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Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Aaron Seigo announces pre-registration for the Spark tablet, which is based on Mer OS and Plasma Active, on his blog. "Over the next two months we will be unveiling more and more about Make Play Live on the website. Fun things like the Spark logo and branding will be unveiled; but important information will also start to appear, such as how you can get involved as an app developer, how to join our logistics network on the retail side and further details on our long term roadmap. I'll of course keep you all in the loop here on my blog as things move forward. [...] Head on over to Make Play Live to register your interest now and help us spread the word around the 'net and amongst your friends. Together we can make Spark a terrific success and show the world how great an open device experience can be."
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Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 16:22 UTC (Fri) by leandro (guest, #1460) [Link]

Can I run Debian and Gnome on it? ;-)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 16:38 UTC (Fri) by schessman (guest, #82966) [Link]

From the FAQ
Q: Can I install / boot something on a Spark other than what ships with it?
A: Of course! However, if you break it, you get to keep both pieces. :)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 17:06 UTC (Fri) by aseigo (guest, #18394) [Link]

Absolutely... that's the beauty of open devices (which we believe all devices *ought* be). You buy, you own it, you get to do with it as you see fit.

.. and yes, if you break it in the process you get to keep both pieces. But we support your right to do so :)

If Spark is really successful, I'm confident we'll see entire groups of people working together on all sorts of alternatives. One of the engineers who has a pre-release version of Spark has already successfully brought up Nemo Mer on it :)

Viva la freedom!

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 17:52 UTC (Fri) by tshow (subscriber, #6411) [Link]

What's the plan for app stores/distribution? My company makes (indie) games, and we'd like to port our stuff over.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 17:57 UTC (Fri) by hitmark (guest, #34609) [Link]

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 18:56 UTC (Fri) by tshow (subscriber, #6411) [Link]

Ah, ok. That doesn't look too bad.

I'd like to say, though, that this is a place waiting for someone to really stand out. As a developer and a user, I've worked with a lot of these app stores, and they're pretty much uniformly terrible to use. Hands down the worst is the DSi, followed by the Wii, but none of them are good, including the iOS app store.

Speaking particularly as a game developer, these stores need some kind of subcategory system. If I'm looking for a 4X space strategy sim, in most app stores I'm left rummaging around in a giant bag labeled "games" that contains everything even remotely game related and may have 40,000 things in it, which I can look at 12 at a time sorted in some useless way like alphabetically or by popularity or age. It makes it hard to find what you want, since you have to manually sift through the whole category. On a successful app store with a decent number of apps, doing this to completion could take tens of hours.

I bring this up with games because they're close to my heart (and wallet), but it's a more general problem. "Productivity Apps" or "Developer Apps" or the like cover vast territory, and most software is not named in a way that makes its use or purpose obvious.

Some stores have tried to solve this with tagging, and perhaps that's one answer, but there has to be some sort of mechanism for coping with abuse; in the Wii store, for instance, the StrongBad game has *every* tag; it doesn't matter what you search for, the StrongBad game is in the list. Maybe the answer is crowdsourced tag voting? I'm not sure, but there may be something in this if it's handled properly.

That said, in the case of games, pretty much every game from Tetris-style puzzlers to Street Fighter-style fighting games to racing games to RPGs use the word "strategy" somewhere in their description, as well as "action" and so forth. As long as it's just properties, people are going to tag on every property that even remotely applies. So maybe the tags need weight? Driven by votes? Or by the developer's opinion of how much it applies?

Some stores also try to do the amazon-style "people who bought this also bought..." list. Those sometimes work, but they seem to be unreliable, especially early on. I've once or twice managed to accidentally link a hard-core strategy game with a game for toddlers in some of these stores, by buying something for myself and then for my kids. There's no way to say "but I'm buying this for my wife, so don't link it to the stuff I bought for myself, link it to the other stuff I bought for my wife...".

Apple has tried curated lists in their osx app store, but they seem to be a failed experiment. They have lists of 15 "world domination games" and "galactic games" and the like, but the contents of the lists have barely changed since the mac app store launched. So it's hard to say whether these would be successful if properly curated. It's kind of like judging the potential success of a space program based on your cousin's bottle rocket.

