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Cellphones Handhelds Open Source Operating Systems

Symbian Completes Transition To Open Source 189

Posted by timothy
from the still-a-contender-or-not dept.
Grond writes "Symbian, maker of the the world's most popular mobile operating system, has completed the transition to a completely open platform months ahead of schedule. While the kernel was opened up last year, the entire platform is now open source, primarily under the Eclipse Public License. A FAQ is available with more information about the platform opening." Adds an anonymous reader, linking to PC Magazine's story on the transition: "By putting Symbian fully in the public domain, the Symbian Foundation is pitting it against Google's Android. Symbian is well known across most of the world, but it's mostly a foreign curiosity in the US, AT&T is the only carrier that currently has a symbian phone in its lineup, the Nokia E71x."
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Symbian Completes Transition To Open Source

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  • Drivers too, please! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:12PM (#31027064) Journal

    Since Nokia is phone manufacturer itself and main supporter of Symbian, I really hope they open source their drivers for different phones too. Nokia is already moving in that direction with Qt and it doesn't impact their main business as a phone manufacturer. Only problem would be if those drivers use licensed patents from other manufacturers though.

    Android being open source is practically useless because you cannot get drivers for any phone. Sure you can see the OS code and tinker around it (if you are able to get overly complex development environment set up), but you are unable to use it on your phone or do pretty much anything with it. It's only good for phone manufacturers.

    If Nokia also were to release drivers for their phones, this would be huge victory against Android.

    • http://maemo.org/ (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:21PM (#31027204)

      It's even Linux. Hell, it's Debian.

      http://maemo.nokia.com/n900/ [nokia.com]

       

      • by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @06:31PM (#31028008)

        Yeah, I have just ordered a new N900 to replace my G1. The G1 is being only replaced because I dropped it a few too many times and it got flaky. I am moving from Android partly because the only way I have found to make the most of the hardware I own is to run a bunch o' hacks, I am more comfortable running a bunch o' hacks on Debian/Linux than Android, and partly because I can't find another Android phone with a flip out keyboard I like.

        From what I have read, Nokia are dropping Symbian from future N series smart phones, so basically this announcement means that they are open sourcing their low end crappy OS which has pretty much failed in the smart phone space.

        I vowed never to own another Symbian device when my last Nokia was retired a year ago. It is painfully limited and obscure and I don't see how opening up the source code will help when there is such a strong alternative in Maemo which already benefits from the familiarity of Linux/X/Qt. Waste of time, Nokia.

        As an aside, and a bit off topic, I am interested in the AndroidExecutionEnvironment that was being developed for Ubuntu. A (hopefully) simple port to maemo would mean I could still run my favourite Android apps.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "From what I have read, Nokia are dropping Symbian from future N series smart phones, so basically this announcement means that they are open sourcing their low end crappy OS which has pretty much failed in the smart phone space."

          Symbian has been around for a decade and still controls the plurality (even majority?) of the smartphone market. I wouldn't call that a failure.

        • by Mulder3 (867389) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:22PM (#31030570)
          "(...)so basically this announcement means that they are open sourcing their low end crappy OS which has pretty much failed in the smart phone space." ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Symbian is the leading(not the best, but surely, is the leading) Smartphone OS... Actually, there is more Symbian smartphones in the world that Android+iPhone combined... If you don't believe me, check the numbers... (Worldwide, not only US numbers) Just because Symbian is not popular in the US, doesn't mean it ist't popular at all... To you guys, US people, the concept of smart phone is new, i know(mainly because of your crappy cell phone market) but in Europe, smartphones is really not a new thing... I had my first Smarphone 6 years ago... A Nokia 7650(Symbian)
          • To you guys, US people, the concept of smart phone is new

            That is as may be, but I am not in the US, never been there and don't mind if I never go.

            ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Symbian is the leading(not the best, but surely, is the leading) Smartphone OS... Actually, there is more Symbian smartphones in the world that Android+iPhone combined

            Quite serious. The thing about Symbian is it has been succesful because Nokia has been responsible for good, reliable hardware, arguably the best, and Symbian is all they have offe

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You're in for a treat. The n900 is everything you think it'll be, and more. :)

          If you're not already there, check out talk.maemo.org [maemo.org]. Lots of active threads and great resources. Welcome to the club. :p

      • by Toy G (533867) <toyg.libero@it> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @07:08PM (#31028396) Homepage Journal

        Maemo is suffering from the US-centric view of the average IT media. It's simply the best smartphone OS... because it's not a phone OS, it's a full desktop OS with a phone-friendly UI, more or less like the iPhone. But differently from the iPhone, it's a standard Linux, it's open to all sorts of hacks, and you don't have to pay rent to develop for it (at least not yet). I have one, and it's mind-blowing. I can run anything I want without worrying about "jailbreaking" and other absurd locks. Once the price goes down a little, it will become the perfect device for, well, almost anything. (Yeah, the screen is resistive, but the quality and resolution... man, the iPhone looks very cheap in comparison).

