Servo & Blink

The world, back in late march, knew 3-4 popular browser engines: WebKit, the engine that once was created by Apple (based on KDEs1 KHTML&KJS) and picked up by Google for their own Chrome browser2, Mozillas’ Gecko3, and Microsofts engine for (mobile) IE104. The fourth one, for the curious ones, would be Opera Softwares ‘Presto’, which Opera is replacing by WebKit in order to achieve better rendering, especially of mobile Webpages, where Apples mobile Safari alone has a huge market share.
Now, as of April 6th, there are 2 more entries to the list.
Continue reading “Servo & Blink”

  1. the Linux Desktop K Desktop Environment. []
  2. and Chrome OS plus the open source development projects dubbed Chromium & Chromium OS []
  3. developed based on open sourced Netscape Code, and used for Firefox and Mozillas new mobile OS Firefox OS []
  4. Microsoft Internet Explorer, often confused with ‘the internet’. []

Openmoko announces its 4th product: Shiftd

Today I found this in my inbox. Openmokos next project will be a web application called which actually seems quite nice to me. It still has some glitches, and I can’t tell whether it will take off – but it’s a nice idea.

(I am pretty sure though, that almost everybody who’s subscribed to the Openmoko announce mailing list would be more exited if Openmoko had announced hardware, preferably a wonderfully innovative open tablet or smartphone product.)

Dear Community!

Today I get to do one of the things I love most about my job; announce
our next product. This time, it’s very different from what we’ve built
in the past. No circuit boards were printed. Steel tooling wasn’t cut.
Mass production didn’t dent our view of reality. No. This time, ones
and zeros were all it took to assembly Openmoko’s fourth product: – A web service to bookmark, share, and discover videos
worth watching.

Like all our previous products, Shiftd started off by scratching a
personal itch. We were fascinated, yet totally overwhelmed by the
shear volume of videos on the web. We desperately wanted a way to
speed up the process of discovering what’s worth watching. Existing
tools left us deeply unsatisfied. So we set out to build our own.

Currently, we’re focused on Shiftd’s core interaction model:
bookmarking, sharing, and recommending videos. We have a working
prototype. We’re excited about using it ourselves, but we know it’s
far from perfect. Like the Neo 1973 many years ago, I want to share
our perspective with you at the earliest possible stage.

Longterm, our goal is to bring Shiftd to many different types of
devices and systems. At this point, technically, we have built only a
website, supporting a few videos sites, using Flash not HTML5 video
(yet). We have rough ideas for future improvements, including which
interfaces to open, but no concrete steps have been taken. We are at
the beginning – the time at which we know the least about the project.
Purposefully, we have made the fewest binding decisions possible,
while still maintaining our original vision.

Your feedback is critical for us to get this product right. We want
Shiftd’s heart to beat from the living process that emerges from the
journey we take together. Your stories, your real reactions, will
intimately grow Shiftd into something great.

Sign up today at Start shifting. Tell us what you
like and what you don’t like. Personally, I’m really looking forward
to receiving your recommendations (@mosko) and sharing some of my own
favorites with you.


Sean Moss-Pultz

SOURCE: Openmoko Announce Mailing List

Comment: Delayed AOSP release of Honeycomb

Recently, Google´s Andy Rubin stated that it would take some more time until they would release the Sourcecode of Android Honeycomb. This is not a new phenomenon, it often took Google longer to release the Sourcecode than the SDK or the first device running the same Android release. This time it´s going to take a lot longer – but, honestly, this is not surprising.

First of all, one hears of random application / service crashes in Honeycomb, secondly screenshots of Honeycomb on smartphones have indicated, that this Honeycomb platform could have used some more time in the lab – I believe that the early (in terms of code finalisation) release of Honeycomb was actually a business decision: Get people exited with Honeycomb tablets before the iPad 2 is out must have been the idea, and actually, this seems to have worked out – while many tech journalists say, that the iPad 2 is the best tablet on the market right now, most of them mention that Honeycomb nontheless is a strong platform that just needs the right hardware (Samsungs new Galaxy Tabs are going to be great, the Motorola XOOM is often refered to as early, thick and heavy) to be a really strong competitor.

Releasing a software really fast always means that there are some ugly hacks in it, and it makes perfect sense that Google doesn´t want to release  source codes that contain ugly hacks and doesn´t run well on every hardware platform – and they can do so due to choosing the Apache license, which isn´t as demanding in that sense as the GPL (especially GPL v3) is – they may be sued to release the GPL licensed software parts though (kernel and a few libraries).

