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Handhelds Linux Business Hardware

OpenMoko In Stores On July 4 212

Posted by timothy
from the 20080704 dept.
ruphus13 writes "July 4 will be day when OpenMoko's Neo FreeRunner will be available to US consumers. Being Open Source, it is modifiable down to the core. From the article: 'The FreeRunner is based on a GNU/Linux, and it will initially ship with basic software to make calls, send and receive SMS, and manage contacts. But the company is encouraging users to write and install their own applications. Software updates will add features to the phone over time, and the company said an August update will enable location-based services.'"
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OpenMoko In Stores On July 4

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  • Damn, that was quick (Score:2, Informative)

    by Planky (761118)
    The online store has already run out of the GSM 850 model.
  • by giorgist (1208992) on Friday July 04, 2008 @03:15AM (#24055943)
    Can I ask the powers that be ...

    Could I run a program that can make calls the world over and charge to my account ? ... if so, we have a problem

    G
    • by msgmonkey (599753)

      Most likely the GSM functionality of the phone is completely seperate. You can buy embedded modules today that are basically a phone minus the screen and keypad. They have serial digital audio links and the process of making calls is done via AT commands.

      A phone that allowed the user to modify the GSM stack would never get type approval.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 04, 2008 @07:28AM (#24057223) Journal
        You don't need to modify the GSM stack to make calls, you just need to use the top layers. To answer the grandparent's question, yes you can. You are the user, you are in control. That's what Free Software means. You can run any program you want and it can do anything you allow it to. If you don't want it to be able to make calls, don't run it with permissions to access the GSM hardware.
        • by LarsG (31008)

          The OP does have a point, though. The Openmoko folks better make sure that gsmd (and whatever device node the serial interface has) has proper access control, so that a rogue program can't give you a nasty surprise when you get the phone bill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LarsG (31008)

        In many phones (including the FreeRunner) the entire GSM stack is handled by a separate chip. As you say, it is required for type approval in a handset that is as open as this one.

        Writing software to talk to one of those is quite deja vu if you were into modem stuff in the bbs days. Serial link, AT command set. From the point of view of the Linux software running on the phone, it is pretty much identical to an old PC connected to a serial modem. Retro-computing in your pocket. ;-p

    • You misspelled phreaking.

    • No, but it will let you make all sorts of crazy calls and let you communicate with the Doctor...

  • Anyone know why they only have GSM 850 & 900? Atleast half of the networks in Europe are 1800 and we're now in theage of tri-band phones. It's nice it has WiFi and everything but it seems that this is more like a PDA with a (not very capable) cellphone tacked on, it does n't even have EDGE support.

  • Woops, My Bad (Score:5, Informative)

    by msgmonkey (599753) on Friday July 04, 2008 @03:25AM (#24055979)

    Sorry, I went straight to the BUY NOW section, where it offers "GSM 850" & "GSM 900" which what they mean is 850/1800/1900 & 900/1800/1900.

    Note to OpenMoko: You could make this a bit clearer.

    Note to Moderators: Please be gentle :)

    Although I stand by the EDGE comment.

    • Re:Woops, My Bad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LarsG (31008) on Friday July 04, 2008 @12:03PM (#24059441) Journal

      I agree. In terms of hardware (and especially on the cellular data side) this isn't anything to get excited about.

      On the other hand, this handset's market segment is the "Linux in your pocket" people. Which meant that when they picked the components, the important question was "is this chip supported by Linux" and not "does this chip support the latest technology".

      I'm kinda surprised myself that they couldn't find a GSM module that supports at least EDGE. But if the alternative was a binary blob driver (or more likely, unavailable or only-nda-available AT command set documentation, errata etc) well... :-/

      Also remember that OpenMoko has a lot of rough edges still. The basic stuff is said to be working, but it is certainly not suitable for Aunt Tilly. The main market for this device is people who absolutely want true open Linux on their phone and who are willing to contribute (writing software, bug reports, porting, testing, etc) to make that happen. So, hardware ain't hot but it is as open as they could find; and except for camera it has all the hardware components needed (bt, cellular data, usb, wifi, etc) to enable people to test and develop the software needed for a fully featured handset.

