back to article Nokia admits 'open' Symbian is not open

Nokia has admitted that its "open and direct" Symbian source code is not open, proving – once again – that the word has been stripped of all discernible meaning. Late last week, a little over three months after the Symbian Foundation shut down its web servers, Nokia returned the Symbian source code to the web. It announced the …

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Vic
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Cocks

There is no other word for these people.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

This probably won't make it past nokia's comment moderation.

Just so you know, I no longer care.

I was excited about symbian going open source. It had a name of a good pedigree and such. I even bought a symbian phone in hopes of being able to roll my own OS image and tinkering with it. You know, make it dance as only open source hackers can.

Turns out that just wasn't in the works. A hundred million handsets Out There and this open source was perfectly unusable for any of them. What a deception. What an utter letdown.

I had a bright-eyed list of things I wanted to add. That list is still there. No thing got fixed. Theres also an ever-growing list of bugs that tells me just how stupid your software really is. Its not pretty. In fact the phone is less usable on a point-for-point basis than the decade old dumbphone I thought I'd finally replace. That one just works for everything that I did with it. This one has issues. Lots of them. The comparison to the issues nokia as a whole has, is tempting.

Now youre playing the wooly words game again. Semantics shemantics. Your open is a lie. You aren't an enabler. You can't be trusted to keep your own promises. You aren't even an innovator any longer.

Nokia, you suck. And that's all there is to it. No more nokia for me.

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FAIL

Shot in the foot

The fact that Nokia announced it was dropping Symbian phones was the decider that pushed me to an Android unit with my recent handset replacement. My next replacement wont be for a while, but it WONT be Windows based.

I love the look and feel of the X8 but not with a closed o/s that has been effectively EOL'ed by Nokia.

Even MORE sales lost!!! Smooth Move Nokia thats another loyal customer since 1998 lost.

Lovin my Android!

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Anonymous Coward

So essentially

You moved to a (recently) closed OS because you old favourite was recently closed as well.

Where's the gain in that?

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FAIL

If Nokia made cars...

They'd have 5 gears for reverse and one for going forward. It must be the most stupid company out there.

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And you didn't see this ?

This just shows that hitching yourself to Microsoft rather forces you to favour Microsoft products over your own better products that may not even be competing.

Taking bets on when Nokia will be subsumed into the Microsoft Failed Things devision and how long it will take for Microsoft to delete the Nokia brand.

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Simple misunderstanding

He was just saying "Nokia are still open" ( for now )

- you might have been confused by the way all the doors are locked, the windows boarded up and the tumbleweed blowing through the carpark

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Flame

Open never meant open since years ago

Otherwise we'd have the source code of OpenFirmware and OpenWindows and didn't need to start LinuxBIOS and XOrg.

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Boffin

Huh? What's the point?

People are pissed because the OS isn't 'open sourced'?

C'mon get fscking real.

If you are a Symbian developer, you sign a license agreement and you have access to the source.

The end result is that you get access to the source code that you want.

Considering that many of the 'open source' community, that is to say those who use open source, are not contributors, the net result is that under an 'open' license agreement, nobody loses.

I'm sure I'll get down thumbed, but I'm being practical.

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Re: Huh? What's the point?

You're right. Even if bedroom-coders has access to the code they'd never be able to build it, and if they figured that out they'd never get the software to flash their phones

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Re: Huh? What's the point?

"If you are a Symbian developer, you sign a license agreement and you have access to the source. The end result is that you get access to the source code that you want."

It's not about being able to see the code, maybe changing it under strict conditions of non-redistribution and, if you're lucky, being allowed to propose your changes for potential inclusion in some mythical future release. That's the failed "shared source" model of development where some corporate entity gets to pretend to be open, just like a "tea party" with dolls and cuddly toys lets young children pretend they're having a real tea party.

"Considering that many of the 'open source' community, that is to say those who use open source, are not contributors, the net result is that under an 'open' license agreement, nobody loses."

It only takes one or two motivated people from that community to not only make fixes but to be able to redistribute them without the project owners forbidding them from doing so because it makes them and their hordes of internal developers look bad. But you do need a community and the freedom to make changes: two blokes in an office with "access to the source" isn't enough.

"I'm sure I'll get down thumbed, but I'm being practical."

You can only argue that closed stuff gets done more quickly if the owning entity has lots of developers to throw at that stuff and the desire to get improvements out there. As we can see with Nokia, once those conditions disappear, the benefits of openness become more apparent. There are people straining at the leash to fix Symbian - look at the effort you need to go to when developing and deploying new images on phones that actually ship with the damned thing, and yet there are people still determined to do so - but having some Nokia manager-droid dole out "permissions" is as far from a decent solution as you can reasonably get.

Of course, Nokia manager-droids have a perverse view of what is "open" where they think they can "educate" people practising actual openness right now with their own N-Fleet version of the idea. So this "up is down, black is white" talk is hardly surprising, even if it's as disappointing as usual.

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Boffin

@AC, do you actually listen to yourself?

Look, here's the simple skinny.

Why do you need or want access to Symbian?

Are you going to rewrite the phone OS? No.

Are you going to write applications that sit on top of the OS and you want to make sure that your app will run and take advantage of the APIs available? Yes.

Here's why Nokia isn't going to 'open source' Symbian. Its the same reason why Apple doesn't 'Open Source' iOS. Its called control over the user experience.

Symbian is the platform. There are certain things that need to be controlled, like device drivers, connectivity and access to the subscriber's network.

In another article there's talk about an app (Pandora) which has the company in hot water because the free app probably violates privacy laws. Or Google's android that actually uses your phone as a way to provide SSIDs and GPS locations of 'hot spots'. (Per a reader's post).

