Cheap, hackable Linux smartphone

November 14, 2006 at 7:51 am 3 comments

One of the world’s largest computer and consumer electronics manufacturers will ship a completely open, Linux-based, GPS-equipped, quad-band GSM/GPRS phone direct, worldwide, for $350 or less, in Q1, 2007. First International Computing’s (FIC’s) “Neo1973” or FIC-GTA001, is the first phone based on the open-source “OpenMoKo” platform.



FIC Neo1973 (FIC-GTA001)
(Click to enlarge)

Moss-Pultz worked for FIC in Taiwan for two years, before founding the Neo1973 project in January. He said. “I was able to convince FIC that having an open phone makes financial sense for us. Some big company’s got to stick their neck out there and say we believe in this, and we’re going to do it.”

Consistent with FIC’s dual-OS support policy on computing products, the Neo1973 can also run Windows Mobile. In fact, the phone was co-designed by the Chinese government, for a high-volume Windows-based PHS (“Personal Handy Phone”) product. FIC has the capacity to ship 100,000 of the phones per month, Moss-Pultz said, explaining its low cost.


Dialer
(Click to enlarge)

Messaging client
(Click to enlarge)

Because OpenMoKo consists exclusively of open-source software, the Neo1973 will ship with a limited feature set, including a dialer (image at left), unified SyncML-enabled email/text messaging client, phonebook, (image at right), and media player, according to Moss-Pultz. However, many additional open source applications will be available through “feeds,” including “certified” ones from FIC, as well as those from commercial and community sources, he adds.


App manager
(Click to enlarge)

The Neo1973 will also ship with an “apt-get-like” software manager (pictured at right) that makes it trivial to add, remove, and update applications packaged in the OpenEmbedded package format, including “literally thousands of existing open source applications from the OpenZaurus, Familiar Linux, and Angstrom projects,” according to Michael Lauer, founder of OpenEmbedded and an early OpenMoko developer.

Moss-Pultz adds, “Applications are the ringtones of the future.”

FIC’s approach in sponsoring the OpenMoKo project resembles that taken by Nokia, which finances a “Maemo” software development community for its 770 Internet Tablet. Moss-Pultz acknowledges, “I have to give mad props to Nokia. I just think it’s a shame [the 770] is not a phone.”

FIC will distribute the Neo1973 direct, on a worldwide basis, leaving users to add a pre-paid or carrier-supplied “SIM” chip. Moss-Pultz said, “One reason I love GSM is that the carrier has no control over the SIM card. From the carrier’s point of view, it’s like adding a GSM modem PCMCIA card to your laptop.”

Neo1973 Handset Hardware

The Neo1973 is based on a Samsung S3C2410 SoC (system-on-chip) application processor, powered by an ARM9 core. It will have 128MB of RAM, and 64MB of flash, along with an upgradable 64MB MicroSD card.

Typical of Chinese phone designs, the Neo1973 sports a touchscreen, rather than a keypad — in this case, an ultra-high resolution 2.8-inch VGA (640 x 480) touchscreen. “Maps look stunning on this screen,” Moss-Pultz said.

The phone features an A-GPS (assisted GPS) receiver module connected to the application processor via a pair of UARTs. The commercial module has a closed design, but the API is apparently open.

Similarly, the phone’s quad-band GSM/GPRS module, built by FIC, runs the proprietary Nucleus OS on a Texas Instruments baseband powered by an ARM7 core. It communicates with Linux over a serial port, using standard “AT” modem commands.

The Neo1973 will charge when connected to a PC via USB. It will also support USB network emulation, and will be capable of routing a connected PC to the Internet, via its GPRS data connection.

Moss-Pultz notes that the FIC-GTA001, or Neo1973, is merely the first model in a planned family of open Linux phones from FIC. He expects a follow-up model to offer both WiFi and Bluetooth. “By the time one ships, the next one is half done,” he says.

Neo1973/OpenMoKo software implementation


OpenMoKo menu
(Click to enlarge)

The Neo1973’s Linux-based operating system is based on a “2.6.17, going on 2.6.18 kernel,” according to Moss-Pultz. The graphics framework is based on GTK+ 2.x, in conjunction with the Matchbox window manager. And, says Moss-Pultz, “We’ve written our own set of widgets that optimize the UI for smaller devices.”

The OpenMoKo stack currently has a footprint of 64MB, leaving an equal amount of space for user-installed applications. User apps can also be run from MicroSD cards, which can be found in capacities up to 1GB, Moss-Pultz said. “[Linux navigational device maker] TomTom Go did some really good work [on SD card support], and we’re basing our work on their patch set.”

OpenMoKo will also include a kernel patch that adds GSM multiplexing capabilities to the 2.6 kernel. Harald Welte, an eearly contributor to OpenMoko who is also known as the founder of GPL-Violations.org and the OpenEZX project, stated, “Multiplexing conforms to TS07.10, the 3GPP’s standard for serial port virtualization, and is inspired by the design Motorola developed for its 2.4-based Linux phones.”

Moss-Pultz notes, “That’s the big thing missing from Linux. There is no GSM multiplexing available right now. You want multiplexing so apps can simultaneously access call features — so when you’re browsing the Internet, you can still get a call.”

As for additional software components, Moss-Pultz admits, “Quite a lot is there, and quite a lot is not there. We’re hoping to change this.” In addition to a dialer, phonebook, media player, and application manager, the stack will likely include the Minimo browser, he said, and a SyncML client.

And, one early contributor is working to port gTune — a guitar tuning application — to OpenMoKo. “If you have access to the microphone, and the different drivers, all is open, so it’s no problem to do that kind of thing,” Moss-Pultz said.

“That’s the main thing I want to push with this phone — it’s customizable in any way you see fit.”

He adds, “Mobile phones are the PCs of the 21st century, in terms of processing power and broadband network access. It’s quite a shame that today, when you buy one, the software is already out of date.”

Advertisements

Entry filed under: all, any, open source, tech, technology.

Next Year’s Models 3G Broadband Data Cards

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kabababrubarta  |  March 26, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Cool Site! kabababrubarta

    Reply
  • 2. Cellphones  |  June 7, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    There are several gps cellular phone on the ton
    for willpower place trades. In herbal, cheat contrary gloves
    to bond any exhibit that they improve.

    Reply
  • 3. Kyles' Review Blog  |  November 21, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    wow, that is awesome! check out my blog!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Recent Posts

Flickr Photos

Selsey Life Boat Station

A Frouxeira...

My Heart Spills into Vestal Peak

More Photos
November 2006
M T W T F S S
« Oct   Dec »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Clustr Maps


%d bloggers like this: