Talpadk’s Blog

January 1, 2011

GeeksPhone One

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 5:08 pm
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Well my Freerunner does not seem to become my primary phone (again) any time soon.
And my old Nokia 6100 battery has seen better days, okay it is not as bad as a smart phone just yet.

So I could either keep the old N6100, buy a new low end feature phone or get a fancy smart phone.

Until recently I thought that I would end up buying a new feature phone.
But disappointment in the evolution of T9 (none) on dirt cheap phones and the continued desire for a computer in my pocket lead me back to smart phones.

So I ended up ordering a GeeksPhone One.

Just for completeness some pro/con thoughts about the alternatives.

Nokia N900

Pros:

  • Very cool hardware (it even got a hardware keyboard).
  • Runs a Debian based distribution.

Cons:

  • Quite expensive.
  • Nokia left me for dead with the Nokia 770 tablet (NO I will never forget this).
  • Closed source just like the Nokia 770 (I can’t build a firmware for it, see above).
  • Maemo 5 has a relative small user base.
  • Maemo 5 is dead? Long live MeeGo?

IPhone

Pros:

  • Good question… highest sex appeal perhaps?

Cons:

  • Steve (Apple) wants to decide how and for what I use the phone.
  • Oh, and it is expensive.

Android phones (HTC, Samsung, etc.)

Pros:

  • Decent to very nice hardware.
  • Large user base => lots of applications.

Cons:

  • “They” want the same control as Apple.
  • Not free and hacker friendly.
  • Can be quite expensive.

GeeksPhone ONE

Pros:

  • Decent hardware that includes a hardware keyboard.
  • Rather cheap, they had them on sale for €159 (out of stock right now).
  • No need to “root” the phone as it is not locked.
  • You can build new firmwares for them (rmcc has created quite a few new firmwares).
  • They encourages people to do so.
  • As it runs Android there should be a large selection of applications.

Cons:

  • Firmware contains closed binary blobs (as far as I know)
  • Currently only runs Android, no Debian, SHR or FSO yet.
  • Open schematics and chip documents would have been nice.
  • The community is VERY Spanish, “Google Translate” is really a useful tool here.
  • The “One” is soon to be replaced by two new models.
  • Why god, why did they have to write “GeeksPhõne” on the back of the unit?

December 31, 2010

Death of projects.openmoko.org

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 12:24 pm
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http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/107772

Copyright Peter Ward and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

RIP

Before or during the holidays I noticed that projects.openmoko.org were down.
As no one seemed to take action I decided to attempt to locate the person(s)  that had the power to do anything about the problem…
Long story short, I eventually received the following e-mail:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Harald Welte <laforge@gnumonks.org>
Date: Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 1:00 PM
Subject: Re: openmoko.org services / projects is now down..
To: "Risto H. Kurppa" <risto@kurppa.fi>

On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 12:41:47PM +0200, Risto H. Kurppa wrote:
> Hi Harald!
>
> There has now been some reports about projects.openmoko.org being down..
>
> I this permanent? If yes, it'd be good to create a forward to take the
> users to a wiki page telling what's happened and why. If it isn't
> permanent, some kind of announce would be useful. As far as I know,
> there is code that the developers / users would definitely want to
> backup before removing the whole projects.openmoko.org.  

The change is going to be permanent, as the current installation is
unmaintained for about a year and poses severe security risks.

Anyone who's interested in backups should contact gismo and/or roh, they will
then provide snapshots of the requested information (e.g. cvs/svn/git
repository)

If somebody steps forwared to take the existing information and put all of the
repositories + downloads online somewhere (read-only) for historic reference,
I'd be more than happy to provide the respective account/data.

Regards,
 Harald

Which is also available at: http://lists.openmoko.org/pipermail/community/2010-December/064043.html

Maybe not entirely dead yet.

I am not subscribed to that particular mailing list, but I noticed that Alfa21 might have stepped forward to host and maintain it

 

Running my own

It also made me reconsider running my own private FusionForge
(I am quite happy with SourceForge except for the fact that it is hosted in the USA, which has silly software export laws)

Also an idea struck me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there existed a sort of BitTorrent for hosted projects?
Something that enabled anyone to set up a “project”.
The bug tracker, Source control, everything should then automatically be “cloned” to the network of hosts.
This would allow the network to help load balance the setup.
But most importantly if the original host dropped the interest in the hosting/project the network could ensure the continued availability of the software.

Well one is allowed to dream…

August 6, 2010

Stroke recognition keyboard for matchbox

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 1:37 pm
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YouTube video of strokerecog

In yet another shameless self promotion/public information attempt I bring you a video of strokerecog my “handwriting recognition” keyboard application.

