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oldcpu's meandering thoughts on Computers, GNU/Linux and openSUSE

Tablet philosophy ponderings wrt free open source software

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There is a thread here on our forum which motivated me to write this blog, where a number of us chatted about different Tablets. … and also about the philosophy of tablets wrt Free open source software (Free as in the Free Software Foundation definition of free).

Android OS and Tablets

After my research into the Motorolo Xoom and the Acer Tranformer Tablet I looked at the philosophy of Tablets wrt free open source software, and I was disappointed wrt restrictions I saw being imposed by the Android-3.x OS implementation.

(and by the way, there is also a VERY interesting Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tab that is worth considering although unfortunately it is also 'restricted' re: Free Open Source) …

Why is it I don't like the Tablets wrt Free Open Source ? I mean is not Android supposed to be GNU/Linux based ?

Well, yes it is, but the philosophy of implementation is contrary to what we have in general for GNU/Linux distributions in a number of areas that annoy's GNU/Linux enthusiasts like myself:
  • no root access in a Tablet. Ergo one has to read about how to 'root' a Tablet via a 3rd party hack which likely voids one's warranty. The implications of this are enormous ! It means one is not only restricted as to the applications one can install BUT one is also prevented from updating the operating system (ie one can NOT update from Android-3.0 to 3.1 (or 3.1 to 3.2 if there were to be a 3.2).
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  • open source software drivers for the laptop's hardware are either not available or limited. And proprietary drivers are not always easily available. This means to change one's software driver to a different superior software driver for a piece of hardware is not much of an option. Indeed because of no root permissions this also likely can not be done.
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  • need to rely on HARDWARE supplier for Operating System updates. This is due to the lack of proprietary (and open source) software drivers for hardware, and also due to their being no root access. So if you have a Tablet with Android 3.0, one has to WAIT and PRAY that the hardware supplier for the Tablet provides Android-3.1 with an easy upgrade path.

    I really really really dislike that. It means pick your HARDWARE supplier carefully in the hope that they will continue long term application support


MeeGo OS and Tablets

Another GNU/Linux OS (which is FAR less common than Android) is MeeGo OS and I also looked briefly at the MeeGo operating system

The WeTab runs with MeeGo and the Intel Tablet UX may also come with the MeeGo operating system. Purported Linpus also have Meego tablet offerings coming soon.

For a brief time there was openSUSE's Smeegol Linux (based in part on a SuSE/openSUSE variant with an interface similar to MeeGo) but my understanding is support for that was dropped. Also, noting that MeeGo was initiated as collaboration between Nokia and Intel, and also noting that Nokia's MeeGo team manager departed after Nokia and Microsoft came to an agreement on a future strategy for mobile handsets, and one can't help but wonder if Nokia are dropping MeeGo support. That also will make it more difficult for the MeeGo operating system to succeed. [… I note one source claims Nokia had only a 3 man external team working on the development of UI customizations for MeeGo for Nokia. Recently (according to Phoronix without Nokia support) Intel announced the release of MeeGo 1.2

I read one blog/source (which I need to find) that noted MeeGo may also adopt the Android approach for root access not being needed for nominal application install, although I am hoping that still means root access will still be available for those MeeGo users who want more system wide responsibilities. If that restriction to “root” were to come to pass (such as we see in Android where Tablet owners are NOT provided root access) then that would likely be the last that I look at MeeGo.

For now, MeeGo appears to be my main hope for a GNU/Linux Tablet OS that is 'closer' to the philosophy that many of us enjoy with our nominal Netbook/notebook/laptop/desktop GNU/Linux operating systems.

My attitude needs adjusting if MeeGo fails

Now I had it pointed out to me that I should not be surprised by this approach, as Tablets are considered 'consumer appliances with no user serviceable parts' by the hardware industry (as opposed to Netbook computers which are something else ? ) and ergo the vast majority of people do NOT want root access, do NOT want the option to install different hardware drivers, and do NOT want to update the Tablets Operating System.

So perhaps this is just an attitude adjustment on my part that is needed ?? This is especially true if MeeGo fails.

So this does have me thinking again that I need to look at hybrid netbook/tablets which while bigger and bulkier than a dedicated tablet, DO offer full GNU/Linux installation flexibility AND offer additional hardware options (such as pens for scribbling notes).

But given I MAY NEED an attitude adjustment as a user (toward Tablets being 'consumer appliances with no serviceable parts' , then as a user (not as a hardware manufacturer, but rather as a user) then I don't see much difference between Android and Apple Tablet approach to users, and ergo my previous refusal to use Apple Tablets may need to be lifted due to this restrictive Android OS philosophy. i.e .. I will NOW consider Apple Tablets in my consideration.

