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Mumblings and musings.
revdkathy
Random thoughts about maemo this week. No obvious theme or big rant. Just what My Mo has been up to, and what I’ve been thinking.

The first is that a Lot of people on maemo.org have got very hot under the collar this week about Nokia’s apparent ‘failure to support’ n900 since they’re looking to the Next Device. Which left me wondering what people were expecting. I would be very surprised if most of Nokia’s Maemo efforts at this point weren’t going into the next device.

People are upset at the suggestion that Maemo 6 won’t be installable on n900. Personally, I would be surprised if it were. Certainly the next device will likely have different hardware (there are all sorts of rumours) and handle DRM files. So it would be unlikely that the OS will be compatible. On the other hand, with the arrival of Qt 4.6, apps written for one device should run effortlessly on either provided they’re not dependent on specific hardware features.

So I ask myself what people expected. When you buy a device, you buy a feature set, and some bugs. You hope that over time, the bugs will be worked out. When I bought my n95, I bought it for all the features it had – one of which, the camera, was far from sorted until about the third firmware update six months later. What I didn’t do was buy it for features it didn’t have.

Now, I expect Nokia to go on fixing bugs (there are rumours –only rumours! - of at least two more updates – one small and one large during the spring some time). And I’d expect them to add the things they’ve committed themselves to (like full support for Qt4.6). But I don’t actually think they’re likely to waste energy on adding much by way of features. The n900 came with a feature set: that’s what I bought. And frankly, it runs pretty well with those features.

Of course, that’s not to say more features wouldn’t be nice. That’s where the whole ‘open source’ thing comes in: Nokia may be busy making a note of what features people want for Maemo 6 but the community are already building extra features for n900.

So I’m not dissatisfied. I bought My Mo because my existing device was (literally) falling apart. I couldn’t wait for ‘the next big thing’. And if I had, by then there would have been an even bigger ‘big thing’ just around the corner. In the end, you have to say “This will do enough of what I want right now”. And go for it. I may never be able to afford Maemo 6. That’s ok: n900 will probably last me till Maemo 7 is on the horizon. If Nokia go on updating, excellent. If not, ok: I got what I paid for.

There’s also still a great deal of rumbling around about the Ovi maps issue. Those of you unfamiliar with Scripture, please forgive me for a little foray into theological reflection. I am reminded of Matt 20:1-16, where many people are upset because having got exactly what they agreed to, they see others being treated more generously. I paid for the (I gather rather poor) version of maps on n900. If Nokia want to give their latest whizzy version to symbian users, who am I to complain? I am getting what I bargained for. Fortunately for me, I don’t use GPS much, just plain old paper maps.

That reflection leads me on to the fact that I have finally (thanks to many people) got a couple of working Bibles onto My Mo. Right now, the port of Rapier is functional, but not glitzy. A Maemo 5 specific version (which will be called Katana, I believe) is in the works. Functional is good enough for me. Right back when I was still deciding which device to buy, a working Bible was one of my ‘must haves’, and the fact that a group of people stepped up to the plate and have made one leaves me speechless. The Maemo community is something very special.

Speaking of the Maemo community, I must mention our sheep. You’ll have read before on this blog about the ‘sheep project’. I believe it will eventually be called MaeSheep. But right now, it’s in extras-devel under the name of ‘sheep’. And Hopbeat has done an amazing job with it. The little dog chases the sheep into pens with varying degrees of difficulty. All the while Stobbsc’s wonderful sheep sounds 'baa' at you. Artwork by various team members make it look extremely classy. As an example of community collaboration at work, it is superb. If you have an n900, please test it for us!

It was the sheep that gave me tonight’s ‘proud moment’. Hopbeat announced that the new game, running on Qt 4.6 was in extras-devel. I promptly asked whether we needed anything special for Qt 4.6, since the current n900 firmware (PR 1.1) was running t 4.5.Hopbeat thanked me for the reminder, and said he’d make sure all the dependencies were collected properly from the right libraries. I thought no more of it until this evening when I read a post (in a completely different thread) saying “Yes! You should probably learn that on linux everything comes in little pieces. For example if you install little program which says it will take only 60Kb but in reality it might install 50 mb of different librarys and packages because you didnt have those. these are shared between programs. It's not windows where you install single binary.” (Slender, here: http://talk.maemo.org/showpost.php?p=502268&postcount=4 ) That’s when I realised how much I had learned about Maemo and even Linux by osmosis. Just hanging around the community, reading even when I don’t understand (which is quite a lot of the time!) had caused me to know stuff I didn’t even really know I knew. So I patted myself on the back and ate a piece of my Aunt’s Very Good Chocolate Cake.

I have also been having fun with my n900’s ability to view YouTube. I asked about the ownership of the maemo.org logo (with a view to knitting it, of which more another time!) and the conversation moved on to licences. The Open Licences are often referred to as GNU – which to me can only mean Flanders and Swann, and “I’m a Gnu”. That led me on to a selection of Flanders and Swann material available on YouTube. And the reflection that somehow our society has lost sight of the value of Good Clean Innocent Fun. If you have a few moments to spare, let me recommend the Gnu, the Hippopotamus song, Transports of delight, or The Gasman Cometh all readily available on the web. (There’s a wonderful version of ‘the gasman’ enacted here: http://revdkathy.tumblr.com/post/361166834/you-just-cannot-beat-good-clean-innocent-fun )

We need more innocent fun.

As I said, no one theme or rant this week. Just random rumblings. But lots to think about too.
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If you buy a regular phone - sure, you get what you paid for and nothing else, *but* that is not acceptable in a smartphone market. If you buy a smatphone you buy into a platform and you expect that all further development of such platform would also be applicable to your particular device. At least for a few years.

