[maemo-developers] [maemo-developers] RE: Nokia 770 sources...

From: Andrew Barr andrew.james.barr at gmail.com
Date: Wed Aug 30 19:22:54 EEST 2006
On Wed, 2006-08-30 at 11:47 -0400, John B. Holmblad wrote:
> Andrew,
> regarding your comment on support for Kimset I would add that with the
> proliferation of so-called Municipal WIFI networks here in the U.S.,
> it behooves Nokia to make the M770 attractive/useful not only to
> software developers (the arguable lack of such "attractiveness" seems
> to be the underlying theme of this thread started with righteous
> indignation by ) but also to end users, 

I know this isn't Nokia's fault (blame Conexant for refusing to talk to
the Prism54 people) but if the WLAN driver wasn't binary-only this
wouldn't be an issue. Monitor mode is a standard feature of Linux WLAN
drivers and IMHO it should work properly. Hopefully someday the
islsm/FreeMAC/whatever work will be done and the cx3110x driver can be

> in the U.S. at least as, increasingly, our cities, towns, and villages
> are bathed in an Internet connected 802.11 "ether".  Nokia has a great
> opportunity to benefit from this trend, but so far, has done a poor
> job of marketing the N770 in the U.S. for reasons that are not at all
> clear to me. And soon enough there will be competing Internet Tablet
> products based on Windows Mobile 5.0 that will, I believe, be priced
> well below the $US 350.00 price point that Nokia has set for the N770.

I am certainly not a mainstream consumer electronics shopper, but I have
absolutely no interest in any PDA or handheld gadget running Windows
Mobile. I fail to understand why there are so _many_ of them when there
are relatively few actual choices to be made--Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. is
about the only differentiating factor these days.

Yes, the 770 is expensive but well worth it in my opinion, even if it is
just to break out of Windows CE clone-world.

> Related to this question of how to make a product based on the LInux
> operating system successful in the broader consumer market, Eric
> Raymond, at the US Linuxworld conference, warned his audience that
> unless Linux purist/developers are willing to, in effect, get off the
> "dry rock of principle", and allow binary drivers (i.e. closed source)
> as part of the package/distro, then such products will fail in the
> marketplace. Here is the url to an article in the Register that
> summarizes his comments
> http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/17/eric_raymond_linux_compromise/
> From what I can tell, it seems that Nokia, with respect to the 770, is
> aligning itself with Eric Raymond's thinking, that is, to allow parts
> of the distro to be "closed source", by withholding parts of the Nokia
> source code for competitive or other reasons. 

Disallowing or not tolerating binary drivers is not a matter of
principle that can simply be dropped. It is a matter of keeping Linux as
the high quality platform it is--i.e. allowing anyone who is capable to
fix bugs in drivers. Relying on vendors to do this, as you have to with
binary-only drivers, is a sure way to get burned--just ask anyone who
has had to deal with BSODs in Windows. Greg Kroah-Hartman is probably
the main kernel hacker who has led the charge against binary drivers and
has a very pragmatic and practical position against them. He wrote, for
example, the StableApiNonsense.txt file that can be found in the kernel
distribution's Documentation/ directory explaining why you (e.g. the
prospective binary-only or out-of-tree driver vendor) want your driver
in the mainline kernel and don't even know it.

> Despite the concerns I mentioned in my earlier post on this thread, I
> am sure Nokia's lawyers have "squared the corners" of their compliance
> with the LInux software licensing regime while keeping parts of the
> software "closed source". In that case Nokia should be doing as much
> as possible (as Microsoft does for example) to make it drop dead
> simple for software developers to add value to the base product by
> having a software development environment that is compelling in terms
> of ease of use. 

In my opinion, many people on this list are frustrated by the very fact
that Nokia is treating them as application developers and by and large
denying people the opportunity to hack on the 770 internals and the
included applications. That is not the expectation that some had when
they purchased their 770 (myself included).

Nokia has to decide if it wants to court "application developers", in
the sense that Microsoft does, or an open-source community that wants
hackability. The Microsoft route does have pitfalls, because making
things too easy, e.g. Visual Basic, just leads to the proliferation of
poorly written commercial software, making your platform look bad in the

> I get the sense that that the lack of this "ease of use for
> developers" is  really the root cause of the anger that is so obvious
> in the tone of Allesandro's original post. In this case, shooting the
> (angry) messenger, as some on this list seem to want to do, will not
> make Nokia's problem go away, and failing to address the concern he
> raises will eventually serve to kill the N770 in the very unforgiving
> consumer market for tech goods and services.

Well, Nokia needs to be careful on souring early adopters (i.e. the
people on this list) on it's plans for the Maemo platform and the 770,
otherwise another situation like the Zaurus is likely to come up--the
community there largely has what it wants in OpenZaurus and
OpenEmbedded, and Sharp isn't making much money outside Japan with the
what is now mostly an eBay market for Zaurus machines.

Andrew Barr | http://www.oakcourt.dyndns.org/~andrew/

"Buzzword detected (core dumped)"
  -- seen on linux-kernel at vger.kernel.org

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