[sf-lug] Neo Freerunner (was: Android / T-Mobile G1)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Dec 10 14:42:18 PST 2008

I wrote:

> One nice thing about the Neo Freerunner (etc.) is that you know it's
> absolutely not.  One strategy is thus to wait until either Android or
> one of the more-conventional Linux loads for it is reasonably mature,
> and then use that.

Well, FWIW, as of yesterday, I own an Openmoko Neo Freerunner aka First
International Computer (FIC) model GTA02[0] / GSM 850 smartphone, with
the default Linux/Qtopia load, release "Om 2007.2".[1]  I bought it from
local distributor PariSoMa on Howard nr. 10th St., the San Francisco
office of French firm faberNovel, Inc.[2]  PariSoMa is where SF OpenMoko
User Group has been meeting (and will next meet in January).

Speaking in general terms, the Neo Freerunner is a triband GSM
850/1800/1900MHz (but not 900MHz, which is available in a "GSM 900"
variant, mostly for Europe) smartphone, is considered a "2.5G" (i.e.,
not 3G = 3rd generation like newer iPhones) smartphone, and doesn't do
EDGE GSM networking.  (EDGE is a 3G extension to GSM to improve data
rates.)  It has a touchscreen, 400MHz ARM CPU, 2D & 3D graphics, 128MB
RAM, 256 MB flash, a microSD slot, 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, USB
1.1, two 3-axis motion sensors, and internal Assisted GPS[3].

"2.5G" is a marketing term meaning "cellular wireless that does
circuit-switched operation, and does a packet-switched domain, but lacks
3G radio-protocol enhancements to more efficiently use spectrum."

For better or worse, this eminently hackable device can already run, in
addition to the provided Linux/Qtopia build, about a half-dozen other,
diverse Linux-oriented graphical environments[4] -- including a port of
Google's Android.  The Qtopia load is the most reliable, and has an Om 2008.8
current release and Om 2008.9 update.[5]

Activation was like this:  Go to my cellular provider's office, have
them initialise a SIM chip for my telephone number, slip it in the
FreeRunner.  Done.

One good information site about Openmoko:  http://wiki.openmoko.org/
The wiki summarises the state of the Qtopia-based software for everyday use:

  As the hacker's dream toy: it is fully functional. As a GSM phone:
  some people have been using it to receive and place phone calls and SMS
  for months, but with currently shipping software the battery life is
  only one day. As a GPS device: critical bugs have been ironed out and
  there is nice software to know where you are, using OpenStreetMap. As an
  alarm clock, media player, Internet browser, game console, e-mail reader,
  and contacts manager: software is not stable yet.

Knowing that the software load's not yet optimised for battery drain, I
got a spare battery.  ;->  (The battery's compatible with a common model
used in Nokia 'phones.)

[0] FIC manufactures it for Openmoko, Inc.  Both are Taiwanese

[1] Qtopia is the Qt graphics widget set (used in KDE), packaged for
embedded use.

[2] http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20081201005293&newsLang=en

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGPS

[4] http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Distributions

[5] http://www.openmoko.com/download.html

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