Idiots, loyalists and mobile Linux

On a blog post yesterday I wrote that most people in this planet are stupid. Probably I will be seen like a jerk and a snob for writing this, but the truth of the matter is, I get confirmation everyday for the validity of my comment.

Also yesterday I wrote an open letter to an analyst about his wrong analysis regarding the homogeneity of the mobile Linux. Some Linux loyalists were quick to defend an undefendable position, but I guess I can forgive them for not having written a single line of code in their lives (obvious from their completely off topic comments). Complete idiots irritate me but not as much as the people who have HALF-knowledge of what they are talking about. There are these who do have a cursory experience on what they are talking about, and yet, they are missing the whole point.

For example, an obviously not-all-that-unexperienced guy wrote (comment #6) that what I argued is crap, because any programmer can include the whole stack of his desired toolkit and include it within the application’s package, and so his application would run on all Linux mobile platforms. While in theory this is of course workable, it is hardly a solution. The last thing a user wants to do is to download a 10 MB package on a phone that might not have more than 50 MBs of free internal flash space and that it’s required to be installed in the main filesystem rather on the flash card. More over, if the application is not statically linked to the foreign toolkit and another developer releases another version of the toolkit with his app, chances are that things will break. In fact, I am experiencing this exact thing right now on my XP machine because Gaim installed some new libraries and broke my Mugshot which depended on a specific libpango!

But even that it’s not the point. The mobile space has different requirements than the powerful desktop cousins. Applications should not weigh more than 30 KB or 500 KB. And toolkits must be well-tested and well-integrated and stable. Cellphones are NOT the same as the Nokia 770 which is a pretty liberal and open platform. Cellphones have strict guidelines from carriers about what a developer can and should do and manufacturers are trying to restrict users from creating potential problems to their customers. The stakes are much higher in the cellphone arena than it is in the PDA or desktop market. Besides, if developer A is originally writing his app for toolkit B, this does not mean that he can recompile the toolkit for another Linux platform, because most of these official toolkits are closed source. Using an OSS third party toolkit that someone might have ported does not guarantee the same level of integration, looks and stability as a native toolkit. Two years ago a few commercial WM2003 apps were coming with an installer that included the .NET CF stack, and I can tell you, it pissed off a lot of users! Look, theoretically, some of these ideas can be realized. But practically, they will never work for the vast majority of the consumers and the real boss of the whole game, the carriers. The point remains, that if your app doesn’t use the native toolkit, it won’t be received well by anyone.

It seems that many in the Linux community must get a better grip as to how the mobile space works. It’s not the same as the desktop one, and surely as hell not the same as the Zaurus or Nokia 770 where every Joe Programmer has a free ride and the consumers themselves are usually geeks with low expectations and knowledge of the command line. This is not a case where the Linux hackers should find tricks to make their apps and toolkits work on all Linux phones, but rather the Linux manufacturers themselves must agree on a single platform. Because as much pain the current distro fragmentation and DE fragmentation brings to the desktop Linux, it will be 10x more worse in the mobile space.

I write all that because I care about the mobile space and Linux in that specific market (that’s why I own 3 Linux phones — more than any Linux loyalist that I know of) and not because I am a troll as some idiotic blind zealots like to think.

UPDATE: As I write this my email address is being spammed over and again with the message “long live c++”. For some weird reason, this guy thinks that I don’t like… C++ and that my open letter yesterday is just a rant against C++. See what I mean when I say that most people are _COMPLETE_ and _UTTERLY_IDIOTS_? Call me snob if you like, but at least I know I have my screw tightly screwed on.


Stefan Constantinescu wrote on January 4th, 2007 at 11:19 AM PST:

The Linux philosophy of freedom doesn’t apply well to mobile phones where strict constraints are presented. More importantly, what you said, there are too many platforms, just like distros out there.

Windows Mobile, Palm, same experience on a huge variety of smart phones. There needs to be one, just one, linux cell phone distro for this thing to take off. There’s a better chance of Jesus coming back then to have one distribution. You point out the desktop space and I just have to agree.

I love linux, been dual booting for a few years now, but the experience just isn’t as unified as I would like it to be.

I don’t know why there is all this hoopla over closed source software and drivers in the linux world right now. To me if I wanted to advance a platform I would want to work with all the key players so I can at least get a fighting chance.

1000+ distros and lack of drivers later … sigh maybe one day they’ll be a perfect distro.

I’d love to hear a rant from you on the whole open vs proprietary argument.

Dan Brokeau wrote on January 5th, 2007 at 12:51 PM PST:

For once I agree with your argument, although I like the Unices…

I really don’t like the fanboyism that has afflicted our community, I just find Linux the best tool for the job. The command line on a Unix box feels natural, not like a poorly applied desktop metaphor tagged on to the system.. Sure, I have some modifications (a tag-based filesystem that I use for my home directory) but the feel of the system is one that lends itself to usability. The command prompt I find scares people the most.

Hardware compatibility does, however, suffer. I have just worked around the few issues; I have fairly decent hardware.

Torvalds has it right: “99% of the software I use is open source, but that’s my choice, dammit.” I use FLOSS because it works for me, not because I hate Windows.

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