  • Availability (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bugg_tb (581786)
    When will UK carriers pick up these open source phones and supply them to contract customers is what I want to know! :)
    • by comm2k (961394)
      Most likely never ;)
      Unless you want an rather ancient tech phone which is also locked down and crippled to no end by your network provider.
    • by gilesjuk (604902)

      Nope.

      It's a highly niche market device and not many non-geek users will want one without a camera.

      Also, it's big and not exactly attractive. I owned a dev unit for a while before losing interest in trying to program it. It wasn't a very refined device, casing was a bit flimsy. On the whole quite quirky.

      Of course it will appeal to some, but it would need to look and perform as well as an iPhone 3G to capture mass market support.

    • by LarsG (31008)

      I suspect that smiley is intended to show that you are joking, but in case it was a serious question: No. Never.

      The cell carrier free phone on contract business plan depends on the customer staying with the network, in other words SIM-lock. More often than not they also do modifications to the phone software to flog the carrier's services ("click here to go to our mobile music store!") and disable phone functions that the carrier doesn't like (more so in the .us, but happens in .uk and other places too).

      Tha

  • Just to clarify (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kombipom (1274672) on Friday July 04, 2008 @03:40AM (#24056049) Journal

    The 900 model isn't really sold out it's not arrived at the distributors yet so it's not currently available.

    Also the reason it uses GSM is that the team have tried as far as possible to use OPEN HARDWARE ie fully documented and not lumbered with proprietary closed-source drivers. GSM was the only option as all 3G hardware is completely closed.

    Also please everyone, don't start the "it's not as good as the iphone" flamewars. If you want an iphone you don't want this and if you want this you probably don't want an iphone.

    • If you want an iphone you don't want this and if you want this you probably don't want an iphone.

      Are you kidding me? They've both got:

      • An antenna
      • run on a battery

      EVERYTHING that fulfills both requirements will be mine.

      Everything?

      EVERYTHING.

    • by AVee (557523)

      The 900 model isn't really sold out it's not arrived at the distributors yet so it's not currently available.

      The 900Mhz version is available from resellers in the EU.

    • Also the reason it uses GSM is that the team have tried as far as possible to use OPEN HARDWARE ie fully documented and not lumbered with proprietary closed-source drivers.

      Too bad they did a shit job [openmoko.org].

      • The CPU docs are available only after registering and "qualifying". They've (possibly illegally) hosted a copy of the PDF publicly.
      • The modem has proprietary extensions, and they illegally posted a leaked NDA-only doc with the proprietary stuff documented. Posting the NDA-only doc means they'll have a t
      • Too bad they did a shit job [openmoko.org]

        But on the other hand, the software handling all these components is available as free and open source software. Even the GPS and the GSM (because those two component are mainly handled by their own internal firmware which contain the closed-blob and communicate with standard interface with openmoko - So well, some geeks could argue that the thing isn't letting them do 100% of what they want)
        On the other hand, current 3G licensing would have prevented an open source stack inside open-moko. Not only would th

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jadavis (473492)

        Unless I'm mistaken, it's more free than any other phone out there. We can't compare this to an ideal, we have to compare it to alternatives, and decide where to vote with our dollars.

        Even my Debian desktop is not entirely free. I use a proprietary nvidia driver, and I use the flash player.

        Someone invested a lot of money -- and might see much of it lost -- trying to make this phone. The revenue they generate indicates the demand, and will be the primary deciding factor for future investment.

        There are pretty

  • What network? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davmoo (63521) on Friday July 04, 2008 @03:47AM (#24056087)

    Even though I readily admit I hate the shape of the case they put this thing in, I am otherwise quite interested in this phone from the "open" standpoint.

