Die Berlin-Affäre

[Originally written on 09/21 on my n810 while waiting in Frankfurt airport]

Needless to say, Last four days were amazing. I met a lot of interesting people; saw all the cool things they were doing; dived in insightful discussions; showed the demo of my UI project to all; … And sometimes ended the day with overdose of buzzwords like ‘fragmentation’ :)

In OSiM, some notable talks came from Sean Moss-Pultz (OpenMoko) reinstating their mission to provide an open device that gives freedom to innovate; Andreas Constantinou (VisionMobile) - analysing which mobile stacks are more open source than the others (even though everyone claims to be as open as classic FOSS projects), Ari Jaaksi announcing Nokia’s next version of Maemo SDK - with HSPA connectivity, high-def camera, omap3 processor (with improvement in multimedia and 3D acceleration in hardware), Ken Banks (kiwanja.net) giving a very insightful presentation on very uncommon businesses built by people in African countries to suite their needs - especially some social projects that are built on top of mobile infrastructure to spread information that is otherwise restricted by non-democratic governments.

Among the “suit” presentations (Ari Jaaksi’s term for execs as opposed to t-shirts for geeks), I liked Christy Wyatt’s presentation. Although it was well above the technical details (in the world of graphs and trends), I found her opinions honest and frank - also unlike other execs she seemed to have right idea about actual technology problems (for instance, problems faced by independent developers in the face of dozens of SDKs - otherwise referred to as the fancy buzzword ‘fragmentation’).

The Maemo-summit was enormous fun. Largest gathering of smart geeks and tech enthusiasts, I have ever attended. Over couple of dozen projects/ideas were presented in the “Lightening sessions” (fast 5-minute presentations/demos). The setting of the event deserves a description. The event took place inside a building of an organisation called c-base. Imagine a shabby building used by artists for various purposes and you will get the idea. It has been the venue for other open source events as well (ubuntu for e.g.). The philosophy of the c-base project is also interesting, check it out. Back to summit. The entire summit schedule was posted and collaboratively updated by people as different sessions took place. There was free wifi and everyone was logged in using their n8x0s or apple/ubuntu laptops. While listening to various speakers we could on the spot check the online resources they were talking about. That’s why this setup made all the sessions extremely productive.

Among many prsentations the ones I found very useful for my interests were: debian chroot running on n8x0 by Alan Bruce (qole) and liqbase by Gary Birkett (lcuk). The former one is the first virtualization solution I have seen running on the tablet so far. The awesome part was Alan gave the presentation inside openoffice presentation running on debian inside chroot environment on his n8x0. This gives enormous flexibility to developers trying to build custom rootfs for their tablets. They can test such experimental rootfs inside chroot before flashing their device.

The liqbase demo was eye-opening. All the time I spent wondering when will 3D hardware arrive for me to program cool animations on the tablet, seemed futile after seeing what Gary had achieved on existing hardware. So far what I understand is, he is leveraging the X video extension (the same backend used by mplayer) and converting regular rgb data to yuv and drawing it. He demonstrated smooth scrolling like I have never seen before on a tablet. I can’t wait to reach home and look into his library (I checked it yesterday, but didn’t have enough time in the cafe).

Another mentionable presentation was from frogmetrics. This 6-people startup in NY is using n810s for collecting surveys from customers. There are putting n810 to use in a unique way. I was further impressed after learning more about them during a chat with Doug later on.

After listening to all the talks about open source solutions in mobile, I find Nokia to have made the most genuine effort in this field. I think it is indisputable that they pioneered this field when they brought n770 to market 3 years ago.

The overall Berlin trip was awesome. In first 3 1/2 days I explored the city as much as I could. Hopefully I will soon find time to upload the snaps. One observation I didn’t mentioned in my last post was the domination of glass in new Berlin’s architecture. By that I don’t mean the shiny reflective façades, but the use of trancelucent glass as walls. In some buildings it induces a fear of height, because even if you are standing on a solid structure, the transparent walls on all sides challenge your sense of balance. I felt this predominantly in Sony center.

Looking back, this turned out to be a successful trip - for me it opened a window to a new world in many senses.


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