Maemo Missteps for 2010

The release of MeeGo 1.0 was accompanied by some resolution to Maemo, not all of it with positive consequences.  The long-awaited PR1.2 update was officially released at around the same time, which was a welcome relief, but excitement over the improvements it brought were tempered by less-than-genius developments.

There’s an unfortunate legacy of dropped balls in the Maemo closet, usually involving operating system evolutions so rough that they evoked more feelings of abandonment than joy.  I’m not going to rehash all of the legacy, but will instead focus on this year.

So let’s revisit some mind-blowing moments in recent Maemo history.

MeeGo-Harmattan Hybrid Naming

This is one of the biggest confusion generators I’ve seen come from Team Maemo.  After MeeGo was first formally announced, the next release of Maemo (code named Harmattan) came into question.  Word from Nokia was that a Harmattan device was still on track for release but it would not be branded as a Maemo product.  Instead, Harmattan would be deemed as “an instance of MeeGo” and was referred to as “MeeGo-Harmattan”.

That might not be a problem, except for one little detail: MeeGo relies on the RPM approach to application packaging, whereas Harmattan will continue with the DEB format used by Maemo.  This makes “MeeGo-Harmattan” a transitional hybrid.

Why Nokia doesn’t just go ahead with the Maemo 6 label just for this release I’m not sure… but the hybrid naming has resulted in significant confusion in the Maemo community.  For that reason I proposed at talk.maemo.org that Nokia come up with some official name making clear the transitional nature of the upcoming OS.

I have not seen any movement on this lately, so to prod Nokia along I have some suggestions:

  • MidGo
  • MinMo
  • …or even MaeGo

I’m sure the creative bunch reading this will have ideas too, right?

PR1.2 Closed Testing

Breaking from past tradition, Nokia extended early testing privileges to select maemo.org community members for the PR1.1 update.  As far as I’m aware Nokia’s request to limit discussion was honored so it came as a surprise when Nokia reverted and closed PR1.2 to external testing.  That wasn’t helped by delays which might well have been mitigated by including additional trusted testers into the process.

I’ll be disappointed if there is no PR1.3 for Maemo 5, and even more so if the community doesn’t get a chance to test it prior to formal release.  Come on, Nokia, let us help quality assurance!

PR1.2 Leak

The loud, impatient clamor for a PR1.2 release led one unnamed individual, ostensibly a Nokia employee or contractor, to post an unofficial build to the wild.  The maemo.org gang was quick to find and distribute it despite appeals from many to hold off.  Sure enough, many downloaders encountered problems resulting from the premature release.

Nokia’s stereotypical silence on the subject didn’t help matters.  In addition to posting on the maemo.org forum, some of us hit twitter immediately to alert the Maemo community to the situation.  It would have been nice for someone from Nokia to have responded during the debacle with an official statement.

And on a side note, this unfortunate episode sure didn’t help the case for more community testing…

PR1.2 automatic SMS fiasco

Once PR1.2 was released, N900 owners were met with another rude surprise.   After update installation, MyNokia registration requires an SMS be sent to Nokia at the user’s expense.  There is no way for the user to decline.  The quote from a maemo.org member below explains in detail:

[Maemo] bug 10366 (https://bugs.maemo.org/show_bug.cgi?id=10366) highlights an issue I hadn’t heard about until I started to prepare for my own upgrade to PR1.2.

The sending of an SMS, with no way for the user to stop it, to Nokia after the PR1.2 installation is a clear privacy breach and is unethical. I find it unimaginable that the engineer who implemented this did not consider it an issue, let alone the managers who experienced it on their own phones.

More importantly, the fact that the “terms and conditions” has no “Decline” button means that Nokia could be considered to be tricking people (by not warning them before they install PR1.2) into installing software which renders their device unusable until they agree to these T’s and C’s. Clearly a violation of anti-hacking legislation.

I think the council should put pressure on Nokia: this is a small problem but, as a privacy issue, it needs to be responded to extremely urgently to avoid it making the news in the same way as the Google streetview WiFi issue. Just like the Google case, once the press get hold of it it could be very expensive and damaging to Maemo (and, by extension, MeeGo).

The correct fix is to add a “I Do Not Want To Register” button to the MyNokia T&C window. However, I would suggest an immediate fix of adding a warning into the webites from where PR1.2 can be downloaded, and into the initial phase of the OTA upgrade, explaining that if the update continues the SMS will be sent and to cancel the installation if people don’t want it to be sent.

