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Looking for a good Linux phone - Journal of Omnifarious

Aug. 10th, 2007

09:05 am - Looking for a good Linux phone

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I want a GSM based phone that can be used with T-Mobile. It either has to have an on-screen based keyboard as nice as the iPhone's (complete with the guessing features) or a physical keyboard like the Treo's. It has to be GPL3 compliant, meaning that I can replace ALL the software on the phone, except, perhaps, the software on the GSM chip itself. Ideally it would also be 802.11 capable.

Does anybody know of such a beast?

Current Mood: [mood icon] hopeful

Comments:

From:daisykitten
Date:August 10th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)
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From:omnifarious
Date:August 11th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
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Well, it would be if it existed. :-) It mostly doesn't know. The OpenMoka thing is the closest, and it doesn't even have the software to be a decent phone yet. :-/

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From:sine
Date:August 10th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
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nokia 9300i/9500? clamshell opens up to full keyboard. it runs symbian 90 and there's a fair amount of software for it. the screen is wide enough for browsing without left/right scrolling, though it's not every long. i've got the 9300 (no wifi) and like it a lot. spouseboy has the 9300i (with wifi). i know the 9300s don't have cameras, but i forget whether the 9500 does.
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From:omnifarious
Date:August 11th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
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I had a Treo, and I really loved having it. I loved using SMS with a real keyboard, even though SMS is stupid and expensive. And having my appointment book in my phone meant that I actually looked at the thing every once in awhile which is a great improvement over any other appointment book I've ever had.

I'm not sure if I'd really care much about browsing. Having something to use for navigation and maps without having to haul out my laptop might be nice though.

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From:eqe
Date:August 10th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
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There is No Such Beast in a usable state right now.

The greenphone is only intended to be a development platform, and it shows. The UI is very buggy and there isn't much of a community developing AFAICS.

The Neo1973 approximates the hardware platform of the iPhone, but by all accounts the software stack isn't there yet. For example, they don't have useful powersaving modes right now, so battery life is horrid (hours rather than days of standby). The soft keyboard is almost certainly not as nice as the iPhone (though since it's open source you're welcome to improve it!).

Various HTC devices such as the Dash (rebranded under a dozen trademarks) are intended to run only WinCE^H^HMobile, but I suspect that installing a OpenMoko stack is going to be possible in the 12-18 months timeframe.

The BlackBerry 8800 has basically the same hardware feature set with their own OS and runtime. It's a bit more locked down than HTC (apps are written in J2ME, no opportunity to load ARM opcodes through standard APIs), but I expect the same kind of "root the kit, install new bootloader, done" OpenMoko opportunity once the OM stack is usable.

The high-end Nokia devices (E61 et al) are similar, although running Symbian as their base OS.

While these devices all appear vastly different, the underlying CPU architectures and peripherals are *very* similar; ARM has 95% of the market through two or three CPU vendors (Samsung, TI, and maybe one other?) and there are actually only a handful of ODMs who build kit. So getting a unified open stack going is likely to result in plenty of opportunity to innovate them right onto the platforms...
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From:hattifattener
Date:August 10th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
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You'll never see a fully open phone in the current regulatory climate; the FCC wouldn't approve it. The Neo gets around this by having the non-free firmware mostly sequestered in modules which are talked to by the free parts over well-defined interfaces (async serial, e.g.). The exception is the binary gps daemon, and people are working on reverse-engineering that.

Anyway. I think the neo is the closest you'll get to what you're looking for. It's currently a developer preview and won't have 802.11 until the consumer version comes out. But, as with any open source project, the best way to get exactly what you want is to open it up and hack on it, and the earlier you climb on board, the more you can affect the course the project takes. I'm seriously considering getting a Neo1973 myself.

It's not clear how they'll handle the non-free-ness of the graphics accelerator they're planning to add to the consumer version either.
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From:eqe
Date:August 10th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
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I don't care (in the 3-year timeframe) about the OTA interface; in all the modern smartphones it's segregated behind a UART interface with ATesque command set for control, and a PCM audio interface for data, and maybe an I2C interface for data. That's fine, the FCC can have its little regulatory sandbox as long as the interfaces are published and so on. In the short term I'm far more interested in getting unfettered access to the general purpose CPU, which is a much more achievable goal.
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From:hattifattener
Date:August 10th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
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I agree with you; I think it would be nice to have a little more control than the usual command set gives me, but I'm not enough of a purist to require gssm in my pocket.
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From:omnifarious
Date:August 11th, 2007 06:55 am (UTC)
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I've been seriously considering the OpenMoko Neo1973. I know that the GSM chip itself will likely never be completely open. But I also know what eqe said and that there is a standard AT based command set for communicating with them. And that is acceptable to me as long as I can get at that command set myself in software I write.

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From:hattifattener
Date:August 11th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
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Yeah, the AT command set is actually part of the GSM standard (TS 07.07), which is now freely available from ETSI 3GPP. (Which is very cool IMHO. Pre-3GPP, I'm pretty sure the specs were the usual "pay lots of money to join our club and maaaaaybe we'll let you look at them under NDA" kind of thing.)

I'm nearly as excited about the Neo as I was about the PalmPilot when it first came out. Yay for hackability in my pocket.
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From:omnifarious
Date:August 11th, 2007 09:11 am (UTC)
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It's tempting to get one of the Nokia phones and wait for the OpenMoko software to get to where I can replace it on the phone. Otherwise, I can't see a lot of advantage to using a Nokia over just getting a Treo to replace the one I lost. Supposedly Palm is supposed to be coming out with a Treo that uses Linux as the base OS.

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From:eqe
Date:August 11th, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
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I've written palm off for so long it didn't even occur to me to consider them. Their hardware is *so* clunky. The 755p (which seems to be the sleekest one) is almost twice as thick as my blackberry 8800 and weighs about 30% more.
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From:incused
Date:August 11th, 2007 06:29 am (UTC)
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From:omnifarious
Date:August 11th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
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It's not Linux based. :-(

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From:elfidel
Date:December 18th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
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I bought a 770 in December 2005 that arrived in January. It's great for the application I bought it for (browsing a home automation web site) and is also great for browsing PDF documents.

Unfortunately, about two weeks after I bought it, the display started intermittently flickering (mostly on greys, but visibly on all colours). The flickering was slight at first, but after a few days it could get as bad as the whole screen flickering, quite badly.





Képeslap
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