Almost all iPhone software today works fine on the first iPhones ever produced 2.5 years (and two generations) ago. And the software updates work on all models and brands of iPhones in the same way and come out in the same time.

WinMo is worse in this context, but why would anyone aim for the bottom?

If Nokia comes out with Maemo 6 and it will not be possible to update n900 to it the same day, then it will devalue greatly not only the n900, but also the new Maemo 6 phone they just released, because people will realise that it also will be a phone that will only be supported for a year.

The new features that people expect to be developed over the lifespan of the physical device are in the calculation when evaluating the price of the device. 500$ for a device that will be developed for at least 3 years? Sure! 500$ for a great device that will have a bugfix release and then will become obsoleted? No thanks.

I'm afraid I'm going to disagree with you; basically, you seem to be saying "Apple does it this way, so Nokia must". But if you look at the two companies, their business methods and models are completely different in just about every respect - global markets, open v closed, single device or multiple platform... why the assumption that in this respect Nokia will do what Apple does? I've never seen any evidence that Nokia introduce new features to devices. And that's certainly not in my contract of purchase with them.

What I think Nokia have done is recognise the need for applications and the like to be forward, backwards and even sideways compatible. To this end they've invested a great deal of money in the acquisition of Trolltech to obtain a platform that will make software transferable regardless of which version of maemo (or even symbian eventually) you're running.

Smartphones may be 'like desktop computers' in terms of upgradablity. But the reality is that older tech doesn't cut new systems. Try running Win 7 on a 32 bit device. My first computer had 4mb of RAM... which would probably not manage even vista. (Or anything else, really.) In a handheld device the firmware is even more closely tied to the physical reality of the device. If the major new feature of Maemo 6 is multi-touch... how are you going to implement that 'new feature' on n900? What if maemo 6 is a return to the tablet form and doesn't support sim cards? Will you want to upgrade?

Right now we have no idea what Maemo6 will contain, apart from a few rumours. I think it likely it will have a completely different and incompatible feature set. I rely on the community to go on with adding features that n900 CAN support, and look to Nokia to go on working with the bugs.

And I will disagree with you

(Anonymous)

2010-01-31 04:12 pm (UTC)

Ok, let's say it the way it is: this is not a smartphone. It is an Internet Tablet (as were N770, N800 and N810) with cell phone functionality. And it is a tablet with Linux on it. And it is a tablet with Linux for which Nokia wants to create a community.
Unfortunately, Nokia has a weird concept of community: whenever it brings out a new tablet version, it basically drops earlier versions, and makes it very difficult for interested developers to keep upgrading them (see, for example, binary drivers that haven't been open-sourced or the wifi management software).
For the record, I own an N800 and an N810 (this one I got second-hand). I won't buy a new N900 the way things are going. I will probably wait until Mer is further along to save me the worries about Nokia deciding to not add requested functionalities on completely non-technical basis _and_ not letting people do it easily (WPA-PAP, for example, which Nokia WONTFIXed because they were already focused on the oh-so-shiny N900).
You talk abou older technology not being able to run new software, and you are almost right. I can't run Windows 7 on a 486 either, but I certainly can run it on a 6 year old computer. How is it Fremantle (N900's version of Maemo) can't run on N810 at all? It's a two-year old technology. And there's people outside Nokia working on doing it. Perhaps there are no accelerometres in N810, but then again it's not a killer feature.
And now Nokia is dropping a significant part of its users again. Well, it's their product, but repeatedly snubbing your power users doesn't look like a good long term strategy.
The Ovi map is another case in point. Both Symbian and Maemo have it, both have a full working version, and yet only Symbian users get it now for free. What can the reason be? It's not like making it available por N900 users would require new regression tests, right? I can't help but wonder.

I have to agree on that, Apple supports old devices for generations and so does the Android ecosystem. We are not talking about a 5 years commitment to support old hardware, but at least 1-2 OS generations that last 1-2 years.

Simply saying that you have to be happy with watch you bought is completely denying the fact that the smartphone market has changed. What you describe is the old Windows Mobile way of thinking. The new kids on the block have set new standards, and you have no other choice than to follow them now.

Either the N900 is a smartphone and therefore updates are a must or it is just as dumb as every other Nokia device. If the N900 doesn't get the update it sends a strong message to everyone that ponders the idea of buying the next Maemo-device.

From a technical perspective there is no reason for not providing an update. There is a working Linux-distribution in use and if one system is suited to be updated then it is Linux. Look at the desktop and tell me that there is any reason to stick to an old version of e.g. Ubuntu.

I believe that smartphones should be treated like computers. If Nokia is unable to deliver then I will look at Moblin-devices. Intel is slowly getting on track...

I think you are completely right. You cant expect nokia to keep adding features to old devices. It would be great if they would, but in the real world it costs too much money. What I would say is that with a system based around packages it is easier for them to be individually updated on older devices. Ubuntu (and other similar operating systems) use this so applications are updated even if some core parts of the os and features stay older. I guess Nokias real problem is it will be a large jump from Maemo 5 to 6 and providing a smooth upgrade path could be difficult even if the device is fast enough.

My only concern is with the maps. Some people go way over the top - I was looking on the forums to see if the N95 will be supported, and people are posting saying they will never buy nokia again because it hasnt release it for their device. That of course is crazy, while it is easy for them to do (the old version supported the features, just not for free) it requires time for testing and device specific tweaks. I understand over time they will roll it out to older s60 devices, but the N95 is old enough that if they didnt I would understand.

Nokias pages suggest all their smartphones will get the new navigation and the N900 is a new device, so I think it is reasonable to expect it to be supported. I suspect it is dependant on Qt so most of the code will be sharable between S60 and Maemo, and so we will have to wait for a future Maemo update.

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