Perhaps the answer is some sort of fuzzy logic scheme with weighted search terms. Or something entirely different. I'm not sure.

Ultimately, the problem is that if you are successful, if the store becomes host to within a couple of orders of magnitude of the number of apps on the iOS store, properly presenting that data to the user in a usefully searchable way is an unsolved problem. Apple certainly hasn't solved it. Neither has Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo, and neither has Steam.

Most of these stores work just fine if you know by name what you're looking for. They fall apart horribly if you know generally what you want, or if you just want to browse a vague category like "hex editors" or "diff tools" or "turn-based tactics games".

I don't know if there *is* a good solution to this problem. I do know it's important to try to find one, though, and the current stores should be taken as examples of what not to do as much as the converse.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 20:10 UTC (Fri) by notmart (guest, #82973) [Link]

> If I'm looking for a 4X space strategy sim, in most app stores I'm left rummaging around in a giant bag labeled "games" that contains everything even remotely game related

yep, this is so true ;)
(I must say i pretty much agree to this article http://tinyurl.com/75bv83r let's see how much better or worse we'll be able to do ;)
the store architecture allows for structures of tag driven categories, allowing to narrow down the search. This was thought for books at start (genre, author, year...) but games looks like another valid use case for this.

> So maybe the tags need weight? Driven by votes? Or by the developer's opinion of how much it applies?

hmm, crowdsourcing the validity of tags could be a good idea for future iterations, yeah

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 20:51 UTC (Fri) by tshow (subscriber, #6411) [Link]

Developers trying to game the store is a major problem in most of the stores. One of the reasons Apple keeps their app store rules so vague is so they don't have to justify draconian action when they catch people gaming the system. When they threw out TapJoy's stuff, for instance, it was because (as far as anyone can tell) they decided that TapJoy's "install that game to get stuff in this game" promotions were gaming the rankings by driving traffic from popular games to targeted apps.

The social democrat in me would rather see a system that prevents (most) cheating without requiring a tyrant. As always, there are always going to be some people who cheat the system; as long as it can do interesting things, people will find a way to make it cheat.

I'm not on board with the DRM/SOPA/ACTA "we can fix that by making it hostile/useless!" solution, so logically I have to accept that there will be some shenanigans. I'd like to find a way to minimize the impact without taking away capabilities, and I'm hoping crowdsourcing of some sort will help, and more finegrained categories will limit the damage.

Actual proper search is a good idea, but the question is what to use to search. PageRank was a good idea, but there's no real equivalent that I can see in an app store; apps don't link other apps, and unless the OS is going to include intrusive telemetry there's no way to track usage patterns. User comments historically trend towards the vague; "excellent app, but it crashes at level 5, 3/5 stars." doesn't give a search engine much to work with. Developer blurbs are often useless and hyperbolic.

If anything, it almost seems like the solution is to troll (in the fishing sense) the web for references rather than trolling the text in the app store itself.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 22:26 UTC (Fri) by oever (subscriber, #987) [Link]

How about a system with tags where each tag has a price. The system works by giving you e.g. three tags for free and for each other tag you pay a price upon sale. That means that a larger percentage of the sales prices stays with the store. You can think of this as buying space on a shelf in the supermarket. Popular tags would cost more. You can choose a limit on the percentage that can be substracted. You provide a list of tags that is used and if the total value of the tags exceeds the price, then only the tags from the top of the list, that fit in the budget will be used.

This will only work for paid apps. Free apps have a limited fixed tag budget.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 18, 2012 7:02 UTC (Sat) by elanthis (guest, #6227) [Link]

Companies that actually sell things will just buy tags (it's buying _advertising_ after all, and that's what we do) that they think even slightly matter. Also, "free" apps are hard to classify in today's environment. Just because I don't charge for the app itself doesn't mean that I'm not making money off it, between in-app payments, in-app advertisements, and product synergy.

In the end, users don't search for apps with tags (aside from the very broadest categories) that much anyway. The app store is going to have a group of people whose job is to select "featured" apps and place them on the front page before users even select tags. That's where users find apps. And that's what app developers strive to get into.

