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Symbian Microkernel Finally Goes Open Source

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the all-things-to-those-who-wait dept.

Cellphones 97

ruphus13 writes "Symbian announced over a year ago that they were going to Open Source their code, and the industry has been patiently waiting for that to happen. Well, it finally has. According to news on Wednesday, 'Symbian has released its platform microkernel and software development kit as open source under the Eclipse Public License. The Symbian Foundation claims that it is moving quickly toward an open source model, which is questionable, but the release of the EKA2 kernel is a signal that Symbian still means business about adopting an open source model. Accenture, ARM, Nokia and Texas Instruments contributed software to the microkernel, Symbian officials said.'"

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97 comments

Maemo (3, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854613)

But why would people want to develop software for Symbian now that there is Maemo? Maemo is much more of an adventure because it's new.

Re:Maemo (2, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854649)

Maemo is much more of an adventure because it's new.

I guess it's only an adventure if you happen to have a Nokia device... :-|

Re:Maemo (2, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854657)

Many people don't equate [adventure, new] with [proven, stable].

Re:Maemo (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854849)

That is certainly true. Rincewind said it already in the second Discworld novel: "I like boring. It lasts."

Re:Maemo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29858467)

I could point to a billion boring software projects that doesn't last one tad.

Re:Maemo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854949)

Symbian is neither.

Re:Maemo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29855547)

Many people don't equate [adventure, new] with [proven, stable].

As the owner of an N73. Allow me to say: HAHA!
 
Though I see your point and it's very valid, it doesn't really apply to Symbian. I have learned to hate it.

Re:Maemo (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854667)

How about because the hundred of millions of Symbian (uiq/s60/DoCoMo) devices are not going to disappear? Plus there is always a market for proven robust technologies such as this. Maemo will be important to Nokia but the bulk of sales will still be Symbian powered. There is even the possibility that S40 will be relegated to the rubbish bin and supplanted by whatever the Symbian Foundation releases.

Re:Maemo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854701)

Yes, yes they will disappear. Everyone gets a new phone every 2 years. Symbian market share is going to crater. Investing in dying tech is not smart.

Re:Maemo (1)

crwl (802043) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854793)

Nokia is starting to push Symbian to cheaper devices that currently have the S40 operating system, which can't multitask, for instance. I hear that one of the good things about the Symbian OS is that it can be successfully run in considerably cheaper hardware than other smartphone operating systems.

I doubt Symbian is going to disappear any time soon, more likely its market share will increase - due to the S40->Symbian/S60 transition, much more (Nokia) phones can be categorized as "smartphones". And it's not like every future phone will have a touchscreen; in non-touchscreen devices, I think Symbian/S60 is still unbeatable.

Re:Maemo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854903)

Everyone? Ha!
No, not everyone. There are _lots_ of people using Nokia smartphones, SE W950/960, P1i,G700,G900.. some phones being sold new right now, so they will most likely not going to be replaced (by your 2 years measure) until 2012 at least.
I for one would love getting an updated OS for my P1i, but alas, I don't think it's going to happen.

Re:Maemo (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854979)

From all the phones I could get 'for free' with my subsciption to Vodafone, including the Sony Ericson Experia aka Experience pain, I chose the Samsung Pixon M8800 Symbian OS phone. Want to know why? Because, guess what, it's actually a PHONE instead of a mobile computer that also has a call application somewhere deep down in a hidden folder...

It's, with the exception of the HTC Hero maybe, the best phone created, yet. Opera Mini, Flash player, FM radio, local social network app, 8MP camera that makes brighter pictures in the dark than your eyes can actually see (fsck yeah?!) and with a single tap on the screen you can scroll through your contacts better than any phone has ever done, and well just use it as an actual phone too!

It might not be the newest phone out there, but for me it's the best. Symbian ROCKS. I hope it never dies!

Re:Maemo (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856091)

Putting an 8MP camera sensor in a phone (all of which have small crappy lenses) is like putting a big block V8 in a Toyota Corolla.

I still dont get why they even bother with cellphone cameras. I for one would be just as happy if my phone didnt even come with a camera and I am sure I am not alone.

Re:Maemo (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857407)

While it is true that too much megapixel on a small 'sensor' size (sorry don't know the English word) usually makes the image crappier, it actually makes very nice high quality pictures. But then again the phone was marketed as an avarge joe digital camera replacement. While I didn't buy the phone for its amount of mega pixels, I couldn't see a difference in image quality when I compared it to a 'consumer' Exilim camera without zooming.

There actually are phones out there that can only call and do text-messaging, but I'd rather have 3G internet and a single device in my pocket instead of two (mp3 player).

Thus far I am very, very pleased with Symbian. It rocks.

Re:Maemo (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29863019)

I want an Erickson before Sony made it shit. I miss my brick phone. If I want a PC I'll carry a netbook or laptop. If I could get a netbook with cellphone and skype capability which worked with a bluetooth headset I'd get it. I've not had a lot of time to see if there's anything reliable.

Re:Maemo (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857495)

Because you carry your phone with you all the time?

Would you rather have a:, No picture of the sensational event that you came across unexpectedly, or b:, a mobile phone pic of it?
My N95 has a Carl Zeiss lense, and a 5MP camera. Sure, it's not as good as my SLR, but the N95 is always carried with me.

