A memo on Open Source

2010/06/10 03:34:13
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In light of the arrival of the iPhone 4, I’ve been confronted with an age-old question:  what is the current state of open source?

Apple is ruling the future of the phone market with iPhone.  Android is the up-and-coming competitor.  Google is betting on their Linux phone, and betting hard.  Google’s goal is to make money with their ads.  I figured it would work, until I saw that Apple had iAds, something far more media-rich than Google Ads.

Apple is creating the tablet market with the iPad.  Some manufacturers have been working on Android tablets, but they will be late to the game.

Apple is moving into the mobile gaming market with the iPhone/iPod/iPad.  Android hasn’t really started to achieve the level of choice available in the Apple App Store.

Microsoft is continuing to hold onto its desktop OS market.  OS X is making inroads into this market because of Microsoft’s failure to get wide adoption of Windows Vista.  It remains to be seen if Windows 7 can recoup those losses.  Desktop Linux failed on many fronts for many reasons.  OS X and Windows have something Linux lacked, a consistent interface for applications.  Ubuntu is the most promising Desktop Linux available for the average user, but it can’t overcome the inconsistency across the UIs of the thousands of applications it supports.

Microsoft is continuing the hold onto its business server market.  This is the market of file sharing and directory services.  Neither Apple nor the Open Source world have been able to offer an alternative in these areas that has the level of adoption as Windows Servers.

Linux seems to be best suited for appliances, like wireless routers, but it remains to be seen how many hardware manufacturers see it as beneficial to continue to use Linux rather than implementing their own OS and utilities.

Linux seems to be the platform of choice for hosting application servers, like JBoss.  Unfortunately for Linux, most (all?) of these application servers can also be easily run on Windows or OS X.

Linux seems to be the platform of choice for web servers.  This is largely because Linux is inexpensive and IIS is not as feature-rich as Apache.  Apache can be easily run on Windows or OS X.

So, where does Open Source fit into this new world order?

There are several options for the Open Source developer (not in any particular order):

  1. Write applications in Java, Scala, or some other language that is platform independent, in hopes that it will be available on the largest number of platforms.  This will not help you on iOS, where you are stuck with Apple’s API and Apple’s implementation of Objective-C.
  2. Continue to develop applications for the LAMP platform.  As most of the these apps only need the AMP without the Linux, get used to the idea that folks might run it on Windows or OS X.
  3. Write some libraries that can be incorporated into iOS apps.  This may violate Apple’s terms of use, so be careful.
  4. Continue to write desktop applications that only run on Linux.
  5. Android.  Google is actually achieving some consistency for apps on its Linux platform, but not to the degree that Apple’s draconian tactics have achieved.
  6. Make something NEW.  Actually innovate in a way that forces the Apples and the Microsofts of the world to fear, and, eventually copy, the idea/concept/software.  This is an area where open source once shined.

Palm has been busy

2009/01/13 15:36:00
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So, it looks like Palm has been busy since I thought it had abandoned it’s users.

The Palm Pre debuted this week to happy audiences. According to PC Magazine, the phone comes with a QWERTY keyboard just like the Treo of old, but also comes with a 3.1 touch screen. The slide out keyboard design has been done before, but I like the Palm chiclet keyboard better than the Blackberry one.

I would love to make use of the 8GB of internal user storage, which seems a bit much for what I use my Treo for. This makes me wonder how well it plays music.

Just like the iPhone, the system will rotate the perspective of web pages based on the angle you hold the phone.

The new Palm webOS is Linux based and offers and interface that has intrigued reviewers. From the screen captures it doesn’t appear to be that spectacular, but is evidently far more responsive than PalmOS or the Treo’s Garnet OS ever was. The gestures that one can use to control the interface could take some getting used to, but I learned the Palm alphabet long ago, so I’m thinking I can tackle the gestures if they’re worth the time.

The web browser is quoted as “desktop class” by Palm. Reviewers have noted that it is far, far better than the existing Treo Blazer web browser. Having suffered at using the Blazer browser, I have to agree that anything would have been an improvement, so it’s almost like comparing something to nothing.

The Pre can charge via USB, or though an induction device called the Palm Touchstone. I’m cooled out that I don’t need to plug it in. The only other device that I have that charges this way is my electric toothbrush. I just question how long it takes to charge via this method.

My personal question comes to: how well will Google Calendar and Google Contacts sync with this device? I realize that webOS should let me look them up online any time, but what about when I can’t get online? I still need access to the information. Blackberry and Android are still the only device types that Google Apps supports. Unless someone writes a third-party application, this leaves the Palm Pre out of the running for my next smartphone.

I’ve asked Sprint to let me know the instant this phone comes out.


Everything Google?

2009/01/07 11:48:00
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So, now that I’ve got everything on Google (and I mean everything), and have embraced cloud computing wholeheartedly, my Palm Treo 755p is no longer a sufficiently capable smartphone for my needs.

I’ve been getting frustrated with Palm over the past year.

Because the included web browser (Blazer) was so feature poor, I wanted to use Opera mini, but can’t. Palm no longer distributes IBM’s Java Virtual Machine for Palm OS, required to run Opera.

Because Palm offers no native way of synching calendar, tasks, and contacts with the Internet, I wanted to use Funambol, but can’t. Support for the Sync4j client on PalmOS is nonexistent, probably because the j in Sync4j stands for Java (see above note about the discontinued IBM JVM on Palm OS).

Palm, the once proud leader in mobile personal information managers has fallen far from grace.

So, of course, I’m looking for a replacement, and now Google Apps has put new requirements into my hands.

A year or more ago, I remember reading somewhere that Google was working on an environment for cell phones. So, I started checking up on Android, Google’s cell phone environment. T-Mobile offers the G1, but I hear it doesn’t have all of the kinks worked out and
I’m also a Sprint user.

A look at the Google Apps web site reveals an application called Sync which is designed to work with Blackberry smart phones. That indicates that Blackberry is also an option.

Switching to Verizon for an Android phone doesn’t seem to be an option, as Ars Technica reports they’ve ditched Android for LiMO.

So, I appear to have the following options so far:

  1. Wait for Sprint to have a decent Android phone, which looks to be available from HTC sometime in the summer of 2009.
  2. Get a nice existing Blackberry from Sprint.
  3. Change to Verizon and get my hands on the Blackberry Storm, which I hear is the first touchscreen Blackberry and hence has bugs that RIM hasn’t worked out yet.

I’m attempting to make an informed decision and don’t want my impatience to get the best of me. Any suggestions?

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