        What is holding Maemo back, at the moment is:
        - the above-mentioned US-centric attitude
        - fear. Many in Nokia are scared of dropping their old Symbian workhorse, which is still immensely profitable even if it managed to irritate almost every single user it ever had, and never managed to establish a decent ecosystem of third-party developers. They are afraid that Maemo (an untested platform in the wider market) might fail, so they don't allocate enough resources to it, which leads to unpolished releases, which in turn means they don't feel confident enough to push Maemo-based devices as hard as they should...
        - internal politics. In Nokia, Symbian is the establishment, the cash-cow, the power, the suits, the veteran developers; Maemo is the skunkwork geek project, youthful and technically light-years ahead, but bringing a revolution in how things are done, with an unclear business model... not everyone is on board yet. Sometimes the friction shows.

        • While I am immensely interested in the development of Symbian(as I hate my work provided Windows "smart" phone) I am glad I am a sysamdin, not a developer. Knowing I could do wonders if I invested tons of my time seems somehow futile. I would rather ride the backs of skilled developers and provide constructive criticism (and lots of homemade beer) than do the actual work myself.

          Thank you for making me appreciate my role in this process so much more.

          If ever you find yourself in Fredericksburg, VA, hit me

        • by mdwh2 (535323)

          I agree. I could understand the US media focusing less on Symbian (though even there, that still doesn't explain the Apple and Google fascination, since Motorola are American, and they sell way more phones too). But here in the UK, the BBC are also obsessed with covering the Iphone, and to a lesser extent, Android, whilst Nokia phones rarely get a mention.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          I have one, and it's mind-blowing.

          If you don't mind, could you tell us which Maemo phone you have? I'm interested in them and short of hearing a more extensive review, I'd like to know which model you are so happy with.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by PeterBrett (780946)

            I have one, and it's mind-blowing.

            If you don't mind, could you tell us which Maemo phone you have? I'm interested in them and short of hearing a more extensive review, I'd like to know which model you are so happy with.

            There's only one Maemo phone so far: the N900.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        the drivers are binary only though.

        Which means when they want to sell the n901, no more new drivers for you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      Symbian, is finding that it is loosing its once strong share in the Mobile OS Market. They are moving to an Open Source Model in an attempt to "Firefox" their OS back to a good standing.

      Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. However trying to go against big names like Apple, Google and RIM you need to do something.

      It isn't as much as Open Source for comunity sake. Just kinda a gap so new companies who are making mobile apps wont go with android all that quickly so they can keep their market share. S

    • by nilbog (732352)

      The drivers for your device should be on your device when you get it. You can extract them and use them on your own custom rom if you want.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:18PM (#31027156)

    Except they didn't, in any sense of the term, put it in the public domain.

    • by broken_chaos (1188549) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:34PM (#31027360)

      People these days, with all the overloading talk of "intellectual property" don't even know what "public domain" means. I see it all too often with my friends and family. It's getting to the point that copyright is so overreaching (and has been for so long), that few people even know what it means when a work no longer is under copyright.

      That said, having Symbian under an open source licence is definitely a nice thing.

      • Let alone the negative connotations they infer about off-copyright materials. It doesn't even make sense to most people, and they think what is most sensible is for copyright to last forever. People have the quaint idea that this allows the original authors to retire and survive old age.

        The brainwashing is complete. Long live the brainwashing.
  • If it's so freakin' open please tell me why I still need to have apps signed on my Nokia 6220 classic and will do for the foreseeable future unless I'm willing to try risky hacks.

    • by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:21PM (#31027202) Journal

      If it's so freakin' open please tell me why I still need to have apps signed on my Nokia 6220 classic and will do for the foreseeable future unless I'm willing to try risky hacks.

      I'll raise you an anecdote. I just bought a Nokia E63, new and unlocked with a full US warranty for $189 from Newegg, and it's one of the best phones I've ever owned. You simply go to the application manager menu, and for the option that says "Install only signed apps", select "No". It's that simple. I just installed an unsigned FTP client, so now I don't even need Nokia's atrocious PC Suite for syncing.

      • by Colin Smith (2679)

        Try ovi suite. It's a reimagining of what pc suite should do.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Johnno74 (252399)

          Except its LOTS more crappy than pc suite. I'd consider it an alpha version. Shows some promise, but they need to finish it.

