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In August 2009, I published an article on developerWorks that describes how to boot Angstrom Linux on the BeagleBoard revision C. The article has been very popular, with over 52,000 views.

Today, check developerWorks for a new article titled
Booting Linux on the BeagleBoard xM. This new article describes how to get Angstrom, Ubuntu, and Android running on the xM. I’m thankful for any comments.

Hi all – I have been out of touch this past week or so with the holiday & putting together my upcoming BeagleBoard presentation at OSCON Weds 7/21 at 2:30pm, where I’ll be booting and demonstrating several flavors of Linux, including Angstrom, Android, MontaVista Linux 6, and possibly Ubuntu and/or MeeGo as well. Whatever we don’t get to at the talk can be covered at the Embedded Linux BoF to follow that evening at 7pm. I will also have a BeagleBoard xM to show and perhaps one or two other goodies. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: If you are planning to go and haven’t registered, contact me for a 20% discount code.

While in Portland that week, I will also have the pleasure of helping to coordinate the second annual Community Leadership Summit. This unconference-style summit is a fantastic gathering place for community leaders in all walks of life. The focus is truly on building community rather than the nuances of Twitter vs. Facebook (though certainly that will probably be covered as well) and the event is free, though registration is required. See the website for details.

Like other attendees at Chris DiBona’s keynote at Linux Collaboration Summit last month, I obtained an unlocked Nexus One super-duper-phone. (Thanks, Chris!)

The gift was completely unexpected, and while it was wonderful to receive, I am just not sure I am mobile enough to really get the best user experience from it. Lest I seem ungrateful, I must say that I am totally blown away by the user interface and the potential for the device. The last similar devices I had were a Palm Tungsten T5 and a Palm Treo 650, both obtained while I was working at Palmsource/Access a few years ago. I know from experience with both of them that I simply don’t naturally take advantage of such devices. I have no cellular service of any type at my house, and in town we get maximum 2G. I don’t travel a whole lot, so obviously it makes little sense to sign up for a cellular data service. I do have a wi-fi router at home and can use one in town at the coffee house or pizza shop, but that means sitting on one place—it isn’t exactly mobile, which is how the device was designed.

The Nexus One isn’t bad as a wi-fi-only gadget, and some of the applications—like the star map—are nothing short of brutally awesome. With 3G, GPS, and accelerometer it is better equipped than any other electronic device I have ever owned or carried, bar none. But I can’t really take advantage of those things without spending more and traveling more than I intend. Not to mention, my fingers must be extra-large, because I find the onscreen keyboard barely usable. I could get a bluetooth keyboard for the thing but that seems like it would make it far less mobile – by that point I might as well get a netbook. Between lack of typing input and the 3.x inch screen, I don’t find the user experience compelling enough to just use it around the house. Again, this is not an issue with the Nexus One nor with Android. It is an issue with my usage mode and my fat fingers.

On the other hand, I do write about the mobile Linux experience fairly often, more and more with Android in the title, and this is currently the only Android device with which I have any real amount of experience (other than the SDK and x86 emulator). Granted, my writing is most often about the developer experience rather than the user end, but one naturally depends on the other, so perhaps owning and using the device can help me provide better advice to developers. And, the typing thing could be obviated by using voice integration, which I confess I have not worked with much yet other than grinning over Babelfish.

Also, Froyo (Android 2.2) is just around the corner. Would the added speed and usability tip me over the edge and make me into an official gadget-carrier? I don’t think so, given that speed is not a barrier for me, but I’m willing to wonder.

On the third hand, if I sell the Nexus One I can put the money toward a different Android-based gadget that might make more sense with my usage mode. I am very interested in Notion Ink’s Adam. Or perhaps a netbook, a form factor against which I have cautioned in the past but on which I might be persuaded, particularly running Linux. Or an e-reader: I think everyone knows now that the Kindle, Nook, and Sony’s e-readers all run Linux.

That’s a lot of issues on both sides, and I have more in my head. The gift has me conflicted.

