Monday, October 03, 2011

From MeeGo to Tizen, Debian, ...?

The MeeGo community is frustrated with the news of the MeeGo brand being abandoned. Some are understandably angry or otherwise not happy about how Linux Foundation, Intel handled the Tizen announcement and community in general - or more like how they didn't handle it at all. Last week Openmind 2011 happened to be arranged in Tampere on the very same day as Tizen announcement came alive. It was good in the way that it lead to the fact that Nomovok's CEO Pasi Nieminen was able to initiate the "Reigniting MeeGo" session not just by talking vague things about future, but actually about the process which led to Tizen and the unfortunately brief initial PR about it. Pasi is intense on emphasizing the quality and role of Qt in Tizen as well, even though officially Tizen is all about HTML5 and apparently from Samsung's part at least EFL is provided as a native toolkit. However, the promise of Tizen compared to MeeGo is reportedly that the toolkit is not specified in compliancy documents, so HTML5 with WAC is the main/only "3rd party apps" layer whereas others can be offered case-by-case. This means that unlike before, the underlying system can be built on top of practically any distribution (theoretically) and using whatever toolkits and other techniques wanted. Obviously the "Nordic System Integrators" are probably all very keen of using Qt to produce more of Nokia N9 quality user experiences in various products.

Taking the corporate hat off, I as a community member am also puzzled. The only reason I was not completely blown by the news was that I didn't yet manage to get involved in MeeGo community on a daily basis, since I'm involved with a dozen communities already. Instead I've been more like scratching the surface with MeeGo Network Finland meetings, IRC activity, OBS usage for building a few apps for MeeGo Harmattan and MeeGo proper etc. But I can somewhat understand how people like Jarkko Moilanen from meego-fi feel. They have given a _lot_ to the MeeGo community and brand, all taken away without hearing or pre-notice.

So where to now for MeeGo community? Tizen is one obvious choice. However, for all the talks that even I started this post with, Tizen is still vaporware today, and the dislike of how community is being treated might make it easy to consider other options. Also, if Tizen's reference implementation has lesser meaning, it might also mean less to actually be "in" the Tizen community than in MeeGo. I met Jos Poortvliet at Openmind, and he invited people to openSUSE. There is a lot of common ground with MeeGo and openSUSE - strong OBS usage, RPM packaging, community side focused on KDE and therefore Qt.

I would like to now point similarly to Debian! If one is tired about corporate interests and not listening to community, there is no match for Debian's 15+ years history, purely volunteer based, trust based organization, and first of all scope. While openSUSE has traditionally focused on desktop (even though like Jos pointed out they are open to all new contributions and projects), Debian has always had the "universal" scope, ie. no boundaries besides producing free software operating system for various purposes. There are over 10 architectures maintained at the moment, including the ARM (different ports for ARMv4 and hard-float ARMv7) and x86 from MeeGo world. There are even alternative kernels to Linux, mainly the GNU/kFreeBSD port. There are multiple relevant plans and projects like the Smartphones wiki area, most noticeably Debian on Neo FreeRunner. I have run Debian on my primary mobile phone for over 2.5 years, although now in the recent months I've had dual-SIM in my Nokia N950 as well (Debian not yet running on Nokia N950 or Nokia N9 - but it can and will be done!).

What Debian may lack in both good and bad is corporate funding, if you don't count the still quite respectful contributions from Ubuntu to Debian (it's in Ubuntu's interests to contribute as much possible back to Debian, so that the delta remains small). For each and every aspect, it needs a volunteer - there are a thousand volunteer Debian Developers, and at least a double of that of people without the official DD status but who still maintain a package or two among the 25000+ packages in Debian. That means also that one my find it more lucrative to join a project that has paid people to do some of the "boring parts", more of fancy web tools, including for bug handling and build systems like the OBS (which I do love by the way). On the other hand, there is no other project in my opinion where what you do really matters as much.

To find out more about Debian from MeeGo perspective, please see the recent mailing list post Mobile UXes - From the DebConf11 BoF to the stars where I wrote most of the MeeGo (CE) part when I was asked to and known of my MeeGo involvement.

Last but not certainly least, there is the Mer project - originally "maemo reconstructed", ie. making Nokia's "not really distro" into a real distro by filling in the void places. Now it's obviously MeeGo reconstructed, and they aim to be the MeeGo they always wanted MeeGo to be! Read the post for details from Carsten Munk and other key Mer people. They share the love for Qt, and want the core to be as lean as possible. They also aim to incorporate the most community like aspect from MeeGo - MeeGo CE - as the reference vendor in Mer. They also aim to be Tizen compliant - and when Tizen comes alive, I wouldn't see why the Tizen reference implementation couldn't be used for saving resources. Maybe Nomovok and/or others could offer the Qt maintaining part.

So, it might be that Tizen itself is enough for most people's needs. The key point however in this post is not to fall in agony if one corporate based project takes big turns - it has happened before, it will happen in the future. There are always enough political and business reasons from some points of view to do Big Changes. But the wider community is out there, always, and it's bigger than you think. You should consider where you want to contribute by asking yourself why you are/were part of for example the MeeGo community. Aaron Seigo from KDE asked us all this question in the Openmind MeeGo Reignited session, and I think it's good to repeat.
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