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Communications Software Handhelds Linux Hardware

The Rise of the Linux-Based Cellphone 151

mrscotty99 writes with a link to a Linux.com article about the rising star that is the Linux-based cellphone. Author Murry Shohat argues that the transformation of the cell into a mini-PC this summer is a landmark opportunity for Linux. Apple's offering and Motorola's US launch of the RAZR2 V8 (a linux-based device) may be heralds of great things to come for a new OS frontier: "In the cell phone market, consumers will pay for content, and corporations need to deliver secure content to applications in the palm of employees' hands. These trends suggest products that are simultaneously more functional and less expensive than a Treo or BlackBerry and more secure than an iPhone. MontaVista Software claims to have deployed Mobilinux on more than 35 million mobile devices worldwide. CEO Tom Kelley says, 'Linux is growing rapidly on mobile devices because of its solid reliability, its great flexibility, and because it accelerates the development cycle.' Vendors using or contemplating the use of Linux for mobile devices unanimously point to the operating system's footprint, memory usage, and fast growing ecosystem of developers producing software for graphics, multimedia, connectivity, and security." Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by SourceForge.
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The Rise of the Linux-Based Cellphone

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  • iPhone Flop (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @05:33AM (#20649133)
    Now that the iPhone has flopped in the marketplace and become a source of ridicule for people actually brave enough to walk around in public with one the cellphone biz really needs something new to look forward to. Just was watching Bill Maher making fun of the pathetic Apple fans crying over being made suckers for falling for Jobs' iPhone hype.

    Linux becoming the defacto cellphone OS would be awesome. I deal with a lot of embedded media hardware vendors and Linux has become the default choice for everyone now. Just grab the latest source, strip out everything you don't need, add in whatever else you want and you are good to go. Everyone is on the same page. Tools and employee skill sets become a commodity. Less waste, more productivity.

  • Re:4 choices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <bill@billrocks.org> on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @06:20AM (#20649307) Homepage
    The real benefit of open-systems on a cell phone are far beyond the typically quoted "time-to-market" and "cost-of-ownership" stuff. My Motorola Razr is a fine phone, but nothing more. For anything other than making phone calls, it completely sucks. I can't even take and share pictures freely, and the charge for simple text messages is just stupid. I personally never intend to own another stupid Symbian based phone again.

    In comparison, now that hackers have dissected it, the iPhone is a tiny laptop in my pocket, from which I can ssh into work to control servers, log into AIM, browse the full web, read e-books downloaded from gutenberg.org, or develop high-end applications such as P2P voice. A VNC viewer is also in development. Once again, it's taken Apple to show big-company-marketing where the market actually lies. It's all about the software, and the stupid cell-industry has always thought that they were smart enough to deliver it... wrong wrong wrong.

    I think Apple and the new crop of Linux based phone vendors should deliver 8-16 gig high-end phones with dev-tools pre-installed. I should be able to open the box, log into wi-fi, and ssh into a bash shell. From there, I should be able to develop apps for the phone directly on the phone. The GPS and other devices should come with open-source drivers. From a hardware point of view, the iPhone is interesting, but not revolutionary. From a software point of view, it's a whole new game.
  • by torpor ( 458 ) * <ibisum@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @06:27AM (#20649347) Homepage Journal
    .. and its a really, really great device even though the developer version is missing a few things (accelerometers, WLAN) .. there is really nothing quite so fun as being able to write software for your own cell phone, and do things that just wouldn't be possible elsewhere.

    I'm looking forward, for example, to having my own answering service onboard with a user-selectable set of recordings to playback (IVR-style application), and some music-making apps are on the horizon as well ..

    Lovely bit of gear; I will definitely upgrade to GTA02 when its available, too.
  • About ten years ago encryption was much more in vogue than it is now. The geeks who were the elite of the Internet even so late widely had PGP keys and sometimes went to key-signing events. Publishing on public applications of cryptography was vast: O'Reilly had a PGP guide and Bruce Schneier's great Applied Cryptography [amazon.com] appeared. PGPfone and Speakeasy promised to give us secure voice communication.

    Now look at what has happened. Today's geeks rarely show interest in GPG, even when they rave about other free software achievements. Figures like Bruce Schneier chose to focus on other aspects of computer security, and O'Reilly doesn't publish anything to show your average computer-literate fellow how to secure his communications. PGPfone was never maintained, and nothing appears to have come to replace it, even in bold new apps like Ekiga. And the web of trust has stagnated because (reliable) key signings are rare.

    Your idea of a GPG-capable phone is something I find cool, but sadly encryption no longer captivates people like it once did.

  • Re:Apple's Offering? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @06:45AM (#20649431)
    It was a hash not encryption. Get over it. It's more than likely for data integrity than "ZOMG WE R GONIN TO BREAK LINUX".
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @06:52AM (#20649473) Homepage Journal

    I will definitely upgrade to GTA02 when its available, too.

    Yes that is the phone I want to get. But because I can't try it in the shop I have a question which you may be able to answer: can you carry the OpenMoko around in your pocket, or is it a belt pouch phone? I have seen the dimensions on the web site but it is not the same as holding one in your hand.

  • Re:4 choices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:23AM (#20650641)
    Each OS has its benefits and tradeoffs. Linux's benefits are code "ownership" and full source access, not to mention a well-known API and a large pool of developers.

    I'm not sure if you're including this in your ,"large pool of developers", comment but, these days making the phone developer accessible after sale is starting to garner a fair bit of interest. In this regard, Linux can't be touched.

    The major tradeoff that I've seen is the enormous latency in normal usage. A keypress takes a sigificantly longer time to process on a Linux phone than on, say, a BREW phone or an MS Smartphone.

    This has every indication of a poor implementation rather than than any OS specific issues. Seems many people coming from the Unix/Linux world don't seem to understand you have a new set of design challenges to address; rather they design Unix philosophy-style which is not a good match for something like a cellphone. As a result, people are building processes which abstract an API, which in turn has another process talking to the API process which in turn, may or may not talk directly to the hardware. On such low resource units like cellphones, this means a high latency design. So I argue this is a developer design issue and has nothing to do with Linux on cell phones.

    As more developers understand the new platform requires a new design approach, things will continue to improve. I believe for now you're simply seeing the growing pains of a new found, widely available platform among a young developer base who don't know better.

  • Re:4 choices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:28AM (#20650707)
    A keypress takes a significantly longer time to process on a Linux phone than on, say, a BREW phone or an MS Smartphone.

    Sorry, I forgot to add this to my previous post. My Razor has one of the slowest interfaces I've ever seen on a phone, including phones I had five plus years ago. Button presses are often dropped. The user interface is horrible, kludgie, and beyond snail-slow. IIRC, my Razor is running Symbian. My point being, crappy user interfaces which create high latency key presses (or worst of all, dropped key presses which are common on my phone) is certainly not a Linux platform exclusive.

    In other words, poor software design is a much larger issue for low latency than is the target platform. No matter what, you must have good developers for the platform or you'll wind up with a Razor.

  • by Nexcis ( 962706 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:41AM (#20650887)
    I too plan on getting the phone. Some ideas Ive had so far are coding user levels and a phone status. So say you set the phone to quiet mode. If a person with a level of friend calls then it will not ring. But say your mother calls it can either ring or vibrate. If you set the status to dead nothing gets through. Just some ideas.. I cant wait for this thing to come out. :)

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson