Questions about the usability of GTA02

Helge Hafting helge.hafting at
Mon Feb 2 14:22:04 CET 2009

Tschaka wrote:
> So, again somebody is asking a question about usabilty. Please don't get me
> wrong, i actually browsed the mailing lists and wikis, but still there are
> some unsure things, and i'd like to have a bit more of a summarization.
I use the freerunner as may daily (and only) mobile phone. I use the SHR 
  distribution, image dated 16.dec.  This is stable, and several 
important features work well:
* call and receive calls, get a log of missed calls.
* send and receive sms. (Some problems - you can only send sms to a
   number, not a contact. But this is being fixed. Also, you can't
   receive more messages than will fit on the SIM card - there is
   not yet message storage in the filesystem. My SIM card seems to fill
   up when it stores 10 messages or so - but no big problem for me.
* gps, mostly for openstreetmap. This works really well!
* playing music. Some tweaks to a config file, and this part works well

Things that are cool but not so much used:
* Accelerometers. Openmoocow is great for showing off. And I once used
   gwaterpas to hang a picture straight.
* Voice navigation. Works, but I use the maps mostly to find places
   that aren't mapped yet so I can improve them.

Stuff that doesn't work well yet:
* Wifi. I can connect at work - and speed is much better than usb
   networking. But it dies after an hour or so - and don't come back
   until reboot. It doesn't work at home at all.
   This may be better with a newer kernel, but newer
   kernels needs a newer version of the distribution - which hasn't
   stabilized yet at this moment of writing. Or so it seems.
* Suspend. Well, suspend works, and the phone wake up if called. But it
   doesn't bother waking up to process an incoming sms. And the gps seems
   to be broken after suspend - so I don't use it. This obviusly cut
   battery time for me. Newer kernels are expected to be much better,
   and wakeup on sms will probably happen. (When suspend is needed,
   reboot in order to make the gps work again.)
* Games. Not that important, but can be fun. But most games are kind
   of laggy, responding too late. Maybe the slow graphichs is to blame,
   maybe upcoming "accelerated xglamo" will help.

> 1st) Battery Power
> sometimes i'm at university from 9am to 10pm 6 days a week. I'm often
> browsing mobile news pages with my phone when going to university, or having
> a chat (XMPP of course!), approx 40 minutes a day. In the meantime i'm
> listening to music. 
> I got no actual watch, so my phone is my watch, means i often activate the
> background light to get to know the time. 
> I'm sending like 1-5 messages a day, having a phone call now and then.
> Now and then i would like to access the web via wifi.
This might be a problem. The phone can last a day even without suspend - 
if it isn't used much. It gets better if you let it suspend. But hours 
of music will simply use up the battery. :-( It will last a few hours 
with the gps on too, the gps eats power also. Don't know if the gps 
itself is power hungry, or if it is the simple fact that it wakes the 
cpu each second to report location. (And me spending too much time 
looking at the excellently displayed maps.)

> So, since i'm not able to plug the phone to a power source at university,
> would i be able to run it the whole day, without getting out of battery
> power after 10 hours? 
The phone works for me because I can charge it everywhere. I have a car 
charger, most cheap "usb car chargers" will work. There is a web page 
with a list if you want to be sure you get a good one. This so I can 
keep the gps on on long trips.

At home and at work I connect the phone to the USB plug on a pc. I 
hardly every use the supplied wall charger because there is usually some 
pc available and the cable is easy to carry. If the pc is prepared for 
it, you get flawless (but somewhat slow) networking through usb too. If 
the pc aren't prepared at all, then it will still charge the phone.

> And, will there be a (software) fix (soon) for the issue, that the battery
> gets uncharged, even if plugged in, as soon as the battery is fully charged?
> (i got no problem charging the phone every night, but when it's fully
> charged at 2am, it would have been running 7 hours on battery power by my
> arrival at university, so the battery would be low sooner)

This is only a question of programming - definitely fixeable.

> 2) Calls
> As i'm sometimes having a phone call (huh, surprise), i would like to know,
> if the echo, and especially the buzzing issue will be fixed soon. I read,
> the echo was fixed in FSO/SHR already, but regarding the buzz i read the
> mailing list, but there i didnt feel i got a reliable answer(sorry for

Echo is fixed in software, the buzz must be fixed with hardware. You may 
wait for the release of a buzz-free gta02. It will probably not be long, 
now that they have published a buzz-fix that they can apply in 
production. Or find some way of having it fixed. An electronics repair 
shop or some friend good at soldering. Universities are not the worst 
places for finding such people.

