Monday, November 10, 2008

When Linux doesn't mean freedom

I actually think it's a bit of an insult if people think of Motorola's EZX or MAGX (and now Android) phones as "Linux phones". Because all the freedoms of Linux (writing native applications against native Linux APIs that Linux developers know and love, being able to do Linux [kernel] development) are stripped.
- Harald Welte

This is something that has worried me too for quite a while. For years we have now had Linux phones available in form or another (well, mostly in far away countries you happen not to be at). Yet with the exception of openmoko none of them allow native application development. Yet all the same time you can go to the nearest phone shop and grab HTC windows CE phone or a Nokia Symbian phone, which actually give you the freedom to writing and running your own software on them.

Now we have the situation that HTC's most locked device* is their only Linux device - The Android G1.

Incidentally, you can install Debian/armel on T-mobile G1, but only until Google engineers manage to fix the hole that gives you r00t.

*The only one that doesn't allow native app development.


  1. Looks like running debian on the G1 is limited to userland, I take it the kernel can't be replaced right?

  2. You can install native applications on EZX/MAGX:

  3. About Android: maybe that's because the OHA wanted to create a platform for which developing applications should be as easy as possible.

    Having a Java framework on top of the OS, hiding low level stuff, is a way to achieve that.

    Now I agree that the lack of a way to have native applications (in addition to the easy/recommended way) is a big limitation. For example currently it would be impossible to have a gecko based browser (which is written in C++) on Android.

    But maybe they'll remove that limitation later. Actually... since it's Open Source, maybe we don't need to wait for the OHA to do it and somebody else will do it!