Monday, November 12, 2007

Voikko for N800 Internet Tablet + some AbiWord

A short note in case some people are interested: I just built Voikko, the open source Finnish spell-checking software, for Nokia N800. Instructions are available on how to install it. Note that I only very shortly tested it from the command line ("works, good"). I mainly wanted just to try reprero to do something, which provided to be very easy.

Apparently the ISP I used to host the files does not allow directory browsing. The Sources.gz file tells the whole story, ie. I also built and provide enchant, hunspell libraries which are not included on the tablet itself.

Addendum: I also tried building AbiWord to test Voikko graphically, using Ryan's instructions. I built the needed packages gsfonts, fribidi, libgsf (newer than maemo 3.1's libosso-gsf), libwmf and wv - they are now available in the same repository as Voikko. I quickly tested the AbiWord I built, but removed it from the repository as for some reason I didn't get hildon UI even though it should have been configured, eg. no keyboard input, and also because the plugins would be very much welcome too and I had some problems with those. But I did load up some text file and succesfully tested the spell-checking feature of AbiWord in Finnish, and it worked fluently :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Openmind was held as part of and partly preceding MindTrek. On Tuesday the 2nd of October, talks included those from Novell, LiPS, Gnome etc. and also some Finnish companies like Saunalahti and Codento (as part of the Star Wreck Studios talk). Also our company, Nomovok, offered a talk about open source in public sector. For me the most interesting speech was that of OpenMoko by Michael Shiloh from FIC.

On Wednesday Open Source Business and Innovation was one track of the five in MindTrek. Speeches included those from Sun by Thorbiorn Fritzon and from Canonical by Amy Jiang (in picture). One especially nice thing was that also one of the keynote speakers in MindTrek Plenary was about free (as in freedom) software, namely The age of literate machines - a visionary look at open source by Zak Greant from Foo Associates, and more. I think it was a good general introduction to not just the term open source but the more general freedoms, since the public in general might be more interested in the freedoms free software gives than only the fact that one can see the source code - not too many people are coders after all.

The best part anyway was meeting the people, since concerning many talks I knew most of the stuff presented and the information given is probably more of use to people not that knowledgeable in libre software. Openmind Club on Tuesday evening was a successful event together with the various coffee breaks and lunches.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When a device simply works; TrekStor vibez

It's interesting to think whether a device is so simple that you just don't need any changes to it, and you have no relevant risks running proprietary software on the device. Take for example this TrekStor vibez 12GB I just bought. Its software is not free as in freedom, but related to freedoms it does play my FLAC and Ogg files just fine, in a gapless way and is really smooth to use. On the other hand, on my Nokia N800 I already feel constrained in some ways. And then again, I'm quite satisfied with my Panasonic camera.

After pondering for a while, I came to a conclusion that if the device is a) constantly holding my personal data and b) able to communicate via various wireless methods to the Internet and other devices, then I'm starting to (really) yearn for a completely free software.

Connected and non-connected devices

In the case of Vibez, it has the features I need, and I don't need to think about whether there is some proprietary software connecting to other devices or to the Internet - the only case where it is connected is when it acts as a USB mass storage device to my desktop computer.

(Of course, there are a _few_ small features I would like to add and share with others if I could, but it's not fatal not to have those.)

With the camera, it's quite similar. I take photos and before I actually do anything with the data, I've already transferred those off from the camera, and the camera surely does not share any of my photos with the surrounding device even by accident. When the cameras get integrated Bluetooth or WLAN connections, I probably would like the camera software to be libre, too.

(And of course, I also have a couple of UI issues with my camera, which I would like to fix already...)

But with eg. an Internet Tablet, I'm communicating with my friends, it saves my passwords, it has constantly an access to WLAN networks and my Bluetooth EDGE phone. There is a lot of proprietary software on the N800, including lots concerning the access to hardware and many base libraries. I cannot change them or access the source code for them. What I would like to do with the Internet Tablet would be to install eg. the latest ARM version of Debian with eg. an "n800"-task. Or just be provided a similar setup out-of-the-box, ie. so that there is no way a power-user or a developer could feel hindered because of the proprietary software components in the device, even if the default configuration would naturally be so that all that is hidden from the casual user.

Coming back to my previous comparison with the FIC's Neo GSM/GPS device, it _is_ build completely with OpenEmbedded/Ã…ngstrom, and it seems it will be a somewhat similar experience to the freedoms I'm enjoying on my desktops when using eg. Ubuntu, Debian and openSUSE. I can also give contributions to any software in it, if I want. And if I don't want, I can just use the (hopefully) quality software and be assured I can always check things if I want to.

Oh, the vibez itself

Aside from these thoughts, I really have to heartily recommend the TrekStor vibez to anyone in search of eg. a successor to the iAudio's M3/X5 devices, or anyone needing more than 4GB of storage and the playback ability of FLAC and Ogg Vorbis files. My previous player was a two-year old iAudio M3, and vibez has a remarkably smaller size, _very_ nice UI and other features. I hope that iAudio has some kind of a response in its mind, since iAudio 6, the rather comparable 4GB player from iAudio, is really lacking storage-wise if compared to vibez, and possibly in features too.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Maemo has a competitor in openness - OpenMoko

Great news for all the people who want their mobile devices to have some of that trustworthiness than their desktops. Two new, largely open Linux mobile devices are now or soon to be available: Nokia N800 (using maemo platform) and FIC Neo1973 (using OpenMoko platform). The former is a WLAN Internet Tablet, while the latter is a GSM/GPRS phone - but both share quite a lot in terms of RAM available (128MB), storage (eg. MicroSD), screen (ca. VGA touchscreen) etc.

Everyone knows already about maemo - Nokia's entry to open-source world. It's also clear that they have only began the path, and there are obvious compromises to the "openness" which is so widely touted about maemo - browsing is done with a closed-source browser, and with regards to media playing no open audio or video format is supported while many proprietary formats are. Being "open" is not just "you can install open source applications", it's also standing behind the open movement that is providing much of your device's functionality, and Nokia is not (at least yet) doing that, most probably partly because they are a big company.

OpenMoko, however, seems like a much more fresher start with regards to openness - with maemo the number of closed parts is too high to measure, but with OpenMoko it's clear that the process has been started from "all open" point of view. "Open, But No As Usual"-presentation illustrates this quite nicely.

At this point, it's of course clear that Nokia has already had a product out for over a year, and a new product is now selling. It may very well be that the largest mobile company in the world will dominate the device sales by other means - marketing, hardware quality, whatever. But still, it's clear that OpenMoko-based devices are superior in openness, so if they can match Nokia with product quality otherwise, and come up with new devices (eg. a WLAN-device), they might be in for some nice market share. It's all uncertain at this point, but highly interesting.

It's also interesting to see if this is where Nokia is stopping with its progress towards libre/open world (not just software), ie. "semi-open and relatively safe", or is it seeing that making even non-obvious (from marketing point of view) moves towards supporting eg. open media standards is worthwhile in the long run. I don't see any big improvements on this front if comparing Nokia 770 and N800, even though the development environment has again improved.