    But assuming I were to buy one of these, what carriers in the US will let you put it on their network without grief or a number of hoops to jump through?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ookabooka (731013)
      Uh, I would imagine any that support GSM/SIM. My cell phone company has no clue what phone I am using on their network (HTC Hermes) and it works just fine.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by oldhack (1037484)
      AT&T and T-Mobile run GSM networks. There may also be regional ones using GSM service.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CopaceticOpus (965603)

      Hear, hear! I'd like to see the breakdown of what it would actually cost to use this on a U.S. network and what kind of service to expect.

      I did find this list of U.S. GSM providers [gsmworld.com] by following a link from OpenMoko's Q&A page, but it's not all that helpful.

      Since this device has wi-fi, what I'd really like to do is to use it as a Skype-like phone over wi-fi when I'm at home, and then have it switch to regular cellular when I'm on the road. Since I make most of my phone calls from home, I should theoretic

      • T-Mobile HotSpot @Home [theonlyphoneyouneed.com]

        T-Mobile has several handsets that support this very feature, they connect over wi-fi whenever possible and handoff to GSM the rest of the time (hopefully) without dropping the call in progress.

        My apologies for the Flash site behind the link. =(

      • by Yfrwlf (998822)
        That's part of the point of a wifi/GSM phone. The only question I have is if the Freerunner can do this right now with the software it has or not, but even if it doesn't, since it's just a software deal, it's only a matter of time until it has it.
        • You won't get Skype on it since Skype is completely proprietary (and why on earth would you want it?). I can't see any reason why you couldn't run a SIP user agent on it though. It runs Xorg, so you can probably run Ekiga on it.

      • by Jellybob (597204)

        Realistically, I don't know if this is possible.

        Isn't the whole point? It's Open Source.

        The question isn't whether it's possible, the question is whether you know how to write the software to do it, or happen to know somebody who'd be interested in doing it.

    • Re:What network? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday July 04, 2008 @04:39AM (#24056367)

      Even though I readily admit I hate the shape of the case they put this thing in

      Feel free to download the plans [openmoko.org], modify it however you see fit, and fabricate the result!

      • for the RepRap [reprap.org] I'm trying to put together in the near future.

        I mean seriously : although there are very few of them, there are geeks here around who are into all this rapid prototyping. Be it with reprap or fab@home [fabathome.org], or bigger facilities available in their universities (Z-Corp...)

        These are the perfect audience for all the recently released CAD files (OpenMoko's Neo Freerunner, ASUS' EEE PC, etc.)

    • I just had to bite the bullet a few months ago, retire my AMPS/TDMA phone and switch to GSM. (AT&T is the only cell carrier that covers my vacation/eventual-retirement home and they're shutting down the TDMA option.) Had hoped OpenMoko would be in time for me but they missed by about 9 months.

      With them in mind I got one of the "free" locked phones - and checked what the unlocking and phone switching policies were. AT&T claimed:
      - The PHONE is locked to the CARD, but,
      - The CARD isn'

      • by davmoo (63521)

        I should have been more clear in my original question, so the fact that I got some poor answers is my fault.

        But your answer here is what I was looking for, thanks!

        What I should have initially asked is what US providers that use GSM will allow you to bring your own phone to the table and shove one of their sim cards in it and make calls.

        Currently I have a Verizon CDMA phone, and my current contract (my 5th with them) ends in September. I've been with Verizon for going on 10 years now, and have no real compl

    • I've decided to put up with two more years of closed phones to have Verizon's nationwide CDMA coverage area. AT&T and T-Mobile are making gains, but still aren't quite to the point of GSM/3G coverage that serves my needs. Let's see what the next two years bring. OpenMoko may play a role in my future cell phone usage, but not this year.
    • by Gori (526248)

      Well, of you hate the shape :
      1. get the CAD files : http://downloads.openmoko.org/CAD/ [openmoko.org]
      2. Modify them
      3. Find a CNC shop to build them (solid brushed alumunium case anyone ?)
      4. ?
      5. Profit !