Re:Maemo (1)

Linuxmonger (921470) | more than 4 years ago | (#29862043)

I had a big block V8 in a Pinto, does that count? Tubbed slicks, straight headers, dual doubles, and rollers. Gas mileage wasn't great, but damn it could get from one stop light to the next quick!

Re:Maemo (QT) (2, Interesting)

GNious (953874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854879)

If I understand correctly, developing for Maemo or Symbian doesn't exclude developing for the other platform - QT should exist on both platforms soon, allowing you to target both fairly trivially. /G

Re:Maemo (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854919)

Nokia ships multiple lines of products, perhaps also that's why it is by far the largest phone manufacturer in the world.

They currently have S30/S40, Symbian S60v3, S60v5 and Maemo. In that order from cheapest to most expensive devices. In that order from most to least popular. And I'm not even sure whether or not phones like Nokia 1100 (the most popular single model of consumer electronic device in history; more than families of other "most popular" products) fall even under S30...

Hope it helps Symbian (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855181)

I recently bought a smartphone after only ever having semi-dumb java Sony Ericsson handsets, and after ages of looking for a relatively open system which supports full Bluetooth and Wifi and has a hardware keypad instead of a touchscreen , i settled on a Nokia N79 running Symbian S60.

The system might be outshadowed in the media by new Android stuff, iPhones and RIM/Blackberry's media presence, but its actually very good.. install apps directly, jump between diffrent connection types, do anything you like cos just about al the expected features are fully supported....

I might have landed on Symbian by default rather than through choice, but its already impressed me, and another OSS option in the markets never a bad thing.

Re:Hope it helps Symbian (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855369)

I've been using Symbian, on and off, since it was EPOC16 (a beautiful OS that could multitask and run graphical several apps on a 3.84MHz 8086 clone with 256KB of RAM, and still have enough memory left over for a decent sized RAM disk). It has a lot of nice features.

Execute in place isn't so important for current Flash-based devices, but it was for older ROM-based ones and it will be again for PCRAM and similar technologies. This means that you don't need to copy code from ROM into RAM to run it, you just map it and it updates the page tables, and you can use your RAM for useful things, not just storing copies of data you have somewhere else.

The kernel is a well-designed little realtime microkernel. It is aggressively designed for power saving. It basically tries to spend all of its time with the CPU asleep waiting for interrupts. When it receives one, it wakes up, processes it, delivers it to the relevant servers, and goes back to sleep. Linux is slowly moving towards this kind of design, but if it moves as slowly as removing the global lock then it's going to take a very long time. Because it's a microkernel, it's well suited to the Cortex A9 MPCores that are starting to appear in SoCs. All of the aspects of the kernel are separated out into independent processes, so you can split them between cores when the load is high. This is even useful when the load is low, because running two cores at 100MHz uses less power than using one core at 200MHz, so with aggressive frequency scaling you get better battery life from parallel code too.

Most of the reasons people dislike Symbian have nothing to do with the kernel (idem for most of the reasons why people like Linux, which is even more ironic since Linux is nothing but a kernel). C++ is a horrible language at the best of times, and the standard Symbian toolchain uses a weird variant of C++ which, somewhat improbably, actually managed to make the language worse. Fortunately, things like PIPS now exist, so you can use POSIX interfaces and ignore the messy bits. Hopefully this will get a kqueue() implementation soon, because that would map very nicely to the low-level kernel interfaces but still be portable to OS X / *BSD.

Re:Maemo (3, Insightful)

TheBishop (88677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855333)

But why would people want to develop software for Symbian now that there is Maemo?

Maemo's been out for years (N700, N800, N810, N810WIMAX) and nobody decided to develop anything of worth for it yet, why would they start now?

Re:Maemo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29873549)

Previous models were internet tablets. N900 is a phone. Almost everybody has a phone, but almost nobody has an "internet tablet". The market for the N900 and next devices is completely different.

Market Share (5, Informative)

SpooForBrains (771537) | more than 3 years ago | (#29855715)

Maybe this handy pie chart [wikipedia.org] will enlighten you. Hint: Maemo is in the grey slice.

Re:Market Share (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#29855917)

If everyone always developed for stuff that was out already we would still be eating raw meat off cadavers we found.

Re:Market Share (2, Insightful)

hercubus (755805) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856353)

Maybe this handy pie chart [wikipedia.org] will enlighten you. Hint: Maemo is in the grey slice.

Symbian phones belong in a "Not-that-smart-phone" category separate from the newer platforms. Sure, it was a great platform and is still useful, but it's legacy. We all know how newly-minted developers feel about legacy: junk/cruft/bloat -- throw it all away and build something new!!

Re:Market Share (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869967)

Symbian has a clear market domination in this chart, but it is important to also point out that of those 50%, the percentage of people who ever even heard of Symbian is small, the percentage of those people who know what Symbian is, is even smaller. The percentage of people who feel comfortable purchasing anything through Ovi is tiny. The percentage of people who would buy a Symbian app vs. a Java one is minuscule.

On the other hand, Maemo suffers an entirely different problem and much of that is that the users are more likely to try to get their hands on open source or free apps made for the devices.

iPhone is the market most dominated by people willing to spend money on apps since Apple has done a fantastic job convincing everyone that everyone else is doing it and loving it.

Here's the BIGGEST reason by Symbian app development is nearly a waste of time. Too many phone models. Too many processors that may or may not be fast enough. Too many RAM configurations, Symbian phones often come with 4 megs or less RAM. Too many screen sizes. Too many input methods. Too many windowing toolkits that are incompatible since Symbian never really solidified the GUI ABI.

