State of Maemo, Q12011.1

2011-02-20 16:29 UTC by Tim Samoff

We are Maemo.

Maemo Community, Maemo Summit 2009This was true at the conception of the Maemo Community, it was true when Maemo 5 was launched, and it is true now. In fact now, more than ever before, Maemo — the devices, the operating systems, and the development platforms — must stand on the shoulders of our community: passionate and dedicated users, hackers, and developers. We are people who are inclined not to believe that new technologies are fueled by corporations’ desire to generate revenue. We agree on an ideal where the freedom of software, not the bottom line, is what allows technology to flourish. We have experienced the fact that voice of the end-user can be more informed than those who choose to live in ivory towers. We have seen the common goal of a purely open sourced existence drive the cutting edge.

Again, I say (and loudly): We are Maemo!

If you think that this sounds idealistically socialist, you are probably right. But, in a world that is governed by corporate takeovers and back room deals, this is what the world of open source software development has become — a refuge for those of us who still think that idea of “we” has a higher purpose than the traditional top-down infrastructure of a capitalist business model.

But this manifesto of sorts is not intended to spread any sort of socio-political ideology. What it is intended to do is remind all of us that our community doesn’t have to rely on those at the top. It is intended to remind us that we are the people who not only made Maemo what it is, but will continue to make Maemo what it can and will be.

It is time to come down from the soapbox to talk about current issues surrounding our community, as well as our child community, MeeGo. As most of you are well aware, some people at Nokia have chosen to make some radical changes in their handheld device strategy. As the Community Council, we can only echo the voice of the community (which doesn’t just include end-users, but many people at Nokia as well) and express our disappointment in the fact that not only has Nokia chosen to veer away from the MeeGo platform, but away from open source as well. Because of this, our communities have become confused, dismayed, and otherwise discontented.

Fortunately for MeeGo, there is still a vested interest from Intel. Maemo, on the other hand, has been a side project for some time. As you may discern, the call from the soapbox had good reason: our community doesn’t have to end with Nokia’s change of strategy and we are the people who are responsible for finding ways to sustain what we have worked for all of these years.

So what can we do?

First, our community must communicate with those at Nokia who still champion Maemo. We need to figure out how the Maemo community infrastructure (code-base, repositories, website(s), etc.) might be maintained. Of course, it would be wonderful if Nokia desires to continue funding our community. If we need to mirror our community resources in order to fund and maintain it ourselves, then so be it. How we fund something like this brings up some completely new questions. (Membership fees? Donations? We can save these questions for another time.) Suffice to say, there are more players than Nokia alone. Maemo currently funds some official employees, as well as contractors that develop and maintain many portions of our infrastructure.

Concerning maintenance, we are still thinking about ways to facilitate a natural workflow for community members to report and fix bugs within the website framework. The idea (forged at MeeGo Summit 2010) was to migrate away from using the Brainstorm process and begin using Bugzilla for reporting website issues and enhancement requests. The Council feels that this is still the right decision; we just haven’t had time to detail the minutiae.

The largest unknown in saying any of this is whether or not our community have enough interested and dedicated members to continue supporting our infrastructure if Nokia ever does back out of sponsorship. The worse case scenario might revolve around completely redeveloping a community portal that accesses tools similar to those in which are currently available to our community. (This is a daunting task that poses questions that — again — we should save for later.)

Just as important as our community’s overarching microcosm (and even more so in some regards) is the act of further developing the Community SSU (CSSU) and finding a way to make it self-sustainable. If you’re a Maemo enthusiast, but don’t know what the CSSU is, here is a description from the Maemo Wiki:

"Community Seamless Software Update (CSSU) is being developed by the Maemo Community, for the Maemo Community. It aims to deliver fixes which can't be delivered easily through Extras, such as core Maemo packages. It won't, however, bundle software which can be installed through the Extras repositories."

Simply put, the CSSU is how N900 owners will maintain an up-to-date (albeit unofficial) version of Maemo 5 on their device. CSSU is a pet project for several Maemo Community members and they need more help. If you can do anything from write documentation to develop for Maemo (including Hildon Desktop), then please offer to participate.

You can find out more about the CSSU, as well as how to contribute at the following link:

As you might imagine, developing and maintaining a community-driven version of a previously “official” development platform and operating system poses many issues. Because of this, several community members are picking up the task of revamping the Maemo licensing change requests queue (handled at Maemo Bugzilla). This queue contains items that the Community Council can approach Nokia with in order to and argue that, “Because an individual (or individuals) has provided a business case to develop and maintain certain proprietary components the Nokia should open those components for the community.” Our hope is that Nokia will see that certain Maemo core code will be valuable to MeeGo as R&D projects.

The Council brought this up in the previous “State of Maemo” address and we’re glad that some people took up the charge.

