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back to article No FreeRunner follow-up, says OpenMoko

OpenMoko, the company behind the open source FreeRunner handset, is giving up on creating a new version in favour of fixing the old one and working on a new secret project. In a presentation at OpenExpo in Bern, the OpenMoko CEO, Sean Moss-Pultz, told delegates that development on the new handset - GTA03 - would be postponed …

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what exactly was open-source about it?

i would have bought one in a heartbeat (and i know of at least ten others who were the same) but it lacked a camera

if they had listened to the people on their forum when still in the design stages they could have had a lot more sales and a more useful bit of kit, but they chose to ignore all suggestions by anyone not on their design team

so much for the ideal of 'open-source' hardware

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Dead Vulture

Misinformation

"But since OpenMoko was announced, back in 2006, the mobile phone industry has embraced open source with enthusiasm: Android, Symbian and LiMo all offer open-source alternatives to the iPhone and Windows Mobile platforms, while Access Linux is turning up on TVs and satnav boxes and everyone is developing mobile phone applications."

Symbian is only open source if you live in some promised (and apparently stimulant-centric) future. All the other Linux variants are pushed by people who will quite happily use open source, but actually being able to take advantage of that as a "consumer" is a different matter, since the vendors involved are prone to "Tivo-izing" their code, pretending that they haven't actually shipped it to you, the punter, whose only consolation is that Linus Torvalds doesn't care about such stuff going down as long as it's "cool stuff", or something.

"Open-source hardware still lacks a definition, let alone a business case, and the FreeRunner remains little more than a reference design or hobby project - a luxury that fewer and fewer people can afford."

There's plenty of open source hardware out there. If your colleagues would stop oiling themselves up over the possibility of a Sun takeover, they and you might recall that particular company's activities around open source CPUs, to take one example of something people probably claimed couldn't be done. There's plenty more happening out there around Arduino, but the main problem is arguably the fabrication of components at levels attractive to small communities.

I don't see how any of this translates to the lack of a definition, however. Perhaps a broad statement was needed to finish off the article, but I don't think it quite conveyed the impression of insight into the subject matter that was probably intended.

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Stop

@James - Open Source != Design by users

Sorry lets blow this mis-conception out of the water since I'm tired of hearing it. Open source is not about letting your software, or in this case hardware, bend to the whims of it's users. It is about giving those users the choice to develop their own product from your work.

I'm a developer for a large open source project and not a day goes by without someone whining that open source means we should accept every a feature request or patch to the code. That's not the way it works folks, open source is not about wiki-style development where just anyone gets to make their changes to the code of a project. If you want to create a feature for yourself, then you can because you have the source. If you then want it to be available for others then you can try submitting it back to the project, or release the patch/fork the original project.

It's harder to see how this might work for hardware, not everyone has the resources to have a phone built to their own specs, but all the same this is what Open Moko were demonstrating with the FreeRunner. It might not have made commercial sense, but they weren't violating the spirit or intent of open source by ignoring suggestions from the community.

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@james: That's not open source...

Open source doesn't *necessarily* mean you take ideas from the community and do them yourself...

Open source means the source is available for all to use. You can go to the website and download the circuit diagrams and CAD files for the casing, then make your own with a camera if you really want to/can be bothered. *That* is open source.

I have a freerunner, and once the software stack was upgraded a couple of times (to the release before this one), it's been great, keyboard is excellent and the platform is, for the most part, stable. My only complaints are the absence of a terminal by default (you need to find and install one), and the fact that it's *still* a bit dodgy for wifi connectivity. So, those last two points in mind, I'm all in favour of them fixing the GTA02 instead of building the GTA03. Go for it openmoko!

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Unhappy

Aw, phooey

The OpenMoko project was such a wonderful, wonderful idea with such crippled implementation. I was so looking forward to the day when they made the hardware useful - either by adding a camera or a hardware keyboard or, ideally, both. Sadly, as it was, it seemed to be trying to compete head-on with the iPhone and, obviously and predictably, failing wretchedly.

I'd have bought one in a heartbeat (to echo the first poster, whose views I completely agree with, having followed the project's postings for quite a while myself) if the damn thing had had even theoretically useful hardware. Apparently, that isn't going to happen, and we're forever going to be stuck with the crap that the telcos see fit to poo on us.

I wanted this project to succeed. Too bad the people running the project didn't.

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@james

The ideal of 'open-source' hardware is that you can fork it or copy it, not that it shall be all things to all people. Nor is it that the majority get what they ask for.

But, if OpenMoko goes out of business, somebody can pick up the pieces, or make copies as they see fit, if they can find a better business model. Or if they decide that it really did just need a camera.

So in the short run, not so good for OpenMoko, but in the long run, the platform will be around longer because its open source. And for some people, that is a real selling point.

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more problems...

i think it's great that they're going to fix this device, and I am laughing at people that really don't get open source, however there's a far bigger problem than them being slightly broken, I would have bought one of these a long time ago if it wasn't for this problem, because it's a huge one.... it's called: Stock Levels.

The thing is near impossible to find in stock, so they're not going to be shipping many of these devices until they can fix this "bug"

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HTC Universal (O2 xda exec)

it sounds like many posters want what I want - an HTC Universal with a bit more RAM and GPS running Ubuntu Netbook Remix[1] or Ubuntu Mobile whatever it is called these days, but for ARM [2].

There is a linux effort for the HTC Universal[3] which mostly works with a "titchy linux"[4,5] distribution, and folk are even getting 128MB upgrades[6,7,8,9] for their devices. I learned this week that there is even a space for a GPS chip on the motherboard (but it needs a non-existent software upgrade to make that work).

Some folks are doing well with Android on Universal [10]

Links

[1] http://www.canonical.com/projects/ubuntu/unr

[2] http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS2097004728.html

[3] http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=251584

[4] http://www.neilandtheresa.co.uk/Wiki/Titchy%20Linux/

[5] http://www.oesf.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=25666&pid=181946&st=630&#entry181946

[6] http://wiki.xda-developers.com/index.php?pagename=Universal_128MBRAM

[7] http://wiki.xda-developers.com/index.php?pagename=Universal_128_Shop

[8] http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=281560

[9] http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=370480

[10] http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=3315435&postcount=31

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Happy

The secret of "Project B"... revealed!

The "B" stands for "Bankruptcy"!

<note for the humour-impaired: that's a joke>

<note for everyone else (i.e. non-lawyers): what has the world come to that we have to spell it out when we're joking?>

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@what exactly was open-source about it?

If you had read about the history of the project you would have known that the original openmoko hardware was a design that FIC had been asked to produce but the customer had cancelled the order. So they created the openmoko project to utilise this unwanted hardware.

The casing had been finalised before the project was initiated, therefore it couldn't be changed as creating new tooling and redesigning the PCB would be very expensive.

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Re: Misinformation

To expand on what the AC said in the "Misinformation" post:

"Open-source hardware still lacks a definition, let alone a business case, and the FreeRunner remains little more than a reference design or hobby project - a luxury that fewer and fewer people can afford."

Open source hardware is well enough defined -- the end user should be able to get all the information they need to produce the product themselves, make mods, etc. (Board layout, case design, etc.) Business case? Maybe not -- very few people can produce a case, circuit board, etc., given the full specifications. But, by the same token, giving the info out will probably not result in problems either for the same reason (there wouldn't be all these little competitors popping up because the specs are out).

Opencores is the biggest example of open source hardware I know of -- they have CPUs, ethernet circuitry, VGA, etc. etc. that can all be used and modified freely for use on FPGAs... I think this would be easier to play with than building a circuit board from scratch.

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