Saturday, July 26, 2008

Neo FreeRunner does music, GPS, Internet and more...

I received my Neo some time ago and have been playing on and off with it ever since. Granted, it's not end-user ready indeed and even more courageous people should be ready to do some heavy learning. It's not that it wouldn't be mostly installing correct software and tweaking a few settings, but the fact that it's the first real phone using free software means there is a lot of low-level stuff that is being created along with Openmoko.

Anyway, things have progressed, initial GPS issues were fixed by the great Openmoko kernel team and generally the community has found fixes for anything I've thought asking about.

Currently the status I have is that:
  • GPS works great, I'm using TangoGPS with OpenStreetMap to a great success - and this is one thing that's working very well out-of-the-box (now that the GPS fix issues are resolved)
  • WLAN works - I initially used USB networking as specified in the Getting Started page and shown in the picture on the right (mini-USB connector), but now I simply click WLAN on and login to Neo from my laptop if I need to do some more heavy tinkering
  • Music playing (Ogg) works, see picture below - mixer settings had to be tuned for adequate party speaker sound quality, but Neo is now ready for some DAP (Digital Audio Player) action as well (extra battery pack recommended for longer use...)
  • Internet via GPRS didn't work at first, but I found a way to initialize it correctly and now it's just a matter of clicking a button - Neo's current software distribution comes with WebKit-based browser that does the job for basic browsing; my main usage has probably just been fetching AGPS data (and soon DGPS) for GPS speedup
  • Oh yeah, as the final item - it works as a phone! This is actually not so straight-forward as one would think, and related to the previous note about low-level stuff... how about creating virtual modems you offer via gsm0710muxd and assigning GPRS and gsmd to use them ;)
  • I also imported of all my contacts from my previous phone for the Evolution data server used currently in Neo
I have been trying to do my part in updating Openmoko Wiki with information I've found myself or on mailing lists, and I hope others will continue to do the same for everyone's benefit. I have also created a Finnish main page for the Openmoko project.

Here's an image of Neo connected to Altec Lansing inMotion iM4 speakers:

Neo FreeRunner has its quirks and problems, especially as the current software task has been abandoned in favor of the new "ASU" stack, which of course isn't ready (and which will be replaced with FSO at some point...), but still: it now works for about all the stuff I've used phones before, and some new things like GPS and of course the total freedom to change anything anywhere in the software.

It's an enormous promise, and I'm already getting delivered a lot of the good stuff.


Gera said...

I agree with the instability of the ASU stack, but it's been getting better each time. Currently I'm able to use wifi, gprs, gps, and regular phone functions. I really wish there was a gui for the volume settings, but like you said it's still not user-ready. I still enjoy it though.

Anonymous said...

you must like typing a lot, you just did 11 Posts in a row...

TJ said...

Sorry all, and hi all. I blame the badly specified blogosphere :) Maybe atom 1.0 will eventually save us all from these kinds of things which seem to happen all the time in planets.

Alternatively, I blame Blogger for RSS craziness if I just clean up tag naming. The UI should really allow somehow not to create new RSS feed entries in such cases... the dates of the actual posts are unchanged. Also, I did the cleaning _before_ adding myself to the Planet.

Silvio said...

Nice! I like the openmoko idea! I am not especially fond of the aesthetical design of the device though.
What do you think of Android? How do you think it will affect openmoko?

TJ said...

Since the CAD files for Openmoko's Neo phones are Free to use for any purpose, you may design your own, too :) Granted, the current Neo are quite "all-in-one" bulky devices, but they actually feel quite good in hand, ie. the hardware is solid.

As for Android, it does not currently seem like a competitor to Openmoko since the manufacturers do not concentrate on producing devices that can run on 100% free software. Also, Android is quite largely outside of the ordinary Linux ecosystem, since it's using mostly its own system on top of the kernel. So one will see if it will affect much else than create more demand for web applications.

Of course, the Android core is open source like hyped by Google, so if the Android turns out to be really good, it will run on Openmoko based devices, too. It's not certain, though, how large amount of the Android applications are actually free software so they work on any (Android supporting) device.