back to article Symbian shares the source

The Symbian Foundation has announced it will be sharing the last of its source code today, putting the most widespread mobile OS under the Eclipse licence. The Foundation reckons there are 330 million handsets out there running Symbian, and it's been working for the last couple of years to get ^3 (as version 3 is termed) opened …

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Android < Symbian

It's really surprising that you should say Symbian is now 'only as open as Android' in light of your headline article. Google obviously don't care about open source unless it exactly suits their needs.

(Disclosure: I work for the Symbian Foundation)

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Go

Good point about branding

As an engineer I hate it, but it's true. Tell you what would sell by the cartload if they could organise it: the Psion brand.

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Linux

Meanwhile Android gets the boot.

Is Android only technically OSS?

* Secret Road map

* New Versions in Secret, then released as "Open Source"

* Now booted out of Linux Kernel

Nokia with Symbian seems to be "really" going open source, but with Google is it just marketing?

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So, can anyone build the source and install it their phone?

So, Symbian is open source. It's a stable platform and still has a large user base.

But can *any* of these users get hold of it in this open source, build it (in, say, Eclipse IDE with the appropriate compiler) and then download and install the resultant firmware on their phone?

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mostly, yes.

From what I gathered at last year's SEE2009 conference, the point is that you can download the source code, compile it and make a firmware, all for free using only open source tools (I don't quite remember if you can already avoid using a windows computer for development but if that's not already the case, it will be soon).

That doesn't stop ARM from having a closed-source commercial compiler for Symbian development because it is supposed to be better than the open source one.

Now, the problems you need to solve once you can make a firmware are base porting and deployment.

The foundation doesn't have drivers for every piece of hardware you can imagine. I'm sure it is entirely possible to find an existing mobile phone containing hardware that simply won't work with your firmawre without having develop a driver yourself.

Most mobile phones that have firmware upgrade capability simply won't accept a firmware that hasn't been created by their initial manufacturer. You would need serious hacking to bypass that kind of protection. What would be interesting is to see a Symbian firmware work on the Google ADP and ADP2 phones.

The reference platform for Symbian OS is the Texas Instrument ZOOM OMAP34x-II Mobile Development Platform. The reference platform is a piece of hardware that specifically solves these 2 problems.

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So, can anyone build the source and install it their phone?

"But can *any* of these users get hold of it in this open source, build it (in, say, Eclipse IDE with the appropriate compiler)"

Yes

"and then download and install the resultant firmware on their phone"

Depends on the phone, but for existing phones the answer is...

No.

(I suppose it might be possible to install it on an N900).

Also, don't forget, this is symbian the OS. I don't think it actualy comes with a phone app.

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The acid test

Yup, that will be the final test of openness - when I can "roll my own" N96 firmware, with all the frills I want, and upload it into my N96 without bricking it.

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Headmaster

Lack of clear design architecture

To me, on the basis of some months of experience with a touchscreen Nokia 5530 only, the problem with Symbian is its lack of a coherent consistent user interface. However good the underlying operating system, and nice the hardware, Symbian devices cannot hope to challenge the iPhone, unless the user interface is sorted. Do any Symbian designers actually use the products? A few of simple failings with the 5530 which are nothing to do with the underlying platform are as follows:

* touch screen user interface with finger drag, covers a few functions like lists and browser, but not email, for example;

* touch screen UI removes cut&paste so you cannot copy from a web page, so far as | can tell;

* on screen text input, for example for texting, has no vertical scroll;

* the rebarbative flashing green and red bars though which you handle alarms and incoming calls are difficult and I still miss about a quarter of calls (down from about 90% when I got the phone);

* has anybody actually installed an app from the various unfriendly sites available?

* the dullness of supplied profiles - a choice of black and while with grey or black and white with red;

* lists are a particular issue with bouncing at the ends which makes selection of the bottom item (always Exit) slow;

* the software writers may understand the difference between Back, Close and Exit, but this user does not;

There are many more, many more annoyances, but I do not have the enthusiasm for Symbian to document the awfulness in more detail.