The rest of the users are going to find apps via Internet links, so it's very important to make sure there's a URL scheme for loading up a particular app in the app store from the device's browser. That way a review of the game on GameSpot or PocketGamer or whatever can link directly to the app info/purchase screen in the user's phone.

(Bonus points for making this an HTTP URL and not an actual HTTP scheme, in which the device browser detects the URL and loads the app page internally but other browsers load up a regular page, allowing the user to view and purchase apps on their PCs by logging into their app store account, and then have it automatically downloaded to their device.)

The silly model that the Linux package repos keep pushing of the 50 categories and sub-categories and split-up packages aren't how users work.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 18, 2012 12:27 UTC (Sat) by aleXXX (subscriber, #2742) [Link]

I'd say "free apps" as in Free Software, i.e. the license matters.

Alex

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 18, 2012 20:27 UTC (Sat) by tshow (subscriber, #6411) [Link]

You're arguing for the apple app store model here, and the apple app store is frankly a disaster.

Sure, it's working great for apple, but it's a pile of crap for the users and the developers.

The curated "featured" section is designed to turn the app store into a lottery for developers, with everyone scrambling over each other to get featured. Featured apps pull in more money in a day than a non-featured app pulls in over its lifetime.

As a result, you've got everyone gaming the system.

As an example, apple drives their featured page based on popularity. They shut down at christmas, though, so all the big publishers drop their apps to free or minimum price right before christmas so they can ride through the holiday in the featured list while the apple folks are on hiatus.

It's a stupid system unless you're the owner and you don't care about small developers.

The featured section is useless for users too, unless all you want from the machine is to play throwaway casual games. There are too many useful and interesting things to fit on a featured page.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 11, 2012 17:34 UTC (Wed) by steffen780 (guest, #68142) [Link]

As a user of the Android market I could not agree more with your sentiments. Finding serious games in the store is so much work I've pretty much given up on it. Add to that arbitrary restrictions on the size of mobile downloads and a completely useless search function (as you can't even filter out e.g. paid games - I don't have a credit card and will not get one just to buy a 5€-game; nor can you search and then order the search results; nor can you search within the search results) and you've got a complete usability disaster. It's very sad indeed that this is the best you can get in a mainstream system (from the descriptions here I take away that Apple's store is roughly the same).

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 11, 2012 17:47 UTC (Wed) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

It's very sad indeed that this is the best you can get in a mainstream system (from the descriptions here I take away that Apple's store is roughly the same).

This is sad, true, but the saddest part is that this awful experience (which can be explained by the newness of it all: both Apple's Appstore and Google Play are less then four years old) and is still better then what you have in Linux (after more then decade of development).

Finding serious games in the store is so much work… - 100% agree. But compare it the experience of finding serious game on Debian or Ubuntu!

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 7:40 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

this awful experience (which can be explained by the newness of it all: both Apple's Appstore and Google Play are less then four years old) and is still better then what you have in Linux (after more then decade of development)

Personally I find it a lot easier to locate stuff in the Debian repository than in Google Play. For example, the Debian repository supports tags and searching through software descriptions.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 7:53 UTC (Thu) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

Personally I find it a lot easier to locate stuff in the Debian repository than in Google Play. For example, the Debian repository supports tags and searching through software descriptions.

How nice of you to ignore the real question. Steffen780 initially complained that task of finding serious games in the [Google Play] Store is just too hard sometimes. Well, that's true, I can agree. Now, please explain how the fact that Debian repository supports tags and searching through software descriptions helps you to find games which are not in the repository in the first place!

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 8:16 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

Steffen780's observation that it is hard to find »serious games« in the Google Play store is not due to the fact that there aren't any there to find (I would think there are), but that it is difficult to tell them from the junk games, especially since there are probably 100 junk games for every »serious game« in the search results. This is presumably what Steffen780 means when he calls the Google Play search function »completely useless« and the store itself a »usability disaster«.

Within the Debian repository, these usability problems are arguably addressed in a better way. Whether there actually are games in the Debian repository that you would consider »serious« is irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is the usability of app store/repository search results. (Chances are that, according to you, anything that is in fact in the Debian repository can't be a »serious game« in the first place. I can personally find enough games in the Debian repository to keep myself »seriously« entertained but that is probably because I'm not much of a gamer to begin with and my tastes aren't that jaded.)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 8:50 UTC (Thu) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

Whether there actually are games in the Debian repository that you would consider »serious« is irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is the usability of app store/repository search results.

