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Trolltech Qtopia Greenphone and SDK Review

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the for-the-wee-little-ones dept.

Communications 37

An anonymous reader writes "The Greenphone comes at a time when there are countless mobile Linux platforms, but not many of them are open for easy development. This little device aims to fill a niche for a community-oriented mobile development platform. How does it perform? has the Trolltech Qtopia Greenphone and SDK review."

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Eeek (5, Informative)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314351)

Yes, it IS open source. But from DULA (Device User License Agreement) "...This device may only be used with Trolltech's Qtopia Software. You may not use this device in any other hardware/software combination other than in the combination of hardware and software that was delivered to you...". So no, it's not going to run (any) linux.

Re:Eeek (3, Insightful)

GauteL (29207) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314431)

Ridiculous License Agreement that is probably invalid in most countries in the world but still cause some legal problems due to some ridiculous laws in some countries (read: USA and the DMCA). If I purchase the phone, it is mine to do WTF I want to with.

Being from an open source company, it really sticks out like a sore thumb and makes this device a non-starter for anyone who cares about software/hardware freedom. Excactly the type of people that Trolltech is trying to sell the device to! The sheer stupidity....

Re:Eeek (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18314445)

You may think that if you purchase it it is yours to do WTF you want, but you couldn't be more wrong.

Try doing WTF you want with the GSM radio, like increasing emission power, moving the frequencies around and so on. You'll get raided before you can say "Shit".

Re:Eeek (2, Insightful)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314513)

I think we can take it as read that when he says he can do WTF he likes with it, he's ruling out activities that break the law. He's also not allowed to stick it into a spud cannon and shoot it at his Congressman, but there's no real need to point that out.

Re:Eeek (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314527)

My guess is, this is just something the QT legal department pushed and it'll soon be retracted due to community criticism.
Lord knows it wouldn't be the first time a legal department didn't "get" the whole open source concept.

Re:Eeek (1)

StarkRG (888216) | more than 7 years ago | (#18315089)

The phone is a development model, meant so that developers can write qtopia-based mobile operating systems which can then be put into mass production. The phone itself is not the product, not even a prototype, but a potential for a prototype. The developer writes the software using the greenphone as a testbed, and then builds the prototype hardware based on what the software needs, if the software doesn't have camera capabilities then there's no point in putting one in the phone.

The greenphone has just about everything, that's why it's so expensive. It's a development tool, that's why there's that licensing. You could always write your software from scratch and use your own license free hardware, but that'd be expensive and re-inventing the wheel.

Riiiiight (1)

Tony (765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18315483)

So, that's why the FIC Neo 1973 [] is so expensive, and doesn't allow installation of non-OpenMoko software.

Oh, that's right. It isn't expensive, and they *do* allow you to install whatever software you want.

No matter what their reasons for releasing the hardware early, it is hardly "capitalism" to restrict what you can do with the hardware you purchase.

Re:Riiiiight (1)

StarkRG (888216) | more than 7 years ago | (#18315979)

I wasn't talking about the Neo-whatever just the green phone. Granted they might (probably) have ulterior motives behind the restrictions, but that's their explanation, and it's not too far fetched. There's nothing stopping you from designing and building your own hardware, except maybe expertise.

Yeah, it'd be great if there was blank phone hardware available at a cheap price, but there's not until you make it. Their explanation is pretty reasonable when you consider that they're selling it as a development machine, it's NOT for consumers, it's for developers.

This is specialized hardware not just some plain old computer. When Apple was gearing up for the Intel release the developers were using Dells and other such plain Intel machines, unspecialized hardware. Now, had Apple sold them special pre-release development machines it probably would have been against the license to install another OS on it.

Re:Eeek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18320215)

It already runs linux. Qtopia is an API on top of Linux/Framebuffer.

Re:Eeek (1)

cronius (813431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18320233)

From the comment section:

Submitted by kyrvin on March 3, 2007 - 8:59am.

Clause two in the Device User License Agreement states: ...
You are not authorized to modify or to create
derivative work on the Device, except as permitted
in a separate license agreement that accompanies
the Software's source code.

