Journal/27 Brumaire CCXVI from Evan Prodromou

I've been getting really interested in the new crop of Linux-based operating systems for mobile devices. I got a Nokia N800 earlier this year, which I've found really useful -- although a little frustrating, too. And I've been following the developments on OpenMoKo with great interest, too.

So last Monday, when Google Android came out, I offered to give an experienced developer's opinion of the development kit for Network World. I spent most of the afternoon trying out the SDK, checking out the documentation, watching the presentation videos, and working on sample applications to get a feel for it.

I'm pretty impressed with Android, and I think it's got a good shot to become the Open Source mobile application platform. I think that whoever wins in this space has the chance to shape how all mobile phone platforms work in the future, and to take a good chunk of the market. Opening up the phone platform to allow a real marketplace of third-party apps is, I believe, going to be a huge advantage for whoever can make it work.

I think the main two contenders in the area are well ahead of Android so far, but they're really going to have to capitalize on that lead in the next 8-10 months before the first Android handsets are set to hit the market (late 2008 -- although we'll see about that schedule). And I'm not sure they've got the means and commitment to do it.

Nokia has been screwing around with the N series of Internet tablets for a while. Which is great -- the operating system is clever, the GUI ("Hildon") GTK-based, and development in Python on the platform is a breeze. The basic tools -- media player, RSS reader (ingenious), Web browser, email, etc. -- work well. However, for unexplained reasons, Nokia hasn't put a damn phone into the thing. If there is a similar device that does everything that the N800 (or N810) does, plus has a phone in it, which one are people going to buy? It seems obvious to me.

The other interesting OS is OpenMoKo, which I think is a great project with exactly the right goals. However, there's been some disappointment in the enthusiastic community around the OS as schedules have slipped and the developer preview devices shipped without a functioning dialer app.

These two projects will have to fight uphill against the fear, uncertainty and doubt generated by the Android announcement and SDK release, even to stay in the game. And, to be fair, Google's announcement was masterful: classic vaporware -- for a product that won't be shipping for at least a year. But they got a pretty solid list of partners for the platform to sign on (albeit with only vague requirements for support). Best of all, they released a one-two punch of a bunch of developer information videos with tantalizing views of a nice-looking potential device, and a good SDK with tons of documentation and developer tools. It even includes an emulator that looks like a little phone. Awww!

Android is slick, it's deep, and it's well-designed. The architecture is smart and sophisticated without being too clever for its own good. It's built on conservative -- maybe a little too conservative -- twin pillars: Java and Linux. For hardware providers, there's Linux's tried-and-true driver framework. For applications developers, way up at the top of the stack, there's good ol' boring Java, with new and smart APIs targeted specifically for mobile device apps, all on top of a new virtual machine called Dalvik that (supposedly) optimizes the hell out of Java bytecode.

I was really impressed that the emulator emulates much more than just the Java APIs -- you can build ARM binaries in C that run on the thing. Very nice.

Am I still going to get an OpenMoKo device? Maybe. But I'm going to continue playing around with the Android SDK, and looking for early developer versions of Android-supporting devices? Oh, yeah. Oh, and the article I did the research for is here; strangely it ended up on ComputerWorld rather than NetworkWorld. OK for me, though.


More about me and my cool life

So, I talked yesterday (Journal/27 Brumaire CCXVI) about how much weight I've lost in the last few months, which has been great. Another thing that's been going on for me is that I've started using the Getting Things Done process for scheduling my tasks and my time.

I've never been particularly good at managing my time, but at least I've always known that however late or irresponsible I might be, my brother Ted would always be later. But when I visited San Francisco in August, Ted was really doing great. Friends and family kept telling me how responsible and down-to-earth Ted seemed lately. And whenever he had an idea for something to do, he wrote it down in his little Sidekick device.

Ted showed me how the GTD system worked for him, and so I went out and bought the book and started reading it. I have been doing GTD for a few months now, and I've found it really satisfying. I don't worry as much any more about little things that I should be doing -- they're all captured in my system. It's really gratifying.

I don't know if I've been quite as successful as Ted in improving my personal productivity, but I do know that I'm feeling a lot better about things and about myself. Which is really all that matters.


Skating away

Maj, Amita June and I went ice-skating today. It was AJ's first time out on the ice, and she really enjoyed it (most of the time). We had a couple of spills, mostly because it was really my first time skating with a 2-year-old, and partly because it was her first time skating with anyone. We went to the indoor rink near our old house on rue Cartier at the corner of Marie-Anne. Pretty soon we'll be able to go outside on the pond at Parc Lafontaine.

catching our breath

Maj isn't really a big skating fan, but she seemed to have a good time this time around. Which made three of us. I think we've got the makings of a Sunday-afternoon family tradition. We'll see, at least.


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