In short, iPhone which is one model a year and is more or less backwards compatible is a MUCH better solutions for app developers. Palm is likely to be the same. Don't know much about Blackberry. Don't think I've ever seen one. But I don't recall seeing too many different models.

Android on the other hand is an enigma since it suffers many of the same problems as Symbian and Windows Mobile, but there's hacker momentum behind it.

Nokia is a telephone platform for old ladies, and yes, Series 60 has pretty much replaced everything else at Nokia, so the old ladies are in fact buying "Smart Phones" without even knowing it.

SYMBIAN is DYING Open Sores CONFIRMS IT !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854629)

You do desperate things when things get desperate.

Watch out for those flying chairs as Nokia !!

Re:SYMBIAN is DYING Open Sores CONFIRMS IT !! (1)

edivad (1186799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29865911)

Agreed! Symbian is dying, although Nokia will likely try to extend its life untill they get rid of all the Symbian legacy (people, and technology) they still have inside. And, the $1500 for the Symbian Foundation membership is not exactly the definition of Open Source. Bottom line, look elsewhere. iPhone, Android, Linux, WM (yeah, even that), whatever it is, it's smarter than choosing Symbian in 2009.

Oh, SyMbian... (4, Funny)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854685)

Damn, at first I thought it was the *Sybian* microkernel... now THAT would be a fun kernel to hack...

Re:Oh, SyMbian... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854749)

This joke is getting OLD!

Re:Oh, SyMbian... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854825)

No you're getting YOUNG!

Re:Oh, SyMbian... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29855431)

I'm sitting on my SPEED QUEEN.. To me, it's ENJOYABLE.. I'm WARM.. I'm VIBRATORY..

Re:Oh, SyMbian... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857057)

Funny, since you're probably the only person who ever heard it before. Nobody I asked here, had ever heard it.
Then again, we're no experts of fuck-machines.

OK. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854687)

That's all I really have to say.

Symbian (5, Interesting)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854721)

Ever look at a system and think to yourself, "every time the developers had a choice in designing this thing, they chose the wrong option"? I can think of a couple [php.net] . Symbian is definitely in that class. It has:

  • Drive letters. Enough said.
  • Backslashes as directory separators
  • Pervasive DRM, with code signing and a pay-us-to-access-more-OS-features capability model
  • A bizarre and perplexing C++ API based on manual exception management, with too many kinds of string class to count
  • "Active objects [wikipedia.org] "
  • Non-POSIX filesystem semantics
  • A microkernel architecture for devices least able to afford the overhead
  • Very strange application deployment consisting of several disparate directories with magical names

All in all, the sooner Symbian dies, the better off I am. I might have been slightly kinder if they hadn't tried to prevent my running my own code on my own machine. No, I'm never getting another Symbian device.

Re:Symbian (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854893)

Microkernel, specifically, EKA2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EKA2 [wikipedia.org]
It appears decently suited: "The Symbian kernel (EKA2) supports sufficiently-fast real-time response to build a single-core phone around itthat is, a phone in which a single processor core executes both the user applications and the signalling stack. This is a feature which is not available in Linux. This has allowed Symbian EKA2 phones to become smaller, cheaper and more power efficient than their predecessors". Certainly Symbian devices seem to be by far the cheapest smartphones on the market...

Perhaps "Active objects" are similar in that they actually reasonably fit into such kinds of devices?

Also, Qt seems to be pushed as the API for Symbian^3 or ^4, and you can always self-sign (though perhaps handsets available in the US are more locked...)

Re:Symbian (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855319)

Self signing wont give you TCB or AllFiles though :-) If you want to do anything at all more complex than "hello world" then you require a developer certificate. If you want to actually sell your application to the masses, well, good luck with that, it'll take a few months and quite a few dollars.

What good is going 'open' if I can't recompile the firmware for my N series phone?

Symbian is modestly cheap per handset, but Nokia phones are not normally cheap at all. Their flagship stuff is normally around the 800 mark (Euro, Pound, USD, doesn't matter) Sony Ericsson tend to have offerings with about the same feature set for a few hundred less.

Re:Symbian (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#29858299)

Oh well, for me its enough that I can run few OSS apps found here and there without any issues (from what I remember - only typical "are you sure you want to install this unsigned app"? at the time of installation)

As for SE - yes and no. They do have better prices in large chunk of feature phones segment (heck, my second phone is a SE G502, a fabulous deal for the price when I bought it), but their smartphones were always much more expensive (which doesn't neccessarily mean comparable Nokia ones are not, just that SE doesn't have cheap ones). Just look at prices of Satio or Idou or whatever their recent touchscreens are called now. Plus, it doesn't seem to work for SE, with their constant losses...

Re:Symbian (2, Insightful)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854897)

being the owner of a nokia n95 (s60 symbian) I am puzzled at how you can not run your own code.. when running unsigned code it just tells me "warning: blah is not signed" just like ssh warns me when a key is changed or some such. Then I can install it anyway.

I have not yet found any kind of drm in the phone.. at all. I install what I like from wherever I like and it just works.

The rest of your post can be summaried as "it's different from unix, so I don't like it" which is your opinion to have, but it is an opinion. I agree having everything be like linux/bsd etc would make life as a developer a lot easier, nothing new to learn.

