Open Moko - GPL?

Steve Salazar eagsalazar at
Mon Nov 27 21:34:54 CET 2006

Hi.  First of all I want to repeat what many others on this list have 
already said.  I am very excited about the open moko project and the 
opportunities it represents.  I will be one of the first in line to buy an 
openmoko phone when they are available.

I have a few questions.  Thanks in advance for taking any time to answer:


1. It is mentioned that the gui was designed using gtk.  Will the sources 
for all the interface be released?  For that matter, will the sources for 
everything, including the os itself, drivers, etc be released?  Will 
openmoko follow an open development model similar to debian or fedora?  I 
really hope so and encourage your project to do so since I believe that is 
the model that benefits everyone the most.

2. If all these things are going to be opened, when?  I saw in related posts 
that this might be delayed until after the release because you guys are 
focusing on getting things out the door.  I understand that but I think that 
is a mistake.  The OSS development model achieves high quality and quick 
results because of involvement and extensive testing by the community.  If 
you don't release the code and sdk until after the phones are on sale, there 
is a 100% chance that major bugs or UI features problems will go unfixed or 
uncaught until after release.  Also, everyone is excited to get involved so 
why make us wait?  If you are too busy to deal with supporting the community 
then just do a pre-release on your website that is just a tarball with no 
support or community at all.  Read the cathedral and the bazaar for a good 
explanation of the OSS development model and why it works:

3. Why did you not use opie or gpe?  If all the drivers and code for 
openmoko are released, will it be possible for me to run qtopia or gpe on my 
own if i want to?  Are you prepared for the possibility that, if people like 
gpe or opie more, nice installers will become available very quickly and 
everyone might just run those environments instead?  If it turns out that 
the public prefers another environment, would the environment for openmoko 
continue to be developed or would you consider getting behind the 
environment chosen by the community?   I haven't seen openmoko yet so maybe 
that will be a giant contribution to the community also but for now it 
really seems like the huge benefit is just the hardware since there are 
other pda/phone environments availble.

Are you prepared to support the voracious appetite the OSS community has for 
the latest and greatest?  Will you always have the latest version of the 
kernel?  Of mplayer?  Minimo?  Etc?  If not forks will quickly form like 
they did for qtopia.  Why not just start an open development project like 
qtopia from the start so instead of creating division between your project 
and the community project, you can leverage that enthusiasm, like Ubuntu, 
Fedora, Debian, etc?  I know this may in fact be your plan so I am just 

4. What standards or protocols or libraries (other than gtk) were used to 
create openmoko's software suite?  Is there a document editor?  Does it use 
ODT?  Is there a music player?  Does it play ogg?  Is there a mail and 
calendar client?  Do they use ical, can they be synced using opensync?  
These are major issues that have plagued linux pda development in the past.  
People reinvent the wheel and even though the platform is semi-open, there 
is a proliferation of incompatibility.   Please use standards and 
open+existing libraries for everything as much as possible.  In that way you 
maximize the utility of the product and you maximize the leverage you can 
take from existing projects so you can focus on working on other things.  
(Related to "why not opie or gpe" question).  Everyone wins and the product 
is best.

5. X11 - Does the openmoko interface run on X11 or does it display directly 
on the fb?  Using real X11 keeps the door open for a huge number of 
compatible applications to be run with the openmoko environment.  Without 
X11, openmoko is an island.  My previous point about people potentially 
switching to opie or gpe *will* happen if openmoko does not use X11 because 
that will be the only way that people can use their favorite apps.   This 
will not be limited to just linux nerds.  Look at the popularity of Fink on 
OSX.  Linux has a lot to offer and without X11 there will be a lot of people 
trying to work around or remove openmoko to get at those offerings.  I know 
this may be your plan already so I am just asking.


1. This is sort of a rhetorical question:  Why innovate?  Why not just make 
semi-knockoffs of very popular existing phones but with hardware that is 
supported by linux.  For example, if you made something similar to the HTC 
Wizard (especially the new one) that was fully linux compatible I would by 5 
just out of happy delirium.  I know that a large part of the work involved 
in this project is architecting the hardware layout.  Of course you cannot 
rip-off the design of an HTC Wizard but by doing something pretty similar 
you could probably save yourselves a lot of work and even more get people 
what they want which is a reasonably priced phone that is open for even less 
money or you could spend the saved time or money elsewhere.

