Maemo, MeeGo, Mango and Me

Ever since the February 11 2011 Nokia event cheekily tagged as #NoWin and known colloquially as The Elopocalypse, I’ve struggled to cover Nokia’s present and abandoned strategies here with equal care.  Don’t be misled by my attempts of objectivity over Linux and Microsoft activities, though– it hasn’t been easy.  I’ve been moderating an internal conflict between a growing invasion of open source love versus a legacy of Microsoft development experience combined with strong curiosity.  Neither side has a clear advantage over the other for me and therein lies a conundrum.

I could have very easily avoided the whole controversy at the start.  When I assumed responsibility for Maemo internet tablet quality in the North American market, I could have taken the easy route and stuck to the basics.  That meant developing test plans, training auditors and inspectors, hosting Finnish and Mexican product teams, and making sure CES 2007 was supplied on time with 200 pristine N800s.  Nothing more.

But no.  I’m a device nut.  An admitted hardware geek.  As I’ve shared many times, laying eyes on the Nokia 770 tablet changed everything for me.  It put what I saw then as the future in my hands, literally and figuratively.  I could not just treat this product line as I did the various and sundry cell phones I also touched.  I took tablets personally

Which meant that when a colleague referred me to Internet Tablet Talk (now talk.maemo.org), I had to check it out.  I found a community of talented, passionate people eager to see where they could take the 770 and its successors.  Grateful to Nokia for daring to deliver this novel Linux-fueled family.  Of course I joined immediately.  The developers and enthusiasts desperately desired guidance from Nokia, and I was glad to be of some service… although given the frustrating secrecy around the hardware, that often meant nothing more than dropping cruel hints to keep them interested whenever Nokia lapsed into all-too-common periods of apparent non-progress, or worse, resistance.

That up-and-down Maemo journey took an unexpected turn to the merger with Moblin that led to MeeGo.  After overcoming initial anxiety I decided that MeeGo represented the redefined future.  I replicated Maemo Greeters as MeeGo Greeters, played around with some graphics identity stuff, and shifted over outreach work (while still staying with the Maemo community).  More recently, I helped start the Community Device Program and expect to keep working at it.

But as one pundit after another predicts the demise of mobile MeeGo, and the venture itself suffers a visible lull, many are nervous over the prospects… including myself.  I’m not going to give too much credence to rumors– especially since there’s alternative talk of Samsung taking over the reigns instead of an outright plug-pulling.

What I am pondering, though, is Windows Phone 7 (the current build is referred to as Mango).

After all, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to ensure that my Visual Studio experience is readily useful.  I’ve missed software development work the past few years, as I’ve had to focus on a job where only my SQL skills were relevant.  There just has not been the time, regrettably, to do what I had hoped with Qt (although I have not given up completely).  But with WP7, I only have to learn the unique aspects of phone development and I’m up to speed.

That’s really, really tempting.

I’m also coming up on the end of my term as a Nokia Developer Champion.  Whereas my Maemo and MeeGo experience was applicable when I was nominated last year, I can’t see that being the case now.  I do want to enjoy the privilege for a second year, and that means embracing Nokia’s current strategy.

And it’s not just negative talk that has me concerned about MeeGo.  The outreach efforts I began for North and Central Texas have stalled after a bright and promising beginning.  I am right near the point of letting the Dallas-Fort Worth area Meetup.com account lapse due to declining interest (Austin never really got off the ground).  I won’t drop it outright– merging with a general open source group makes sense.

It’s been interesting living in two worlds the last several years.  Friends who are diehard soldiers of either camp don’t quite get how I can reconcile the two.  But as I said at the start of this article, I’m a device nut.  Still passionate about open source, yet also willing to explore the “dark side”… with a focus much more on hardware than software.