100% pure, unadulterated, distilled BULLSHIT.

The very same process which produces nice-to-use tags and desriptions excludes “serious” (== high-budget) games from said repo. It's flip side of the very same coin!

The end result:
    Google Play Store - it's hard to find the thing you want to find.
    Debian repo - it's impossible to find the thing you are seeking.

I'll pick “hard to do” over “impossible to do” any day of week, thank you very much.

You can find few “serious games” in Debian repo (things like Quake) but if you'll install them and try to run them you'll find out that you can not do this because they don't include the actual game, they only include game engine! And you'll need to continue your search till you find the actual game somewhere else. Sure, you can use said game engine to play some fan-made levels, but it's hard to call the experience a “serious game”, sorry.

I can personally find enough games in the Debian repository to keep myself »seriously« entertained but that is probably because I'm not much of a gamer to begin with and my tastes aren't that jaded.

But that's just the thing: most games in Debian are at level of “junk games” in Google Play Store, it's not hard to find these there either. Believe me it's not hard to find solitaire or some ugly race game in Google Play Store!

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 10:36 UTC (Thu) by spaetz (subscriber, #32870) [Link]

> 100% pure, unadulterated, distilled BULLSHIT.

I've had it. It's a pity to exclude an obviously smart person that says true and interesting things at times. But I am not willing to have half of the LWN comments cluttered by someone who is that agressive and repeatedly insults people rather than respecting that the world might consist of different opinions than ones own. Sometimes its smarter to just let a topic go even if you disagree. My filter list is an entry richer now. Sorry for the noise.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 10:43 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

Two points:

  • The shortcomings of the Google Play store with respect to navigation apply to all types of media available there, not just games. In particular, the same usability criticisms can be made based on application types which are well-represented in the Debian repository.
  • The Debian ecosystem, due to what the project aims at and how it works, isn't especially geared towards »serious games«, so it doesn't come as a big surprise that there aren't that many of them available from the Debian repositories. You might as well complain that there are so few underwater BBQ sites for scuba divers. Try to find »serious software development tools« in the Google Play store and compare the results to the Debian repository. What, no Eclipse on Android? Android must really suck. It is doomed!

And there's no need for that language. Go wash your mouth out with soap.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 11:37 UTC (Thu) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

Third point:

Most shortcomings of Google Play can be fixed and/or alleviated. The problem of _lack_ of good games is much harder to fix.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 19:35 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

It really depends on what one considers »good«.

There are loads of »good« games for Linux as far as I'm concerned, but as I said I'm not much of a game enthusiast, so the bar is pretty low. Many »independent« games these days target Linux as well as Windows and the Mac and I'm told they can be quite entertaining.

Of course if your definition of a »good« game is »one from a big-name game programming outfit that just came out for Windows« then you're probably going to be disappointed most of the time.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 20:09 UTC (Thu) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

Many »independent« games these days target Linux as well as Windows and the Mac and I'm told they can be quite entertaining.

We were talking about Debian repo, remember? How many of these »independent« games can be found there?

As for »serious software development tools«… we'll probably see them in Google Play Store before 2027 (that's when Google Play Store will be as old as Debian is today).

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 20:43 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

We were talking about Debian repo, remember? How many of these »independent« games can be found there?

I told you before that to be in the Debian repository a package must be distributable by Debian. Stuff you're expected to pay for is generally not distributable by Debian, which if having to pay for something is part of your definition of »good« is a bit of a show-stopper, but derives from the principles on which the Debian project is founded. You give the impression of having been around the block often enough to know about these, so I'll assume here that you're just being obtuse to be obtuse.

There would be (and I think I said this before, too) no problem whatsoever in putting up a for-pay »app store« for games that will run on Debian. This could integrate smoothly with the Debian packaging system and enable the use of whatever convenient libraries Debian provides already. We just need somebody to want this badly enough. Here this discussion turns full circle.

we'll probably see them in Google Play Store before 2027 (that's when Google Play Store will be as old as Debian is today).

