Thursday, January 01, 2015

Why I chose Jolla

I know its so common to buy a phone that someone might wonder why I am blogging about this. Well Jolla is not just a phone but a platform for various things I can do with my hand.

Yes the first thing would be to write about N900 the phone it was !
  • Awesome Keyboard slider
  • X -terminal where you can #apt-get install stuff
  • top,ps,vi hell its the same GNU/Linux Glibc shell
  • Many small applications like xchat,pidgin were ported to N900
N900 is history and mine definitely is a museum piece with no way to repair it, hence I was looking for a proper "Free" or should I say explicitly "Libre" phone which gives me the same freedom as my N900 gave me.

I should specially mention here the joys of working with a Firefox OS phone where I could copy my font files using ADB into the os with same structure liek a fonts directory . But I was severely limited by ADB. I also should mention the fact about rapid pace of development which Firefox OS was undergoing. Flashing and building new operating system for my phone was really fun. I also got a Tablet under the TCP program which I did play around with.

Now what was the catalyst ? It was my ZTE open misbehaving by giving bad touch pixels at bottom of screen and there was no way I could tell the phone to decrease screen size , I did explicitly ask both "gaia" and "b2g-devel" mailing lists and there was no response.

Then I visit my dear friend SFB who shows Jolla and I do know how cool it was. A price reduction in India itself made my mind . I went on to buy it after using discount coupon from SFB which was quite a reduction.

So as I eagerly awaited my phone , I watched the Together forum for a sense of the user community , it was just too vibrant. I also observed that TMO - the maemo forums which were my guide for N900 were also like the hacker forums for the same jolla now that N9 is also a historical piece.

First thing anyone would notice on a Jolla box is the code printed on the box which itself shows the commitment the Jolla/Sailfish OS team have on opening up the code.
Next as I switch on the phone I would have to create an account and get updates from the store which was a bit strange for me as a firefox os user we never created accounts.

Most importantly as I went through the phone I have to really talk about the UI which was the USP - Unique Selling Point for Sailfish OS

  • Very very touch friendly - If apple was the major catalyst for touch devices , the touch was where it was since they released iphone. Jolla just takes it to a new level with its gestures. Should I call it the Touch 2.0 ? I guess so :D
  • Takes time - Just like how we all GNU/Linux users took our time getting used to our new systems . The touch interface takes time but once you get used to it you will really hate other phones outdated interfaces.
  • One Hand - Anyone who has seen Mark Dillon the CEO of Jolla using the Jolla phone would know that the entire phone interface can be operated with one hand. The only complaint I have is that the phone size is too big for my hand. Compared to these days craze of big screens I know its quite the perfect size.
  • Multitasking:Swipe to peek - I was just in with the feature of peeking and seeing whats going on in the other applications that clearly demonstrates how cool the multi tasking is and how convenient its to use it on Sailfish OS.

Of course my first interest would be to get a root shell .

  1. Get into developer mode - Enables shell and brings up the terminal application
  2. Enable SSH from outside
  3. You need to set a password for above step which was quite a well thought security feature.
  4. devel-su on the normal shell  brings you to the Root shell.

What could I do with a root shell ?

  • first thing is to access all the directories using unix commands :D
  • Run "top" command
  • PKCON is the package management which is very familiar to fedora users.
  • #pkcon search for packages makes me smile with delight
  • #pkcon install package makes me jump with joy when that install happens
  •  Last but not least I Scp 'ed /usr/share/fonts from my laptop to /usr/share/fonts/ to the directory on Jolla . After a font cache refresh guess what I have all my indic fonts including telugu.
  •  Remember above I did the same with Adb but look at the difference SSHing into the phone ,the same Glibc shell and GNU/Linux environment makes to our lifes.

Other Bonus things:

  • Battery Life - Very pleasantly surprised. Can I believe it I opened a persistent wifi connection and the battery stayed for 2 days just like that.
  • Android apps compatability - There are many silly rumours going on about compatability , take it from me its not like wine its like a docker application. By which I mean that it runs very smoothly and fast like a native application and it just works too good. Yes it sounds like "its too good to be true" but it is and Jolla achieved it , Kudos to them :)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A track which works

This is a GPX track which is colour coded from red ->yellow -> green depending on the speed. I used JOSM for this display.

The colour coding can be selected as per the speed ranges, I selected foot hence the green ones are the places where I actually ran and red was either very slow or stopped.

The picture is quite accurate and its coming from 1.4 version (some dev build)  of firefox os on ZTE Open. This was the first time I got anything decent from the phone. It gives me a hope to do something better. I must thank Paul Wolneykein for the patch for the buggy GPS on 1.2+ versions.

Just to add , I checked the overlay with map layer from OSM and the track was pretty accurate , I crossed the road two times and it clearly showed it which was pretty impressive. :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The current state of Free / Open Mobile systems

Having had a N900 , I was very much excited about Free / Open mobile systems.

