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MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 6, 2011 3:27 UTC (Thu) by cmccabe (guest, #60281)
In reply to: MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe by ay
Parent article: MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

One thing I never understood was why Intel doesn't simply partner with Canonical, Red Hat, or SuSE to offer a "netbook remix" of one of those distributions customized for Intel Atom. It seems like this would be much, much, more cost-effective and low-risk than trying to create a new distribution from scratch. Those guys have the expertise in setting up a Linux distribution and they also have a lot of folks who are willing to try out unstable builds and perhaps contribute to making them better.

If I were an engineer trying to build an embedded system around an Intel Atom, I would either go with Linux from scratch, or start from a well-known and well-understood distribution like Debian or Red Hat. I wouldn't bother to train everyone on the team on something completely new, which does pretty much the same thing as the old software did.

If the point is to sell into the phone and tablet space, then I don't see how Tizen can compete with Android and the other contenders. I'm curious if anyone has a different point of view, but from where I stand, I can't possibly see how they could succeed. It kind of pains me to say this because I know there are a lot of good engineers on the project, but that is how it looks to me right now.

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MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 6, 2011 16:19 UTC (Thu) by ay (subscriber, #79347) [Link]

They did and it failed miserably. I may be mixing the timeline a little bit but as I recall they first partnered with Canonical and did a sort of Ubuntu-based Moblin. This didn't work well (Canonical has almost zero engineering resources, they can't actually write drivers and solve problems, and there were horrible hacks like touchpad interfaces implemented incorrectly, etc). Management changed and they got a Suse guy in charge, he scrapped the Canonical-based stuff and went RPM-based so then Moblin started looking more like SuSe and the like, in the end this was a mess too. So much for the "netbook remix" approach there, even if it did make sense on paper.

Meanwhile in MeeGo land they're trying to create an embedded distribution with the software stacks needed to do devices (ex: BT as a device, SoC support, touch screens, etc). This isn't supported well in "desktop Linux" anyway, they're competing with WinCE variants and Android and the like. The Linux distribution companies are no use here (especially not Canonical), this is work that consulting companies or device makers typically do. They were (are?) targeting POS, in-vehicle, and mobile devices.

In the end this absolutely can be done, I've seen companies do it successfully internally (at least for their own families of devices), it's just that no one has produced a quality usable and well-accepted "industry standard" stack that easily competes with Android, CE, etc. yet and Intel and friends seem to schizophrenic to pull it off.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 6, 2011 21:46 UTC (Thu) by cmccabe (guest, #60281) [Link]

I get the impression that Canonical is more focused on user interfaces than on drivers and plumbing, so maybe they were not the best choice for this kind of work.

But I absolutely don't buy the idea that Debian or Red Hat is not a reasonable starting point for an embedded distribution. I guess part of the reason I feel that way is because in the past, I've worked at two different companies that have done exactly that. One company used Red Hat 9 as the starting point for their embedded distro; the other used Debian.

It would be nice to see touch-screen support and bluetooth-as-a-device support in mainline Linux, but that hardly justifies a completely new distribution. I guess getting X to work with touch screens was always going to be fugly, but Tizen uses X anyway, so they have to solve that problem anyway.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 7, 2011 17:28 UTC (Fri) by jspaleta (subscriber, #50639) [Link]

The issue isn't about what is a good starting point to leverage existing value in linux software distribution stacks already available.

The issue is planning, development and execution for your product lifecycle.

Just picking up an existing mature distribution release and forking components at need in your own little sandbox does not necessarily give you the end product you want, nor a sustainable long term path for your software development that suits your customer needs. Because while you were sitting there in your little bubble focusing on the needs of your embedded device for the 6-months, 1-year, 2-year it took you to get from prototype to production, the entire software stack that you initially leveraged as drastically changed and your modifications don't necessarily apply cleanly any more.

What now? Has your business model planned correctly for the cost of ongoing distribution maintenance needs like security patching beyond that initial development requirement needed to fork the mature distro?

Instead of of just basing your custom embedded work on a mature stack, how do you drive your custom work into the development of the mature stack to be a part of the ongoing maintenance of that stack and still move at the pace your business model requires?

That's the question that has really yet to be answered in the linux distribution world and that is exactly why we are seeing hardware oriented people trying to maintain weirdly constructed derivative forks of more mature distributions.

The general purpose community linux distribution model does not know how to interface with the business needs of hardware production lifecycles for device manufacturers and the device manufacturers are loath to have frank and open discussion about the problem as that discussion is tied up with business interest and what it would take to make something like Debian a better fit for their needs. It is a very difficult conversation to even start.

And to fill the gap what we are seeing are industry initiatives where peer "businesses" try to get together and align their needs and collaborate in new project structures that are perhaps vendor nuetral (for participating vendors). It's not clear how well this works in practic or what the best practices really are here. The Linux Foundation working groups are examples of this. So is Linaro, which by all accounts seems to functioning better with regard to moving ARM hardware enablement forward (primarily funded to a large extend by the ARM chip manufacturers themselves in a consortium basis I believe.)


MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 8, 2011 17:30 UTC (Sat) by cmccabe (guest, #60281) [Link]

Those are all good points. Unfortunately "weirdly constructed forks" are still the norm in the embedded world. At least Tizen has an upstream that is presumably willing to take patches relevant to embedded products. But on the other hand, so does OpenEmbedded. I wonder why they didn't use that as a starting point?

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 12, 2011 14:23 UTC (Wed) by davidarusling (subscriber, #80637) [Link]

Yes, Linaro is funded mostly by ARM SoC providers. It's also arranged along very different lines and goals to MeeGo / Maemo / Tizen etc. Primarily, it works upstream to enable many ARM SoCs to be used by many Linux distributions. A key difference is that members donate engineering effort that is directed by Linaro on the problems chosen by its members. This aggregates effort across key problems that benefit all. That's why we got involved with the upstreaming issues and that's what led us to strongly support the arm-soc maintainer's tree and subsequent consolidation efforts.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 7, 2011 17:03 UTC (Fri) by kiko (subscriber, #69905) [Link]

While I might color the Canonical-Intel relationship a bit differently, generally, you're right that a collaboration of this magnitude between completely different companies is very risky. Unless something very special is invented to make the planning and integration of the work smooth, in my mind, a project like this will naturally fail.

"Something very special" might include a unique way of setting goals and measuring results, or maybe setting up a joint office and relocating everybody, or coming up with a new, groundbreaking continuous integration system, or hiring the most stellar open source team in existence and giving them good leadership. Probably all of the above and more.

It just seems that the decision-makers at the companies involved didn't really want to try something different.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 12, 2011 5:29 UTC (Wed) by cmccabe (guest, #60281) [Link]

Companies can and do collaborate all the time on projects like this. For example, nearly every embedded device that gets sold in the US is the product of a collaboration between the original vendor (OEM), a bunch of component vendors, at least one manufacturer, and at least one retailer.

It sounds to me like what happened here was just scope creep and its close cousins, wheel reinvention and empire building. This is similar to the One Laptop per Child project, where all they had to really do was do board bring-up on an ARM, and then spend some time polishing it to give a good user experience. But that wasn't sexy enough, so they decided it would be more fun to rewrite the whole stack, including the entire window manager, all of the applications, and large parts of the system daemons. Of course, with all this wheel reinvention going on, there was no time to polish anything, and the system shipped with a lot of known bugs and limitations. Later some hobbyists unlocked the hardware and put Ubuntu on it one weekend, resulting in a laptop that was much, much more functional.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 12, 2011 17:18 UTC (Wed) by vonbrand (guest, #4458) [Link]

Much, much more fuctional for whom?

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 12, 2011 23:44 UTC (Wed) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

in this case, almost everyone. the one exception possibly being major deployments who were extensively customizing the OS anyway.

the software shipped with the OLPC was so limited and buggy that it didn't work very well for anyone, including children.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 13, 2011 22:12 UTC (Thu) by cmccabe (guest, #60281) [Link]

I think a lot of the stuff that OLPC did would have worked well as research projects in an academic setting. The mesh networking stuff, for example, or a lot of the concepts that got included in the Sugar user interface. The problem is that they didn't treat these projects as research projects; they treated them as routine tasks, and then were surprised when some of them didn't pan out or took longer than expected-- as research often does. Eventually they started shipping Windows XP, as if open source were somehow the problem, rather than their crazy-go-nuts approach to product design.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 13, 2011 23:25 UTC (Thu) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

OLPC has never shipped windows on a laptop.

they allowed Microsoft to pay them to make windows able to run on the laptop (and the same work helped make it easier to run a standard linux distro on the laptop), but that is not nearly the same thing.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 15, 2011 20:02 UTC (Sat) by cmccabe (guest, #60281) [Link]

Searching for "dual boot olpc" brings up a blizzard of articles from 2008 and 2009 suggesting that OLPC is going to be shipping a dual-boot Windows / Linux laptop Real Soon Now. However, if you say that it never actually shipped, then I'll take your word for it. I know a lot of plans changed over the course of the project.

I just think it's sad that OLPC didn't really take advantage of one of the main strengths of open source software-- the ability to build off of an existing codebase. Also, some of the comments Negroponte made about "open source fundamentalism" rubbed me the wrong way.

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 15, 2011 21:29 UTC (Sat) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

there were a lot of articles that claimed that OLPC would be shipping windows, but if you look at the stuff that OLPC actually said, they just said they were adding support for it. it is the various article authors who made the jump into assuming that they would ship windows.

I am also very disappointed with what OLPC did in terms of 'not invented here' and their choice of software to ship, but there's enough misinformation floating around about them having switched to windows that I make it a point to correct that when I see it posted in new comments

MeeGo becomes Tizen - maybe

Posted Oct 16, 2011 7:54 UTC (Sun) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

They did for the most part build on an existing code base – Linux. The new UI on top was one of the more interesting research aspects of the project. The OLPC project tried to produce a system that would be useful to school kids, who would likely have been as unhappy with the then-current incarnations of GNOME or KDE as they would have been with Windows.

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