We may see them then if we will actually be able to find them in the store among the millions of apps that are not worth anybody's trouble. There will probably be 10.000 software development tools available, 9.995 of which will be useless and/or unusable junk, and we can just hope that the Google Play store folks get their act together in time so we can tell which ones are which without having to look at them all, one app at a time.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 20:49 UTC (Thu) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

doesn't Ubuntu have an integrated software store where you can buy commercial software as well as using everything in the plain repository?

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 12, 2012 22:32 UTC (Thu) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

Yup. It includes small smattering of things (things like Acrobat Reader or DB2… Java was also there till Oracle decided to pull the plug). Most of games are not there either (in fact the last time I've checked partners repo have not included games at all).

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 13, 2012 2:40 UTC (Fri) by spaetz (subscriber, #32870) [Link]

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Games/NativeNonFreeComm...

yeah, it contains at least 14 nonfree for-pay games, magazine offerings and whatnot. in fact it quite resembles an app store, by now..

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 13, 2012 3:01 UTC (Fri) by spaetz (subscriber, #32870) [Link]

uh, my bad. it seems the games at above link are not necesarily in the ubuntu software store. but they definitively have for-pay content now too.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Apr 13, 2012 10:22 UTC (Fri) by kklimonda (subscriber, #60089) [Link]

Hmm.. why not? I can definitely buy them from the Ubuntu Software Center

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 24, 2012 16:59 UTC (Fri) by tshow (subscriber, #6411) [Link]

Looks like Apple just bought Chomp.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 18, 2012 13:11 UTC (Sat) by jnareb (subscriber, #46500) [Link]

Perhaps some variation of old (and abandoned) hierarchical Trove categories like the ones found time ago on Sourceforge and Freshmeat (now Freecode).

Limiting number of tags and/or tag voting (crowdsourcing) could work as well.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 28, 2012 11:33 UTC (Tue) by ortalo (subscriber, #4654) [Link]

I do not believe in a library without a librarian (btw, fingers crossed, hoping that word exists in english... ;-); or alternatively a bookshop without an owner. So, maybe a store needs to open access to third parties that would simply organize its shelves (or a subset of them). The magic of software (versus real libraries) is that you may even have several redundant organizations (store views?) offering exactly the same products in a different layout.
In my humble opinion, anything entirely automatic is nearly doomed (or should be designed as a search engine).

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 17:07 UTC (Fri) by cmorgan (guest, #71980) [Link]

It would be useful to know where the holes in the software currently were. I signed up for a Spark so I could get involved in development of software for mobile devices but there doesn't see to be much information on the spark site about the todo or wishlists or how to get started developing etc.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 17, 2012 18:08 UTC (Fri) by aleXXX (subscriber, #2742) [Link]

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 18, 2012 3:05 UTC (Sat) by sebas (subscriber, #51660) [Link]

http://community.kde.org/Plasma/Active and #active on Freenode as well.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 20, 2012 7:49 UTC (Mon) by bgmarete (subscriber, #47484) [Link]

It's a real pity that it does not offer in-built 3G/HSDPA access (with an internal SIM card slot). I don't want to have to connect a USB 3G stick to this. From the point of view of the market in which I reside, where almost all consumer broadband access is via fast 3G networks, I think that was a serious oversight.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 20, 2012 18:00 UTC (Mon) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

Well, more stuff is coming - just keep an eye out :D

The goal of this first version is to cover most use cases - not all.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 20, 2012 22:11 UTC (Mon) by bgmarete (subscriber, #47484) [Link]

Cool. Actually I plan to still purchase one, notwithstanding that expected inconvenience in it's use. I don't think I can wait for the next iteration :) Speaking of which, do you know when the next iteration is expected?

Thanks!

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 20, 2012 19:26 UTC (Mon) by sturmflut (guest, #38256) [Link]

I'm not sure what to think about this. The Tablet is just a re-branded Zenithink C71 which can be bought for half the price with Android pre-installed, so Mer OS and Plasma Active "cost" about 120 US-$. That's more than the price of a Windows license for a piece of software which is completely new and has no community support. The Spark Tablet doesn't even run Skype or any other relevant piece of tablet software, even though the original Zenithink C71 with Android does.

