Exciting Experience

vasco.nevoa at sapo.pt vasco.nevoa at sapo.pt
Fri Sep 12 16:57:14 CEST 2008

Well, as long as others are keen to share their positiveness, I  
thought I'd chime in as well. :P

The sudden death of my previous smartphone kicked me into using the  
freerunner everyday as main (and single) phone.
And I'm glad to say it has done a proper job for over a month, even  
though I flashed it every 2 or 3 days. :)
I have lost a few calls because of software issues, but these were  
exceptions (pun intended).

I tried the first 4 distros (OM2007.2, ASU, FSO, Qtopia) as soon as I  
got the phone (simultaneously in multiboot from the sd-card), and  
after a day I had thrown away Qtopia because it was too polished and  
not flexible enough (from an experimental point of view). :)
Then OM2007.2 got axed, so it went away too. But I couldn't yet wrap  
my mind around FSO's objectives, and I needed a working phone with a  
few extras, so FSO got the axe too. This left me with ASU (now  
officially OM2008.8), which I proceeded to torture almost daily with  
all the opkg feeds (including "testing") I could get my hands on. When  
OM reorganized the repositories, this caused a lot of confusion for  
me, but now I know what to expect from where.
I finally settled with the standard OM2008.8-update because it is the  
right balance between "stable" (as in "I won't lose calls and SMSs")  
and "experimental" (as in "I can try/develop all kinds of  
python-powered stuff and play with the geeky HW peripherals too").

The GPS works well (usually around 40 seconds to get a fix if the  
signal is any good - I did the capacitor hack as soon as I could,  
which was an interesting labor hour where I lost 3 capacitors because  
they are so damn small :S ).
The GSM is also ok, although I got once a couple of complaints of bad  
audio quality - this is now gone, it was probably a bad SW image.
SMS is also no problem.
The accelerometers have been fun to play with (duke3d, gestures,  
accelGame) and make for good "showing off" of openmoko.
Wifi mostly works - some APs better than others.
Bluetooth is a pain in the ass to configure and use. It is highly  
user-unfriendly, but if you persist, you can do anything (except GSM  
headset... has anyone got it working yet?). Heck, I don't use it  
anyway. ;)
Which brings me down to audio: the routing of this baby is pretty  
complex stuff (as is common in most embedded devices), so it's only  
natural that the more advanced functions are still a mystery. And you  
know what? the fact that there still isn't a GUI way to control the  
sound volume hasn't been a problem so far!!! I find that the  
mechanical design of the Neos is quite above average, and this shows  
off in the audio capabilities -  when the volume is cranked up to  
100%, the case does not resonate and there is no noticeable  
distortion. Very good mechanical and electrical design.

My only real complaint is power management. It just doesn't seem to  
stabilize. For each fs image I flash or opkg upgrade I do, a new  
non-intended behavior happens. But I do understand that, like audio,  
it is one of the most complex things to implement right - balancing  
the intricacies of each chip's power modes (and their spec violations)  
with the kernel's modeling as well as the X-server's old ways - it can  
be very challenging. So OK, I don't get mad if sometimes I have to  
call my Neo from another phone to get it to wake up so I can SSH into  
it. I have confidence in the OM team's competence and in the  
Community's effort and contributions. All we need is a little more  
time and care and everything will be fine.

Overall, it has been a good ride, and it is getting better by the  
week, especially now that FSO efforts are finally starting to get  
momentum - and I think all that D-BUS goodness will start to pay back  
very soon. I can't wait to see the framework integrated into the main  
distro (or vice-versa) - this will make its usefulness and interest  
explode! :D
But it looks like there are at least a few people out there who have  
other plans for it - not just HSR, but efforts like FDOM - and it is  
also exciting to see new distros/remixes pop up.

It is a brave new world we are creating - a big thank you to Sean  
Moss-Pultz for having the courage to push the dream into reality. You  
are the Mark Shuttleworth of the mobile world, and OM is on the  
fast-track to becoming it's Ubuntu (or more rigorously, it's Debian!).  

Vasco Névoa

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