          I just installed on my win 7 x64 machine at work here and I'm probably going to go back to the old pc suite.

          It keeps offering ovi maps 3.0 for my phone, which is NOT compatible with it (6110 navigator). If I go to the "maps" section it says there has been an internal error, and helpfully suggests I restart ovi suite, and if that doesn't work I should try and restart my PC. WTF?.

          Th

          • by sarhjinian (94086)

            This is par for the course with Nokia. Near as I can tell, they think that once the hardware is done, they can phone in the rest.

            The result is a mapping application that adds extraneous street numbers to a street, mail clients that don't understand folders, push email that works about half the time, etc, etc. The hardware and core software is great, but the supplementary stuff is wretched. I can't believe how bad a job my E71 (ostensibly a business smartphone) does of email. There's no excuse, not since

            • by Colin Smith (2679)

              mail clients that don't understand folders, push email that works about half the time,

              WTF? The Nokia Symbian mail client understands folders, they've supported imap for donkeys years. It just works, I use it every day. As annoying as push email & calendaring is, the MS Exchange client also just works. The street numbers in a map application come from the data provider. I get the impression you live somewhere like Podunk Idaho, do you have to stand on a hill to get a signal?

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      You should have apps signed in your Windows PC too. Even in open source world, apps are "signed" (or at least, the deb/rpm packages are) by the distribution/repository. The requirements to have certain apps signed could be good or bad, but signing by itself should not be seen as something bad.
    • Probably because their actions today don't reach back through the tendrils of space and time and affect their actions in the past.

      More seriously, openness of code need not(and frequently does not) equal openness of device. Only open code and the ability to install your own binaries, built from modified code, provides that.

      What you are basically asking is the equivalent of "If linux is so open, why can't I get root on any linux server?". Answer: "because the people who built and installed linux on thos
    • You install the app signer which has a dev cert. Then you can sign and install any application you want, a bit of a pain, but no risky hacks required.

      http://thesymbianblog.com/2009/07/04/how-to-sign-unsigned-files-on-a-s60-3rd5th-edition-device-itself/ [thesymbianblog.com]

       

      • Or... You use navifirm to download the firmware you need, tweak it such that you never again need to bother with certificates at all, and reflash using Jaf or Phoenix. forum.dailymobile.se has all the dirt for anyone interested.

      • by syousef (465911)

        Yeah lets go get a dev cert, and a signing app just to run software. No biggy if you're a developer I guess. But an end user shouldn't need to jump through hoops.

  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:19PM (#31027182)

    Placing code under an open-source license is not the same as putting it in the "public domain". Code under an open source license still has conditions attached to it (even if minimal ones) while code placed in the public domain has no restrictions placed on it of any sort. Code under an open-source license is still copyrighted, but with a permissive license that allows one to do some things normally reserved only for the work's copyright holder. By contrast, a work in the public domain is not covered by copyright law at all.

    • by Antidamage (1506489) * on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:53PM (#31027550) Homepage

      In the coming war between Open Source and Public Domain, no man will be free as in beer.

      • There will never be a war between Open Source and Public Domain. It would be nonsensical.

        For all of you trivia freaks, SQLite [sqlite.org] is an example of high quality source code that is widely used and is in the Public Domain.
    • Code under an open-source license is still copyrighted, but with a permissive license that allows one to do some things normally reserved only for the work's copyright holder. By contrast, a work in the public domain is not covered by copyright law at all.

      Actually PD is covered by copyright law: It's free to modify it and assert a copyright on the "derived work" cwith the full set of copyright restrictions. Ditto to combine it with other works - PD or not - and copyright the collection.

      What this means for

  • AT&T's customized version of Symbian on the E71x sucks eggs. They have taken away a lot of the great features of Symbian, such as the ability to use the Ovi store, Nokia maps, and simple things like the ability to set up an imap mail account. It's like At&t was paid off by Blackberry to make Symbain a failure in the US smartphone market. I've worked around most of these limitations on my device, but would be interested to know if announcement might lead to the ability to reload the E71x's firmwar
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by saihung (19097)

      When I bought an N73 I was able to use a collection of tools to remove the simlock and flash the phone with Nokia's stock firmware. The result was massively improved performance and battery life, but I'm not sure if this is still possible.

      • Changing your product ID to download a non-branded firmware is simple using NSS or JAF. The BB5 tools you used to unlock your N73 do not really apply to later model handsets though - at least not without physically dismantling your phone a little bit to stick probes on various test points.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MoonBuggy (611105)

      I worked testing phones for a while, and I've seen first hand the crap that goes into most vendor-specific firmware (not to mention the fact that many of them will write their version once and never update it, despite the fact that Nokia often make significant improvements in the stock firmware's speed and stability over a product's lifetime). As such, completely nuking anything the network has put on there comes pretty high on my list of requirements.