And I'm not really okay with one of the main KDE developers using his high profile and the relatively good name of an open source project to promote a commercial device without telling who is behind it. We know nothing about "Coherent Theory LLC". The company hides behind a WHOIS-Anonymizer and doesn't have a website. Does the KDE project get its share out of this? Is "Coherent Theory LLC" Seigos private company?

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 21, 2012 6:25 UTC (Tue) by blujay (guest, #39961) [Link]

Good points.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 21, 2012 15:10 UTC (Tue) by wookey (subscriber, #5501) [Link]

Why wouldn't it run skype? Do skype not make ARM builds for linux available? That's the problem with proprietary software - you only get what they deign to give you.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 22, 2012 6:10 UTC (Wed) by rqosa (subscriber, #24136) [Link]

> Why wouldn't it run skype?

I'm guessing that's because the Android version of it is only available from the Android Market, and you can't access that unless you have the Market app, which itself is not available for download and is only available pre-installed on Android-trademark-compliant hardware.

(Of course, the software ecosystem around mobile devices being like this currently is the reason why we need an open mobile platform like Plasma Active / Mer / Spark.)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 22, 2012 12:51 UTC (Wed) by wookey (subscriber, #5501) [Link]

But we don't want the android version of skype - that's not relevant (and probably wouldn't work). We want the linux version of Skype. But maybe there simply isn't one for ARM?

As you point out skype is best avoided anyway. Unfortunately that can sometimes be difficult in practice if you have to deal with a lot of less-enlightened people (and it does do a better job of dealing with NATed-both-ends situations than most free software, sadly).

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 22, 2012 23:45 UTC (Wed) by rqosa (subscriber, #24136) [Link]

> But we don't want the android version of skype - that's not relevant (and probably wouldn't work).

Well, at least it should eventually become possible to run something like CyanogenMod on this hardware. (And don't forget IcedRobot — though their website seems to be misconfigured at the moment…)

> it does do a better job of dealing with NATed-both-ends situations than most free software

There's IGD / UPnP for temporarily adding a port forwarding rule to a NAT router, and NAT doesn't cause problems for SIP if there are appropriate port forwarding rules in use. (And if you only want to run a SIP client on one IP address behind the NAT, then you can just set up a static port forwarding rule.)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 29, 2012 15:35 UTC (Wed) by JanC_ (guest, #34940) [Link]

IGD & UPnP might be useful at home, but not in most companies or in public places with a WiFi hotspot...

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 22, 2012 6:20 UTC (Wed) by rqosa (subscriber, #24136) [Link]

> The Spark Tablet doesn't even run Skype

Is there some reason you can't use SIP instead?

(Considering that a major motivation for developing the Plasma Active / Mer / Spark platform is to have a viable alternative to the walled garden that is the Android Market, complaining that it doesn't support the other walled garden that is Skype is kind of missing the point of the whole venture.)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 22, 2012 6:57 UTC (Wed) by rqosa (subscriber, #24136) [Link]

Oh, and also:

> or any other relevant piece of tablet software

Presumably there is (or will be) some community-developed Android rebuild available that run on this device, so any Android app that can run on the Zenithink C71 should be compatible with this system too — but the app needs to be available as a plain .apk download, or some other way that doesn't require you to have Google's Android Market app pre-installed. (For example, the Opera Android app store seems to let you download the .apk packages from a plain web browser on any system.)

(And it really is a scary trend that so many pieces of software now, including free-as-in-zero-price proprietary software and pay-to-download proprietary software, can't even be (legally) obtained by anyone who hasn't purchased a particular hardware device that has a particular "app store" / "market" client program pre-installed. Consider what it was like 1-2 decades ago, for example: most desktop-PC-oriented software was proprietary, yes, but all it took to obtain it was to download it from a public HTTP or FTP server (for gratis-ware) or buy a physical disc (for pay-ware). We shouldn't let Google and Apple establish a duopoly over all distribution channels for software!)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 23, 2012 7:12 UTC (Thu) by geuder (subscriber, #62854) [Link]

> Is there some reason you can't use SIP instead?

I can (and sometimes do), you can, LWN readers can. But if we have a social life and want to communicate with somebody outside of that community?