Unlike initially for the matchbox finger friendly theme there is already a .deb package that can be used to install stroke-recognition on your phone.
You may download it from HERE.

However the stroke-recognition-x11_0.29_armel.deb package is not as polished as the matchbox theme .deb file
(The theme is by now installable using apt-get install)

August 4, 2010

Finger friendly matchbox theme, now as a Debian package

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 11:23 am
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YouTube video of the theme

 

Edit: The package is apt-get able from the official  pkg-fso.alioth.debian.org

The package is not include in the official  pkg-fso.alioth.debian.org repository yet, but you can download the files HERE.

I still need to figure out if is okay that the changes file is labeled as i386 or what I need to do differently.
But at least it passes “lintian -i -I –show-overrides –pedantic matchbox-theme-finger-friendly_7svn_i386.changes” without any problems.

August 2, 2010

Finger friendly matchbox theme

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 8:15 am
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YouTube video of the theme

Finger friendly window manages presents special challenges mostly caused by the need for larger controls due to inaccurate finger tapping.
On small screen devices like mobile phones this presents another challenge, we do not want to use too much of our small screen for controls.
On the Neo/Freerunner this is made even more complicated as the bezel around the screen makes it hard to tab the edges.
And the edges are where we normally put the controls.

But Nokia seemed to have succeeded in making the Matchbox window manager finger friendly on the 770.
And while the 770 does have a larger screen, why not our Freerunner?

I am not graphics artist so I am pretty sure that it could have been made to look nicer but here is what I have done.

  • The top window border have been enlarged to 48px, no other border needed.
  • The window chooser and close buttons have been made larger and moved away from the left and right edge.
    (But the entire area left or right of the icon can be clicked)
  • Only a small area above the window chooser displays the window title (also activates the chooser)
  • The font size used for the chooser and application launcher has been increased to allow using them with your fingers
  • The remaining space is used to “dock” the matchbox-panel , so it does not have to use valuable screen estate.

There are still plenty of things that remain to be done most importantly create a Debian package to allow others to install the theme easily.

And since there MUST always be one window open to show the  launcher I should probably while(true) spawn either zhone
or some sort of home window in .xsession.

And something must be done to the launcher, as it does not show half of my installed applications including any terminal (shiver), I could either:

  • Fix the launcher config files, I do belive that can be done…
  • Remove the launcher from the panel and replace it with the “home window” thing.
    This would also free the panel space for extra notification icons

July 31, 2010

Bleading edge the freesmartphone killer?

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 12:24 pm
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A Winchester knife

Photo courtesy Photos8.com

Ok, maybe not the killer but then at least the delayer.
But it did get your attention right?

As usual I am struggling just to get the phone working as a receiver of SMS messages.
Trying to figure out where gsm0710muxd writes it log files by default I fetched the source.

I know it is sort of deprecated but I’m trying to get my Debian based install up and running.
And the Debian dependency graph lists it as a dependency of fso-frameworkd…

gsm0710muxd states: THIS_IS_DEPRECATED_USE_LIBGSM0710MUX
libgsm0710mux states: DEPRECATED_PLEASE_USE_CORNUCOPIA
And of course there is also
fso-abyss.git the “GSM 07.10 Multiplexer (NG)” (which is deprecated in favour of cornucopia)

To sum it up we have 4 different implementations of a GSM multiplexer… no wonder I am a bit confused which to use.

But why not just “apt-get install cornucopia” and leave the past behind?
Well I would but unfortunately it seems that the bleeding edge phone software needs a bleeding edge “valac 0.9.3-3”
which even the vala developers consider a development release which prevents it from entering the Debian unstable distro.

Being a fan of C and C++ (if you can spare the “disks” space for the std. library)
I sure would have preferred if the more proven and stable platform  C were used than this new kid on the block valac
which I did not even know existed prior to its usage on the Neo/Freerunner.
It sure would make it easier to port it to other distros than SHR.

And then there is SHR and the whole home-grown Illume 1and 2 issue, focus bugs, all new bugs in V2 (I have not tried it as the mailing list scared me away).
Being slightly conservative with regard to this whole new software ting. What is wrong with say matchbox as far as I know it mostly just works.
Okay it is not thumb friendly per standard, but a little themeing seemed to do the trick for Nokia and the 770/800/810.
And GTK seems to do the trick for my desktop PCs, and it seems slightly more stable that the fancy Enlightenment tool kit.
At least I can not remember having any problems giving focus to a text input field.

But is  SHR not the  most advances phone distro?
It is, however it lacks the diversity of available packages of Debian, and I find the the build system beaks way to easily for my taste.