Maybe I should think more about my usage model. What would I use the device for? What do YOU use it for, and is that usage or service really worth what you pay for it?

PS. No, I won’t be buying an iPad. Not yet, anyway. But if anyone in charge is listening, I’d be glad to evaluate one. 🙂

Android’s popularity increased even beyond the iPhone, capturing second place in the US phone market in the first quarter of 2010 (Android Shakes Up U.S. Smartphone Market,; also Android Captures Second Place in Mobile OS Race, TGDaily). Also, while this is a very impressive achievement for an OS, I think it is important to realize that the iPhone is maintaining 21%+ market share with only a single device that is actually considered a smartphone. Personally I think this will be the iPhone’s eventual downfall (single point of failure) until they either license iPhone-OS for other devices or push VOIP telephony features onto the iPad, iPod Touch, and possibly other form factors (maybe a cheaper semi-smart phone). I’m sure The Steve knows what he is doing, but it seems clear to a lot of us that the Android uprising is nigh.

Note as well that VisionMobile‘s 100 Million Club, which reports on businesses in mobile computing who have shipped over 100 million handsets with their offerings, lists neither Android nor iPhone in their operating systems section (report released in May 2010, documenting units shipped through the end of 2009). By comparison, Mentor Graphics’ Nucleus RTOS has sold on 2.1 billion handsets. Android is a brand new issue, so it makes little sense to compare single-digit percentages of market share when, as a whole, these operating systems still make up a very small percentage of units sold. These two operating systems, and smartphones in general, are trending very strongly right now, but this is still the first inning of a long, long game.

One thing you can be sure of in the outcome, though – as smart operating systems become more accessible, “dumb” operating systems for mobile devices are fast going the way of all flesh. Further, from my perspective, Linux in general—and Android in particular—has the lowest overall costs, the highest overall ROI, and the fewest barriers to entry.

Meanwhile, worries about legal issues surrounding IP lurk in the backs of pundits’ minds, summarized neatly in this article: Does Android Have a Target on its Back, by James Kendrick. Mobile Linux developers should all be reading James’ blog. I completely agree with his assessment that the Microsoft signature deal is much more important in the long term than Apple’s ironic noisemaking over look-and-feel. I say “ironic” not because I think they don’t have a right to protect their IP—which they definitely do, if it is theirs—but because of the amount of look-and-feel they have lifted over the years, particularly from Xerox PARC in the very early days. Personally I think this is a prime example of why software patents are evil, but the Microsoft deal indicates to me at least that our industry in general is starting to take them with more of a sense of respect and propriety. (They still should be copyrights, though.)

How will these lawsuits turn out? No one knows yet. Do they endanger the Android ecosystem? Take a look at the number of Android-based devices currently in production and those planned, and I think the answer is obviously no. The only odd news item in this area is Motorola’s apparent (but still officially unannounced) acquisition of Azingo,

In more practical news, MontaVista has announced an Android Rapid Development Program that provides serious commercial support for device developers. MontaVista provides added value in the form of (1) a software reference platform with integrated software packages not found in the standard Android offering (including digital tuner support for digital media apps like IPTV), (2) a huge and awesome testing suite built for entire devices rather than just for applications, and (3) MontaVista’s renown professional services. Note that I work for MontaVista and thus my opinion is biased, but that also means I know a lot about the offering and have seen it up close. If I were independently creating a commercial Android device, particularly one that was time-critical (and which one isn’t?) I would definitely be checking out this offering.

On the entertainment front, holidays were declared and commerce has ground to a halt now that Quake 3 is running on the Nexus One. The port looks very tight according to the video. I would download it and test it, but I am considering selling my unlocked Nexus One to save up for an Android tablet. (Anyone interested?)

Also… can someone explain to me why gaming, particularly mobile gaming, has evolved into a multibillion-dollar segment of computing? I’m not complaining, just baffled. I definitely played my share of games in my sordid youth, but never brought myself to spend large amounts of money on them, plus at the time they required a desktop system. I certainly would feel like an idiot if I missed an important call because my battery was dead due to playing Quake on the bus.