Back from Switzerland
Just came back from Berne where the bi-annual OpenExpo was held. The OpenExpo is one of my favourite conferences, since it’s very professionally organized, has a rich mix of interesting topics and talks while retaining the very friendly characteristic spirit of switzerland — which I like a lot.
Sean Moss-Pultz from Openmoko Inc gave a talk in the “business” track, while I gave a talk in the “technology” track. Videos of both tracks are available here [actually, the business track is still missing, the technology track is already there though] — please watch them before continuing reading. Sean “shocked” the world with a very honest retrospective and a description of the state of Openmoko right now, while I layed out the fragmented state of Linux on mobile and the way freesmartphone.org attempts to improve this situatin.
Most facts have been detailed elsewhere, so I will not just repeat these, but rather state what it means for the movement of Linux on open mobile devices.
Neo 1973 and the FreeRunner
There is absolutely no reason to worry about support for the existing devices. Both the Neo1973 and the FreeRunner are in pretty good shape these days and will be supported by the forthcoming operating system upgrade, Openmoko 2009. Plus you have access to half a dozen of community distributions. If you happen to be plagued by the gsm-buzz problem on the FreeRunner, please join one of the de-buzzing initiatives — there will be multiple ones. Other than that, the FreeRunner and parts are still in stock in high numbers.
I have been with Openmoko, Inc. since the beginning. In fact, I’m employee number #3, #2 being Harald ‘LaF0rge’ Welte, who quit in 2007, #1 being Sean Moss-Pultz himself. I’m sad that things needed to be put on hold, but there are no hard feelings whatsoever towards Openmoko. In fact, I hope that the new product will be a huge success (I will buy one or two), so that the open phone can be restarted — and if so, I would not mind to be a part of it again.
As the FSO team is now without funding, we will continue working on it in our spare time, as much as we did work before Openmoko came around. We will however, a) look for new funding and b) slightly change priorities to support more other hardware, like the HTC anti-vendor-ports. All of us 100% believe in the ideas of
- Free platforms for free people,
- Unified access to services and peripherals,
- Solving real user-problems and leveraging creativity through simple and powerful tools.
The Openmoko devices are and will remain our reference platform, since they’re the only fully open ones. If you want to work on freeing more closed devices, be our guest! We are concentrating on middleware and helping application developers to create compelling applications based on the FSO middleware. We can not cover kernel support though. We will soon come up with a comprehensive table of FSO-compliance levels to indicate what level of support the FSO middleware expectes from the kernel. By that we hope to motivate anti-vendor-port communities (such as OpenEZX, Gnufiish, HTClinux) to uplevel their devices towards standard kernel interfaces and to establish more horizontal communication between those hardware-inspired communities.
Yes, Openmoko halting telephony is slowing the movement down. No, it’s not killing it. Neither is it a sign that free software on mobile phones does not work or lacks demand. Many of us want free platforms. And no, Android is not it. Yes, it may be open enough for some people, and it may take lots of developers from Windows Mobile. But it does not bring more free hardware nor free infrastructure.