Why do I believe that all this may be harmful?

  • If there are lots of things that do not work you are more tempted to not use the FSO phone this includes UI misfeatures.
    I once used it as my primary phone but have reverted back to an ancient Nokia 6100.
  • Using new tools makes it harder to gain support from the community as less people know them.
  • Lots of rewrites causes bad documentation, as no one has the time to write it.
    It also makes it harder for the occasional hacker to get anything done as everything is new at each rewrite.
    It also puts an increased strain on other distro maintainers as they have to keep up, not only with the new services but also the new dependencies.

Last but not least:
Remember the ones writing the code is always right.
If you don not agree with them do not write blog entries, write code.

To: Michael ‘Mickey’ Lauer, the SHR and Pkg-FSO team
Keep up the good work, I can not imagine how you get any real life activities done as well as coding this much.

April 25, 2010

Trapped in a Moko world

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 10:49 am
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Photo by OZinOH

I am currently trapped in a OpenMoko world, trapped between SHR and Debian.

SHR
Has all the latest and greatest phone software.
And even the latest and greatest phone UI and FSO stack does not have the stability or speed of even the cheapest feature phones yet.

So I want the latest in phone software, even trough it always makes upgrading a risky buisness.
Unfortunately often I can not get the OE build system working , even if my life had depended on it.

No problem I just install the needed software for development on the phone SD card right?
In theory it should work, but even basic things like subversion is missing from the SHR repositories.
(and git and cvs for that matter as well)

Debian
Has all the development toys I could dream of.
Development is easier that pie, just apt-get the things you need and work as usual.
Sure it does not compile as fast as my dual core 2 desktop, but eventually it finishes, and it “just works tm”.
(Actually it compile acceptably fast, even Emacs runs acceptably on it)

But here is the catch…
The Debian maintainer team just can not keep up with the ever changing list of requirements and broken versions of software.
So one is stuck with older versions of the primary software for the phone… The phone software…
This would not be so bad if we had a basic stable semi fast baseline

Conclusion/Final words
I have recently put SHR on my SD card replacing the Debian install that used to reside there.
But this does not quite satisfy me.

I suppose I have a big itch and now I just need find some time to scratch it…

Give a man a program, frustrate him for a day. Teach a man to program, frustrate him for life.

October 10, 2009

Progress not always for the better…

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 3:49 pm
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I have “ported” my rotozoomer from the Nokia 770 to the FreeRunner/Neo

For a video output speed comparison I have made a video of it running on a Nokia 770, a Neo and a FreeRunner side by side.

Rotozoomer Demo

Rotozoomer Demo on YouTube

The result is somewhat sad, but judge for your self.
Just remember that the 770 has 1.25 times the pixel count of the Neo and it is a lot older too.

Sources are obtainable from the Maemo Garage page.

August 22, 2009

Standup for your freedom…

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 9:25 am
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I finally got feed up with having my FreeRunner laying flat on the table.
So I decided that it was time to construct a stand for it.

I had some 3mm extruded polystyrene laying around (which I use for building model R/C planes).
It is actually just floor insulating material…

The parts

The parts

Created a simple design for a cradle/stand for the Freerunner.
Sources are include, batteries are not needed.

The assembled stand

The assembled stand

The parts glued together.
(Using “UHU Por”, but regular wood glue would have worked as well.)

The paper was intentionally left on as the floor insulation has groves on one side.

MokoStand after 2 coats of acrylic paint

MokoStand after 2 coats of acrylic paint

Painted the stand to hide the paper and give it a more uniform look.

July 28, 2009

A tale of swap

Filed under: Embedded — talpadk @ 10:19 am
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A couple of days ago I ran an apt-get operation on my newly reinstalled Freerunner.
Around 30% it paused.
At first I did not think much of it as the first apt-get operation after a boot usually takes longer as the files it uses are not cached in RAM.

After some time I started to get annoyed, apt-get had obviously hung it self.
Tried to start top, everything was bogged down, finally it started.
First thing that struck my eye, a load of 6!
Second thing, most of the processes did not use that much CPU.
Third thing, no swap.

I issued the swapon command, almost immediate improvement.
Something had started eating memory and fast, swap usage climbed like a R/C glider.
It did however level out at some 20-30MB, and best of all apt-get started moving again.

Conclusion:

  1. Swap can improve the operating speed of a Freerunner (might wear the SD card faster, but who cares?)
  2. I hope the next generation free cell phone has more RAM
  3. Apt seems to have some sort of slow fall back in case it can not malloc the RAM it wants. (kudos to the developers of apt for this feature)

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