You can read more about it at this Maemo Talk thread:

In conclusion, the Council would like to thank you, the Maemo Community, developers, end-users, and Nokia employees alike, for helping to make this a fun ride. Our hope is that the ride isn’t over yet, but it’s up to us to begin to think about providing the fuel. Many exciting developments are still in store for Maemo, so lets not sit back and wait for a supposed end. There are already many dedicated community members who have made the Maemo Community a success. If you’ve never contributed before, think about how you can help: report bugs, edit the wiki, and take part in the Talk forums… Likewise, we’re quickly approaching the next Community Council elections, so please consider your role in Maemo and how you might contribute in a more (or less) “official” role (yes, many of us still think the Council is an integral component to sustaining the Maemo Community). Our community is not ready to die, so be one of the people who provide life to an organism that thrives on personal involvement.

If you didn’t get it at the beginning of this address, remember: We are Maemo!

Photo credit: Mark Guim, The Nokia Blog (from Maemo Summit 2009, Amsterdam)


Jonathan Wilson
Karma: 92

The #1 thing holding Maemo back (IMO) is the fact that not only is so much of the core system closed-source but the interface to it is undocumented.

In some cases there may be an open package that makes some arcane undocumented dbus calls to do something but it still doesn't help. It would seem like I am the only one in the community interested in figuring out what makes these black box blobs tick or how to talk to them (or what would be needed it order to replace them with open alternatives)

2011-02-22 08:10 UTC
Tim Samoff
Karma: 1634

Jonathan... Awesome. :)

2011-02-22 03:52 UTC

I just bought an N900, because I'm confident in the community and I hope to contribute to the community one day.

2011-02-21 23:36 UTC
Tim Samoff
Karma: 1634

Thanks for the comments everyone. Yes, keep proving that "we" are what drive this platform!

Paul, both Maemo and MeeGo can be persuaded to run on a variety of hardware platforms (just like Android). The question is how adequately and full-featured it may be... Likewise, MeeGo now supports Qt and Gtk+ (afaik), si the migration isn't all as difficult as it might seem. But, as I stated, CSSU is a great option for those who want to stick with Maemo.

2011-02-21 15:52 UTC
Paul M
Karma: 233

on the one hand it's not entirely clear if Nokia have entirely dumped meego, but IMNSVHO, I cannot see Nokia devoting many resources to meego.

I am wondering how far the community progressed in migrating to QT + Meego, or whether the original tablet's "ecosystem" based on GTK+ + Maemo would in fact be a better choice.

And then there's the issue of getting new hardware to run this on. The n900 was a wonderful open platform, could a different hardware manufacturer be persuaded to sell devices whose hardware is sufficiently documented to run future generations of maemo/meego? It is such a shame that OpenMoko did not get very far.

2011-02-21 12:11 UTC
Vivek M
Karma: 10

I have never used any other open source OS in my life before Maemo and no other mobile phone other than Nokia. Started with physically sturdy and strong phones and then later on craved to use a Nokia phone with touch screen so I bought 5800 and was disappointed. someone mentioned N900 and quite liked on the face of it and the fact it is based on an open source platform so bought, bit disappointed not to have voice dialing, Maps and the voice to radio (though there is FM Txmiter but you still have to talk through phone) but anyways, this phone has a long long life in my opinion so I am ALL for the continuation of enhancements or bug fixes to Maemo.

I am happy to give my personal time, would love to write code but not capable of right now but with some support and education I could do that. But for now I could write manuals or test code changes.

2011-02-21 10:07 UTC
Ad Elsman
Karma: 5

I hope for a continuation, so we can continue our alternative way of life!

2011-02-21 07:37 UTC
José Gálvez
Karma: 7

gj guys, keep supporting maemo 5!, a revamped music player would be nice :< with EQ, coverflow-like/3d album arts and potrait support. along with potrait desktop/keyboard/task manager.

2011-02-21 04:14 UTC
José Gálvez
Karma: 7

gj guys, keep supporting maemo 5!, a revamped music player would be nice :< with EQ, coverflow-like/3d album arts and potrait support. along with potrait desktop/keyboard/task manager.

2011-02-21 04:14 UTC
Tim Samoff
Karma: 1634

Daniel, Thanks for the support -- you are the type of person who Maemo needs, so please help us figure these issues out!

Ken, We haven't yet discussed merging with other open source communities. Imho, I don't think it's time. But, I do appreciate the suggestions and I think it may be a viable option to discuss in the future, depending on how things unfold here.

2011-02-20 22:01 UTC
Ken Young
Karma: 550

Is the council communicating with members of the Openmoko community? They are, of course, another orphaned open source community. Although their platform differed from Maemo, and they are a smaller community than the Maemo community, the goals of the two groups are nearly identical. Openmoko has an exciting community based project, gta04, based on the Beagle Board. I think it would be great if these two communities could somehow merge.

2011-02-20 21:48 UTC
Daniel Sandman
Karma: 131

My vote is definitely a continuation. I have been amazed numerous time by what this community can accomplice. I know that we still have that strength. The CSSU is a prof of that.

The two biggest issues to solve is how the organization and funding should look. The sooner this is solved, the better.

2011-02-20 18:13 UTC


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