Re:Symbian (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854917)

Yes, there's a sign-signed option [symbiansigned.com] . But you're still at the mercy of Symbian; you have to submit each changed version of your application through them. And you can't run the signed binaries on any other device. Also, self-signed applications don't have full access to the device. They have only ReadUserData, WriteUserData, NetworkServices, LocalServices, and UserEnvironment capabilities.

Re:Symbian (1)

Kizeh (71312) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856191)

On all the Nokia Symbian phones I've owned, whether or not you can install unsigned applications was a phone setting. On all of them you could install unsigned apps by changing the phone setting and accepting the warning. None of them required the Symbian signed stuff.

Re:Symbian (1)

Mendy (468439) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857031)

It depends what the application needs to do, some capabilities are only available to self-signed binaries, others are restricted to formally certified applications. I've found the self-signing process from a developers point of view to be relatively painless so I don't mind that but what has annoyed me is that each symbian version has a slightly different set of APIs and it's frustrating to find that you can't do something on a phone that's less than 2 years old with no option to upgrade the OS.

Re:Symbian (1)

EvilNTUser (573674) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855183)

Once again, you get what you pay for. The guy above you probably bought his phone on credit through a network operator, and blames the platform for his own failure to buy an uncrippled device.

Mind you, I think the security model changed after the N95. Now you have to self-sign your code, but whatever.

Re:Symbian (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856255)

The guy above you probably bought his phone on credit through a network operator, and blames the platform for his own failure to buy an uncrippled device.

Whom should he blame for local electronics stores' failure to sell uncrippled devices and for network operators' failure to provide service plans designed for people who bring their own phones?

Re:Symbian (4, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854911)

``A microkernel architecture for devices least able to afford the overhead'' What overhead? The way I understand it, the overhead typically associated with microkernels comes two sources: overhead incurred when transferring control across process boundaries and inefficiency of the implementation. Inefficiency of the implementation (e.g. using a complex message-passing system that consumes many CPU cycles) is a problem, but it's not intrinsic to microkernels. Overhead incurred when transferring control across process boundaries depends on many factors, such as what your OS's idea of "process" is, how this is mapped to the constructs provided by the hardware, and how efficient the hardware implementation is. Long story short, implementing processes as tasks on x86 hardware and using the MMU to separate processes' address spaces is very inefficient. An implementation on an MMU-less system with an ARM CPU and all processes in the same address space would not be nearly as inefficient. In fact, on an ARM CPU, even with an MMU and processes in separate address spaces, one study (PDF [usenix.org] ) has measured the context switching overhead of Linux to be up to 0.25%. If Linux can do that, a microkernel can, too. Now, I don't know about you, but 0.25% isn't enough to keep me awake with worry all night. All in all, I think the reputation that microkernels have for introducing a lot of overhead is simply due to inefficient implementations on inefficient hardware. I also wonder how much kernel efficiency still matters these days; it seems that most programs seem to fall in one of 3 categories: 1) mostly sitting idle waiting for input (user input, disk reads, memory access) 2) bound mostly by the speed of the graphics card 3) spending most of their CPU cycles in their own code or libraries. System call overhead has little impact on these programs ...

Re:Symbian (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855389)

Now, I don't know about you, but 0.25% isn't enough to keep me awake with worry all night.

Not a Gentoo user, I see.

Re:Symbian (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855437)

Mach gave microkernels a bad name. On Mach, all IPC went via Mach Ports. This included things that, on other platforms, would be system calls (on Mach they were message sends to something like a BSD kernel running as a process). Unfortunately, Mach checked the port access rights on every message send. Benchmarks showed that it took around 15 instructions for a system call or 120 instructions for a Mach message. Effectively, this made system calls an order of magnitude slower.

Newer microkernels only check port rights when you create a port. Something like QNX has a very small message sending function which generates almost no cache churn. This function runs synchronously (and has about the overhead of a cheap system call) but the message reply is not generated at the same time. This means that you actually get fewer context switches with the microkernel. You fire off a load of non-blocking system call requests. These require a privilege switch (which is cheap) and a function call, but the kernel does no work processing them. When you come to the point where you need the reply, you then enter a blocking state and a context switch happens. The other process then runs and handles all of your messages, and then you get back control and carry on. This involves only one context switch on an asynchronous microkernel, but several on a synchronous monolithic kernel. When you add another core, you don't even get this context switch, you just get a few cache coherency messages between the cores (or not even that if they are shared cache, for example SMT contexts) for the message sends and the other process keeps running and servicing your requests. This is increasingly important, as modern ARM SoCs are starting to be multicore.

Re:Symbian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29856853)

What cave bad name for microkernel-based operating systems was a Hurd. It was stupid to port Mach microkernel to Hurd operating system as GNU Mach.

That is one reason why microkernels got bad name. Monolithic operating systems like Linux, SunOS, FreeBSD, DragonBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, HP-UX and so on have just prooved that monolithic structure to the OS is as far the one what just works. Why the OS really should be sliced to microkernel and servers at all? Nice idea but not until now they have never got good examples out what would beat monolithic OS's.

Re:Symbian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29855819)

Inefficiency of the implementation (e.g. using a complex message-passing system that consumes many CPU cycles) is a problem, but it's not intrinsic to microkernels.

It's intrinsic to *extant* microkernels, which is close enough.

Re:Symbian (1)

Calyth (168525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29864137)

The rest of your reply after 0.25% doesn't really apply because this is a phone, using an ARM chip that doesn't provide nearly comparable power to a desktop.

