Februar 2007

Back from FOSDEM’07

FOSDEM was unbelievably exhausting this year. Being in charge of the OpenMoko application framework (which I had to talk about and attend way too many „business“ meetings) and one of the founders of OpenEmbedded (which had a booth this year), my schedule just completely broke down: Of the 10 talks I wanted to see, I ended up in seeing just one and a half.

Then again, I met a whole lot of interesting people this year: The OpenEZX guys Stefan, Jan, and Daniel, Carl ‚Cairo‘ Worth, David ‚OpenWengo‘ Neary, Pedro, the Maemo team, OpenedHand, the tinymail author, Philippe De Swert, Lorn Potter, Knuth Irvin, Wim Delvaux, Liam Girdwood, Graeme Gregory,… to just name a few.

Unfortunately though I find myself returning with a severe headache and a cold — which makes me being sick at a frequency of three out of three times (=100%) after returning from a FOSDEM 🙁 I’m afraid all the project and thesis defence pressure over the last couple of months starts to manifest. The good thing is if I manage to recover until Saturday, then I’m going to Austria for a one week vacation. And although I have some work to do, I’m sure I can relax a bit.

Anyway, back to FOSDEM, I’m looking forward to be there next year, however I really think they need to find a way to allocate more space. OpenEmbedded needs to get a larger booth (or perhaps a developer room), we need to get a larger room for the OpenMoko talk, and considering the Friday beer event, the upper floor at the Roy D’Espagne is no longer a viable option for so many people.

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Offence is the best defence

Dr. Mickey

Today at 16:00 I was notified that I successfully defended my thesis. Preceded by a 15 minutes report by me and slightly over an hour questioning me. It’s an unbelievable relief to know that the hardest part is over and this chapter can be closed real soon now.

The last thing I need to do before they’ll confer the doctorate on me is to publish it — which should be done in a couple of weeks. Thanks for all of your wishes, I was overwhelmed by so many good souls bearing me in mind. Now I can fly to Brussels for FOSDEM’07 very relaxed…

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Emulating 20 year old hardware on a phone

Due to my preparations for the thesis defence — soon over, since tomorrow is „judgement day“ — I have almost zero time to work on OpenMoko. Yesterday though I got one of the very few models with a case prototype, that means I can finally work with the vibrator and the speakers (which sit in the case and not on the prototype boards).

The first thing I did is to compile sidplayer and mikmod to play .sid / .mod. It’s kind of fun using brand new hardware to emulate 20 year old hardware 🙂

For the interested:

  • .mp3 takes about 25% CPU load — size is usually between 2 and 4 MByte
  • .sid takes about 10% CPU load — size is usually between 1 and 20 KByte
  • .mod takes about 3% CPU load — size is usually between 20K and 2 MByte

So that makes .sid the preferred format for ring tones, right?

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openmoko.org and the light of day

As promised, OpenMoko completely opened access to code, specifications, bugtracker, and mailing lists. This is an absolute novum in the industry, since — to my knowledge — no company ever published code and specifications during development state. This is even more open than Nokia — who released Maemo not before the first version was finished.

The OpenMoko team sees this as an open invitation to the community to contribute not only in the form of additions and refinements, but also on the core platform itself. We are gathering your input and are commited to get your wishes into the platform. There will be no closed branches, no internal forking whatsoever. This thing will stay open.

In the past couple of months, I have been working on the OpenMoko application framework, a set of GObject-derived classes, APIs and libraries for a rich and consistent application programming experience. Getting APIs right the first time is incredibly hard — especially when all you have is demo applications. I see this unfinished state as a great opportunity for all potential application programmer’s to tell us what kind of APIs they want to see in the framework.

I have been also trying to realize the designer’s idea of the OpenMoko look & feel. And guys… I have been going through hell. Designers are cool, but their attempt to applications is top-down, they think in terms of complete views including absolutely positioned UI elements. Whereas a programmer’s approach is bottom-up — thinking in terms of layout managers, widgets, composite engines, and the like. This cultural gap can be observed by comparing the various Mockups in the Wiki to actual screenshots. Due to the limitation of the both the current hardware (S3C2410 @ 266MHz) and the software (X/Gtk+) in the Neo1973, a lot of effects are just not efficiently recreatable. However, we will retain the Mockups in the Wiki, because they are the manifest of our goal. Eventually OpenMoko will run on faster hardware (Neo v2) and perhaps also a more suitable base toolkit (EFL, Clutter, pure Cairo?)– then we’ll get there.

In contrast to a lot of other companies opening their code, this is not the end, but the beginning. OpenMoko Inc. continues to support paid work on the OpenMoko platform, which is necessary to canalize and realize all the valuable input of the community. Although we were plagued by a lot of things going wrong during the past months (see Harald’s and Sean’s postings), things fall slowly into place now.

Shaping the age of liberated mobile computing — it’s an exciting time we live in.

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Fed up with legacy radio

I can’t stand listening to local radio stations anymore. No matter which station or target audience, the playlists are always too small and similar, too commercial-orientated, the moderators are dull, and when I want to know about what happened I rather read a newspaper or go online.
Fortunately, there is a very addictive alternative! Since a couple of months, I’m enjoying Soma.fm — a commercial-free internet radio supported by its listeners. It contains 11 unique channels of underground/alternative radio broadcasting from San Francisco.

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Cultural Shock ahead

With us moving in April to a new appartment, I will take the chance to fill the gained space in the new office room with a slightly enhanced computing infrastructure. Currently, I own one Windows (XP) machine, one GNU/Linux (Mandriva) machine, and a lot of mobile devices running GNU/Linux (OpenEmbedded-derived).

What has been missing since long is an Apple Mac. Not only because this is the 3rd supported platform for the Qt GUI-Toolkit, but also because Apple always had a special touch when it comes to usability, polishing interfaces, and streamlining workflows. I never owned any Apple product, so I’m quite curious how hard this cultural shock will affect me.

The only thing I need to decide though is whether I should go for a Mac Pro or a MacBook Pro… any recommendations?

(P.S. Of course, I will try to run OpenEmbedded natively on the Mac…)

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