Significant Numbers of Non-Developers?

John Locke mail at
Fri Jul 20 22:26:36 CEST 2007


Jeff Rush asks,
> I'm curious what a non-programmer is going to do with this device in the next
> few months.  And if your first use of Linux is on the device itself, and you
> run Windows on your desktop, how you're going to grow your Linux skills and
> effectively develop applications.  Just seems odd to me, but maybe I'm
> overlooking something. ;-)
Okay, I probably fall into this group, of non-programmers buying the
first available version... you tell me. I am a web programmer and system
administrator, and have built a company to five people now doing open
source web projects and system administration, but I've never learned C
or embedded development, and my coding expertise is limited to PHP,
Javascript, and a little Perl or Python here and there. So why did I do
one of the first 10 orders? (Order #1828 - still no credit card charge,

1. I need a new PDA. My last one was a Palm V, and it died years ago.
I've been getting by without one, but as the company has grown, I find I
need better access to my addressbook/schedule, and a Smart Phone sounded
ideal. Just when I was starting to look (late last fall), the OpenMoko
project was announced, and my immediate thought was "that's it. That's
exactly what I want." I've even been thinking about buying a GPS, so
that's a nice bonus. I already have a decent camera, so I don't care
about that. And this week, my cell phone is starting to cut people off,
too--I'm hoping the OpenMoko dialer will be usable enough soon...

2. The idea of an open, Linux phone is irresistible. I have been using
Linux full time on the desktop/laptop for over 4 years, and on servers
for over 7. I spend as much time in a shell as I do in the rest of the
desktop. While I'm not really a programmer, I have no fear of setting up
a development environment and doing whatever is necessary to get it to
work, and I have no fear of seeing a console window or anything else
here. And the thought that maybe I could write some cool little
application in Python to do whatever I want the phone to do--that lowers
the bar to the point I just might start developing apps for the thing.

3. I'm patient. Mostly. I mean, I've been waiting 9 months for this
thing. I can't wait to get it in my hands, but once I have it, I don't
need it to be fully functional--I can wait a little longer for that, and
if I can help put the pieces together, maybe I can contribute something
to make it smoother for the next people to pick it up. I do have a
technical writing background ;-)

4. I want to evaluate it as a strategic direction for my company. I
think there could be lots of ways this could become a fantastic tool for
businesses who wouldn't think of it now... things like adding an RFID
reader/bar-code scanner and use it for warehouse inventories, hooked up
to LedgerSMB. Or creating a daily log file for commercial truck drivers,
automatically associating location and time and sending entries back to
the company's server. Or a home-inspection report that can be checked
off at the home, and when done, a report automatically emailed from the
company server to the customer and realtor. Or dozens of other custom
applications that have people doing things away from a computer, which
might be able to be hooked to a web application that uses OpenMoko as a
client. The earlier I get my hands on one, the sooner I can see how
realistic these ideas might be... and the sooner we can start working on
a platform for doing this type of thing that we'd happily contribute
back to the community.

I'll almost certainly get a GTA2 as well, and hand the GTA1 over to my
wife when it's usable enough...

P.S. I am going to Ubuntu Live on Sunday, at least to the exhibit hall
and the BOF... I'll look forward to meeting people there!


John Locke
"Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems"
published by Charles River Media, June 2004

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