[sf-lug] Now is the Time to hate Apple?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Apr 13 14:21:40 PDT 2010

Quoting Christian Einfeldt (einfeldt at gmail.com):

> I recently bought a Droid....

Cool.  Glad you enjoy it.  Unlike with many smartphones, including the very
similar quad-band Motorola Milestone, the Droid's bootloader is _not_
DRM-locked to be willing to boot only vendor-signed firmware images,
meaning that you're not totally dependent on the vendor and can, if you
wish, run something other than Motorola/Verizon-controlled Android 2.0 &
2.1.  For example, you could run CyanogenMod
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CyanogenMod), the most highly respected
community variant.

The Google-standard Android environment is subject to heavy vendor
control, partly at the insistance of the companies that provide
commercial geographic mapping services (such as deCarta), who require
that any smartphones to which their data will be served be
vendor-controlled so that users cannot accumulate map data and use it
for other purposes.  This is one of the reasons why the OpenStreetMap
project is so important:  so that real open source smartphones with full
feature sets can be practical.

> ...and I am encouraged by the fact that a Linux-powered computer is
> being promoted so heavily by North America's largest celluar provider,
> Verizon.

_Android isn't Linux_ in any meaningful sense.

Android relies on a modified Linux kernel, sure, but with a different
libc, completely different userspace generally, and a modified Java-like
environment called Dalvik as the predominant development environment.

The result is not a "distro", but rather a completely different OS,
maintained by Google, Inc., that has essenially no input from the Linux
community and has almost nothing in common with Linux as we know it.

Looking from an open source / free software perspective, Android is a
dead-end, and doesn't advance computing freedom significantly.

> To the extent that the Free Software on the Android market place
> continues to grow....

Ports of free software[1] to Android aren't currently significant, and
probably never will be.  It's a heavily vendor-controlled market.

The closest thing to a free-software smartphone running real Linux,
today, is the Nokia N900 running Maemo 5 (closely derived from Debian),
which is _not_ a vendor-captive OS platform (or hardware), and is almost
100% open source.  There will soon be third-party alternative builds for
the N900, N800, and N810 such as Mer (based on Ubuntu 9.04 with plans to
merge in useful parts of Maeomo 5) that work around the remaining small
bits of proprietary code and go all open source.

[1] The term "free software" in this context is _not_ a proper noun, and
therefore in the English language should be lowercased.

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