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MeeGo – some feedback and thoughts February 15, 2010

Posted by Florian in Devices, Linux, Maemo, MeeGo, OpenEmbedded, Source.
18 comments

I only had a very few free minutes today I was able to spend following the discussions and reading released information about MeeGo. For some reason the most intensively discussed fact among the community members  seems to be decision to use the RPM package system. This one is followed by the Qt vs. GTK+ discussion I cannot remember when it started but I still remember it even started before I wrote the first line of open source code :-)  I have seen a lot of questions about currently existing devices (N900 mostly) and software -  if they are likely to become supported in future MeeGo releases – at least for the N900 and Maemo 6 there is a statement by Ari Jaaksi already. The other technical questions… well, in an ideal world these should not even be relevant for the developers because there would be the perfect tools that create the packages you want and assist you to create user interfaces without thinking much about the toolkits you  use. Again – this is the theory – we all know that the real life for development is quite different. But in the end or customers / users will decide which platform and with this which applications they are going to use. Users will not care about the package format used in the platform or the toolkit that is used by some application. In fact many (mostly Linux/Unix based) platforms do not expose the software package file format to an average user any more while some quite popular ones still do (e.g. Symbian and Windows). For users the availability of a consistent and widely used software platform with a high amount of available applications is likely to be the most important criterion. Ok, I admit that the availability of sexy hardware is quite important too :-)

Way more interesting than technical details is to look at the landscape of mobile device software stacks and to place MeeGo in it. So how does this landscape look like now?

  • There is Apple with the iPhone – pretty much closed but many developers and sexy hardware but quite limited amount of devices and only one manufacturer.
  • Symbian – well established with a large community but it feels like it hits its limits with modern smartphones.
  • Samsung just launched Bada which looks quite interesting but does not yet seem to have a large community of developers and users.
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile is available for many years now but seems to have lost attraction over the years.
  • Palm WebOS is interesting from both developer and user point of view but I think it will be hard for it to compete with all the major players in this area.
  • Google developed Android which enjoys a fast growing user- and developer base. It’s easy to get started with Android and there is a wide range of interesting devices available already. It is quite portable since most of the lowlevel components are open source.

Among these the most likely candidate to play the dominating role in the mobile handset market might be Android. At least this is how things look like right now… we all know this market changes pretty fast and you never know what happens next. I think Nils asked the question quite a few of us asked themselves: Will MeeGo become a kind of “Android killer”?

No way I will comment on this but in order to become a more generic platform MeeGo needs to focus on different things Maemo did so far. So far Maemo was focused on supporting a very few devices and contained quite some specialized bits that only worked for the Maemo specific devices and its distribution. I still remember that getting basic support for building the Maemo software stack with OpenEmbedded caused some headaches and sleepless nights. (I was mentor of a GSoC project working on this – just take a look at Kirtika’s blog to find out some details.)  It is good to see that it is quite obvious that MeeGo folks understand that these things will have to change. A good example is the process how to get some hardware supported. For someone like me supporting various device makers the really interesting part will follow: How will the device makers adopt MeeGo and how many of them will ‘jump onto the MeeGo boat’? Having more hardware vendors supporting MeeGo means more users and meant to make the platform more interesting for developers. And gaining interest from developers and users is absolutely vital for any software platform that is going to play a major role in future.

In my opinion there is a lot of potential in MeeGo – the most important one is the fact that the key components are going to be open and portable. The project joins two (comparably small) developer and user communities and combines this new community with the support by two very successful companies. I can imagine that this base is able to attract quite some more valuable contributors like smaller device makers, software companies and open source projects.

I’m pretty sure that ‘The Big Merge’ is going to cause quite some movement in the mobile device landscape…

MeeGo or Maemo grown up February 15, 2010

Posted by Florian in kernel concepts, Linux, LinuxToGo, Maemo, MeeGo.
10 comments

Wee..! Big news – Intel and Nokia joining their open source software platforms Maemo and Moblin into a single one: Meego

So what does this mean for developers and device manufacturers? One thing is for sure: The new platform will become the “grown up” version of Maemo and Moblin. Especially for the Maemo part this means that the focus will change from targeting a very few devices and a quite well-defined software stack to a more generic way to support multiple hard- and software environments. And this is good – only a portable and easy to support platform is attractive for the device makers while the availability of multiple devices is important for its attractively among software developers.

