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  1.    #1  
    Ok, some dumb questions about Linux smartphones here. But I can't seem to figure things out.

    As background: I've been a long-time Palm user (Visor>Visor Deluxe>Treo 180 [broke]>another Treo 180 [broke]>another Treo 180 [barely working]).

    Here's what I love about the Palm/Treo system, including its 3rd party software.
    - true handheld computer, with lots of available apps
    - excellent word processor and mini-spreadsheet that sync to desktop versions
    - handwriting recognition (i use this all the time on Treo, with NewPen)
    - integration of the above with cell phone makes the treo a super functional product, when it's working.

    Here's what I hate about the Palm/Treo system:
    - Treo 180 is incredibly unreliable/crappy in its mechanical construction (see Treo 180 threads)
    - PalmOne is now refusing to support my Treo (bought new in box a few months ago) because I bought it on eBay.
    - newer treos are mind-bogglingly expensive, and given previous experience, i'm reluctant to take the risk.

    I'm thinking of just abandoning Palm altogether. I'm sick of patronizing a company that makes great product designs in concept but doesn't execute or support them well. I'd seem to be a candidate for a Microsoft based smartphone, but I don't have warm feelings about them either.

    On the other hand, I'm warmly attached to my Debian / K desktop -based desktop PC system, which is rock solid, runs fast on antiquated hardware, and has lots of available apps. I'm not much of a computer geek but I've been able to make things work on that system so far.

    Naturally my ears perked up when I heard about Linux smartphones, such as the ones listed at this site.

    But reading about the devices I got confused. Are smartphones like the e2800+ or the motorola e680 really open computing platforms that are going to attract developers to write the kind of apps I need? Or are they just devices that take advantage of Linux as a low-cost and tweakable operating system, but otherwise leave the end user with a device that can't really be customized?

    Is there ever going to be a Linux smartphone that is anything like my Debian system -- patched together out of spare parts, with rock-solid and very customizable software? Should I hold my breath and wait for this?

    Cheers, chowderhead.
  2. #2  
    Well I'm not sure I got the jist of the entire post, however I think what you are looking for is a Linux desktop in a phone and it's going to be awhile before they can do that. You must remember that the Linux kernel is not the same thing as the K Desktop Environment or GNOME, or XFCE. The kernel is merely a means of allowing those GUI extensions to run. When people speak of Linux smartphones, they mean a kernel customized to that devices hardware. To ask of a GUI with such functionality as that of KDE would eat the hardware for breakfast and use up a LOT of resources. An example I can think of off the top of my head is the iPod-Linux project. My iPod runs on Linux now, however the GUI is not that of KDE or GNOME, but one written by other people, Podzilla, a GUI with similarities to the native iPod OS. And if a company does make a proprietary GUI then they are allowed to NOT release the source (as seen by iRiver PMP series). I hope that answers your question...sorry if I rambled a bit.


  3.    #3  
    Quote Originally Posted by FrozenCode
    ...I think what you are looking for is a Linux desktop in a phone and it's going to be awhile before they can do that... the [linux] kernel is merely a means of allowing those GUI extensions to run. When people speak of Linux smartphones, they mean a kernel customized to that devices hardware...An example I can think of off the top of my head is the iPod-Linux project.
    Thanks, that clarification helps me understand it a lot. Sounds like the thing I want doesn't really exist in the linux/open source world right now. And maybe it won't ever exist unless there is some piece of hardware around that is popular enough so that people get excited about working on it.

    Idle thinking: it seems like progress towards a really open smartphone would be aided if *hardware* was open source too. Looks like this project is moving in that direction, but it doesn't have a phone attached.

