Digital Finds

joseph dot reeves at thehumanjourney dot net

An archaeologist's initial thoughts on the Openmoko ASU

May 20, 2008 by Joseph Reeves

The Openmoko April Software Update (ASU) is a a big move for Openmoko and an early alpha release has been released to give an idea of what the future brings. The two big changes are the replacement of the matchbox window manager with Enlightenment (E17) and the move of the main applications from GTK based Openmoko and OpenHand software to a version of QTopia running on X11.

Kevin Dean explains why the applications have been moved to QTopia:

Ian Darwin has provided his initial impressions:

And it's all available for download here:

Now this software is

… to give people a sense of the direction, a glimpse of the future and not meant (at this stage) for specific feedback or bug reports.

So I shan't be giving detailed reports of everything that doesn't work. Of course, I'm also not a software developer, so my opinions on the move to Qtopia are going to be based on look and feel rather than the relative merits of coding for either. I do know, however, that GTK applications will still be fully supported and that the two applications that we're currently working on here are Perl and Python based, so outside of such concerns. This initial look at the ASU then will come from myself, an archaeologist thinking about future solutions based upon the FreeRunner.

I had previously used some Qtopia builds on the the NEO1973, so I had an idea of what to expect. To be honest, I'd lately grown very fond of the current Openmoko provided matchbox based windown manager and was rapidly forming ideas about how Oxford Archaeology's software would fit within it and how me may create a specific archaeological distribution as part of our intended role as Value Added Reseller. As far as I was concerned, the Openmoko software was rapidly reaching a level of maturity required for distribution to all Oxford members of staff. Was it consumer ready? I'm not sure, but I do know that I'd shown it to many non-tech folks who seemed to deal with it fine.

My first impression of the ASU then? Well, I prefer the old matchbox release; I was very excited to see Enlightenment running on the FreeRunner, but at the moment it's just not doing it for me. I know, it's an exceptionally early release that I've been asked not to comment on, but it's hard not to. The current apps/options slide down menu is very nicely done, but it's not there yet. I find the whole theme/layout to be slightly claustrophobic and I'm not a big fan of the QTopia icons at all, nor the colour choices employed elsewhere. There are much more attractive themes out there. The ASU provides a glimpse at the level of polish that may be in future software releases - vital no doubt for the consumer market - but I prefer the current matchbox release in almost every respect.

I've not been using it long, but I seem to have found more errors than Ian Darwin reported in his initial look at the ASU. At the moment my FreeRunner has dropped out of X and is scrolling by an endless list of:

power_supply bat: driver failed to report 'capacity' properly
power_supply bat: driver failed to report 'time_to_full_now' properly

I've been suffering problems with almost every other piece of software. Again, I know that this is an exceptionally early release and I should expect to find problems everywhere, but I can't agree with Darwin's assertion that "it works".

I'm a big fan of the boot screen and I think it will find a lot of friends in the archaeological community. However, I think that the matchbox fronted software could be rolled out as the basis of an archaeological tool tomorrow, something that could never be said for the ASU. I can see the potentials of the ASU, but I'm not sure it's going to speed up the FreeRunner release schedule; of course I would be more than happy if somebody explained to me.


oh, my, god!
not QT!!

Posted by Gustav Hartvigsson on June 23, 2008 at 07:57 PM BST #

[Trackback] Noch knapp zwei Wochen (heute wird mal großzügig geschätzt) dann ist mein Freerunner hier Aus diesem Anlass habe ich mich mal wieder ein bisschen intensiver auf den Openmoko Seiten umgeschaut. Als erstes ist mir ins Auge gefallen das zur Zeit an einem...

Posted by Invictus deus ex machina on June 26, 2008 at 06:25 PM BST #

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