It looks like we have interesting times ahead…

FOSDEM 2010 February 9, 2010

Posted by Florian in Devices, Linux, OpenEmbedded, Source, World.
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Something was wrong with FOSDEM this year: The weather – it was (comparably) warm and the sun was shining all the time!  Apart from this it was a great event like always. I attended it representing the OpenEmbedded project with a small booth. From the OE project perspective FOSDEM was a great success. Apart from meeting people working on other projects that do use or could use OE we had a lot of interest from various other visitors at the booth.

Visitors at the OE booth

Visitors at the OE booth

Some things I noticed during my time at the booth is that we have to improve the presentation of the project a little bit. For many visitors even on a developer event like FOSDEM OpenEmbedded is a quite uncommon project and hard to present. We showed a set of different devices at FOSDEM but we always need to explain that these devices are just samples for possible OE target devices. It’s not really obvious how to communicate this… One improvement could be to add sheets with OE information to the devices we show. We should list things like this:

  • Name
  • CPU Architecture
  • Useful OE targets

Another thing I miss is a kind of poster or info sheet that summarizes OE achievements in some lists and numbers. But anyway I think we are getting better and become more and more popular.

Device collection

Device collection

We have to thank all the project members who helped with our booth – most notably Alessandro, Robert, Marcin and Henning for spending a lot of time at the booth. Special thanks should go to Ulf (from Atmel) and Vladimir (from Archos) who made it possible to have some more interesting devices to show. I think this is the first time we didn’t have a single Zaurus at the booth… :-)

One more project / booth I think is worth to mention is Rep Rap / Makerbot. The bots for turning 3D models into real things you can touch and use gained quite some attraction.

Bots at the booth

Bots at the booth

Bot detail

Bot detail

Did you notice? You can even use these bots make parts for another one… I think it is worth following these projects. They might become quite important to us in near future.

A working Makerbot - just finished a job

I would have some more things to write about – there were a lot of interesting things going on at FOSDEM but like always time is lacking. More as soon as I manage to write some more lines…

Projects at kc February 9, 2010

Posted by Florian in kernel concepts, Linux, OpenEmbedded.
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I hope a few people wondered why my blog looked a little bit neglected in the past few months. Well finally I can say that I have been busy with several larger projects I was not supposed to talk about.  For two projects I am involved in there are related press releases from our customers and business partners.

One project is the Linux port to the Höft & Wessel skeye.pos mobile – I really like the press release because it mentions the fact the supplied devices are running Linux and what the devices are used for. The filesystem on these devices is built with OpenEmbedded and is based on an older Angström release.

The other big project is closely related to both my job for kernel concepts and OpenEmbedded which is one of my favourite open source projects. The µCross distribution will support chip- and device vendors who are going to ship Linux-based solutions. The main idea is to combine the power OpenEmbedded and its large community with a good portion simplicity and a few additions. I do not want to mention too many boring details here so I will just introduce the basic concept: The idea is to offer customers binary packages matching their target architecture, matching toolchains and tools for assembling and configuring filesystem images for their devices.

There is not really an offical announcement yet but one of our business partners just announced a nice SBC module which will come with a µCross-based SDK. The TK71 is a QSeven format module powered by a Marvell 88F6281 SoC (Sheeva core based).

A third project that gained some love is the updated Linux port to the Toshiba Topas910 and TopasA900 boards. I am trying to maintain an upstream compatible and up to date Linux port to these devices here – for the people who do not want to use several year old kernels or this strange Aura stuff.  The latest achievement is that I got some patches to make NAND flash work which is vital for the TopasA900 because its small NOR flash can’t keep a decent filesystem image with GUI.

Ok now I’m done with showing off and I should return to do something useful… such as writing a short report about FOSDEM!

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