links for 2008-05-29

General Comments Off on links for 2008-05-29
  • Quim Gil’s update on’s future direction in LinuxTag. Some important new information here – including a commitment to GTK+/Hildon for at least two more versions of the software. track in LinuxTag

maemo, marketing, work 1 Comment

So far, the track has been great – very informative. Some highlights:

Gary Birkett (better known on IRC as lcuk) gave a short talk on how and why he got involved in – an interesting perspective on motivations of volunteers, and a classic “scratching your own itch” situation. He’s developed a text reader which works in full-screen, and has smooth scrolling with finger & stylus (like the iPhone).

Niels Breet is the webmaster. He was an active community member doing great work, who has recently been funded by Nokia to work on project infrastructur. It’s an interesting model of community funding – Niels explained that his boss is the community, even though it’s Nokia who’s paying his wages. He talked about some of the things that he’s working on improving, including the newly published packaging policy (PDF), and fixing the repositories mess to make it easier to upload software to a central maemo extras repository.

The main presentation to close out the morning was Quim Gil talking about the strategy of Nokia over the next couple of years. Without going into details, he talked about the next two versions of the platform, Fremantle and Harmattan. Fremantle will continue to be primarily GTK+/Hildon based, and QT will be integrated into the platform in the Harmattan release.
Quim then talked about the role of community in and tablet development. He mentioned that Nokia have recently invested in 3 roles (webmaster, bugmaster, docmaster) where the people being funded answer primarily to the community. This represents a big investment in the community.

His major announcement was that he was launching 10 days of community brainstorming on two subjects: the 100 Days community plan and 2010, defining short term goals for the community, and helping Nokia define the mid-term goals and strategy for the project. He also announced the maemo summit, to be held in Berlin on the 19th of September, after OSiM World, and finished with a call to arms. Nokia is looking for real community input and action, and wants help finding the right balance between the commercial constraints involved in producing mass-market devices and the community requirement for transparency and openness.

After lunch, we had some presentations of some of the cool apps which have been written by community members for the maemo platform.

Alberto Garcia of Igalia presented Vagalume , a beautiful and well-integrated client for GNOME and maemo tablets.

Florian Boor presented the GPE application suite which includes a bunch of small applications targeting handheld form-factors.

Urho Konttori, who has since become a project manager in Nokia, talked about the UKMP media player, UKTube YouTube downloader & plater, and some other applications which he has written for the maemo platform.

Next up: platform hacks, and “what’s next?”.

OLPC, OpenMoko and GNOME Mobile

gnome, maemo, marketing 13 Comments

Some recent stories have started raising brows among some comentators on GNOME Mobile (see the comments in particular):

  • OLPC figurehead Nicolas Negroponte announces that they will be installing Windows on the XO laptops, and porting Sugar to Windows
  • OpenMoko project lead Michael Shiloh announces that future versions of the platform will have Enlightenment as the windowing system and Qtopia apps by default

Both of these stories are not complete abandonments of GTK+ or the GNOME platform. Sugar will still be GTK+ based, and OpenMoko will continue to support GTK+ in the platform, and the previously developed GTK+ applications.

But it would be disingenuous to suggest that these announcements don’t represent a cooling towards the GNOME platform on the part of both organisations.

So what happened? There are two plausible explanations:

  • Bad tools – the GNOME platform is not suitable to the applications, or it’s difficult to develop with, there is a shortage of development tools,  books, or maybe the platform itself has quality or performance issues – perhaps the organisations had trouble hiring hackers with GTK+ experience
  • Bad workmen – the projects over-reached, had unreasonable schedule expectations, were not sufficiently planned, and were poorly executed, due to poor management or weak team members – the choice of technology is irrelevant to the failures of the projects to deliver on expectations in terms of schedule, functionality and quality, perhaps the projects had poor or inconsistent focus and vision

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

I think most people who have tried would say that software development with GTK+ in C is hard, development in C++ or Java is quicker and less painful. A case, if one needed to be made, for focussing more than ever on gtkmm and java-gnome, and ensuring that these bindings are promoted, and as high-quality as possible.

But if you look at the goals of OLPC, their goal was to completely rewrite the graphical interface to the OS to be completely focused on the educational paradigm they were aiming for. This is a huge task, and it seems clear (in hindsight) that the enormity of it was underestimated. Free software is not the cure to all ills, things don’t go quicker just because you chose a free software licence for your project. The reality of the project’s status didn’t keep up with schedule pressures and marketing, to thepoint where the project’s credibility has been damaged by theGive One Get One and some high-profile withdrawls from the program.

