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Why I'm a Bad Freetard -- Or the Quest for a New Phone

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So, no less than ten people have asked me why the hell I did what I did, so here's a blag post to explain it, I guess.

I recently bought a Palm Pre2 from Verizon, after having one of the ugliest phones of all time, much to the dismay of every freedom loving linuxer that I know. Why didn't you buy Android, why get webOS? WebOS is dead, it's not open source, it HATES FREEDOM.

Well, I hate to break it to you guys, but Android is no better. In fact, from a philosophical view, it's worse. Everyone touts Android as opensauce and happy joy joy community, but it's really no more open than webOS, especially the stuff that actually ends up in the real world, in users, in freedom loving linuxer hands. When the main interface is some carrier specific crap that they develop to 'differentiate', when every application you need to actually … do phone stuff on an Android device isn't open sauce, when it's proprietary google crap which connects to a proprietary google cloud… I'm sorry, but your phone is no better than any thing else. And to act like they are, like (nearly) every Android fanboi I've talked to about this has, is completely irresponsible. You're essentially running a propietary userspace on top of an open source kernel. Cool, take a seat next to me, Ms. Android user.

Android has no developer community. There are plenty of people that develop on Android, but very few develop Android itself. To say it's an open source community is silly. The Open Source Way isn't being followed in any way, shape or form. Hell, if Honeycomb was any indication, Google has no problem keeping Android from being open source at all, if it benefits their image and Android's image. What would it take for them to just rip the rug out from under us. They made sure that the Android parts of Android was developed under a license that allows them to rip that rug out. That's not a system I want to support in any fashion. Android is a product, not a project, not a community. And until people realise that, and call it what it is, they are missing an important piece.

Of course, we can't say that webOS is any better. I mean, there are code drops of the bits that they have to post, but not much more, in terms of source code.

But, take a look at the packages listed on that page. Alsa, busybox, gstreamer, dbus, sdl, … qt4? udev, util-linux-ng… Why… this is a real linux machine. And not just Android frankenlinux. Download Palm's SDK (for free, of course) developer mode, and connect novaterm. You've just gained a root shell on your phone. Without voiding your warranty, installing some third party application, or "jail breaking" anything. Your device is free. Put preware on it, the homebrew application installer that Palm actually plays nice with. Install a terminal. Develop for the device, and release your application under an open source (for free) or proprietary license (99$, iirc?) in the Application Catalog. Hell, you can even use the industry standard for mobile development, Qt Framework in your application.

Unless you're running the Android OSP builds, you really have no room to say that Android is a more "open source" platform than webOS. That's just silly. :) Sure, there are more applications, and more phones to choose from, but I don't weigh that stuff when I buy a product. I care about what's the most suitable for me, or what's the most hackable and makerfriendly. I can run a debian chroot over directfb on my phone. Booya. It's no MeeGo, but if my playing on the IdeaPads we got at the MeeGo event at Gangplank is any indication, that may just be a good thing.

end rant

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Ryan Rix is a computer infrastructure fanboy who dabbles in decentralized systems. Reach him on twitter as @rrrrrrrix, via email to ryan@whatthefuck.computer or on Facebook or on Matrix as @rrix:kickass.systems.