> (Considering that a major motivation for developing the Plasma Active / Mer / Spark platform is to have a viable alternative to the walled garden that is the Android Market, complaining that it doesn't support the other walled garden that is Skype is kind of missing the point of the whole venture.)

Well, there is a difference what potential spark users want to do for themselves on their own machine. There they probably want to stay out of all walled gardens. But when they want to interact with others, they sometimes might to be forced to do something they might not really want.

So would Spark and similar products need Android on free software? Just the opposite way as Ubuntu on Android. I know nothing about Android licensing and have know idea how feasible that is legally and commercially. Technically it should not be that hard.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 23, 2012 8:10 UTC (Thu) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

I know nothing about Android licensing and have know idea how feasible that is legally and commercially.

This has nothing to do with Android licensing and everything to do with Skype licensing. Ask Microsoft :-)

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 23, 2012 22:34 UTC (Thu) by geuder (subscriber, #62854) [Link]

> This has nothing to do with Android licensing and everything to do with Skype licensing. Ask Microsoft :-)

Either you did not read my comment or I expressed myself unclearly. My (wild) idea was to put a fully legal Android user space in parallel to the Mer stack. That would give users access to the Android market (which has Skype for ARM AFAIK and probably other goodies people don't want to miss). Do you really want to claim this could be done without any Android licensing?

If we had the market, but Microsoft chose to block the Skype app for these kind of devices that might still be possible. I'm pretty sure the app vendor can declare their apps just incompatible with whatever device they don't want to support. But that would "only" be the second hurdle.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 23, 2012 22:57 UTC (Thu) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

My (wild) idea was to put a fully legal Android user space in parallel to the Mer stack.

Ok, I'm with you so far.

That would give users access to the Android market (which has Skype for ARM AFAIK and probably other goodies people don't want to miss).

Android market is not part of Android. It's part of separate Google's package.

Do you really want to claim this could be done without any Android licensing?

No. You've talked about Android, not about Android Market. You can legally install Android on anything you want including bookreaders and your fridge (there are tons of different things which use Android including Nook Color and Kindle Fire), but then you'll need to either create separate market for it (like Amazon and B&N did) or you can just ask developers to publish .apk files.

I'm pretty sure the app vendor can declare their apps just incompatible with whatever device they don't want to support.

Yup. App vendor can declare app incompatible, carrier may ask for the ban, etc. To make it all work Android Market is licensed to handset manufacturers quite separately from the Android itself.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 24, 2012 0:03 UTC (Fri) by geuder (subscriber, #62854) [Link]

> Android market is not part of Android. It's part of separate Google's package.

Sorry, I'm not so familiar with their exact terminology and licensing. I would have just expected that the brand "Android" covers their whole business and needs to be licensed commercially while the open source core has a less known name, like AOSP.

What you call Google's package is what I meant with making it commercially available. Obviously with just installing the open source core you won't get access to their closed parts and the commercial goodies.

Seigo: Spark pre-order registration is open!

Posted Feb 24, 2012 3:05 UTC (Fri) by rqosa (subscriber, #24136) [Link]

> making it commercially available

The real issue is that currently Google only makes it (the Market app) available to end-users in the form of pre-installed software on certain specific hardware devices (i.e. ones for which the manufacturer has licensed the "Android" name from Google). I believe it's possible to run the Market on community-developed rebuilds of Android (e.g. CyanogenMod), by way of making a backup of all the pre-installed Google apps as part of the OS installation process. (And maybe you could even copy the Market app from a Google-licensed Android device you have to another device that doesn't already have it and run it there, though doing that might be a license violation.)

Like I said in the other post, though, we really should demand that the app developers make their apps available to anyone on the Internet (or any paying customer, in the case of non-gratis software) rather than using the Market as the only distribution channel, because otherwise Google will have a vertical monopoly over the distribution channel for Android software (something that even Microsoft and Apple haven't had over MS-DOS/Windows and MacOS software, though Apple is probably trying to get one by way of the Mac App Store). One alternative distribution channel that exists now is the Opera Android app store, which (currently, at least) allows apps to be downloaded from a plain web browser running on any kind of hardware.


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