Along those lines my wife offered to let me play with her iPod Touch 3G when she is not using it. Her iPod Touch 3G is NOT jailbroken, and she is not keen on risking her warranty with Apple to jailbreak it. So I decided to interface her iPod to my openSUSE-11.3 (and that will be subject of a different blog post).

Conclusion

But in the mean time, while playing with my wife's iPod (when she is willing to let it go) I'll continue to watch the progress of the MeeGo GNU/Linux OS and pray it will provide what I want in a Tablet wrt a Free Open Source software approach.

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Updated 26-Jun-2011 at 16:49 by oldcpu

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  1. oldcpu's Avatar
    And while I am going to look (and consider) Apple iPad as a possible Tablet to purchase, I could not help but laugh at what Richard Dreyfuss posted on YouTube: YouTube - Richard Dreyfuss Reads the iTunes Licence
  2. brunomcl's Avatar
    Indeed, the ipad is very pretty, it's easy to see it's "must-have" appeal. That's something Apple/Jobs always did well.
    Samsung Galaxy seems interesting too, from what I have seen.
    And the appliance approach is not unreasonable, it's almost like wanting to upgrade the SO on a digital frame - I have one that even play movies, for god's sake!
    BUT they all have the "do-it-my-way-or-don't-do-it" approach, "buy from my app-store or not at all", that I find very restrictive. So if I really want a tablet - which is not good for anything else that occasional use IMO - I'd buy a 10" or 12" notebook with a touch-sensitive swivel screen, like I've seen from HP. It packs a lot more bang for a little more buck. And I probably can install oS in it. Downside: heavier, less battery time, but I can live with that.
  3. brunomcl's Avatar
    [QUOTE=oldcpu;bt46]Richard Dreyfuss Reads the iTunes Licence[/URL] [/QUOTE]

    Very funny. The termination part sounds almost like a 3rd Reich speech (you know who I mean ).
  4. oldcpu's Avatar
    Reference the termination part of the Richard Dreyfuss iTune licence read, I have to agree. While I don't speak German (my wife does), I do live in Germany and I have a definite love for Germany, for the German people, and for the German culture. Phonetically German is a 'harsh' sounding language, and IMHO no one can do a rant that sounds better than a German rant (no matter what the subject matter).

    I agree with your view on the preference for a 10" or 12" notebook with a touch-sensitive swivel screen, ... but my wife is suggesting I hold off a purchase there, as she believes I will prefer a lighter weight tablet (her philosophy is I should take two devices with me: (1) a regular netbook/tablet for use in Hotel room, and (2) a dedicated tablet to carry in the backpack. I need to ponder this some more, while the technology advances.
  5. oldcpu's Avatar
    IT world has a couple of articles on the Android operating system (where Android OS is one of the key Tablet operating systems) , where these articles are not so complimentary toward Google's Android implementation:
    1. Are Android and Linux the same and the answer IMHO is basically, no more ! They started with the same roots and Google's Android has possibly 'forked' from GNU/Linux. Some say illegally, as per the next point:
      .
    2. Android violates Linux License - Experts Claim . Where they have a number of accusations against Android, one of which is this:
      Quote Originally Posted by Google-quote-of-intellectual property attorney Edward Naughton
      Google took a novel and quite aggressive approach to developing a key component of Android -- the Bionic Library. That library, a type of C Library, is used by all application developers who need to access the core functions of the Linux operating system. Google essentially copied hundreds of files of Linux code that were never meant to be used as is by application developers, 'cleaned' those files using a non-standard and questionable technical process, and then declared that the code was no longer subject to the GPLv2, so that developers could use it without becoming subject to copyleft effect that would normally apply to GPLv2-licensed code taken from the Linux kernel.

    I do NOT like the read of point#2 as IF true, it IMHO is a pretty serious charge against Google.

    As for point#1, I find the philosophy of Android is far from that of GNU/Linux when it comes to the way in which most GNU/Linux distributions are setup with repositories (for packaged software) and how fixes are sent upstream to developers, and then back down stream when fixes implemented. Where most GNU/Linux distributions are setup such that a software fork is NOT too difficult.

    I do not see that in Google's Android.
  6. oldcpu's Avatar
    Android support drops quickly according to this article, which IMHO makes my concern about Android support very clear: the understatement: Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support

    and look at this table illustrating most manufacturers do NOT support their tablets for very long:



    Look how quickly support drops off after 1.5 years, where yellow, orange and red indicates the Tablets are not up to date with the current Tablet's OS version.

    I don't know if Apple funded that article, but its almost enough to drive me to using an iPad2.
    Updated 27-Oct-2011 at 15:19 by oldcpu