ASU software - pre-pre-release impressions

Kevin Dean kevin at
Mon May 19 19:06:26 CEST 2008

On Mon, May 19, 2008 at 10:27 AM, Ian Darwin <ian at> wrote:
> I have been using a FreeRunner for a few days with a pre-pre-alpha
> snapshot of the ASU software.

I've done Daily Snapshot Reviews since January. I enjoy bug hunting
and communication. Where can I get this image? Does it run on a

> For those who have been off-list for a
> while, or who have not been looking at the Wiki much, the April
> Software Update switches the Window Manager from matchbox to
> Enlightenment (E17) and the main applications from the GTK-based apps
> (developed by OpenMoko and OpenedHand) to QTopia (but using X11, of course).
> The new phone is in the same case, so it looks and feels a lot like a
> GTA01. I think the partition numbers for dfu-util have changed; newer
> versions of dfu-util allow you to use the partition names instead of the
> numbers. Beware.
> The Home Page (aka Launcher) can now be displayed either in an Icon Grid
> (conventional cell phone style, e.g., Blackberry, and the traditional
> QTopia format) or a "slider" style (the latter demonstrated by MokoNinja
> here: (flash
> required).

For those without Flash, here's a video of the same concept.

> The small home/current-apps menu has been replaced by a larger
> slide-down top panel, listing the current apps, and containing the time,
> battery panel, GSM on/off, qwerty keyboard on/off, Configuration, and
> the Enlightenment menu.
> Neither of the above is, AFAIK, cast in stone.
> I must admit I have mixed feelings about the switch from OM/GTK apps to
> QTopia.

I personally had those reservations as well. From a non-technical
standpoint, I think Openmoko "did right by me". I know nothing about
hackability on a code level, but I know my previous dislike of Qtopia
was because of the lack of flexbility from not running on X11. I also
had doubts... Qtopia has been around for a while and never made waves
but Openmoko held promise. I felt making the switch to Qtopia was a
comprimise on that.

However, I don't think so now. The work done to port Qtopia to Xorg
created a LOT of opportunity for the "Open" part of the Openmoko
mission statement to be true. Third part developers have just as much
ability to hack as they do with the 2007.1 stack (arguably more so)
now that the base includes Qtopia but allows for other languages and
toolkits. I think this will be made even easier with the service-based
approach that will expose functionality cleanly across those

>However, I recognize the need to get something "finished" in a
> reasonable time and I infer Sean et al felt the need to go this way;

Sometimes people forget that Openmoko Inc. can't make hackable phones
unless they SELL hackable phones. Hardware isn't free. Staffing,
advertising, fabrication, procurement, shipping, design (et cetera)
costs money. I think everyone here can truly respect that, if not like
it. I'm happy that Openmoko was able to make a decision that will
generate revenue more quickly without comprimising the objectives in
the first place.

> in hindsight, building the whole thing from scratch is a daunting task,
> and something that QTopia has been honing for several years.

Free Software projects have one major strength - the ability to share.
I don't see collaboration and adaptation to be a bad thing at all. I'm
actually kind of glad that Qtopia will be an included part of
Openmoko. Including it doesn't diminish the ability for someone to
write the application they would have liked to see as "Openmoko" but
it does give people who aren't writing apps some more functional

> The QTopia apps do have a somewhat more conventional "cell phone"
> feel to them (see my screenshot of the Contacts "Overview" page here:

This is good for a mass market product, I think. Having a hackable
phone aimed at end users is a good way to go. For the users who never
want to tweak, let it be familiar. For users who are fine hacking,
give them the power to. With the expansions of Qtopia by the Om dev
team, I think that balance it being struck.

> So, I think we're in good hands here. On to the "experience".
> Short form: functionally, it works.  Among other things, the phone wakes
> up reliably on incoming rings (assuming it's booted and suspended, of
> course), and GSM voice works after a resume.
> There are still some minor glitches. I hope I'm not out of line
> reporting these here, given how pre-pre my software is, but Steve has
> been asking me to report on this list since my FreeRunner arrived. I
> remind everybody reading this to remember that this is PRE-PRE-RELEASE
> software. None of this intended as criticism of those who worked under time
> deadline to make this early release ready for the show I was presenting OM
> at!  Nonetheless these are things that I would not like to have fall through
> the cracks.
> 1) Incoming calls do wake up the phone, but by the time the dialer
> appears on screen, several rings have gone by, and, by the time you
> press Answer and get it recognized, the screen hasn't responded, the
> Answer button changes to Hangup, so if you double-clicked it, you can
> easily hang up on your caller without intending to.
> 2) The ASU software features a qwerty-keyboard. It is switchable between
> alphabetics and numerics; unfortunately the gesture  needed to do this
> (a triangle drawn counter-clockwise from lower left) is a bit hard to
> get right; hopefully there will be a  button to switch this. As well,
> the current version of ASU uses QTopia's input manager, offering what
> looks like a predictive style but is  actually doing a dictionary
> lookup; I find this very distracting compared to a plain do-what-I-type
> keyboard, and would welcome an easy way to turn this off (I thought
> Lorne Potter posted this once, but I couldn't find it).
> 3) It's easy to accidentally start an application (thus slowing down
> what you're trying to really do) while scrolling the home screen in icon
> grid mode.
> 4) The Preferences that are in the top slide-down panel's Wrench icon
> should presumably be merged with the Preferences App.
> 5) The shutdown dialog does not have a cancel or Back button.
> And, it often doesn't actually shutdown.
> All for now. Again, please remember that this is very early access.
> And don't let my nit-picking distract you from the fact that it's
> looking good for something that was merged only a few weeks ago!
> Ian Darwin
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