I have to agree completely, and am amazed something like this even occurred in Maemo!  It takes Nokia a step backwards in the area of trust and needs to be resolved ASAP.

No Official Full MeeGo for N900

One of the most disappointing announcements from Nokia had to be the revelation that there would be no official consumer-friendly version of MeeGo for the N900.  This shortsighted move has only reinforced the cynical assertions by detractors (some former Maemo adherents) that Nokia cares little for community continuity and only about what near-future sales can bring.  I’m personally perplexed that Nokia executives don’t see the harm these decisions do to goodwill, an extremely important factor in any open (even partially) source endeavor.

The one bone thrown to the community was a statement of support for a grassroots MeeGo port to the N900.  How that support will manifest remains to be seen.  With some diehard exceptions, optimism is low across the board and it is safe in my opinion to say that how this venture goes may well set the tone for MeeGo in general.

Silence on Flash 10.1 for Maemo

Steeping outside the core we encounter yet another hot topic: Nokia’s silence on Flash 10.1 for Maemo.  Despite a demonstration by Adobe showing that the update would work on the N900, the only word so far from Nokia comes from an unidentified executive who says it won’t happen.

As usual, in the absence of straightforward, open dialog rumors fill the vacuum.  Why won’t Nokia step up and address this directly?

What the Community Would Like to See

I’ve already answered this but to summarize:

  • Openness
  • Clear dialog
  • Product Continuity
  • Community support

Given that Nokia will be relying on open source operating systems going forward, the default engagement mode for the company must be open if future efforts are to succeed.

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95 responses to “Maemo Missteps for 2010

  1. I’ve just gotten a Nokia n900 last week.. without even looking at blogs etc.. Just the commercial website: http://maemo.nokia.com/n900/

    I am a Flash developer and wanted a mobile I could see Flash 10 on soon.. supposedly.. and now I realize that my brand new product is already obsolete, that its operating system is already left in the dirt… I feel completely cheated… I actually got this instead of an iPhone 4.. for only ONE reason.. the upcoming Flash 10… I will try to get my phone company to exchange it.. as I’m extremely disappointed.. sure I could install Nitroid and Meego later on, by myself like a nerd since no-one will make us a good installer and I’ll have to use command lines and so on and risk destroying my “obsolete” n900 with no customer support if I screw up.. or I could just get an iPhone and like Steve Jobs… forget about Flash on mobile… and get a product that works and has real continuous user-friendly development.. Maybe Apple is always right after all… I wanted to believe Steve Jobs was wrong.. I’m starting to believe he is right in more ways than one.

    NOKIA you suck !!!! I’m very disappointed… things become obsolete so quickly these days.. Humanity has reached pathological levels of nonsense. Hope 2012 takes us all down really, this lack of continuity in all things is going nowhere FAST !!!

    • You do know that Android has Flash, don’t you?

    • despisethesun

      You should be more disappointed with yourself. This information has been out for a while. The ambiguity surrounding Flash 10 for the N900 has been ongoing. Meanwhile, a Flash 10.1 release has been openly confirmed for Android and has already been released for some people. If this was really that important to you, you should have done your legwork properly instead of not even looking at blogs, forums, and review sites like you should have. As an N900 owner, I’m also disappointed in Nokia’s silence on the matter, but I’m still happy with my purchase for other reasons. I read reviews, checked blogs and forums, and even tried a friend’s N900 before deciding it was for me. If you’re not willing to properly research a product, you have no right to complain when it doesn’t meet your needs.

  2. After writing the above note.. I headed to my phone provider’s local shop, explained the situation with Maemo already being obsolete.. returned the n900 and ordered an iPhone… lol I tried being unfaithful to Apple, it didn’t work (I’ve always had Macs.. have 2 at the moment).. and I’m back in their lap 100% ;-) Apple always works and is compatible with itself.. and never let me down in 20 years… And f*** Flash 10 on mobile.. I’ll listen to Steve Jobs and go the html5 and iPhone apps route and only develop Flash for the desktop. Decision made.

  3. good work thanks

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  7. allnameswereout

    “I’m sure the creative bunch reading this will have ideas too, right?”

    Amigo.

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