Still, openess is one of the mayor selling points of Android, and so I am very positive, that Google will release the source code of Honeycomb as soon as they have fixed the issues in it – they could have made Android closed  source in the first place if they had wanted too – you don´t need a Linux kernel to run Dalvik – a story the Blackberry Playbook tells us (most likely, they might actually run a virtualized Linux kernel – the TI OMAP 4 SoC is definitely powerful enough to do so).

On the other hand, as someone watching community projects and being in contact with open source people for some time, this is the time to mention again that Android isn´t as open as other projects – new releases are always created behind closed doors, while some bits others changed on the previous release are pulled in, this is not open development. It´s just a opening to allow modifications and additions, but then, again, this does it for many and is in a way more than what you are able to do on other platforms that rely on more GPLed code (think of webOS and the no ogg, no flac media player) – the platforms efforts that are entirely open source are rarely supported / pushed forward by companies and thus remain enthusiast free time projects (G(PE)² is an example here, as it was backed by a unnamed company for a rather short time).

Android is just the most open / free mayor platform out there, but that´s something, isn´t it?

Samsung GT-i8320 – Impressions of the LiMo compliant Vodafone 360 OS

Of course I didn´t get the Samsung H1 / GT-i8320 to use it with the preinstalled system, a LiMo compliant system made customized for the 360 service of Vodafone (an european operator), I bought one to play with the original software, bought it to try MeeGo, Android, SHR and other software on this. But right now I am using it with the original LiMo compliant software – features like FM Radio or the quite ok camera don´t work on Android yet (H1droid, which, btw, was sluggish from time to time (not due to Ram shortage)) and they are nice to have.

In fact, the original OS on the H1 is not too bad. Its UI is certainly not for business use, rather for the young, social animal. Nontheless the Facebook application for the 360 platform is disappointing, and I didn´t find a twitter client (and there won´t be one, as the 360 platform has been discontinued by Vodafone).
It´s not the first time that I want to write: “Good ideas poorly carried out.” In a way this is different though. As there is no public SDK for native software (only a SDK for widgets), you don´t find much software – some doesn´t work (I tried to run a chinese FBreader port, which didn´t install).. nontheless, out there are tons of applications that could run on this LiMo r2 compliant software platform, as it is build around GTK+ and clutter. And that´s not all: Some J2ME apps don´t run well, permission settings for these are crippled and makes using some of these painful (read: those requiring permissions, e.g. for web access).
Think of Abiword embedded, fbreader-gtk, pidgin or gwibber or the GPE PIM apps – great opportunities missed due to the closed nature of a platform, that was sold as a smartphone platform, but in reality, as it exists, offers no more than a feature phone platform would. 

As you may have guessed already, I will spend my free time (as soon as I will have free time again) to try porting those FOSS applications to the LiMo compliant 360 OS.

If you love videos, I recommend this video review by

A day at CeBIT. Again.

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I am starting this very subjective write up sitting on a chair in the Webciety’s Bloggers Lounge and I feel pretty tired and exhausted – it‘s just as it has been the years before. You walk around all day and spend time out there, go hands on with the few devices you are interested here, talk to booth people… There are great moments and less great – this time there were few less great ones, even the sun was shining all the time, which I never experienced in CeBIT seasons Hannover.

After having strolled around many booths in many halls,  I visited a place that is a must for a guy writing about Linux, the Open Source park, which is a rather small area full of people that show off their more or less popular projects. Among many business related projects (including some I´ ve never heard of, as I am a little bit ashamed to admit) and more popular ones like Firefox 4 and LibreOffice I stumbled on a small Enlightenment corner and there on Carsten „raster“ Haitzler, who, as some of you may remember, was once involved into the Openmoko project. I talked to him for quite some time, first in german (as his father´s german) then in english about Linux, Android, toolkits on mobile devices. As you can read on his website as well, he´s with Samsung now, who are investing heavily into Enlightenment to build a platform on – which will actually be LiMo r4 compliant (there is EFL in LiMo r4, not only GTK+, cairo, clutter and so on). He showed me some EFL demos on an obviously Samsung built device on par with Galaxy S (using Hummingbird and an (approx.) 3.7“ WVGA screen) – most likely a developer model of the never released Samsung H2 / GT-i8330 hardware, which was supposed to be released during last summer, but didn´t make it (at least on Vodafone in Europe). I think I will write a dedicated article about what we talked about as soon as possible, because it really was great to talk about the downfall of MeeGo (back to Moblin, mostly – a fact he wasn´t too unhappy about, working on LiMo, which is certainly a rival to MeeGo on handsets.