Qtopia is GPL-ed in the Community edition of Greenphone. Making synchronisation software, or combining other free software solution on Greenphone is explicitly alowed by GPL. Software with a GPL compliant licence is allowed. The site show how to put Python on the Greenphone. Python license is compatible with the GPL, according to the Free Software Foundation. Trolltech endorse such initiatives. Please visit: []

Some parts are not GPL-ed. This is because of telephone regulators and operators. Even if the science department at different operators says that they understand that open source is secure, Business people and lawyers don't understand that. Business people and lawyers seem to believe that open source is an open door. In almost all countries, operators and even regulators expect that some parts, especially the communication stack, is proprietary software. So the GSM stuff are closed downs. Trolltech has made the Safe eXecution Environment (SXE) to address this fear, allowing remote installation of software in a secure sandbox environment. For net installation without the SXE, iPKG is used.

According to engineers in other companies trying to sell free software ready GSM devices, they struggle with exactly the same issues. They need to ship proprietary blobs because of regulators and/or operators. It's almost the same problem we know from the wifi-blobs we know on laptop chip. Trolltech are happy with everyone who address this blob issues with the right authorities. To even address this further, we recently joined the Free Software Foundation Europes Fellowship Raffle 2007 at FOSDEM, donating a Greenphone: []

I hope this clears things up.

Best regards

Knut Yrvin
Community Manager Trolltech ASA
I was at a demonstration of the greenphone held by Yrvin recently, and I asked him if I could compile my own custom kernel on it and stuff like that, and he said sure, in fact they want us to.

The wording in the license is bad he admitted, but he basically said it was just politics.

Pricing (3, Funny)

Romwell (873455) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314353)

At that price you reaally regret that Greenphones do not yet grow on trees.

Huge potential, bad licensing (4, Informative)

bonefry (979930) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314397)

For more information on licensing, which is a real PITA for open-source developers, see here: Greenphone SDK [] .

On the bright side, with projects like OpenMoko [] and OLPC [] I think the world will start to realize the power and potential of these little Internet-enabled devices when combined with open-source software.

Re:Huge potential, bad licensing (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18323149)

As innumerous other people have pointed out, the hardware license has bad wording. Trolltech has corrected this. You CAN use OpenMoko if you want to. You can put any software on the hardware you want to. You buy the phone, it is YOUR phone. Trolltech WANTS you to fold, spindle, mutilate and experiment with the phone. That's the whole purpose.

Stop repeating what other people incorrectly tell you.

That's Great... (2, Interesting)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314459)

That's great, but can it run the OpenMoko software? From the license:

...This device may only be used with Trolltechs Qtopia Software. You may not use this device in any other hardware/software combination other than in the combination of hardware and software that was delivered to you...

Oh, I suppose not. Sorry, but if I spent USD695 on a phone I'd want the freedom to do what I liked with it! That is a stupid restriction Trolltech cannot hope to enforce (although this does make me think of Trusted Computing).

Also, someone should tell this chap to get hold of an OpenMoko [] to review. They hold far more promise, in my opinion, and seem much more 'community driven'.

Can I buy it NOW? (2, Informative)

saikou (211301) | more than 7 years ago | (#18315087)

What really makes me mad is there's no big buttun "BUY" with a price next to it. I spent 5 minutes clicking everywhere on OpenMoko trying to find a way to buy it, simple and easy (I remember they used to say somewhere about how/when I can buy it but it's buried in their wiki with no hit on the word "buy" [] ). If it can't be bought now it should be marked on the first page as "coming soon/preorder" or something. Same goes for Green phone thing, that doesn't even have a mentioning in the list of the devices.
I think if more linux phones are to appea[l|r] to general public, there should be easy ways to get them :)

Re:That's Great... (1)

Capt. Beyond (179592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18323269)

Why would you want to do that? OpenMoko can't even make phone calls yet! The FIC Neo is currently not even available, either. Until last month, it was only photoshop mockups.

Qtopia is a much more mature and stable platform, having been developed for the last _7_ years. Besides, Qt is a much better API to develop with, as well as being C++ which is much more suitable for GUI's as it is object oriented, much like the GUI itself.

Qtopia is also GPL, which ensures your code is not going to be hijacked by some company looking to profit from your hard work. LGPL is not about free software.

Not open enough for me (3, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314461)

What I want to see is a phone which has a baseband processor that does all the stuff like talking to the cell towers. Such processor would present a fully documented and open interface (GPIO lines, AT commands, data ports, whatever) which the applications processor can talk to. Everything on the AP side would be 100% open source (GPL or whatever) from the phone dial app down to the daemon that actually sends AT commands to the baseband side.