So the choices we have are :

Sorted by Availablity

Firefox OS phones like ZTE Open, Alcatel fire etc are available for world wide shipping .  Jolla with sailfish os  is also currently available for europe and has announced new asian countries in line up. Maemo devices are out of production and are only found in used conditions in ebay.

Sorted by Free or openness
Getting the GSM drivers is tricky and Openmoko came a bit close . The same devices also run debian which is open to the core. While maemo had lot of propreitary components it still gives a root shell and you can apt-get install whatever you want . Just like maemo even sailfish you can get a root shell and use zypper to install applications but its not as easy as maemo. Firefox os just runs on top of android kernel , everything on the top is all accessible via open web api's . You can't run a native linux shell on firefox os.

Sorted by user base
ZTE open was dirt cheap , hence it sold like hot cakes. Even N900 due to Nokia's reputation had sold well . Jolla is catching up but I am not sure of the numbers if it had exceeded N900 sales .I am guessing it didn't . N9 definitely didn't sell well because of the 'doomed platform' news.  Still in places like finland it did make some good news. Freerunner and other hardware hobby project devices are always expensive compared to normal devices in market hence didnt sell well but are the favourite devices of hackers.

Sorted by price
ZTE open is the cheapest device , while you can still buy the good old maemo devices N9 and N900 at ebay . Their prices and availability might change. Geeksphone revolution dual boots android and firefox os while jolla has awesome touch interface and can run android applications.

 Neo900 continues in the spirit of N900 and is a hobby hardware project which every geek worth his salt must support !

Friday, July 19, 2013

Buggy broadcom driver

YES , I hate them for the entire nuisance in wireless linux . They did announce that in 2010 they would be releasing open source drivers .

The situation still is worse , I am using the package broadcom-sta-dkms  which was buggy for my kernel version 3.9.0-2 which I accept is the version from Kanotix a distribution based on wheezy . I found out that the package in unstable has fixed the issue . Well just installed it and all my wireless issues are gone .


Friday, April 19, 2013

Trying Open suse 12.3

undoubtedly its the Klyde availablity which brought me back to OpenSuse after quite a long time and I am impressed :)

Installer of Open Suse is just amazing . The GUI tools are clear cut professional and they work just right .

And No there hasn't been a single crash . Its that stable! The biggest plus point is how Opensuse integrated browser with  Package installer Yast . There is lot of click and install available from Opensuse wiki . I did install ATI propreitary drivers and other stuff all with simple clicks .

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lennovo thinkpad Edge E530 simply rocks on LMDE !

I have never seen such a seamless installation though I faced minor glitches with a package called live-installer-slideshow which I understand is the reason why installation hangs on LMDE march 2013 cinnamon edition. I found the solution thanks to mint forums  So I removed the package and continued with the installation. I came back and posted the updated solution at the forums from where I got the idea. Loved the fact that I gave back directly to the community which helped me solve the issue.

I did start with the partitioning tool in windows 7 from where I shrunk the main windows partition. So it created a non partitioned space. So while installing LMDE I just gave the space as root and swap and installed. Everything went seamlessly.

I was presented with the beautiful cinnamon desktop . I did try changing the theme to see how it is , just amazing is all I could say and love the mint and debian team for their efforts in bringing such a nice distro.
So I need not even make a check list

  1. Sound - works
  2. Webcam - Works
  3. Wireless - Works 
Thats all I care as of now, Thank you again lennovo, debian and mint!  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Debian sid - intel + ati graphic driver issue

Having both intel and ATI hybrid graphics is a pain and you definitely need some tool to switch between the graphic cards . One thing which perfectly works is the ATI propreitary driver catalyst . I dont want to get into that mess hence started looking at setting up only the intel driver .

Well I end up with a keyboard + mouse freeze everytime I start the X server .  I was not sure what was causing the issue . During the freeze there is just a dark blank screen and I am left wondering if the X has started or not . The only proof that it had actually started are clean logs with no errors and the moment I switch the manual power butt I see X windows and mouse .

I tried ATI free drivers which didnot work and I was hell bent on getting the intel ones to work . I used xserver-xorg-video-intel  .

While I was searching for solutions I found something at debian-user list on running udevadm trigger and keeping it on a script didnt do much good for me .

Then I was searching for the card itself which gave me some results for the query "i915 input devices debian"
I found a solution in the forums that I need to reinstall the glx drivers which have some propreitary ATI components. I do remember that when I started with the debian machine I was on "free" , later had to add non-free for the drivers . So definitely some packages do need reconfiguration .

#apt-get install --reinstall xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-video-intel libgl1-mesa-glx libgl1-mesa-dri 
#dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

Well it worked but how much of dependence is there on ATI driver ? I am not sure of that , sometimes randomly the ATI GPU turns on . Hopefully I can shut this GPU down permanently . And yes there is no BIOS switch for that .