Besides that, I didn´t hang out for too long in CeBIT´s OpenSource paradise (it was so crowded!) and headed on to webciety to get a little rest while listening to some panels I didn´t plan to listen too (at the one I had on my schedule, one about tablets with the MeetMobility guys + 2 others (a Qualcomm representive + @petweetpetweet) I arrived late, just to get a rest after all these tablet hands ons (in fact I used my partly broken (headset jack) Palm Pre to capture a hands on with the Hanvon A116 tablet, but I will have to edit it before uploading, so don´t expect that before saturday) and walking (I liked both ASUS Android tablets I wrote about recently (the MeMO and the Transformer, of which the latter really features amazing build quality and a really great finish), and then went on to have a look at some more devices before coming back late to the panel I just mentioned. After that, I managed to talk to @sascha_p for a few minutes, exchange business cards and head on to Huawei, were I had a look at their Android devices, entry level and up before „winning“ a Vodafone 246 dumb phone at the stand of a popular german PC magazine, which was about the last thing I did before heading out to catch my train.

If you want to, have a look at the photos I took.

The Gadget Hunger or Openness

I have to admit something today: I suffer from what I would call “gadget hunger”. Even if a device really does what I want, I become bored pretty soon, and want a new device. And guess what, there is often plenty of nice new hardware though it´s often just the hardware – the software is so often locked down as hell, that the device suddenly becomes less interesting for me – that’s the only thing that helps me staying solvent, because there is not much that’s as bad software without even the option of community driven fixes.
So I love this mobile devices. Well, it isn´t just mobility (Example: Recently I learned that there are not only rollable computer keyboards, but rollable piano keyboards as well), but somehow it´s mostly mobile computing devices.
Computing is the possibly the keyword, or explanation why I want rather open devices. As long as you have to stick to one certain OS, you might not find the appropriate software for a certain usage case. Or just not the software you would prefer if everything would be possible. Let´s face it: There is no perfect OS. And another point: It´s fun to play with different software. It´s fun to see software evolving. The hardware might be very promising, but if I can´t even try the next version of the devices OS running on it (though it would technically work and even if it is just Windows Mobile), I will try to get rid of the device. This, just to name an example, happened to the Samsung i780 i once had, gorgeous hardware, much nicer than the Openmoko Freerunner that I just keep because it is so open.

So let´s talk about openess, or let´s call it flexibility. I believe that regarding mobile computing devices we have two kinds of flexibility. The one is hardware features, like device architecture (speed, number of different devices using similar hardware) or connectivity (3G, WLan, BT, USB (Host or Device)), the other is the software that runs on the device per default.
Let´s talk about the software, because it´s less self explinatory than the hardware part in my opinion. Why? Because it is not that obvious as it might seem. Knowing little about this openness thingie, you might e.g. believe that Linux devices are more open than those running Windows Mobile. But in many (or even most cases) it is not.

A good (but rather deprecated) example are Motorolas EZX phones. A team of able developers wanted to free these phones since they hit the market in late 2005. Still there is nothing like an open distribution for these devices – as the OpenEZX project is focussed on the kernel and the now nicely supported devices have become rather old (and boring). Now why did it take so long? First of all these devices had a 2.4 kernel, so porting was supposedly not that easy. But there is another problem, that makes it tough to port SHR or Android to devices like the LiMo running phones: bootloaders, plenty of them, requiring signed images. Often there is no easy way to install additional native (non-Java/J2ME) software and though this is changing (App Stores), you will not be able to easily install software that helps “openning” the devices. Recent LiMo Devices like the Samsung H1 and M1 for Vodafone´s 360 social media platform still have non writable partitions (using compressed filesystems like cramfs) containing the core OS.

Let´s compare this to the (dying) Windows Mobile platform: Maybe you heard of HaRET (Hardware Reverse Engineering Tool), which is a (not only) linux bootloader launched just like a Windows Mobile application, usually used to load a kernel and rootfs from SD – no changes to the actual hardware have to be done, no need to hack a variety of bootloaders (at the risk of bricking your device) as long as you have a HaRET version that supports your phones hardware platform.

Time to get back to the start, gadget hunger, or why i started to write this unreadable crap: Recently I spent some time looking for a cheap snapdragon device – and because I did so on ebay, because I ´ve got no problem with using used stuff, as long it is cheap, I ran into the Toshiba TG01 aka “Tsunagi“, the first Snapdragon phone, though one could call it Pocket PC, MID or slate as well, as it is a damn thin (9,9mm) 4,1 inch touchscreen device. And yes, I am tempted to buy one of these, even though there aren´t even “real” attempts to run Linux on the TG01 – there is hope, as it is ported to HTCs´ HD2 (HaRET) and because there are several Android devices out there using the Snapdragon platform as well. And it supports USB Host right of the box ;-)

Admittedly this post would fit linmob just as good or better, but I had to post something here. I really have to learn to write about things that are not gadgets or bad storys again.. ;-)