Or just live with the buzz. It won't necessarily be a big problem. You 
won't hear the buzz, only those who talk to you. And it is most likely 
to hit in areas with bad gsm reception, because that is when the phone's 
transmitter have to use full strength to reach the nearest base station. 
If gsm coverage is good, maybe your contacts won't notice the issue.

> asking again). i'm not familiar with soldering iron, and i'm not willing to
> crack up another phone (already did once this way :) ). So, will there a fix
> of this buzzing soonish by default (a7, a8?) on the base of the often
> refered capacitor? (as i said, i'm not willing to pay twice, getting a gta03
> later due to unfixed buzz problems, or replacing a damaged freerunner).
> Also, i'm not willing to pay 300€ for a phone that doesnt allow me to have a
> nice talk with my dad or gf on an at least acceptable level for the person
> on the other end (u know, my gf isn't that patient and insightfull with
> opensource software(issues) as i am, it took me weeks and shutting down icq
> completely to convince her to use xmpp :) )

Sounds like you ought to wait for a7 or whatever then.

> 3) Software
> I got no problem with rudimentary software. Most important thing is Sending
> messages, Having a few Calls, Having GPS apps to improve Openstreetmap and
> such and browsing the web. I know the software is something being worked on,
> and apparently it improved a lot already. 

I have no problems with these things. They are stable in SHR. There are 
a few odd user interface problems, but they seems to be fixed in an 
upcoming release. Such as "no sms to contacts, you have to type the 
number", and the way you actually have to erase the text "type your sms 
here" when writing a sms.

> But: Do such basic features work already (like browsing phone book to make a
> call) acceptably reliable? I'm patient in handling problems and fiddling
I see no problems with reliability. The user interface can use some 
polishing here and there, so we need fewer screen presses. But this is 
being done all the time.

> around a bit, wanting to have a succes in the end though.
> And: how sluggish is the software? i often read glamo slows the phone down
> pretty much.
The phone isn't lightning fast. But I mostly wait for apps to load, they 
tend to be ok after that. It is possible to play duke nukem with decent 
framerate in 320x200. Any operation that demands less from the display 
than that, _can_ complete in quite reasonable time! That doesn't always 
happen, but improvement is possible.

> 4) GTA03?
You can wait - but it could be a long wait.

> But shall i, at least, rather wait for a7, or a8 if i want a buzz fix by
> default? at the moment, this is, besides battery life, the issue that
> concerns me most. 

You can wait for the buzz-free phone, probably not that long.

> 5) Summarize
> Long story short, i don't want to get disappointed buying a neo. I mean,
> fancy features, software and such is nice to have, but if fundamental things
> won't work (acceptable), I and many others won't support Openmoko on the
> long term, means replacing the Neo with a later release of Openmoko in 1,2
> or 3 years. 
> and, as sean moss pultz wrote, "John Doe" won't see any advantage of getting
> an openmoko over other "open" (haha, at least on his point of view) phones
> like iPhone, and Android ones. 

I don't think this phone aims at "John Doe". He may see it as an "ok" 
phone when all problems are solved, but still not that special.

It aims at various other people. Some want the openness and freedom from 
vendor lock-in. (Don't have to pay your gsm provider for ability to 
transfer mp3's from pc to phone.)

Some like the ability to install just about any software imaginable. If 
you want something "unusual" on your phone, then you simply can't do it 
with most others. Some can run java stuff, but lots of software isn't 
java. Someday, someone will manage to update openstreetmap directly from 
the phone - without going via a pc.

Some like the ability to hook up unusual stuff to the usb connection. 
Anything with linux support will work - and that is a lot. You can print 
directly from the phone, or use it to test printers with no need to boot 
up a pc. Hook up a scanner to send a mobile fax. Connect a usb converter 
to read (and change) the state of car engine electronics.

If there is big market for some new use people put the freerunner to, 
then other phone makers will pick that up. I guess that the freerunner 
and later phones will end up filling a large number of niches, where it 
will be more convenient to bring than a portable pc. Or where gsm 
functionality is part of the job.

Helge Hafting

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