So far the closest we have to that is the OpenEZX project for motorola EZX linux phones although a lot more work is needed in reverse engineering the proprietary AT commands sent by the proprietary tapisrv app before it can do everything the motorola software stack can do.

Re:Not open enough for me (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314711)

The only fully "open" method of adding gsm/gprs to a small device is to use one of the compact flash GSM/GPRS adaptors, such as those from Audiovox or Enfora; I'm not sure but I think the new 3G modules in USB form don't do audio; there have been PCMCIA gprs/gsm modules but I discount those because they're not particularly small.

Long-time PalmOs enthusiasts might remember Handspring did a module (their modules being pcmcia in disguise) for mobile phone called VisorPhone and it worked well, but it needed its own battery to stop it sucking the attached Visor dry too quickly!

Re:Not open enough for me (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314745)

Hopefully the OpenMoko phone will be Open enough (certainly it looks like the core programs involved including the daemon sending AT commands to the baseband side and receiving results back are going to be Open Source)

Re:Not open enough for me (3, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18315927)

It is.

OpenMoko is the OS, there may be many phones.

At the moment, on the Neo1973 - which is the phone that FIC is releasing first, you talk to the GSM modem via AT commands.

The dialer app is at the moment broken, and you use minicom or something :)

The only closed source bit of code that will ship with the phone is the code that takes the output from the very dumb GPS hardware, and 'cooks' it into an actual position. And there are moves to - when a working version of this is shipped, reverse engineer it, and make it open source too.

You can run _any_ 'normal' linux app on it, with the obvious limitations (no keyboard unless you've bluetooth, 2.8" display, touchscreen, one uncommitted button).

You can even put GCC, and a full normal toolchain on the microSD, and do native development work, if you really want to.

(think of a Pentium 100 laptop sort of speed) [] - the wiki. [] a 1 hour talk (60M) on OpenMoko, by one of the instigators of the OpenMoko project.

Re:Not open enough for me (1)

Capt. Beyond (179592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18322149)

Actually, the FIC neo's baseband processor and GSM is just as closed as the Greenphone. There are regulations for mobiles phones...

Re:Not open enough for me (1)

CoreDump01 (558675) | more than 7 years ago | (#18322591)

FWIW, the Neo's GSM module is using a dedicated CPU with its own (closed) GSM firmware. The interface (modem-style AT commands) OTOH is well documented. The only closed part will be the GPS plugin.

green? (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18314847)

Why is it called the green phone? I thought it would be environmentally friendly.

GPRS == brick (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 7 years ago | (#18315307)

Trolltech screwed up BIGTIME by going with the cheap controller that supports only GPRS instead of using the chip's big brother that supports EDGE (and possibly 3G) as well. Let's be real -- this phone's only real market consists of developers who want a cool phone they can play with and write extensions to show off to their friends. NOBODY, and I mean *NOBODY* in that market is going to buy a phone that only does GPRS. ISDN-like EDGE isn't really fast... but it's fast enough to be useful and generally tolerable. 19-38kbit GPRS is cruel and unusual punishment.

In reality, any phone targeted to this market MUST support EDGE *and* 3G. EDGE for the American market (where 1900/2100 UMTS will likely never exist, and 1700/2100 UMTS is still years away from widespread availability), and 3G for the European market (where apparently EDGE was NOT deployed in parallel in places where 3G was deployed early, like Scandinavia).

As for the onerous EULA, I suspect it's because -- like wireless LAN cards -- many of the phone's parameters are software-defined, and it was mainly a regulatory issue. The last time I checked, the phone "officially" supports only 900, 1800, and 1900Mhz. "Officially", as in, "Trolltech paid the relevant regulatory bodies to get it certified for those frequencies". HOWEVER, the chipset inside the phone happens to support 850MHz, and I suspect hacking it to enable 850MHz operation is likely to be fairly easy. A thoroughly illegal act in FCC-land, but not a particularly hard one to pull off that will make life a lot easier for users in the 2/3 or so of America where 1900MHz GSM coverage is still sparse or nonexistent (a coworker of mine has a 1900-only phone that generally works fine in Miami and other big cities, but is largely useless when he travels, with HUGE coverage gaps in between big cities).