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I wonder

if this will wake the Mozilla folks up and revive the prospects of seeing Fennec on s60 in this lifetime. That'd be nice, as would many other OSS projects I'd love to see on the platform (OpenVPN f.ex.)

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anyone can build the source and install it *A* "phone"

From what I gathered at last year's SEE2009 conference, the point is that you can download the source code, compile it and make a firmware, all for free using only open source tools (I don't quite remember if you can already avoid using a windows computer for development but if that's not already the case, it will be soon).

That doesn't stop ARM from having a closed-source commercial compiler for Symbian development because it is supposed to be better than the open source one.

Now, the problems you need to solve once you can make a firmware are base porting and deployment.

The foundation doesn't have drivers for every piece of hardware you can imagine. I'm sure it is entirely possible to find an existing mobile phone containing hardware that simply won't work with your firmawre without having develop a driver yourself.

Most mobile phones that have firmware upgrade capability simply won't accept a firmware that hasn't been created by their initial manufacturer. You would need serious hacking to bypass that kind of protection. What would be interesting is to see a Symbian firmware work on the Google ADP and ADP2 phones.

The reference platform for Symbian OS is the Texas Instrument ZOOM OMAP34x-II Mobile Development Platform. The reference platform is a piece of hardware that specifically solves these 2 problems.

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Fennec on symbian

Why would having the source to the OS make it easier to port Fennec?

Answer - it wouldn't.

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FAIL

Sorry, it does have a phone app

I woz wrong.

http://developer.symbian.org/main/source/packages/package/index.php?pk=166

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Welcome

Psion

There's been a few articles on this today. None so far have mentioned the genesis of Symbian was with Psion.

To think that the original netBook was a Psion device and that all these smartphones are all only just catching up with where Psion PDAs were 10 years ago! - and that it is arguably because of the impact of those smartphones that Nokia has done this.

Some Irony there!

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Psion

Things started to go wrong when they split the UIs from the OS. Nokia had a background in phones not PDAs so S60 was always - and still is - highly stripped-down compared with a good PDA UI. I don't have much knowledge of UIQ but I gather it suffered from lack of investment and a few wrong turns. It is the UI and built-in apps they need to concentrate on now: a Series 5 or 7 or Revo had functionality that still makes Nokia smartphones look primitive.

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Eikon

Psion's UI is called Eikon. It handles keyboard and touch screen since 1998. True is that It lacks today's glossy bubbles, color gradients, multimedia... Dialog windows are vertical lists, so navigation is intuitive (one hand, one key) - arrows up and down (try this on Windows, you never know how to navigate to individual menu elements with keyboard, tab, ctrl-tab, alt-down... that sux). You may use your PDA with keyboard only, with touch screen or combination... Psion did a great job - usability first.

I remember that in early development of Epoc, Psion first made "clone or port" of Windows UI. They scrapped whole work and started from scratch to develop Eikon, because Windows UI is unusable for PDA - too complex, too rich. S60 - it's not there to be a PDA UI. IMHO, pitty of UIQ, it was ahead of it's time.

I wonder how difficult it is to port new Symbian OS to good old Psion netBook that has ability to flash OS...

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Unhappy

UIQ

if they wanna save symbian bring back UIQ, it actually worked unlike S60 which is god awful

i still miss the old P800 ui

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Paris Hilton

Americans lead the way

To me the whole episode just looks like typical protectionist thinking - design something maybe good maybe bad, get some very clever people on this bit. Don't think about consistancy of user or software interfaces and document in a way that only those with closest ties with the high priests/priestesses can understand. Let all the in crowd get on the ride and enjoy it while it lasts....

Then oh dear.... someone's actually gone and done a thorough design that fits together as far as any 3rd party developer can see. One open source (Android) solution and the other not so open but with a free IDE (I_Phone) that allows programmers to access all the underlying services in a more consistent way than any I've seen on the locally produced systems.

So it leads me to the question: how does making something open source improve its overall architecture, consistancy of use, quality of documentation.

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Symbian != S60

S60 is a particular UI + symbian.

Indeed Nokia are designing new UI based on QT for symbian and Maemo.

(They bought Trolltech)

QT != Quicktime

Qtopia != QT, but a family of UIs written in QT.

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