In that respect, I think I have something unique to offer as a volunteer ambassador for Nokia.  I’m passionate but not religious about any technology, and in fact prefer to stay as agnostic as possible.  I believe I have a rare ability to bridge two distinct worlds, to talk with and listen openly to members of either one.  That’s what I hope to bring to another year as a Nokia Developer Champion.  Hopefully the judges will soon agree… and that the MeeGo community won’t be too rough on me as I keep a foot in that realm, too.  ;)

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19 responses to “Maemo, MeeGo, Mango and Me

  1. Pingback: Maemo, MeeGo, Mango and Me | Tabula Crypticum | Maemo Meego

  2. I’m no religious nut, but closed devices are just not very interesting to me. Sure, I’ll use them to get a job done, but they stir no passion in me… That’s the big problem I think a lot of us have; WP7, iOS, and even Android are fine, but they just don’t stir that “fire in the belly” that our Maemo devices did.
    Nobody will blame you for going where the money is, but it is always hard to walk away from where your heart wants to go…
    (posted from Firefox in an Ubuntu chroot on my WebOS TouchPad ;-)

    • I understand what you’re saying Alan.

      But for one, I really am trying to look at tech from a bit above ground level. I definitely prefer open hardware over closed, which is why I’ve been building my own workstations for decades and running whatever OS I choose. I wish Nokia had succeeded in cracking the mobile world open the way desktops are but they didn’t… so at best we have some quasi-open devices with the reality that their days are likely numbered. I hate facing that reality, but I’m not into denial.

      Also, I’m not walking away from open source, as I noted. If I had my choice I’d be making a living somewhere in that world, but the opportunities never manifested. I have to focus on where my abilities and opportunities are. Unfortunately there are forces outside my control limiting both.

      Finally, I have to put my family above some personal interests. If Microsoft offered me a high-paying job to work in a field I loved, odds are I would have to consider it. It’s sad that no such offers came from MeeGo players… but then, the ways in which I could contribute there are limited, too.

      No matter what, though, I will only give up on any passion as a very last resort… kicking and screaming the whole way.

  3. Heh, I just got a position as a developer in a big Microsoft shop. Am I going to be the best .NET programmer I can be? You bet. I have to be realistic, too!

  4. Pingback: Randall Arnold: Maemo, MeeGo, Mango and Me | MeeGo

  5. it hurts when even putting your money where your mouth is isn’t enough because (whatever reason, the numbers don’t add up, and/or other things). it makes me sad to realize that mobile devices may not open up the way desktop pc’s did, and that the n900 may have been the last of its kind in many ways. whatever happens, i still adhere to the essence in one of my favourite blogs: “freedom-to-tinker”.

  6. Qole, I’m happy for you to land a good job and grieving too. I was thrilled to run Debian and the Gimp on my N810, then N900. When will we have fully personalizable computer/communicators in our pocket when the Microsoft world snatches up developers like you?

  7. “Use the force Luke”? But remember how seductive is the dark side and where it leads ;) Better not to go that route.

    • I’d be happy to make a living supporting open source. Just have not found a way to do so yet. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, too: as my career advanced, Microsoft and related products gained increasing importance, and progressing for me meant expanding on that.

      When I joined Nokia in 2005 I had the opportunity to develop skills relevant to open source due to my role with the tablets, but that changed abruptly when Nokia (mistakenly IMO) eliminated my last position and I found myself having to rely once again on that old Microsoft product experience to get another job. With one exception: I’m getting the chance to learn more about Oracle… although I would rather be doing so with MySQL.

      I’m hoping to make a change soon that will allow me to reclaim a LOT of lost free time. If that happens, I will dive into Qt, Python and other areas. Happily.

  8. And so it begins,
    This blog entry lays bare how the Meego bereft strategy of Nokia is starting to weaken the open source efforts. It is completely understandable, but sad and almost sickening nonetheless. It now falls upon us, the responsible consumers, to vote with our money in favor of greater openness. After the N9, I sadly say goodbye to Nokia who, for a good while, was the model company advocating open source software. I hope other companies will continue to carry the torch. This new Microsoft infested strategy of Elop is turning out to be as hostile to the open source as I imagined in my worst fears. Elop should have fixed the Meego project within Nokia and not gone outside crying for help. For a hi-tech company, outsourcing innovation is a colossal mistake.

    Since I don’t work in the field (but rely on Linux systems for my work) I can only voice my plead to the people working with Linux and especially with Meego: Keep up the work. As you know, it carries tremendous value which reaches far beyond the technologically savvy community. And I also want to extend my heart-felt sympathies for the people like me who, for the most of their adult lives, have been trying to avoid Microsoft products: It going to get even more difficult, but ever more meaningful.

