Mobile UXes - From the DebConf11 BoF to the stars
odyx at debian.org
Thu Sep 8 08:36:17 UTC 2011
This is the sumary of the discussion held at DebConf11 during the "Mobile
UXes" BoF, on 2011-07-29, at 18h00 in the meeting room.
( = tl;dr version = )
( Search for "Proposal" down this mail. )
( Please answer to debian-devel at lists.debian.org only. )
The point of this mail is to inform people and communities of the content of
those discussions and propose a sort-of plan of action. Note that nothing has
been clearly decided there but the discussion was really nice and promising so
I sort-of hope the consensus acknowledged upon there can be reflected online.
= Outline =
0 - Commented overview of the various available stacks
1 - Proposal for future actions and meet-together
= 0 - Commented overview of the various available stacks =
The initial idea to frame the discussion was to share experiences and opinions
about known free software mobile stacks: are they packaged in Debian? What has
been the experience so far? If not, why not?
The main reference to build up this list has been
http://wiki.debian.org/Smartphone, which is still a good reference! Now to the
== Android ==
The Canonical effort  to port an Android execution environment is currently
reported as a dead-end. The most free-software-friendly efforts reported are
IcedRobot  and Replicant . They don't seem ready enough for inclusion in
Debian though but we should keep an eye on them.
== MeeGo ==
Back when the MeeGo project was launched, some hoped it could be Debian-based.
Some persons from the Debian community tried to make that a reality back then
but didn't succeed. Then the pkg-meego team  was formed to get software
produced by the MeeGo project in Debian. This effort has faced a tough reality
with regards to project management, interfaces stability, FHS respect,
trademark policies, etc; and as a result it is currently stalled.
Nowadays, various software pieces produced by or within the MeeGo project are
probably interesting to get in Debian:
- Maliit  it is the input methods solution used in MeeGo (in particular
it's the project behind the Harmattan virtual keyboard / input method;
also used for the N900/N950 Community Edition)
- the Tablet User Experience  released by Intel earlier this year.
- Handheld UX in the MeeGo CE form 
As a side-note; the software released with the Nokia N9 (of which the "swipe"
user interface  is not known to be available as free software) is available
as a downloadable qemu image .
MeeGo CE  is a community effort both to make free MeeGo releases for a few
smartphones, and to make MeeGo as a project more transparent by being an
example of a contributing "vendor". Since the project aims for a product level
quality in the UIs, the packages they've put on top of MeeGo Core and
integrate back to the Core are interesting for Debian as well. Timo Jyrinki
wrote a very interesting blogpost on this topic .
== Maemo ==
Maemo  is the Debian derivative that powers the Nokia N900 that was one
branches of the MeeGo merge. Nowadays, both Maemo 6 and Harmattan (software
basis of the Nokia N9) are reported to be dead-ends. A Debian team  was
formed to work on the inclusion of the Maemo software back in Debian, but it
decided earlier this year that Maemo is a dead end and removed Maemo related
software from Debian .
It could still make sense to package some of the Maemo GTK themes to make
running unmodified GTK applications easier on mobile devices. Openmoko also
== GNOME Mobile & Embedded Initiative ==
The GNOME Mobile & Embedded Initiative was announced in 2007 for developing
and promoting the use of the GNOME platform in mobile devices. It is not
packaged in Debian (although the GNOME team might be able to give more
insightful information) and doesn't seem to have a home on the Internet. It is
part of the Hackable1 distribution (see below).
== KDE Plasma Active ==
From their website: "KDE Plasma Active  aims at creating a cross-device
user experience for emerging devices such as tablet computers, media centers,
smartphones, and more." It is currently not packaged in Debian, but some
members of the pkg-qt-kde team could certainly be interested .
== E17 / Illume ==
Enlightenment  in its 17 "version" is available in Debian right now,
package e17, maintained by the pkg-e team , which would welcome more
== GPE ==
GPE has been in Debian for years. It is more for palmtop devices, a phone
component was produced  but is dead upstream. It is more suitable for
stylus based devices and not that useful for recent mobile devices, not touch
friendly. Upstream development has largely stalled.