  • Sweet. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NaishWS (1263540) on Friday July 04, 2008 @03:48AM (#24056097)
    Though I am not a fan of the appearance, it is quite a powerful phone, with a 500mhz processor, which is not quite as powerful as the 700mhz processor on the iphone, but still decent nevertheless. Ofcourse, the benefiting factor being that it is open source, where as the iphone is not. It will be a great time when we are able to buy a phone, with the basic functionality installed, then choose what particular software we want to add on the phone, for free. The main problem with phones today is that there is really no way that the community can fix or improve the software without complications, but if the company is actually encouraging open source software to be developed they will provide the necessary tools (APIs etc) for the community to do these improvements themselves, saving them money in the process. It also appears that more phone companies are starting to follow this open source trend, but will probably still keep their strangle hold on their customer base by using DRM and SIM locks, you can read the article here [zdnet.co.uk]. Openmoko are definitely in the right direction, I wish them much success.
    • by KlaymenDK (713149)

      Don't compare computing power based solely on CPU frequency. True, the figure is comparable to "horse power", but that's very much not the same thing as "top speed".

  • gps software? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Luke_22 (1296823)
    I see it has built-in agps device...
    does anyone know what software it uses? map coverage?

    and... what do you slashdotters suggest as alternative? :)
    • by guruevi (827432)

      I don't think it comes with any software or maps for the GPS. I have a Nokia N800 and there is a commercial package but I hate paying, so I opted to use maemo-mapper. It downloads the maps from Google Maps or Virtual Earth or Yahoo Streets and it has GPS support (with a bluetooth GPS module I picked up for $30) and it is awesome. Much faster than a TomTom (acquires GPS signal in a second or 2) and it has some other cool features. It uses GTK for the interface and the Nokia is ARM-based Linux as well so it m

  • by soundguy (415780) on Friday July 04, 2008 @04:51AM (#24056417) Homepage

    The website is remarkably information-free. "Basic software" doesn't tell me a damned thing. I'm all about x86 pizzabox servers and CentOS. I don't know anything about these mini-platforms or ARM processors to start with. Does it come with a compiler or does all development have to be done externally? Does it have any shell tools? Does it have a Perl interpreter? SSH? Is there any graphical internet stuff at all yet for the platform (browser, ftp, email?) or is this an entirely new "ground up" environment.

    I'd love to have a Linux phone just on principle, but I don't want to have to build the whole damned thing from scratch.

  • I wonder how many of the people who make this OpenMoko thing speak Spanish, because a 'moco' is a 'bogey'. Who would want to buy that? Or are there no hispanic geeks in Gringolandia?
    • by GregAllen (178208)

      You mean "booger".

      From WordNet (r) 2.0 [wn]:
          booger
                    2: dried nasal mucus
          bogey
                    n 1: an evil spirit
                    2: (golf) a score of one stroke over par on a hole
                    3: an unidentified (and possibly enemy) aircraft

  • cuz what I see online are some spiffy *illustrations* and no actual photos other than the CES one or two...

  • by chord.wav (599850) on Friday July 04, 2008 @09:44AM (#24058153) Journal

    -Harry, there's someone in the house! Call 911!
    -Can't you see it's compiling, woman?!?!? C'MON!!

  • I can't decide if releasing this on July 4th is clever marketing or not. Sure, OpenMoko on Independence Day, let freedom ring! But who is paying that much attention on a 3 day weekend in the summer? Do they have follow-up press releases and event next week when people are back at work and in their normal routines?

  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by jwisser (1038696) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:43AM (#24059253) Homepage
    In grand old /. tradition:
    No 3g. Less space than an iPhone. Lame.

    Should be interesting to see where this leads.

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