As an previous end user of a Symbian phone, the phone was slow. It started up programs slowly, it handled task switching slowly. That's the part that matters to the end user, not stats and arguments made with the modern desktop hardware in mind.

And this is part of the reason why I stopped using my Nokia N82. The other part was that it crashed so damn often when I'm using gmail and opera. To add insult to injury, microkernels are suppose to allow more graceful crashes of kernel level components.When gmail / opera crash, it's white screen, and the only input that it would take would be to power off, and then to power on. So where's the microkernel advantage here? Clearly something was wrong with the network code, otherwise it wouldn't have crashed like that. But I don't exactly call a pure white screen with no options but to power-cycle "graceful handling of crashes".

Re:Symbian (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854931)

Is any of your complaints more than cosmetic ? Hate backslashes, do you ? forward slashes are sooooo much trendier ^^

I'll give you the weird API, though QT should abstract most of that.Active Objects doesn't sound bad, on the contrary ? Did you confuse them with ActiveX, maybe ?

Re:Symbian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29857153)

Listen up, fuckface, obviously you're a Luser and not any kind of programmer or you'd know how fucking retarded back slashes are in system paths when you have to fucking escape or quote every fucking last one of them. Miss one and your shit now doesn't fucking work. It makes bugs more likely and is just basically a fucking unnecessary hassle. So, fuck off.

Re:Symbian (4, Interesting)

zullnero (833754) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855131)

I kinda agree. From an outside perspective, Symbian is conceptually a solid concept...but once you hunker down and try to do something for it, you find yourself pulling your hair out non-stop. I also have to say, at the time when the Symbian guys came up with them, Active Objects were a pretty cool idea. No one else was doing stuff like that for mobile devices, and if it had been done less insanely, it really would have been like buffed up widgets.

Yeah, it has a goofy API. I totally agree. But I can work with it, and get stuff done...that's fine. I don't mind the microkernel...if you write your code reasonably efficiently, you can deal with that. Memory management, while necessary to make that code efficient, is clumsy and annoying. I didn't really run into the "pay for more access" nonsense, though I certainly hated that sort of stuff about Brew, too. But once you've been stuck jumping over all those hurdles, you never want to deal with it again. A smart company, designing a platform, should put third party developers above everything. Making your platform easy to develop for should always take precedence over anything else, no matter how much temptation it is to try and nickel and dime developers in order to farm cash flow out of them. The more hurdles you put up, the less chance your OS will compete in the application market, and that generates the demand that makes the carriers interested in putting your OS on their phones.

I can think of a number of OS's offhand that greatly outlived their lifetime expectations simply because they're easy to develop for and the toolchain is flexible (and free). I have Symbian development on my resume...even though it's obviously been 5 years since I did it seriously, I still get headhunters contacting me non-stop from all over the place simply because, and no offense if someone reading this does like Symbian development, it's a big time headache to deal with.

Making it open source isn't going to save it. There are too many far better mobile options out there already. webOS, Android, and Moblin are already built on open source, reasonably standardized platforms. There are more on the way. No one is going to want to fight with Symbian weirdness and 1990's style C++ when they could be doing AJAX on webOS or Java on Android.

Re:Symbian (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856263)

hahaha moblin *snort* Moblin is designed to work only on intel devices, so most of their customization has been ripping out other stuff, and cramming in intel drivers. In order to expand moblin's popularity you'd have to undo most of what intel has done. Meanwhile you'll be able to slap their same interface on top of UNR (or possibly onto the OpenGL ES-based Android, using the NDK... but be prepared to build a lot of drivers) and certainly by using Angstrom... if you can get it to build, ha ha. OpenEmbedded my ass. Er, wait... Android is probably the most credible thing going right now, and the fact that it's a big slow on PCs right now is not too relevant because it's fast on OMAPs and that's where the magic is happening right now. People can afford a cellphone, especially if they don't have to pay up front :)

Re:Symbian (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856291)

A smart company, designing a platform, should put third party developers above everything. Making your platform easy to develop for should always take precedence over anything else

Then how do companies like Nintendo get away with flatly banning people who work from home and people working on their first title from the platform [warioworld.com] ?

No one is going to want to fight with Symbian weirdness and 1990's style C++ when they could be doing AJAX on webOS or Java on Android.

Unless a developer wants to reach the millions of potential customers who already use a Symbian based phone.

Re:Symbian (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 4 years ago | (#29855257)

Drive letters. Enough said.
Backslashes as directory separators
(...)
Non-POSIX filesystem semantics

So what you're complaining about is that Symbian is not Unix?

Very strange application deployment consisting of several disparate directories with magical names

As opposed to Unix?

Re:Symbian (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#29855491)

Drive letters. Enough said.
Backslashes as directory separators
Non-POSIX filesystem semantics

In other words, standard FAT file path conventions. The most used file system in the world. As used by about 90% of people's desktop computers.

Pervasive DRM, with code signing and a pay-us-to-access-more-OS-features capability model

Doing what your customers ask and pay you for is never a bad decision for development. SymbianOS customers being handset manufacturers.

A bizarre and perplexing C++ API based on manual exception management, with too many kinds of string class to count

Symbian exceptions predated the introduction of exceptions to C++. So it wasn;t a choice not to go with the standard, rather that Symbian was a pioneer. Symbian does have several descriptor classes, and that is confusing. But they are there for reasons of memory efficiency on what were devices with tiny memories. Properly written Symbian code will do string storage and manipulation with less memory than any other API I know.