2. MicroSD:  Why?  Is the area used by full SD that much larger?   To me 
this seems like a huge tradeoff because for full size SD there are so many 
amazing cards available, not just storage and they are fully compatible with 
the form factor of many other devices without requiring an adapter.  I won't 
be able to put a wifi adaptor in my openmoko phone just to save a couple mm 
of card space?  I don't know if it is that simple, that is why I am asking.

3. Miniheadphone:  I know you don't have headphone output (or do you) but I 
will just comment because my HTC Wizard made this mistake.  Do not use 
mini-headphone jacks because it severely limits compatibility with other 
headphones.  If someone wants to use earbud headphones that are mini then 
you can buy very small and nice adapters that can live with the headphones.  
If the phone has mini however then you need to carry around the adapter 
wherever you go in case you want to plug into someones stereo.  With mini in 
the phone you get a proliferation of burden on the user for different 
scenarios but if the phone is normal then there is an annoying case but it 
is just one case and there is no proliferation of pain.

4. How open will the hardware platform itself be?  I know that many hardware 
manufacturers are actively closing the platform via bios white-lists, no 
specs or diagrams or part numbers, etc.  Will openmoko's hardware be the 
same or go in the same direction as the software, open.   I think an open 
development model for the hardware could be very  beneficial for the same 
reasons that open works for software.  You would get a lot of enthusiasts 
very excited and they would help you out for free by reviewing and even 
implementing features.  I, for example, am a seasoned asic designer.  I can 
program but that is not my main expertise so I don't contribute much to OSS 
software.  Maybe that would be different if there were a cool open hardware 
platform I could hack on??

4.5 - What about linuxbios?  Will the openmoko phone be using linuxbios?  My 
understanding is that the project is quite mature and that there are many 
advantages for both hardware manufacturers and for users.  More 
manufacturers only don't use it because it removes their ability to control 
or lockdown the hardware.

5. What about CDMA2000 or other cellular infrastructures?

6. CPU:  No info on the CPU yet?  Please make it fast enough to decode 
decent quality video and to do VoIP.  I absolutely love the hardware on my 
Wizard (hate hate hate the OS, buggy slow strange feature omissions, etc) 
but it is just too weak to do VoIP or play some video.

7.  Other random hardware questions/comments/wishes:
- Camera:  People who say don't bother with a 1.3Mpix camera are 
photographers or otherwise photography enthusiasts.  90% of the people are 
very happy at 1.3M because at 1.3 you can do photo album sized images with 
very high quality that most people are happy with.
- USB Host: Please please and make it USB2.  The idea of a 400MHz PDA with 
128MB RAM that can  plug into a USB2 hub makes me start dreaming of ditching 
an actual computer all together and just plugging my pda into a hub when I 
want better I/O.
- Wifi/Bluetooth - Must.  Fantastic.
- Storage:  1GB minimum integrated SD for running a real linux.  This may 
seem crazy for a phone but it is only crazy because it has never been done.  
A 400MHz computer + 128MB ram + wifi + USB Host + >1GB HD is no longer a 
phone - It is a real computer that is also small and I can make calls with.  
It is a dream.   I and many others will think of plenty to use that 1GB for. 
  I can think of plenty to use 6GB for.
- Battery: AA.  This is done on some other device I'm not thinking of.  My 
battery is dead and I can't just walk into 7-11 and buy replacements for $4? 
  Why not?
- Card slots:  Just SD and real SD, not micro/mini.
- Keyboard:  The touch dial is unusable by men with short fingernails on my 
HTC Wizard.  If that is not true of your phones then I am happy.  If it is 
the same then please include a keyboard in some models.

I know that is a lot of requests and comments but like I said, I will buy 
and will keep buying these phones as long as they are open and do a nice job 
and there are many many people like me who will do the same and who will 
encourage everyone they know to do the same with great enthusiasm.

If openmoko fully embraces the OSS way of doing things, is totally open, 
builds and encourages community, and allows for any usage, then the leverage 
you hope to gain from the OSS community will be fully realized.  Look at 
Ubuntu, Abiword, Linux and other projects where these principles have been 
followed and look at the explosion of involvement and growth of these 
projects and look at the loyalty and enthusiasm of these communities.  If 
things are totally open those will be your loyal customers for a long time 
and many of them will become major contributors to making your product even 
better.  Going OSS 50% or not doing enough to encourage and build community 
will result in less success (look at the fate of XFree86 after years of 
community dissatisfaction.  The only reason they lasted as long as they did 
is because they had no real competition).

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