While I was busy with the randomness of life, awesomeness hit the world of mobile Linux.
Maemo5 PR 1.2 Released
For all you proud owners of Nokia N900s, go and upgrade to the recently released PR 1.2 update for Maemo5. This update really, really improved the performance of the phone. Better multimedia playback, faster browsing experience and many other improvements.
I went the way of reflashing the device, using Nokia’s Updater. Now it claimed that it would wipe out my personal data on the device. So I made a backup and let the Updater do its thing. I went the Windows route, because I didn’t feel like messing with the Linux flasher. Both work the same, I just went with the easiest route. To my surprise and delight, all my data carried over. I needed to reboot the N900 before everything showed up. But it was all there with the exception of my applications. That required me to go and re-download and reinstall all my apps. Not a big deal, but a slight hassle nonetheless.
What about MeeGo?
One thing that didn’t happen was an update to MeeGo for the N900s. On one hand I understand why Nokia didn’t want to push-out a risky upgrade to existing N900s. On the other, never getting official support for MeeGo on the N900 is a shame. Developers will get to play with MeeGo images for the N900. But don’t expect Ovi or anything non-community based finding its way on the MeeGo for Handhelds, in terms of anything for the N900.
MeeGo 1.0 for Netbooks
Even if MeeGo never arrives officially on the N900, it is ready to hit the netbook. The MeeGo project recently released MeeGo 1.0 for Netbooks. Being the ever curious geek, I decided to download and install the MeeGo 1.0 image on a USB stick. Since the netbook at home is currently on the other side of the pond, I decided to try it out on my non-portable super-netbook (a.k.a. desktop workstation). Unfortunately I got as far setting up and booting off the USB stick. Then I got a funky framebuffer not found message, and the poor thing tried to start up a display. I guess no playing around with MeeGo, if it isn’t a supported netbook just yet.
However Nixternal (of KDE/Kubuntu fame) had a better go and blogged about his good impressions of MeeGo. So far people are impressed. The MeeGo platform will impact the netbook and tablet market, at least with the products showcased at Computex. Also it looks like DeviceVM will make their next SplashTop product on top of MeeGo.
I’m a Linux user. So I always like to strain my ear to hear news about Linux. But this I didn’t expect.
Caroline and I did a bit of computer shopping before going to watch a film together on Saturday. While we wandered the aisles in the nearby Futureshop, she turned and asked me what I knew about Linux. I was surprised. Caroline is a very smart and talented girl. She finished statistics at the University of Toronto after all. But she is not a person who follows computer tech. She further told me that her mother told her that Linux was the future of computing. And then she asked whether Linux was for her. To top it off, we bugged the local salesperson… and I had an intelligent conversation about what computer she should get. (No offence to the smart Futureshop employees out there, but a good chunk of your coworkers are not all that knowledgeable about computing as they should.) And the salesperson, said he that his life would be easier if PC came pre-loaded with Linux. I took this all in… amazed. After some thought on what she would be using the computer I told her to stick with Windows for now. Why?
Linux and Linux-related technology looks like very much the future of computing. Thanks to the free software licensing, active communities and flexibility of open source development methodologies, many vendors are looking toward using Linux. For a vendor Linux provides a way out of the per unit licensing problem. Also it lets the vendor to control the build out of a product from top to bottom. Linux appears creeping into non-desktop computing platforms. We hear about Linux competing with Windows in the netbook market. We hear of Linux taking on cellphones with projects such as LiMo, OpenMoko and Google’s Andriod. The hyper-fast development pace makes Linux progress in leaps and bounds past its competitors. Nokia heavily invested in Linux with their Maemo-powered Internet Tablets. Intel invests in Linux with drivers and Moblin. nVidia and ATI both crank out graphics drivers like no tomorrow. Dell and HP are each trying to outdo each other selling Linux servers and laptops. News articles compare Ubuntu Linux on the same level as Windows XP & Vista and Mac OS X. So forth and so on. Five years this was unimaginable. When I installed Linux on my laptop and desktop machines in 2002 and 2001… I could not imagine Linux being more than a cool minor alternative. Something to play with, and use for fun computing.
So with all these cool developments, why did I not sell Linux to Caroline? I could of. Linux could work for her. But I didn’t because Linux is the future of computing. Linux exists in the present of computing, but the technology is still in a transitionary stage. The next few years is where we leap the chasim from novel innovator toys to mainstream consumers. However along the way there are growing pains. Graphics and sound need to get up to par. Support companies need to spring up around the technology. We are getting there. But right now, I feel uncomfortable offering Linux to a mainstream consumer and leaving them to their own devices. If I were to support the system, I could easily setup a Linux system that Caroline could use and enjoy. A Linux system could be setup to let her do her surfing, watching TV, connecting her digital camera and media organization. But she could only turn to me for help if something goes wrong. This is not something I want to inflict on either her or myself. In a few years time, yes, Linux will work for her. But it will most likely be everywhere and work for everyone.
I just read this article on Phoronix on the Phoenix HyperSpace quick boot Linux. So a quick boot Linux partition installed side-by-side with Windows is nothing new. It happened early last year.
Rather what this article shows is the increased awareness of Linux in the vendor space. It also shows that vendors will ditch their loyalty toward Microsoft and the Windows platform, if it suits the vendor. And Phoenix is not a sole rogue vendor. Nokia does it with Maemo on its internet tablets. Dell on select machines and its Mini 9 netbook. Asus and Acer, again two Linux netbook vendors. And a number of other vendors do the side-by-side install too.
Microsoft should be worried. The Vista debacle caused more than just users to get upset for a slow, bloated OS. Vendors got upset, when Microsoft promised a feature and then didn’t deliver half of what they promised. And vendors trying to stay ahead of the curve got burned when a vital feature didn’t appear. Don’t be surprised that vendors will happily pull a Julius Caesar on Microsoft.
Vendors and user both got tired of Microsoft telling them how they should do their computing. The basic beauty of computing is the flexibility and freedom of workflow that it allows for. Imposing limits of the technology for “historical” and business reason is folly in the long run. Also today’s state of the art technology is past the desktop. The desktop has to interact seamlessly mobile handhelds, web applications and cloud computing offerings. Making everything into a desktop paradigm as Microsoft sees things, doesn’t work. It doesn’t cut it anymore. And vendors know this.
Vendors now look to Linux and free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) as a way to simplify development, cut costs and ultimately as a way to go forward. That is the beauty of FLOSS, you have the freedom to take technology where you want it to go. The only constraints on computing technology should be the laws physical universe and your own imagination.