The Lost Openmoko Community

Stroller stroller at
Sun Oct 5 07:27:43 CEST 2008

Hi Risto,

I think you depend upon Openmoko Inc. to "provide" the community. Or  
perhaps direction for the community.

I don't know if that's possible.

Community is, by definition, a bunch of different people, with  
different ideas and different requirements. Sure there may be some  
consensus, but there will also be plenty of people pulling in  
different directions, too.

Additionally, I think most of us, as Linux geeks, disagree with  
Openmoko Inc. on what software for our phones should look like.  
Openmoko want to sell their next generation of phones to little old  
ladies and teenagers, and are prepared to sacrifice complexity to do  
that. And they won't be asking the community how we want our phones -  
they will be following their own "vision" to achieve this. I won't by  
any means be relying on official distros to do what I want.

But what Openmoko HAS given us is wonderful, wonderful phone hardware  
which runs fully open-source software. I have realised that any  
criticism I might make of Openmoko must pale in comparison beside this  
- they're the ONLY people who have yet done so. (Perhaps we might  
mention the no-longer available Trolltech Greenphone, but that was  
only a run of 1000 units or so).

I appreciate that if you're not already a Linux / OSS fanboi, then the  
above statement might not mean much. What good is "fully open-source  
software", if it doesn't work, you say? Well, the benefit is that WE  
can make it work, and we don't have to reply upon Openmoko to help us.

Considering that the Freerunner is only - what? - 3 months old, the  
community has made leaps & bounds already. As others have pointed out,  
you can make a bug report over a spelling mistake, and I point to  
David Samblas' distro as an example of what the community has produced  

I think that your problems stem from looking at "the Openmoko  
community" from the outside in. Only 3 months ago the first 5,000 or  
10,000 units of the Freerunner suddenly hit the market - of course the  
"direction" of development is going to be a mess. It's going to be  
impossible to look at just a wiki or two and try and get a handle of  
everything that's going on. And one shouldn't expect the impossible  
from Openmoko - to expect a unified direction of development you are  
asking someone to herd cats. Personally I don't want a single "true"  
distro, because we might end up with Gnome for phones. I prefer KDE  
and others here prefer Ice or whatever.

Rereading some of your questions, I did feel the same way myself a  
couple of months ago. "why don't the developers feel ok to contribute  
directly to 2007.x and 2008.x but 'fork' their own distros?" I have to  
say that I asked this myself, and I came to realise that that wouldn't  
suit the "Openmoko vision" for their own software. Just as you can't  
submit patches to Gnome to add right-click options if it doesn't meet  
with their "usability specification" or ask KDE to remove options  
because "they confuse my grandmother", some aspects of the Openmoko  
vision are indeed closed. But this free software lark gives us the  

I feel that software images from Raster & David Samblas, the work  
being undertaken on SHR and the recent Qtopia release are all  
testaments to the community surrounding Openmoko's device(s), and if  
you appreciated how rapidly the situation with the software distos has  
improved in only a few weeks, you would realise that there are great  
things ahead for this platform. Yes, presently it may be frustrating  
for you, but even the person who makes a blog post about configuring  
their wifi under disto X, or changing the theme so that Navit displays  
better... those people are making a difference and improving the  
Freerunner environment for everyone.


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