Some commentary on the new Openmoko direction, and a review of FSO
wolfgang at openmoko.com
Thu Aug 7 18:32:52 CEST 2008
thanks for writing your review, for us at Openmoko nothing is better
than a genuine reality check from outside.
Executive summary first: I understand that we have not done a very
good job at communicating our software strategy, and I accept
responsibility for that.
In detail, let me go through some of your comments:
> The ASU was a proof-of-concept image that combined Qtopia,
Enlightenment and GTK
I would say it's more than proof-of-concept. When Qtopia became fully
GPL in November last year, we looked at it technically. Trolltech
published great binary images for the Neo 1973 but we couldn't
immediately use them because Qtopia ran on the framebuffer not on X,
and we did not want to give up GTK+. By February, we had come to the
conclusion that porting Qtopia onto X, retaining GTK+ support, would
be technically feasible for Openmoko. Our initial estimate was 2-4
months. So we started. Qtopia is an addition to the Openmoko software
> "ASU" and 2008.8 are the same thing for the most part.
> The GTK based 2007.02 line was obsoleted (or some might argue
I would say neither obsoleted nor deprecated. Bringing Qtopia (and
especially Enlightenment) in _TEMPORARILY_ broke GTK+, that's one
reason why we didn't release more ASU builds earlier.
Actually the real breakage of the GTK+ telephony apps came from
Enlightenment, which forced us to replace matchbox.
We also wrote a new launcher, Illume.
Then we went back to fix the GTK+ part, adding the theme back in,
making it easy to switch from what are now the default Qtopia
telephony apps to the GTK+ telephony apps. That part is not yet
entirely finished. When 2008.8 is released, you still will not be able
to remove Qtopia with a few clicks, and switch back to GTK+. Neither
can you have both installed at the same time. We are very interested
that both of that works, if nobody in the community picks this up then
we will. We are already on it actually, like I said fixing the GTK+
telephony apps that got broken by the introduction of Enlightenment
and Qtopia is something we do for a while already.
> The ASU and Framework were announced at roughly the same time.
Please don't read anything into this. Openmoko is a real open source
project. What you may feel are two 'announcements' 'at the same time'
are in reality probably several emails from people in different parts
of the world that are _NOT_ synchronized to the degree that you might
see this from the typical company. In many companies, all you will
hear is the marketing department. So they always speak with one voice.
At Openmoko, even full-time, fully paid employees have no restrictions
whatsoever to post private opinions, blogs, etc. In fact we encourage
them! Please factor that in...
> To the community is appeared as if Sean Moss-Pultz had pulled a
decision out of his ass to abandon the software that people knew and
go with Qtopia instead
I agree some people felt like that, and it's not good. Again we have
no unified marketing message, and we don't want to introduce any kind
of 'gag order' for engineers (a lot of them would leave if we would
try that anyway ;-))
I will try to do better going forward communicating our technical
> The biggest unanswered question was "I want to develop an app for
Freerunner, what should I start with?"
Yes, big problem. Right now a lot of the new things we are doing are
implemented in Python using Python-ETK bindings.
Check out the sources here: http://projects.openmoko.org/plugins/scmsvn/viewcvs.php/trunk/?root=exposure
Now, this is not the end of the story. You can also develop using GTK
+, or Qtopia. We even have quite good Java support (Jalimo) on the
Neo. And so on.
We are fully aware that we need to provide an entry point that is AS
EASY AS POSSIBLE to use. We are working towards that, but I think you
need to give us a few more months until we have good tutorials, sample
sources, development/installation methods, etc. At least you will be
able to see it coming together alive, I hope it's not too stressful :-)
> Mickey Lauer posted again, making it pretty clear that my
assumptions [that ASU and Framework were complimentary projects] were
You must have misunderstood Mickey. ASU and Framework are absolutely
Behind the scenes it is all melting together. Luckily Linux is a multi-
process environment :-)
ASU means Enlightenment and Qtopia were brought into the Openmoko
software stack. It will be released as Om 2008.8.
FSO/Framework means many more dbus services will be brought into the
Openmoko software stack, including applications using d-bus. It will
be released later, maybe Om 2009?
OpenEmbedded is holding all this together.
> If the two [ASU and Frameowork] were to merge, it would be by
Not correct. Full-time Openmoko engineers are already working on this
> Frankly, after the disappointing abandonment of the Neo 1973 device
That is really unfair. Let me explain the background:
First, there are full-time, fully paid people at Openmoko supporting
the Neo 1973 passionately. Just suggest something that would break
1973 compatibility to Werner and you will see what I mean. And this is
fully supported and backed by Sean and our investors, even though, if
you only think short-term, it doesn't make sense economically.
Now - even better - I would _LOVE_ to produce new Neo 1973 devices
right tomorrow. Imagine we could have the 1973 as a low-cost option
next to the Freerunner. Maybe 199 USD. Without glamo, i.e. with a
faster VRAM bandwidth. For a long time raster preferred developing on
his 1973 instead of Freerunner prototypes!
But you know what? I cannot produce them! The way the whole mobile
industry works is that new mobile chips are announced, go into MP, are
being produced, are being end-of-lifed. All of this very fast. It's a
big machine, making more than 1 billion devices per year, and it
doesn't stop for anybody. Everybody in this industry is under constant
pressure to use the latest chips, all under NDA and even tighter
Intellectual Property protections than before. The older chips simply
cannot be bought anymore. We believe we can change this, we believe we
can break the cycle and establish a long-lasting platform. But believe
me we are up against a massive, scary machine. So if I hear a comment
like "disappointing abandonment" that indeed is disappointing to me,
because I know we have people who work late-nights every day and
scramble to find those components so we could produce more 1973. But
the machine has moved on. Eventually we will get smarter, use only
chips that are not only open, but also produced for a longer time
span. And hopefully with the help of everyone, we get bigger too, so
we find more partners to break the system.
> Sean is also the CEO of a company ... to ensure that Openmoko turns
> The financiers, investors, venture capitalists and shareholders are
the real chiefs. I suspect that those people started getting freaked
out by the Freerunner delay.
Let me praise our investors a bit. FIC is a wonderful parent company.
They give Sean 100% freedom to execute _his_ vision. Sure, the
Freerunner was delayed, but there is nobody outside that could
possibly create more pressure on us than we put onto ourselves. People
were waiting for the product to ship. We looked at _EVERY_ conceivable
option to speed this up. As I said above the opening up of the Qtopia
sources under GPL was one such option, and we looked at it. As you
said, we were hoping it would give us a way to sell the phones to more
'normal' end users faster. To get some money into the bank. Not
because our investors forced us into that, but because we wanted to
stand on our own feet financially so we could further pursue what we
wanted to do. Something like the framework, and other things we are
> In some ways, it's a gigantic experiment.
Thank you so much for coming along on the ride, keep your feedback
coming! (let me know if my mail was helpful, I answer more questions
if you have more)
On Aug 6, 2008, at 12:16 PM, Bobby Martin wrote:
> Kevin Dean wrote a great review of the FSO Milestone 2 release, and
> some commentary about the new OM direction that I think expresses the
> opinion of a lot of us. It's not really surprising, but it is well
> If it doesn't make you smile, you're doing something wrong.
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