    I'd be happy to hear anybody else's thoughts on these subjects, or just whether I should try to keep my still-functioning Treo 180 alive or invest in something else.
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  5. #5  
    I think that the simputer is one step closer to a full-function Linux device, however if you decided to toss a radio transmitter capable of broadcasting on say 4 freqencies (assuming GSM quadband) a color touchscreen and the whole schpiel, never mind the mind-numbing cost, but that thing would guzzle power to no end. I imagine perhaps when more power saving devices like OLED screens hit the mainstream is when we will see such a gadget.


  6. #6  
    If you don't have money, PalmV is a wonderful PDA. If you just want to play with Linus, you can pick up a P1/PII PC a dime a dozen. If you want to have a PDA fast enough to run Linus, no offense none of them are cheap.

    Most of the Moto linux phone were designed for the Chinese market btw, you are not going to able buy it with a warrenty.
  7.    #7  
    thanks for the responses.

    sorry if my original post was a little oblique and unclear. here's my situation- i'm already playing with linux on my debian system, and it's been a good experience. in contrast i've been frustrated with my treo pda/phone experience (the pda/phone is a great concept, and i use practically all its features, but the treo has low reliability).

    i was wondering if there was a true open source pda/phone i could switch to NOW, something that wouldn't lock me in to a prefigured set of smartphone apps.

    i had observed there were so called "linux" phones out there, but a lot of them didn't really seem to be true pda's; they just came with a few more convenience apps than a regular phone. when i looked at stuff on lists like this one at linuxdevices that's what i couldn't figure out: could i get my own apps on those phones?

    frozencode, I don't know much about the engineering needs, but is there some reason a linux pda/phone would use more power than a palm pda/phone? i'm sure it'd be expensive, but new treos are expensive too.

    actually, there was at some point a linux pda/phone in use among government types called the CDL Paron but that article is more than 2 years old. that thing had more features than most pda/phone users would need and used a linux OS and a GUI called qtopia. looks like most of the qtopia-related products are available dual-licensed, so it is at least possible to develop GPL apps for a qtopia pda (e.g. the zaurus) under it.

    anyway, i'm just kinda wondering if that open-source/hacking type effort that did so much to make linux into a usable desktop pc system will ever get around to working on pda/phones.

    what's the barrier to that? the lack of a standard hardware devices like the x86 PC? the fact that most people have to buy phones from their wireless service provider? i dunno. just curious....
  8. #8  
    You can always open up the software yourself with a tool like PRCExplorer or something. And you can get your own apps on your Treo as well, just cross-compile for ARM procs, I think theres a toolchain out there and possibly even a GCC dedicated to it. I used it to compile stuff for the iPod (running Linux). No, there is currently no smartphone in the US where you have complete control over the code. I think the reason for getting to run on a Linux kernel was a business incentive to make the price go down a little so you don't pay for the OS, then they cover their asses by making a proprietary GUI so they can keep the source contained. There are a few possibilities as to why a *full-function* Linux smartphone would use more power. More options (e.g. multitasking, windows, system services, etc) would require more resources, the more resources accessed the more power they need and the device gets MUCH hotter causing a need for a cooling system which will eat a phone battery for breakfast. So I wouldn't say it's the lack of standard hardware devices, because the kernel is easily customized. If I had to take a stab at it, it would be time and money. Companies who already provide phones at relatively low prices don't want to lower them even more and companies who are stable and doing good don't want to change anything. Plus, I don't really think this to be a possibility, but if it was open-source then phones would be more prone to hacking.


  9.    #9  
    i did a bit more grubbing about on the web to see what people are doing.

    a lot of activity is described at handhelds.org , especially on their wiki pages. it looks like the biggest open-source grassroots effort is to put linux on ipaq devices, and there are a couple of distros including kernel, gui, and apps available. some of those efforts are forks from the open-source version of qtopia.

    as of today, the wiki shows that a few people are starting to hack into the linux-based phones, like the motorola e680 and the hp6315 ipaq, which is nominally a windows mobile pda/phone. they haven't gotten very far but it's cool to see that people are doing it. maybe i'll get an old ipaq and start screwing around with it..

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