So if you were Nokia, how do you control that someone doesn't morph the OS to embed something like that?

How do you stop someone from 'unlocking' their phone to do something it wasn't intended to do?

So quit bashing Nokia for doing something that makes sense.

But I forgot. Google is cool everyone else is evil. Can you say brain washed?

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Re: @AC, do you actually listen to yourself?

"Look, here's the simple skinny."

Write in English, please. The above is just incoherent filler.

"Why do you need or want access to Symbian?"

Here it comes: "I don't want to look at it, stop asking for things I don't want!"

"Are you going to write applications that sit on top of the OS and you want to make sure that your app will run and take advantage of the APIs available? Yes."

But what happens when you hit an easily fixable system-level bug that you - or importantly, someone you know who can read code - could diagnose if not actually fix with full access to the source code? Never had that happen to you? Ride your unicorn down from the pixie cloud and talk to people in the real world who use open source and are able to participate in the community.

"Here's why Nokia isn't going to 'open source' Symbian. Its the same reason why Apple doesn't 'Open Source' iOS. Its called control over the user experience."

I guess we have to wait for the laughing to die down before we go on.

"Symbian is the platform. There are certain things that need to be controlled, like device drivers, connectivity and access to the subscriber's network."

I suggest you clue up on the controlled stuff. Even if you don't want to step into the realm of communications processors and whether rolling your own GSM stack is a legal possibility (which some people are actually working with, anyway), you can use a separate chipset for the GSM stuff and not have your local regulators upset with your otherwise supposedly unauthorised device. The "doing bad things to the network" becomes just another excuse for a slap on the wrists and a "don't look in there again" fobbing off that people are no longer convinced by.

Nokia have used that excuse and many others all along. It's closed because "the lawyers say so", "we only buy several million chips and don't have any sway over the vendor", "you do not need to look in there", "we put the nuclear codes in the source", "the dog ate the source code", and so on. Anyone formerly participating in the community around Nokia's open source system-level initiatives - a group surely much larger than the remaining participants - will most likely tell you that one or another of the occasions when such excuses were trotted out was the time they decided they'd had enough, having seen their device condemned to needless obsolescence.

"But I forgot. Google is cool everyone else is evil. Can you say brain washed?"

Oh yes: "It's all about Google! You must be one of their agents!" Except it isn't at all. When the vendor tells you to buy another gadget, you're probably thinking what fun it is to have the chance to put down the money for no really good reason except "Shiny!" The term is "brainwashed" and you're walking the talk, Mr Pretend Scientist.

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Toxic waste ...

... should be incinerated, and the ashes buried deep.

While the SymbianOS code has, in its core/kernel parts, some very interesting and advanced pieces of software engineering, the entire user-level side of it starting with the (design of the) base libraries and system services is a pile of arcane, byzantine, convoluted, spaghetti.

And no, not even talking about the famous "Symbian C++". Nor the pile that's called "S60".

The state is largely due to the fact that Symbian's main user(s), like a certain company once making tyres and wellies, insisted on freezing system behaviour instead of system specification, and Symbian's own product/requirements management complied with that so willingly - they perfected it to a form of art. A new SymbianOS release had to be bug-for-bug compatible to a previous one.

Which means you couldn't even do trivial refactoring, code cleanup that e.g. merged 20 error returns for the same error all over a monstrous function - because they were interspersed with 200 other types of error returns, and the test systems dutifully validated that there were exactly 220 errors, and all had to occur exactly in the order they were coded. Say, the code had to return a "path not found" error if you tried to open a file and the directory part of your filename was longer than the maximum allowed and contained characters not permitted by the filesystem. But if you tried to read from that directory instead it had to tell you "name too long". And if you tried to create one such a directory it'd need to give "invalid character". Except if your app was system priviledged, then it'd need to tell you "permission denied" (how logical) in all three cases. Assuming the moon wasn't full or Pluto and Mars weren't in opposition. Or something like that.

If your brain hasn't started smoldering reading the previous paragraph, apply for a senior product management position at Nokia immediately. If you're a masochistic software engineer looking for a kick, start reading the SymbianOS sourcecode right now.

Result was that code and tests only ever grew, never shrunk. Layering, encapsulation, wrappers, embedding, meta-meta-patterns ran uncontrollably wild. Code cleanup, what's that ?

The biggest surprise in the whole story - and the greatest testimony to their technical excellence - is how many years SymbianOS engineers were able to actually advance and enhance a system so burdened down by a "don't dare to change it - just improve it" attitude of their requirements management trolls.

Burn, platform, burn !

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Joke

Re: Toxic waste ...

"The state is largely due to the fact that Symbian's main user(s), like a certain company once making tyres and wellies... If you're a masochistic software engineer looking for a kick, start reading the SymbianOS sourcecode right now."

Maybe they should have stuck to the rubber and latex, diversifying into, ahem, niche interest markets.

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Open source minimally means

that the company's customers can view the software source code.

I don't exactly follow if they've got that.

But you're probably thinking of "copyleft" and "creative commons" and so forth.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Open source minimally means

"that the company's customers can view the software source code."

In fact, "open source" aligns pretty well with the FSF's four freedoms, except that various people don't want you to think of the ideology in case you end up not liking the lifestyle promoted by their favourite corporations and actually start thinking for yourself. But anyway, as the four freedoms (and the open source mantra) say, there's the matter of modification and redistribution that would have to come with viewing the source.

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Nokia: Connecting Bullets with our Feet.

This company is just sad to watch.

To paraphrase Michael Dell: [Nokia] should just liquidate and return all the money to the shareholders.

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