== Lower level stuff ==
FSO  and oFono are both in Debian already. The new Vala-based FSO2 stack
is now entering Debian.
== Other stacks ==
Those are software stacks or distributions that were mentioned during the
- The DeforaOS project  releases some Debian packages.
- The QtMoko distribution  is based on Debian Squeeze and packages a
fork of Qt Extended to /opt. Qt Extended is apparently from an old version
- PyNeo, "software for driving a mobile device"  develops python
applications for the user interface and proposes Debian packages.
- Qalee "is a desktop environment designed for the Freerunner" . Their
"official website" hostname hasn't been renewed.
- QuantumSTEP "is a Mac-like Application Platform that can be installed on
existing Linux devices" .
- Hackable1  "is a community distribution for hackable devices like the
Neo Freerunner. It is based on Debian and implements the GNOME mobile
- SHR  "is a GNU/Linux based operating system for smartphones and
similar mobile devices", based on OpenEmbedded.
== Single-user X launchers ==
"Single-user X launchers" were perceived as a prerequisite: nodm and uxlaunch
are both already in Debian and share goals and functionality. Someone should
critically review them both, make sure the greatest functionality set stays
available and drop one of both from the archive.
== Virtual keyboards ==
This topic was mentionned during the meeting as an important issue to solve;
here is the list of (currently) known virtual keyboard implementations:
- Thibault Girka worked on an "On-screen keyboard for g-i" .
- xvkbd is a "software virtual keyboard for X11", currently packaged in
Debian (but without releases since oldstable).
- matchbox-keyboard is an "on-screen keyboard", currently packaged in Debian
(but without upstream releases since 2008).
- "Florence is an extensible scalable virtual keyboard for GNOME" ,
currently packaged in Debian.
- "CellWriter is a grid-entry natural handwriting input panel" ,
currently packaged in Debian (but without releases since oldstable).
- eekboard 
- QtMoko has multiple integrated input methods, including several virtual
- Enlightenment 17 has one integrated virtual keyboard.
- MeeGo has integrated virtual keyboard: Maliit .
- KDE Plasma Active has integrated virtual keyboard .
- GNOME 3 has integrated virtual keyboards [32,33,34]
- "Dasher is an information-efficient text-entry interface, driven by natural
continuous pointing gestures." , currently packaged in Debian.
- And there are certainly many others! *sigh*
 http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/DasherSummary.html ,
= 1 - Proposal for future actions and meet-together =
During the meeting, it has been noted that the effort to bring sensible Mobile
user experiences is currently scattered across many different packaging teams,
communicating trough many different channels. It was then acknowledged that a
merge of those forces under a common umbrella would be a clear improvement of
the current situation.
The proposal was formulated as follows:
a) keep low-level stuff (hardware drivers, kernel, etc) where it belongs:
- debian-kernel at lists.debian.org
- debian-arm at lists.debian.org
- emdebian: http://emdebian.org
b) keep middle-level (dbus interfaces, FSO, etc) where they belong:
- pkg-fso: http://wiki.debian.org/Teams/DebianFSO
- smartphones-userland at linuxtogo.org
- oFono: pkg-telepathy-maintainers
c) Create a new Alioth project, 'mobile-ux', with associated mailing-lists and
a wiki page. The proposed definition of what systems would be the target of
this project is:
- have a user-interface different than the traditional 'keyboard-mouse'
- can be battery-powered,
- have a generally small form-factor and/or
- which only allow few elements on a given screen."
Given reasonable consensus, I plan to request the above-mentionned Alioth
d) Once everybody is registered there, close all now-useless projects, mailing
lists, etc. Merge wiki pages, organize BBQs and have fun!
What is your opinion about all this ? (Please answer to this mail on debian-
devel only [M-F-T and R-T set accordingly].)
Finally, I'd like to thank all attendees of this BoF, which revealed itself
being rather productive and highly interesting. Special thanks go to Timo
Juhani Lindfors and Paul Wise for their help in writing all this down.
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