  9. Know your enemy: @Qole, @Texrat, good luck guys :)
    It’s only a matter of time, and everybody and his grandma will be able to run whatever open or closed os on their mobile device, as now can be on regular computers. So, have a good time now while working for the evil empire ;)

  10. Release early, release often. It is a proven formula. The idea of MeeGo (or Moblin, Nokia doesn’t need to be there) is a great idea. However, it has fallen into stagnation.

    I don’t use MeeGo anymore because it’s bug ridden and lacks the features I was promised. Intel has made some odd choice in trying to chase the money with an incomplete product.

    I’ve been working on my software update for nearly a year now (at least I think it has been nearly a year). I’m only doing limited invites at this point because I know the people that would even consider using the software want a stable software … not hopey dreamy change. I’m also being extremely honest with everyone … though open source I want to make money off it.

    What do I get for my hard work? A lot more interest than expected. Especially considering the community I am catering too is bruised from previous development ruining their software. I know my market is a niche within a niche … it is a small sliver of which my previous version has roughly 30% share hold in.

    Am I trying to stretch the dollar I created, chasing a dream with broken net? Hell no! I never intended to make the mistake, the very mistake that makes MeeGo look like a botched program to soo many. No, I am going to sit here at my desk and make sure all the features that I promised are going to be rolled out. I have one feature that is not going to make Beta …. backwards compatibility with the network, but if you compared the old code and the you might understand.

    I wish Intel would take a tip from me and complete the lacking material. Yet, I have no presence so I am going to end this rant and get back to work so I can just “show” Intel how it is done.

  11. Good luck Texrat, and I agree that no one can be blamed for going where she/he can earn money for own and family living. I hope Your leg in Maemo/Cordia/Meego/whatever open part will be visible enough, cause We’re not going to meet in winphone area – they’re absolutely of no interest to me. Which don’t mean everyone writing open or closed software for it is bad guy ;)

  12. I can’t help reading this article, and some of the replies, and reflecting on how much some of the recent strategy changes (polite version) can cause a very real amount of anxiety, depending on the level of investment, training, background, etc… in particular ecosystems.

    If you’re lucky, you might have a story or two about jobs you were offered, and didn’t accept, for your own sanity/health and well-being, but I’m sure that becomes more of an ideological fantasy when personal obligations, family, etc… don’t afford luxuries of pondering and ‘best case’ scenarios for employment and livelihood.

    In any case, I’m sure I’m just one of many who appreciates your deliberate, respectful elaboration on this stuff, and your ongoing contributions to the community.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. This sort of “vanity” posting is something I have found that people really appreciate or flame me over (1 deleted earlier today). ;)

      Tech in general is changing way too fast for most to process these days, but mobility especially. Skill requirements switch drastically on a whim it feels like. It’s hard right now for many to know where to focus. Yesterday in fact I was presented the opportunity to get some fairly expensive training, and I have to decide what to target– and it’s not easy. For one it has to be relevant to my current employment… whereas everything I want to take would be for things I would LIKE to do. Based on local opportunities getting certified in Microsoft Sharepoint makes the most sense– but right now I would rather do that for Qt or Drupal…

      If I had my wish I would be in a community evangelist role of some sort, but despite applying for some (with Mozilla and others) I feel well-suited for, no offers came. Unfortunately that sort of role tends to require a much bigger name than I have…

  13. at the end of the day you need to be pragmatic and do whatever to pay the bills. It is interesting though reading someones thoughts on this subject, qand i would not deem it a vanity post. you have been pretty important and an influential and informed contributer to the Maemo/Meego world these last few years

    I run linux on all my machines at home exclusively, but yet at work i am senior tech support on windows, cos that’s where the money’s at. I used to be a Novell guy, but the business decision was made to with MS so i had to go with it.

    My point is that I still enjoy the work and the challenges though even though the toolsets have changed

    To be honest linux and open source are not gonna take over the corporate world anytime soon so it’s probably best to embrace it and understand it for when the revolution does come.

    know thyn enemy

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