Linux on the iPhone?

Linux on the iPhone?

Summary: Of course, after Apple develops an elegant and perfectly understandable mobile UI, Linux hackers want to tear it down. Bring on the OpenMoko, Android or Ubuntu Mobile for the iPhone.


Linux on the iPhone?Of course, after Apple develops an elegant and perfectly understandable mobile UI, Linux hackers want to tear it down. Bring on the OpenMoko, Android or Ubuntu Mobile for the iPhone.

I enjoyed a recent post by PlanetBeing on the Linux on the iPhone blog. It was an attempt to justify why someone would want to spend a tremendous amount of time to bring Linux to the iPhone, when he or she could "just develop on an open platform instead with no such wasted effort?"

Good question, dude.

PlanetBeing says he doesn't want to buy other less-polished platforms just for a hack; he likes the iPhone. And the "knowledge that we are gaining/will have gained about the iPhone hardware will be of incredible practical value to the homebrew iPhone community."

However, when push comes to shove, it's really all about "choice," he says.

Perhaps my most important point is how iPhone Linux will affect the various open platforms in development. The iPhone has revolutionized the way the market thinks about mobile computing and now several mobile platforms are in development: OpenMoko, Google's Android, and Mobile Ubuntu (thought the last is not targeted for phones). All of these projects are based on Linux, and "based on Linux" means that, by definition, they "use the Linux kernel" and the Linux kernel is exactly what we're porting. As long as the kernel works, the rest of the operating system will barely need to be touched at all! (Fine print: provided that the working configuration of the kernel can support all the features the userland requires).

Imagine OpenMoko on the iPhone. Android on the iPhone. Ubuntu Mobile on the iPhone. Consumers will have choice, and not some Linux-hippie idealistic choice-for-the-sake-of-choice choice: All of these platforms have major momentum behind them and it is very possible they will end up being better than the iPhone's platform (have better UI, more application support, etc.).

Also, imagine what it will mean for the developers of these platforms: A ready userbase of millions of users. If many people can already install and try out one of these platforms, it'll be far easier to attract users to buy the hardware, and developers to develop for the platform. Thus, I do not believe we are harming the open platforms by developing on the iPhone. In fact, if all goes well, we will be allowing them to conquer the Apple iPhone.

Just imagine! Yikes!

Well, after playing around for a while with the only Android phone on the market, I can say that Google's current iteration of a "better UI" has a long way to go. The polish of Apple's UI is evident in seconds.

Last week, they were able to read the NAND file system. A first step...

Topics: Software, iPhone, Linux, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems

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  • Open source parasites

    Nothing like preaching Open Source after someone spends tens of millions to develop a first-class piece of hardware.

    If it wasn't for google (a for-profit perhaps even more evil than MS), there wouldn't be an android either.

    These open source guys really have to see the forest for the trees. You need a multimillion dollar corporation to develop hardware, and if you've already sold your soul to the devil to get the hardware, who really cares if the OS is open source or not?

    In the case of the iPhone, the UI and the hardware are the key elements -- *not* the OS.
    • Oh bo hoo!

      If people want to put Android on their iPhone its their right. They paid for the device after all.

      Find something else to whine about.
    • Well I guess we should not install anything..

      on our computer/devices since most of them were not designed to run Linux, WRONG. If someone buys an iPhone and wants to run DOS 6.0 on it, more power to him/her.
    • I guess you'd have a problem...

      ...With running Linux on an XBox then? (Microsoft sure does!)

      Funny, Sony doesn't mind if you tinker with the PS2 or PS3.
    • How evil is MS?

      [i]If it wasn't for google (a for-profit perhaps even more evil than MS), there wouldn't be an android either.[/i]

      The phrasing seems to indicate that MS is inordinately evil and that Google might not be able to surpass MS in pure evilness. Of course, it might be that MS is only a little bit evil, and the bar is thus set low enough that Google could be more evil without any overt attempt to be evil.

      So, since you've asserted that MS is evil, back to the original question - How evil is MS?
    • What's the problem?

      Apple makes all their money on hardware. OS-X on their computer lineup is simply to allow for high margin hardware sales. So where is the foul? Is Apple still paid for the unit?

      If we didn't have "hackers", we would have no Linux, no OS-X (based on BSD, developed for many years before Apple forked it) and every computer would be locked down to Windows and Windows only. Imagine a world without either of these two hacker OSes.

      Seriously, Would we still be languishing with 2K, IE4, $2800 computers?

  • Core dumps on iPhone?

    TYBNT. :-)
  • I never heard...

    people wish for Windows on the Commodore or the Atari or the whatever. Nor would anyone dream of putting Mac OSX on a Nokia.

    When are you folks going to get over it: The Wintel market is not the same as the Apple market.