The same thing goes for OpenMoko. Looking in from the outside, the technical management of the project has not been consistent from the beginning, partly because unreasonable expectations at the beginning led to impatience when early objectives weren’t being met. With objectives unmet, band-aids were plastered on band-aids, the direction changed, and now the OpenMoko platform has three competing application frameworks supported – QT, GTK+ and EFL.

It may be, and I hope it is, that both these projects survive their current difficulties and go on to be great successes. I’m sure that there are lessons to be learned for us in their stories.

But people who announce that this means the end of GNOME Mobile are quite obviously over-reacting.

We have several high-profile participants, including Nokia and ACCESS, committed to using GTK+ in their platforms. Important components of the GNOME Mobile stack area key part of the moblin platform, and are included in the LiMo reference platform (PDF). Devices such as those announced recently by Verizon, and the 18 phones announced by LiMo earlier this year, are based on this platform, so it seems clear that we are going to be a player in the mobile device space for many years. Success stories like the Vernier LabQuest and the iRex e-book reader show that we can be a compelling option in niche devices with custom interfaces.

With the current work of the initiative following on from the Austin summit last month, which includes creating a GNOME Mobile release set for release with GNOME 2.24, and raising awareness of what we’re up to, you should be seeing some interesting news over the coming months. The GNOME Mobile initiative is more necessary and useful now than ever.

Live from LinuxTag

freesoftware, gnome, maemo, running, work 1 Comment

I arrived in Berlin on Tuesday for three days in LinuxTag 2008 to meet up with some members of the community, see old friends, and generally chat with as many people as possible.

After arriving, I managed to  get out for a run, which was surprisingly pleasant – ourhotel is quite near the Tiergarten behind the zoological gardens, so while running around I accidentally went past some lovely landmarks, and managed to scout out a nice beer-garden beside the Neuen See where we had some nice Weisswurst last night.

It’s been fun so far – I met up with Quim and Marcell on Tuesday, and Kate, Peter, Niels and Marius yesterday. I spent a lot of time wandering around playing “spot the familiar face” – it was great catching up with Jochen Topf from Open Street Map (formerly FOSTEL organiser), Vincent Untz and Joe Brockmeister who are here for OpenSuse, Nils and Florian from OpenEmbedded and GPE.

I ran into Anne Oestergaard too, and it was great chatting with MaryBeth and Rob from OpenMedia Now, Knut Yrvin from Trolltech, and most of the KDE eV board who are here this week too – I met Aaron Seigo for the first time, after years of email conversations, and Sebastian and Cornelius are here too.

With so many familiar faces, it can be tempting to just talk to people you know, but I do like meeting up with new people at these things too – and the number one conversation starter I’ve had this week has been  Big Buck Bunny – my kids love this cartoon, so much that Tuesday they watched it on repeat for an hour. And it goes down well with the adults too. Mad props to Ton, Sacha and the gang on the great success – they have attained their goal of an accessible cartoon to follow on from the “arty” Elephants Dream.

Already today we’ve heard Cat Allman from Google telling us about Google Summer of Code and GHOP, and  the always entertaining Knut Yrvin on QT. After Knut’s session the track starts, and I will be reporting as much as possible. Nick Loeve (trickie) proposed having a Wiki sprint today, and if I can get critical mass (and critical internet access) for that, we’ll do that a little later.

Call for help!

freesoftware, maemo 6 Comments

I received my copy of Big Buck Bunny today, and I’m leaving for Berlin tomorrow morning for LinuxTag.

I’d like to be able toshow BBB on my Nokia N810, but when I copy the AVI file from the DVD onto the tablet, it doesn’t load (“File format not supported” it says). Same goes for “Elephants Dream”. The same also goes for the Nokia N800 (although there I just get a message the there is no application that can manage the file format).

Can anyone point me towards the codecs I’ll need to get this working tonight, please? I’d hunt myself (really I would) if I wasn’t packing a bag and putting kids to bed.

Thanks Lazyweb!

links for 2008-05-25

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links for 2008-05-22

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links for 2008-05-19

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links for 2008-05-16

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links for 2008-05-15

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