Questions and Answers

"Marco Trevisan (Treviño)" mail at
Sat Jan 3 02:13:45 CET 2009

Sean Moss-Pultz wrote:
>> Q5. Kosa and Marco wondered if you could say us something about the
>> management that doesn't seem to be loved by great hackers like Harald
>> and Carsten. For example, what is your analysis of the controversies
>> that led Om2008 to ship with Qtopia's predictive keyboard.
> Let me give everyone a bit more background into the keypad issue. We
> first saw the Qtopia predictive keypad back in February of 2008, and
> became extremely exited. This keypad, we believed, had the potential to
> become better than anything on the market.

Yes, it was...

> We asked Raster to integrate this keypad into Om 2008 and extend it to
> make it more hacker friendly (i.e., usable from places like the
> terminal). After two months of more or less silence he showed us his own
> version, written from scratch. The design was a work in progress. And 
> the dictionary was far inferior to what Qtopia had already. An internal 
> battle started that lasted until one month before Om 2008 was set to be 
> released when our product manager, Will Lai, couldn't take it anymore. 
> He asked another engineer to just get the Qtopia keypad working.

Ok, I understand this. But, why have you asked Raster to improve a thing
(like qtopia-x11) that should have been only a kind of placeholder?
Wasn't it considered in a such way at that time? I always thought that
the future of Openmoko was going to reach the Framework, and also if
qtopia could be adapted to use it, we all know that its performances
under X aren't the ones that we can bear.

> At that point Raster's keypad was getting stable. It had many new
> features. But basic text entry was still not as good as Qtopia's. Major
> parts of Om 2008, in the meantime, were still not finished (like the
> Glamo or network manager).
> Openmoko (the company) needs to focus on simplifying. We need to limit
> ourselves to building what doesn't already exist. We cannot constantly
> try to build better components from scratch. Our resources are just too
> limited for that. Openmoko is trying to repackage the essentials (just
> enough) to make people feel inspired. What's not there is often times
> more inspiring than what is there.
> I emailed Raster, the other day, asking if my current perspective 
> corresponds with his. The main motivation for writing a new keypad from 
> scratch, he said, had to do with his ability to (easily) extend Qtopia's 
> code. C++ and qt were not familiar to him. And he wanted something with 
> more configuration options. To get there with Qtopia, he thought, would 
> take more time then writing a new one from scratch.

So reading this I only think that what Raster said was not only true
about the implementation difficulties, but also about the fact that at
that time we needed something that should have survived to Om2008. The
keyboard he wrote is actually what the future seems to reserve to us and
also if it has some issues with accented words (maybe fixed in svn
r38274?!?) and it performs worse with big dictionaries than the Qtopia
predictive, I figure that he did the right move.

So maybe what happened wasn't in the spirit of the "backs to the
basics", but he lead us the best input method available today.

> All I ask is that we please don't continue this debate. We have both 
> now. FSO is using Illume's keypad, so future Om releases will most 
> likely do the same.

Sorry for writing again about this... I know that this (the keyboard
itself) is not the most important thing here, but I was worried by the
fact that we could have lost the farsighted Raster while he was doing
something of great and precious for our future.

Treviño's World - Life and Linux

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