, suggestions.

In October I got Nokia N900 discount offer and I decided to take it. Device arrived month later and I got hooked. Finally device which I can use daily for my network activity without having to carry additional cellphone (like it was with Nokia 770 and N810 tablets). Maemo community existed already and I was a part of it. As there were developers already equipped with N900s there was a constant flow of new applications, themes, tweaks and hints. Platform was living. Nokia provided few system updates, some of them even gave some nice new features.

But at same time it was known that amount of love for Nokia N900 at headquarters is near zero. MeeGo was announced just few months after device release so it was known that there will be very limited support level and that some things will never be done (like Ovi Maps with voice navigation).

So I started slowly to look at market to know which way to go for next cellphone. Windows Mobile 6.x was out of question as this is platform which gets out of market now. Windows Phone 7 is fresh, strictly controlled so I do not want to go there — let it first get some devices, applications etc. Symbian? no way — been there already. Ok, Nokia N8 looks nice but it is still Symbian. MeeGo is not yet market ready when it comes to phones and even when mystic N9 will be released then it will not be pure MeeGo but rather some kind of mix of open components from MeeGo + huge set of closed sourced applications written by Nokia. And who knows how long it will be supported…

So I looked into Android. Installed NITDroid on N900 to play with FroYo and it looks and behaves quite good. There are lot of communities (usually around families of devices), custom system images are something normal for popular devices (so if vendor does not support upgrades to newer OS versions then community usually do). Also lot of friends already use Android powered devices (cellphones, tablets etc) so there are lot of hints from them what to choose when it comes to hardware or software.

Which cellphone to choose? I have few candidates:

  • Nexus S – brand new device, Google supported so should get few OS releases, runs latest Android
  • Nexus One – nearly year on market, also Google supported, runs Android 2.2, newest version “should be out in few weeks”
  • HTC Desire – nearly same as Nexus One but this time as official HTC device. Android 2.2, should get at least 2.3 version from HTC
  • HTC Desire HD – hardware similar to previous one but bigger screen
  • HTC Desire Z – Desire + hardware QWERTY keyboard
  • Samsung Galaxy S – Android 2.1 but 2.3 is promised

Which to buy? Nexus S looks good and I will be in US in January…

And this will be my 4th cellphone running Linux…

UPDATE: added Samsung Galaxy S because vendor promised Android 2.3 — but it depends when it will be available.

LinuxTag 2010

This year I attended only one day of LinuxTag: Friday. There were many reasons for that but I am glad that I made at least that.

Wake up at 05:00 is hard… But I had a train to Berlin to catch. It was IC so power sockets were available and I watch some film and checked once again program for a day.

First attended talk was “Truths and Lies: Where’s the Open Source Modern Mobile Phone?” by Mickey Lauer. I like his presentations – they are always interesting and professional. His expertise in mobile phones running open systems warrant good talk. This time he did not mentioned FSO or oFono but told why Android (HTC Dream), WebOS (Palm Pre), Maemo (Nokia N900) are not open source systems. Why does it matter? Open system allows you do anything with device — you can even send it to space (like it was done with Openmoko GTA02).

I missed “Mobile Development with Qt and Qt Creator” presentation but Nokia guy at their stand explained later how does it work and why it is worth checking. In short: usable IDE with simulation of target device screen (from 1:1 display size to 1:1 resolution size).

Dirk Hohndel from Intel had a talk about “MeeGo – Linux for Mobile Devices”. Nice talk with presentation of current release on older laptop. Some background informations how it started from meeting of Intel and Nokia guys. And then someone asked will all existing applications will be rewritten to Qt (which is primary toolkit in MeeGo). Dirk tried to not answer it directly but finally said that no, current apps will stay with GTK+ (Clutter, MX) and only new ones will use Qt. I was not surprised — I know Moblin guys and their preferences when it comes to UI toolkit.

Next talk was about writing native code for Android and about how much can be done without going to Java world. As I am considering Android as a system for my next cell phone I was interested. But native does not free developer from Java. The idea is that you write C code, build it into library and then you need to write JNI which will be used from Java application to calls functions from native library. So ok, it gives speed but you still need to know Java ;(

“Debian Pure Blends” talk did not attracted many people. Andreas Tille told that many derivatives exists and some of them got merged back into Debian (like Skolelinux) while some does not even look like having sense in them.

“Debian GNU/kFreeBSD” summarised why Debian with FreeBSD kernel was made, what it gives and what is missing. Also note that NetBSD and OpenBSD based attempts were done but died few years ago. Is it worth using? I can not answer to that question. But if you need ZFS…

And at the end of a day Amit gave a talk about Linaro. There were about few people and most of them from Canonical.

But LinuxTag is not only talks. There are booths to visit, friends, coworkers and other people to meet etc.

Texas Instruments presented their low cost boards: HawkBoard, LeopardBoard and BeagleBoard XM. Each has own uses as they are using different processors and have other features. I hope that one day BB XM will replace my normal one but first they need to be available to buy (Digikey information is “6 weeks”).

Nokia had big stand where they presented Qt Creator software and Qt demos on N900 connected to flat TV. I asked some questions, got answers and now need to find some time to check their software and move my Protracker module player ahead.

OpenEmbedded had stand as well — this year not as a part of Tarent embedded area but small one in next hall. Florian Boor spent whole day manning it and presented few interesting boards. KaRo one (based on Sheeva cpu) was interesting — too bad that this is only armv5te ;(

Speaking of Tarent… Was nice to meet them, but did not had a time to talk much.

Met Matthias Klose (widely known as ‘doko’) who is Debian/Ubuntu toolchain maintainer. We had a short talk about our cooperation.

Conference ended, we went to centre for some food and then I had a train to catch to go back home.

Overall it was good to be there. But it was last time when I go for one day — it is simply too short to be able to meet everyone and talk longer then few minutes.

Maemo -> MeeGo

During last few days I was offline for most of time. Those who follow me on Twitter noticed that I was traveling. Imagine how surprised I was when I read about Maemo + Moblin -> MeeGo movement.

First I thought that finally Nokia decided to get rid of terribly maintained base system used for Maemo5 in favor of something working. But wait… Maemo5 is already buried — Maemo6 is on a way. But wait… what is Maemo6? MeeGo rather etc, etc, etc…

After some reading (on N900 by GPRS mostly + some public hotspots) it looked more clearly but added new questions. What about Nokia N900 support? Will it be added by vendor and supported or rather let community do it? Done by company would be better as this would obligate them to keep development alive (and merge kernel stuff into mainline).

One is sure: MeeGo will bring many changes. Base system will be updated (good), packaging will be changed to RPM (not so good but acceptable), Qt instead of GTK+ (good), less Nokia developers (very good). Too bad that whole rush to get it done before MWC made few things unclear and that there is nothing to download to play with. There is no information how much code will be free and open (Maemo5 has lot of closed components) and what is a policy for closed components.

What do I feel after reading blog posts, mailing lists? Time will show. Looks like N900 can have nice future, new applications backported from MeeGo but for it we need to wait as for now nothing is known yet (no code to look at).