I do agree, though, that it's a design mistake for a phone like this to have a unified phone + UI architecture. Even if it cost more to use a blackbox-type GSM phone module like the GSM 862 phone module w/GPS sold by ( ?products_id=7917) with completely open UI (display, input buttons, joystick, GPS, bluetooth, etc that worked similarly to the original Handspring GSM module, it would likely make the phone's purchasers happier. And let's be honest -- this is an expensive niche product. Another $50 really isn't going to matter much to the buy/no-buy decision. Plus, by abstracting out the phone module, it might even be possible to get Sprint to tolerate a CDMA model (Verizon would be hopeless since they still cripple bluetooth and WiFi, but Sprint seems to have slowly realized that with unlimited data plans and nearly-unlimited voice plans as the norm, use of WiFi by customers is a GOOD thing... even if they ARE complete Nazis when it comes to allowing non-Sprint hardware to be used on their network).

But is it a good phone? (1)

puppetluva (46903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18316271)

That would be the question I'd like to ask. Does it work well as a phone, have good reception, etc?

If it is a great phone, I'd be more likely to buy it. . . and tinker with it. All these years, I've just wanted phone I could customize in a real way, and I'd pay money for that.

Anyone out there know if these things work well?

Re:But is it a good phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18317907)

I have one and like it, but it is not really usable as a normal phone. The battery life is crap. It lasts ~5 hrs on standby with bluetooth off. Reception is good for a phone without a protruding antenna, but the phone has a habit of disconnecting itself from the mobile network without warning, requiring frequent resets.

Re:But is it a good phone? (1)

Capt. Beyond (179592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18320837)

You haven't updated the flash image, obviously. We get 3 days standby. But again, this is a development platform, a reference board that developers can carry around with them and use. We have had no trouble with disconnections.

Everthing you need to know: (2, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 7 years ago | (#18317153)

"As far as pricing is concerned the phone itself costs $695 USD"
Like most Linux mobile devices, these are priced completely out of the market. Is there a conspiracy to keep Linux out of the mobile market? Could all of these efforts actually be funded by the big mobile makers? Okay, I know its not possible but you begin to wonder. I remember when the Zaurus came out. Let's see, a Palm or (shudder) WinCE device for $299 or a Zaurus for $599. Wow! How's a consumer to choose!?

Re:Everthing you need to know: (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18323207)

This is not a consumer device. It is an SDK for developers. I don't know the exact number, but I seem to recall only one or two thousand were made. Manufacturing runs this small are expensive.

Let me repeat: This is not a consumer device.

Re:Everthing you need to know: (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 7 years ago | (#18349255)

Understood. Yet, when it hits the market I will still be right. :)

that's weird (1)

MarsDude (74832) | more than 7 years ago | (#18317341)

The Greenphone comes at a time when there are countless mobile Linux platforms"

yet not a single one (at least here in the Netherlands) is available on phones you can get with your new contract, or renewal. There are hundreds of sites with hundreds of phones... and still... not 1.

It's a DEVKIT.. (1)

binary_ftw (1028638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18318219)

Come on people. I kind of sense some disappointment, but this is NOT a phone intended for mainstream use (which I feel is too bad, it'd be incredibly cool to be able to show off uptime on cellphone devices).

They've produced far too few of these to be able to push the price per unit way down, and they've also not bothered to optimize the power-savings options in the kernel all the way (which is kinda useless if it's going to be used seriously as a phone).

All that crap aside, it's a really nifty developer platform for those interested in checking out the Qtopia framework. I've been seeing a real-life demo of this, and can say that if they get a consumer-grade phone out, i'll be considering switching myself.

Any other Linux phones? (1)

Cato (8296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18320205)

I'm curious - are there any other Linux phones that are actually available to buy in Europe (or can be shipped to Europe), and support:

1. Open architecture, ability to at least install apps and build your own apps on another host

2. UMTS 3G support - I don't want to buy yet another GPRS phone, my first one was over 5 years ago!

3. WiFi support

I know about OpenMoko and the Neo1973 - the software sounds fantastic but no UMTS, and WiFi would be nice too.

So, what about the software? (1)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 7 years ago | (#18320613)

Doesn't say anything about the system software, which is probably the most interesting thing.
Does it come with J2ME? Are there APIs that allow you write telephony applications?
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