"Active objects"

Again, pioneering stuff. The responsiveness of multi-threaded applications without the overhead of multi-threading.

A microkernel architecture for devices least able to afford the overhead

Symbian was originally written for a device with 16Mhz ARM chip. If a microkernal was OK for that, it's OK for the far more beefy specs of today's smartphones. The problem isn't with the reality of Symbian OS, it's with your entirely imagined notion of what the requirements of a microkernel are. It's a microkernel chiefly because embedded devices such as phones have to run reliably for long period of time. That's more important than marginal speed differences.

Very strange application deployment consisting of several disparate directories with magical names

Strange = different from what you're used to.

You complaints are a mixture of not knowing the perfectly sound reasons for engineering design decisions, and your arbitrary view that Unix is the one true way.

Who are the handset manufacturers' customers? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856307)

SymbianOS customers being handset manufacturers.

That wouldn't be so bad (compare to Microsoft's customers being Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.) except that in the United States, the handset manufacturers' customers aren't end users; they're network operators.

Re:Symbian (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857281)

You complaints are a mixture of not knowing the perfectly sound reasons for engineering design decisions, and your arbitrary view that Unix is the one true way.

In other words, the typical Slashdotter (just replace Unix with Linux)

Re:Symbian (1)

rawtatoor (560209) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857671)

How is it an arbitrary view that UNIX is the one true way?

Even if everything else you say is technically true, wouldn't
this project benefit from using the lingua franca of computing?
Or is their a hidden benefit from once again poorly recreating UNIX?
Is their a reason I should learn a new interface every time I pick up
a new device? Strange = Another waste of my time.

I find it silly that you talk about engineering design decisions and then
put down UNIX, the computer system designed by and for software engineers. I say
get a grip.

Re:Symbian (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#29859207)

I find it silly that you talk about engineering design decisions and then
put down UNIX, the computer system designed by and for software engineers. I say
get a grip.

I didn't put down Unix. I use Unix. I program Unix. I'm posting with it right now. I put down the stupidity of thinking that all OSs should be like Unix.

I find it silly that you talk about engineering design decisions and then
put down UNIX, the computer system designed by and for software engineers. I say
get a grip.

I think you need to get a grip. ALL OS APIs were designed by software engineers for software engineers.

Re:Symbian (2, Insightful)

npsimons (32752) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857931)

Drive letters. Enough said.
Backslashes as directory separators
Non-POSIX filesystem semantics

In other words, standard FAT file path conventions. The most used file system in the world. As used by about 90% of people's desktop computers.

Damn, I'm out of mod points, otherwise I'd have modded you troll and moved on. Suffice to say, the idiocy of this first line alone is all I'm willing to deal with, so I will attempt to enlighten you, then move on.

Do you even know WTF you're talking about? Have you ever actually *written* any software that opens files? I mean, yeah, FAT is very widespread, used everywhere. But last I checked, none of Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, VxWorks or MacOSX (to name just a few OSes that have FATFS support) have drive letters or backslashes as directory separators. They also all support POSIX file semantics, even on FATFS. Drive letters, backslashes and non-POSIX filesystem semantics are *NOT* FAT file path conventions. To anyone who has ever even dabbled in system administration or programming on systems that have these "features" it is obvious what they are: bad design decisions that are only being held onto because of backwards compatibility.

Re:Symbian (1, Informative)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#29858861)

Have you ever actually *written* any software that opens files?

Constantly. Since 1979. Including several years Symbian OS, and several years of Unix (OS X). Given that, the error must be in your comprehension. And your arrogance.

Just because Unix system CAN use FAT filing systems, doesn't mean that SymbianOS should do it that way, rather than using the normal FAT filing system conventions of Drive letters and slashes. Nor is there any reason to slavishly follow a MINORITY OS such as Unix. You're another of these ignorant believers that Unix is the one true way. It isn't.

You, sir, are a cultist. You can't "enlighten" people by preaching your own belief system.

Re:Symbian (1)

weicco (645927) | more than 3 years ago | (#29858005)

Symbian exceptions predated the introduction of exceptions to C++.

If I recall correctly C++ had some implementations of exception already when Symbian was spawned from the depths of heck. Standard didn't have them yet. So if Symbian would have waited a bit it would have standard exception mechanism. When I was writing stuff for Symbian (2002 - 2004) I recall that the awkward exception paradigm was what I hated the most.

Other thing was that awful two-state object construction or whatever it was called. I remember that it was because of constructors were forbidden to throw exceptions. I'm not sure what's with that. Throwing exception is a standard way to tell something exceptional happened.

And so what if Symbian was pioneering? We don't drive T model Fords anymore. Maybe Symbian has nice kernel but writing C++ applications for it is a huge pain in the ass. I mean, it really beats me why the heck you have to have Perl to build C++ applications!?

Another (horror) story was the API documentation. You really couldn't trust it a bit. It felt like the documentation and header files was constantly out of sync. I finally got so frustrated with it that I learned C# and .NET, changed employer and haven't regretted a day.

Re:Symbian (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#29859117)

If I recall correctly C++ had some implementations of exception already when Symbian was spawned from the depths of heck.

The first release of GCC with C++ exceptions was in 1997. The first device with SymbianOS (EPOC32) on was released in 1997. Of course SymbianOS had been in development for a few years before then, and the exception decision was an early one.

