Why one cannot recommend the freerunner as a daily phone (was Re: Is a FreeRunner sufficient for me?)

Brian C brianwc at OCF.Berkeley.EDU
Tue Jun 23 09:53:44 CEST 2009

I've had my Freerunner since day 1 and sadly have to agree with almost
everything Joerg has said.  The surprising thing to me is that we
haven't seen more significant improvement on the software side in the
last year.  I'm not saying things haven't improved, I've just had the
following in the back of my mind this whole time:

I can buy a $20 pay-as-you go phone that has reliable SMS and voice
calls, audible call volume, decent battery life, a fast boot process,
reliable input method, a working calendar, and a few silly games.  This
made me believe that the software side of things was relatively easy.
("If that cheapo phone can do it, the Freerunner developers will have
these kinks worked out in no time" I thought.)  Maybe, as Joerg
acknowledges too, all these little things ARE working on some distro or
other or can be fixed by someone willing to tweak it "for three months"
but in all this time I haven't been able to just flash the thing and get
everything to work as reliably as my $20 junk phone.  This has surprised

I keep hoping that Koolu is going to release a version of Android that
accomplishes this, but that seems at least a few more weeks (months?)
off as well.

Every couple of weeks I take the time to install what appears to be the
"best" distro and fiddle with it for a day or so before being confounded
by an array of things that still don't work.  Then I set it aside and
wait another couple of weeks and repeat.

I couldn't advise even very experienced GNU/Linux users like our
original poster who want the FR to replace a capable smartphone to try
it right now.  As I see it, only two results are possible: he'll give up
disappointed or he'll spend way too much time ("3 months") trying to
tweak the FR to do that list of things he wants it to do and ultimately
succeed, but will have spent 3 months without a usable daily phone.

If those of us who feel like this are missing a great FR experience that
the rest of you daily users are having, then perhaps the wiki needs a
new section "Daily Users" where each person who is completely satisfied
with their FR setup can describe in excruciating detail (command by
command) how they got to that point so that the rest of us could
cut-and-paste their HOWTO and have the same experiences.  Without
something like that, I don't expect to be a daily user any time soon.


Joerg Lippmann wrote:
> Am Montag 22 Juni 2009 schrieb Ben Wong:
>> I want to thank Joerg for taking the time to give a clear list of
>> reasons why a person might consider the Freerunner unsuitable as a
>> phone.  I think it'd be helpful if these and other points were put on
>> the wiki so that potential buyers can see the arguments against the
>> Freerunner, and what the community response is.  (E.g., Solved?
>> Kludged?  In progress?  Unfixable?)
> Good starting point!
> I'd like to thank everyone who answered my disgruntled mail in a constructive 
> manner. You all made a good case for the freerunner/openmoko and I appreciate 
> that. I think I see clearer, why I'm so unhappy with it now and maybe that's 
> the case for other people, too. 
> I think, most of the technical answers totally missed my point. 
> The guy wanted a smartphone. He didn't ask for an exiting piece of hardware 
> experimentation lab and developer paradise. If you recommend to tweak this 
> mixer-setting and install that tool and use that kernel-fix, then you prove, 
> that it's not for him. 
> I listed a lot of points, where I got stuck or where I got frustrated with the 
> Freerunner to show, where he might get stuck, too.
> Granted, most of my points may be solved in distro A or fixed in Kernel B, or 
> fixable by tweaking settings in illume. but the point is, that there is (to my 
> knowledge) not a single distro out there, that works perfectly out of the box 
> and has all the fixes already installed. Thats whats needed, if you want to 
> recommened it to the end-user.
> You are offering me and this guy single proofs-of-concept, and that is great 
> for further development, but thats not a working everyday smartphone.
> let me cite another mail (from Vasco Nevoa):
> "Yes, it needs A LOT of attention and tweaking for about 3 months until 
> you get it "just right" for yourself, but after that it's "good enough" 
> as a phone and GPS, and a pretty good PDA."
> See my point? 
> Best wishes!
>rg at home
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