      Anyway, rant over, here's a link [e71blog.com] explaining how to do so

      • by sricetx (806767)
        Thanks, but the E71x is different than the E71 -- it has S60v3 Feature pack 2 instead of Feature Pack 1 among other differences. I don't think this would work for the E71x.
        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          My mistake, I didn't do adequate research the first time.

          Even so, there are (mixed) reports of simply using a standard E71 product code and firmware on an E71x. I'd be much more hesitant about recommending that route than I was initially, though.

    • by mirix (1649853)
      You can definitely flash it to generic firmware, but you may need to use a fancy dongle (which uses something like JTAG, I presume) to do it, rather than usb/bootloaderish FW update. It depends on the phone.
  • by Qubit (100461) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:35PM (#31027366) Homepage Journal

    According to the FAQ [symbian.org] you can now get all the source and can (at least theoretically) build the OS and various applications. Groovy.

    Setting aside the fact that just building all of the pieces is complicated (see the FAQ), and also setting aside the fact that many phones will refuse to run homemade, un-signed builds, you might run into issues with patents:

    Q: Is any of this code covered by patents? Can I get patent licenses from the Symbian Foundation?
    A: Yes, some of the code implements techniques and ideas which may have been patented. Becoming a member of the Symbian Foundation entitles you to certain patent licences from other members as set out in our patent policy. For further information, please contact info@symbian.org.

    Having the source under an open license is just one step on the path to personal control over your phone and freedom to use, share, and modify the software running on it.

    • There are no statutory damages in US patent law. I agree that software patents are pernicious, but no one is going to be sued for patent infringement over anything she does to her own phone.

      • by Qubit (100461)

        One might not be sued for patent infringement for modifying the single copy of the software on their phone, but their freedom to share the software running on it (as I mentioned above) may be enjoined by patent holders, especially if the "infringing" changes are picked up and used by large numbers of other people.

    • Symbian has classicaly made use of the most complex build environment of any system. In the old days they lacked any GCC expertise so instead chose to "post process" elf files output by the compiler to hack them to work with their application loader which is more of a shared library loader than an application loader.

      Things haven't improved over time. Their build environments and formats are still an utter disaster. Their hacks to Eclipse are half assed at best as well.

      The only way Symbian will ever compete
    • by Plug (14127)

      Unfortunately, the Symbian Foundation doesn't own any patents, so can't give them away to everyone. Certain patents are owned by SF member companies.

      Membership of the Symbian Foundation costs a flat $1500 USD (+ VAT) [symbian.org] per year, which grants your company access to the patents contributed by other members. The Eclipse Public License grants patent rights to software and software combinations only; the member patent policy additionally grants patent rights for software-hardware combinations. It's a drop-in-the

  • by Nimey (114278) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:43PM (#31027436) Homepage Journal

    I personally blame the Internet and rule 34.

  • It seems that Nokia is positively moving towards oss lately. I certainly did not expect Nokia to be first to ship smartphones with a very compatible Linux distribution and root access out of the box.
    • Maybe it's because the really tasty part of any modern mobile software is UI, and Nokia probably has more patents on that than everyone else in the market combined (as they tend to do with anything that's mobile phone related)?

  • Mozilla has no plans to ever bring Firefox Mobile to it. :/

  • Symbian is well known across most of the world, but it's mostly a foreign curiosity in the US. AT&T is the only carrier that currently has a symbian phone in its lineup, the Nokia E71x.

    There've been Symbian phones in the US for at least 7 years now - I had a Nokia 3650 back in the early days. And back then, compared to what else was out there, it was pretty cool. Compared to what's out there now? Not so much.

  • Symbian's a dead end. Maemo/Android/Linux is the way going forward. I've been a long time Nokia fan, I make no bones about it. I can call them out when they screw up, but generally I find their products superior. I've used a number of Symbian phones, and two Maemo devices, the N810 Internet Tablet and the new N900 phone. The N810 was a great device, and the N900 blows away any handheld device I've used. The ease of use, the ability to customize, hack, the ease of getting applications, everything is just so
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Both Maemo and Symbian will rely on Qt for their UI and main API in next major versions, they will be quite close probably; with Maemo reserved for top of the line devices and Symbian pushed more and more into mainstream.

  • by pesc (147035)

    That's what I wished for in 2001. If it happened then, the world of mobile OS would be different. I think it is too late to save Symbian now.

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=13186&cid=92580 [slashdot.org]

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