So if Symbian would have waited a bit

You can't "wait a bit" (a year or two) to release a commercial product. Especially when you don;t know how the future is going to pan out.

Other thing was that awful two-state object construction or whatever it was called. I remember that it was because of constructors were forbidden to throw exceptions. I'm not sure what's with that. Throwing exception is a standard way to tell something exceptional happened.

It's a simple result of the exceptions being implemented in a library, and not having any support in the compiler. There's no opportunity to push an object onto the cleanup stack until after C++ has constructed it.

And so what if Symbian was pioneering? We don't drive T model Fords anymore. Maybe Symbian has nice kernel but writing C++ applications for it is a huge pain in the ass.

It is a pain in the ass to program. That's the downside. The upsides are that it's solid as a rock, and is very frugal on memory usage. That's the engineering trade off. But my post was just pointing out that there were perfectly good engineering reasons for the way it is. The suggestion that it was the result of the developers making the "wrong" decisions was just stupid, and needed correcting. Just because it's now very dated doesn't mean that it was wrong when it was written.

Re:Symbian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29875549)

In other words, standard FAT file path conventions. The most used file system in the world. As used by about 90% of people's desktop computers.

That doesn't make it good.

Re:Symbian (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 4 years ago | (#29876507)

In other words, standard FAT file path conventions. The most used file system in the world. As used by about 90% of people's desktop computers.

Um, "FAT file path conventions" means 8.3 filenames and no slashes at all, and restricted to a very small set of ASCII characters. Not even Windows has used this in a long time. I think you are maybe talking about "MSDOS conventions".

Windows accepts both forward and backward slashes in filenames and treats them equivalently. Backslash is used as an escape character in many programming languages and for this reason alone they have to support an alternative. I'm guessing Symbian does as well but I don't know.

Drive letters *should* have been eliminated by a similar way backslashes were. My suggestion is that "/A/" should have meant the same as "A:/". Then readdir("/") could have returned all the disks, and we would still have a single interface to list directories even when they added networking, something Unix has had for decades. But Microsoft was too stupid to fix this in MSDOS 2 and later seemed to have turned completely hostile to Unix compatibility even when it was braindead obvious it would improve their platform.

Re:Symbian (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856223)

# Drive letters. Enough said.

They're quite useful and can be abstracted away by an interface, such as through a "libraries" model (like windows) or through some other means.

# Backslashes as directory separators

Well, you've got me on this one.

# Pervasive DRM, with code signing and a pay-us-to-access-more-OS-features capability model

Here's the kernel! Get crack-a-lackin'.

# Non-POSIX filesystem semantics

Not automatically a bad thing. Does raise the bar for ports though.

# A microkernel architecture for devices least able to afford the overhead

Fail, fail. Amiga had a sub-8-MHz processor and a microkernel architecture and it beat the pants off every PC you could get your hands on for genuinely DOING STUFF and BEING RESPONSIVE. If Symbian blows, it's not because it's microkernel.

# Very strange application deployment consisting of several disparate directories with magical names

Kind of like Unix.

I have no experience with active objects so I can't speak to whether they necessarily must be used in the worst possible way.

Is this in time to actually matter? (2, Interesting)

Shag (3737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854761)

WebOS, Android and iPhone OS look to be fixin' to eat Symbian's lunch... will open-sourcing things make a difference?

Reality check (4, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854875)

- Symbian chips on slighly more than half of smartphones (which is another way of saying "it ships more devices than all other players combined")
- vast majority of phones sold all over the world aren't smartphones, but feature phones (for example with Nokia S30 or S40)
- Nokia seems to be pushing Symbian into the place of S40 (I guess Maemo wil be at the top)

Symbian isn't going anywhere. It will grow bigtime. Out of OSes you list only Android, IMHO, has similar potential (it also seems to be coming to cheap devices). They won't even really have to compete with each other, with such huge market for the taking.

Re:Is this in time to actually matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29854881)

Symbian is still the largest deployed mobile OS in the world - and by that I mean that Nokia's sales of smart phone software is greater than all of the other smart providers combined - RIM, Apple etc.

Fixing to eat Symbian's lunch

Yeah right!

Re:Is this in time to actually matter? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#29855443)

Android is currently a bit player. The market share in the Smartphone market currently looks something like this (figures from a couple of months ago):
  • 76% Symbian.
  • 13% iPhone.
  • 9% Whatever Blackberries run.
  • 2% Everybody else.

WebOS and Android are in that 2%. Symbian only really matters in the smartphone market in the same way that Windows matters in the desktop market.

Re:Is this in time to actually matter? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857137)

You mean, because Symbian is oh such a small player, with over 50% market share? ^^
And because Nokia is not already doing a smooth fading from Symbian to Linux, taking the best of both, and making a mobile OS out of it, that beats everything else?
That's the reason they open-source Symbian stuff: So they can e.g. create compatibility layers between Symbian and Linux, while still never getting into trouble with the licenses.

The first step in the right direction. (2, Insightful)

Comp_Lex86 (958850) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854863)

Now people can rewrite the entire OS in "normal" C++ without all the awkward stuff like Active Objects, 10000 kinds of string "descriptors", CleanupStack and the weird API.

Re:The first step in the right direction. (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 3 years ago | (#29860719)

Nokia is porting over Qt to run on top of symbian. Once that's done it will be simple enough to use a 'sane' API.

