September 2007

OpenExpo 2007

OpenMoko talk at OpenExpo 2007

Just returned to Frankfurt after visiting the OpenExpo 2007 in Zurich/Oerlikon. Benjamin ‚C7‘ Hagen organized a small but fine OpenMoko booth (next our friendly GNOME colleagues) and we had two very good days with lots of interested people stopping by. My talk on Thursday also attracted quite some people (as you can see in the photo). To silence all the „it’s cool, but doesn’t work as a phone“ nay-sayers, I demonstrated a phone call during the talk 😀

OpenMoko Booth at OpenExpo 2007

On to some bad news… Benjamin got his backpack stolen, including a Laptop and his Neo 1973… *sigh* I will make sure he gets one from the next batch of GTA01.

OpenExpo was very organized and agile. Although it’s just the little brother of the Topsoft business fair — which occupied four times the space — I dare to say, it looked as most of the visitors (me included) found OpenExpo much more exciting than Topsoft 😉

Leaving to Portugal tomorrow for a two weeks vacation — after that, I’m going to visit the 2nd annual OpenEmbedded developers conference in Berlin. Then back to Taipei for a bit.

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Hello (again), Qtopia!

So Trolltech recently ported the Qtopia application suite to the Neo. Right after the release, the community almost immediately started to join one of three camps — two being huge, one being small. The first camp is the ultra-pro’s: They embrace Qtopia and demand OpenMoko Inc. to halt all efforts working towards a non-Qt/Embedded-based platform immediately. The second camp is the ultra-con’s: They are afraid of C++, have not forgotten the less-than-optimal community relationship during the last five years, or claim Trolltech stealing attention from the „sole real free way to write software“ in order to facilitate their „dubiously dual licensed“ stack. More modest people join the third camp, the pragmatist’s: They realize that Trolltech has a four year’s advantage with their stack and that this is the very reason for it to be more polished, more complete, and more usable compared to what OpenMoko can offer right now.

If there’s one thing we learned from the GNOME vs. KDE war, then that the overall benefits of the competition (inspiration, innovation, …) outweigh the disadvantages (duplicated work, reinvented wheels, …). We also learned that there are ways to collaborate — see for example all the great work that happens around the standards, among them Dbus, which Qt recently accepted as the new standard Unix way to do high-level interprocess communication (IPC). I see Dbus being an important technique for the future of the (mobile) Unix ecosystem. It is what I would call the collaboration enabler. Below this dbus line, we can collaborate, above this line we can compete. Once we have agreed about interfaces to all the low-level services we offer (telephony, networking, device control, user preferences, PIM database, you name it…), we can call these dbus interfaces from whatever language or toolkit we can imagine. This is my idea of freedom.

Along this line, I sincerely welcome Trolltech’s initiative. To be honest, it didn’t came as a surprise to me anyways, since all the major free software players kind of stay in loose contact — after all many of us know each other personally since lots of years and while we not necessarily agree about the technical way to move forward, we all share the vision and work towards open platforms. Having Qtopia on the Neo improves the visibility for Linux-based mobile open hardware (read: more demand for FIC) and this draws more of attention to all of us (read: more demand for mobile open source developers). Which is good.

Then again, not yet everything is bright and shiny. Qtopia still is based on Qt/Embedded which in turn means it relies on exclusive framebuffer access thus preventing other UI-toolkits from running in parallel (yes there is an X-server for Qt/Embedded, but this is a scary indirection). Also, it has its own GSM multiplexer code, hardware device abstraction layer, etc. etc. I would really like to see us collaborating in the lower services infrastructure. Being an optimist, I’m sure this will happen eventually.

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OpenMoko and OpenEZX at Mobile Developer Days 2007

The Mobile Developer Days are a new conference aiming to create a platform where developers, network operators, service providers, and mobile manufactures can exchange their ideas and visions in the field of mobile communication. This year was the first shot at what is hoped to be an annual event.

I was invited to give a presentation about the OpenMoko project and the FIC Neo1973 mobile phone. Stefan Schmidt was invited to present the OpenEZX project. Besides performing our talks, Stefan and me installed a kind of an ad-hoc lab in the lobby of the venue at Aalborg University where we worked on OpenMoko (and later OpenEZX), demonstrated the devices, and answered questions for people passing by.

Due to the relatively small scope (~40 participants), it was a very productive gathering focused on direct communication between the participants. We had a pretty good time there and everything was well organized. Since the audience was quite heterogenous, the results of the discussions were quite inspiring. I’m looking forward to the next installation of this conference.


psplash on GTA02v1

While we were at MDD, we worked on a lot of OpenMoko issues. We went through the bugtracker, applied some patches, fixed bugs, etc. To improve the OpenMoko appeareance on non-VGA devices, I reworked the panel plugins to scale to different panel sizes. The neod now monitors headphone insertion and removal events and adjusts the mixers accordingly. I also started working on a first-usage wizard to make some of the most important preferences accessible. After switching to mrxvt, we no longer get the automatic opening/closing of the keyboard (since mrxvt is no Gtk+ application). To fix this, I did a new openmoko-terminal application wrapping the VteTerminal widget. This should be useful very soon. Last but not least, we also found time to do some testing on the forthcoming GTA02 device…


OpenMoko A780

As promised to the OpenEZX hacker’s community, Stefan Schmidt and me took a day off to hack on OpenEZX. It’s been a while for both of us and the amount of achieved progress since last year is really cool. Using an OpenMoko root file system, we managed to boot a Motorola A780 via root-over-nfs right into the OpenMoko user interface. OpenMoko simply rocks on the Motorola Ezx Platform, especially the kinetic scrolling is very fluid and intuitive — even more so than on the Neo1973 GTA01 phone where a slower processor has to take care about 4 times the pixels. Thanks to the new Alsa SoC patch we even heard the A780 playing the OpenMoko startup sound. I added pH5’s work on the QVGA adaptions to the OpenMoko theme into SVN and adjusted some missing things in the OpenEmbedded bugtracker. It is our goal to release an OpenEZX preview image before the end of September. The major showstoppers right now are the missing libgsmd integration for the EZX platform. I’ll post more pictures or probably rather a video of OpenMoko running on A780 and A1200 soon.


To close with something completely unrelated… it was my first time in Denmark and this country has a lot of merits — did I mention that I fancy cool blondes? 😀

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