    Apple designs and manufactures splendid hardware and splendid software primarily for its own products.

    So that's it. Deal with it. Buy it or not. But the dreams of other platforms on an iPhone are pathetic!
    • The facination is from the threat of this

      If Apple OSX went truly open source, it would instantly blow Linux out of the water. Now that Apple is doing better that won't happen but some of us like to play a little with it on our PCs.
      • It can't.

        It is BSD based, you can't enforce retrograte to GPL2 or GPL3 for the OS. As for blowing Linux out of the water, it's been tried for years and years. Anything useful and good from an open sourced OS-X would be sucked into mainstream code in 2 weeks for everyone to use and that would be the end of it.

        But, like I said, they can't open source it. You can take BSD and make it your own, add and never give back, but you can't take BSD code and then open it up as real open source.

  • Why does this matter to anybody?

    If someone wants to tinker with their own hardware by putting different software on it, how does this adversely affect you? And how do you be so certain that they cannot come up with a better solution than the one that already exists?
    Michael Kelly
    • RE: Why ... ?

      Why so many rhetorical questions?

      Why provoke thinking?

      Why did you do that?

      Why not just call it the day, eh?


  • Elegant? Aren't you the one that blows it away every few months?

    If that is an elegant solution, what isn't elegant? I got a kick out of the implied slam to those who don't want to use the Apple UI. Amazingly enough, some people might want to use the hardware they purchase in a way that is different than the way Apple decides you will use the hardware.

    You know, back in the old days when someone wanted to use computer hardware they liked without being forced to endure the mandatory OS that came with it? :D

    • Back in the old days it was nothing but mandatory OSes...

      [i]"You know, back in the old days when someone wanted
      to use computer hardware they liked without being forced
      to endure the mandatory OS that came with it?"[/i]

      Back in the old days it was nothing but mandatory OSes.
      They also costed a [i]lot[/i] of money to develop for. That's
      why UNIX and eventually Linux initially became some
      popular; they were cheap to use and free to develop for
      (with Linux being the free UNIX.)

      Your options haven't increased much. Your choice for
      your PC is Windows, Linux, or UNIX.

      Your choice for a Mac is also Windows, Linux, or UNIX and
      OS X.

      It would be neat if companies invested in their own Linux
      or UNIX like Apple did, but also made it available for any
      platform (unlike Apple.) You'd buy the hardware you want
      and a company could push their own Linux. However,
      regardless of the computer you buy or the OS you choose,
      all the binaries would be compatible and no single
      company would control the market (like Microsoft.)

      HP's starting to push their own Linux. I can hope. :)
      • They are though, MSI's lame efforts excluded.

        They are really re-skinning Linux, Linpus Linux Lite, Ubuntu Re-Mix, tweaked Xandros, HP's new offerings, Splashtop coming near you, Android, they are all based on a common kernel, but are finally offering a choice for consumers. As time passes, I can see them all customizing the skins more and more, and I am seriously excited about the way KDE 4.2 is developing. In terms of polish and eye candy and look and feel, imho, OS-X has nothing over, for example, the new Mandriva live CD with KDE 4.2.

        That is going on my netbook once finished. Anyway, all this choice is MS's worst nightmare, choice does away with their business model. Tell me this doesn't affect MS.

        For $50 less, you get a fully features, application rich, turn key solution. For $50 more you get XP Home Basic, the requirement to purchase AV, anti-malware and it comes with notepad and IE. Woohoo.

        Of course, per MS mandate, Dell was forced to provide two models, one with slightly different hardware to obfuscate the price of WIndows, but right there, in plain print, a full computer ahead of the Redmond machine, advertised to millions of homes. Dell would NOT be doing this if it was at all worried about extra returns. i.e. not taking MSI's lame approach of shipping a failed install of a stock Linux distro.

      • Another thought.

        Imagine the choice once Windows 7 is released. You have an untenable situation with XP Home Basic (beyond obsolete and already useless for business), Vista in between and Windows 7 (which I predict will run better than Vista, at least be possible, maybe on SSD based netbooks).

        Is MS going to price discount Windows 7 to $14 (or is it $10) for netbooks while enforcing $79 for it's cheapest version on non netbooks? XP has helped stifle and forestall more Linux netbooks sales, but seriously, looking at the above ad, will you really want to pay $129 more for the same machine with Windows?

        I doubt there is any way they will get it to less than 8 gig installed and still be compatible with regular desktop versions, so the minimum machine will be 1 gig of ram, 16 gig SSD drive and $79 for the OS, probably making the Ubuntu based machine $279 (a year from now) and the lowest 7 based machine $489.

        It will be fun to watch as MS is eventually unseated by the very thing that made them what they are today, severely undercut on price until all competition folds. :D