Symbian's Kernel has it where it counts (5, Interesting)

thaig (415462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854891)

I am biased because I worked for Symbian and now Nokia. What I say is entirely my personal opinion.

There's a lot to be dissatisfied with in Symbian but the kernel is good. It works on a lot of different hardware and is very economical with power. It's also extremely reliable. For all that it is a microkernel-based OS, it needs very little in the way of hardware It isn't like Linux or Darwin because they were originally made under the assumption of all sorts of nice things like having a power socket all the time. They catch up but they aren't there yet.

It's also written in pretty simple C++ without the warts that the user-side APIs. Since the user-side stuff is being supplanted by QT and the STL I think that there is hope there. It's also getting some fairly serious SMP support which is well suited to the mobile world (having more less powerful CPUs is good for power consumption if you can switch them on and off).

I work on another thing that's about to be open sourced and I must be a good boy and wait for the SEE next week (what used to be the Smartphone show) before talking about it. But a lot is being done and by people who are just as unhappy or more so about the status quo.

It will be interesting to see how other OSes fare when they try to tackle the problems associated with scale and numbers of different models.

BTW, I use Linux on my desktop and I am a big fan of it.

Re:Symbian's Kernel has it where it counts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29855267)

BTW, I use Linux on my desktop and I am a big fan of it.

GNU/Linux

Re:Symbian's Kernel has it where it counts (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 4 years ago | (#29861699)

Stallman, is that you again? Quit trying to rename
my operating system for your own glory.

Re:Symbian's Kernel has it where it counts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29871387)

Symbian's reliable? I find it crashing on my previous phones often.

On the other hand, I find Android and Apple's iPhone OS to be far more stable.

Thank you, Android (4, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#29854943)

This issue is clearly being pushed forward by open-source Android. Smarter - and, maybe, weaker- competitors realize they must match Android's flexibility and openness.

Windows Mobile will either have to offer an extremely compelling experience, Apple-like, or will be FOSSed into oblivion ? I'm taking bets, but only one way ^^

Dream scenario: Smartphones -> Tablets/ebooks -> Netbooks -> PCs.

Well, in the long run S60 it probably not the one to do that. But Maemo or Android, in a "bigger" version ?

Re:Thank you, Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29856083)

Frankly, Android per se had very little to do with the decision to open-source Symbian.

What I'm saying is that the same forces which made Android appear as open source, are also driving Symbian becoming open source. It was not so that Android open-sourcing influenced Symbian's open-sourcing, there was no connection, it is a bigger trend at play.

This bigger trend is crowdsourcing/community sourcing of development (to varying degrees).

You will always find some people who are happy to give their creations and time away with no cost to someone who will simply package that thing and re-sell it at a profit.

These people are useful idiots, because these people will keep on coding and contributing to the company for free (as in beer). This means you will become unemployed, but at the same time the company will keep on taking in money, and you're not getting part of this money anymore.

"But I get access to the source! The source is open." Yes, and so what? You need hardware too, you need the 800 euro phone to run the software. If you don't invest in that, the utility of the source for you is zero. You lose.

If someone sells the stuff you give away, be sure to ask for a cut of the profits.

Re:Thank you, Android (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#29857455)

You will always find some people who are happy to give their creations and time away with no cost to someone who will simply package that thing and re-sell it at a profit.

These people are useful idiots

Let me clarify exactly what you are driving at here but if you are trying to say that people that contribute to any open source projects are "useful idiots" just because somebody might sell it, then you are just spouting pure nonsense and flamebait.

People donate time and energy to FLOSS for many reasons. I am personally on the list of contributors for several projects. These applications are very useful to me and either have no feature analogous proprietary counterparts or none that run on my preferred platform. I have neither the time nor the inclination to either start nor maintain clones of these apps. Sometimes, I find a bug or I discover I would like some useful feature to be added to the app, so I just write the patch and send it in. If it's accepted, then I don't have to maintain a fork that I have to rejigger every time upstream updates. The developer maintains the app and my patch for me. His/her app is better so he/she wins. I win because I now have an app that more perfectly suits my needs.

I know that my patches have shown up in commercial distro's. So much the better! The more users of the application, the more interest and development it gets. I hope Red Hat, et al makes billions. If I want some, I'll buy some stock. Does this make me an idiot? Of course not.

Re:Thank you, Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868033)

To be frank with you, many people would say that does make you an idiot, albeit a very useful idiot. No offense intended - just answering your own question.

Re:Thank you, Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29867985)

Please mod up the parent for what he says is so very true!

Re:Thank you, Android (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856933)

Windows Mobile will either have to offer an extremely compelling experience, Apple-like, or will be FOSSed into oblivion ? I'm taking bets, but only one way ^^

Since you use the phrase "FOSSed into oblivion", I guessed which way. Do you also take bets on year of the Linux desktop? I smell easy money...

Re:Thank you, Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29857891)

Not true. Maemo was started before Android. And guess what? It was already known there would be free Symbian by then.

blog blog blog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29855327)

One blog that links to another blog and nobody links to code. Where can I get this?

"dumbphones" (0, Offtopic)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 3 years ago | (#29856081)

I hope this gets ported to other dumbphones because some of the OSes out there (looks at sony ericson) really suck, I suppose jailbreaking a dumbphone will be tricky (especially when i could just buy a nokia), but if it means I don't lose all my text messages once a month it'll be worth it (for me)!

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