Linux Blog Safari: Android’s True Nature, Reasons Not to Use Ubuntu and More

With Google’s Android rollout this week, hand in hand with the creation of the Open Handset Alliance, the Linux community has had plenty to discuss regarding the platform, its openness, and what it would all mean for wireless users.

There was considerable debate on Slashdot, as you might expect, focusing on whether Android is essentially more of a phone or more of a platform, as well as what part of the cellular market it targets.

“I’ve already seen people earlier today making dire predictions about how Google is not going to be able to compete with the iPhone or how they prefer phones based on Symbian … and I think these people are completely missing Google’s whole plan,” wrote MrLizardo. “I’m sure that initially phones based on Android will fall closer to the smartphone price range, but I can’t help but think that eventually Google has to be aiming at the free-to-(US)$50 phones. The ‘just a basic phone’ market is an area in desperate need of a unified platform.”

How Open Is Open?

Emerging markets could be Google’s primary motivation for targeting the low end of the market, MrLizardo adds. “What’s in it for Google? Making sure that their page is the first one a couple billion people see the first time they get on the Internet is probably worth it.”

Perhaps a bigger point being debated on the blogs, however, is the question of just how open Android will be.

“As far as I see it, Google mobile platform is the same thing inside an OS package,” wrote siddesu. “The platform will be ‘open’ to carriers and makers who are participants of the Google alliance. However, nowhere in the Google materials have I seen a commitment to make the phone open to the outside developers. Nor does it make any sense for them to open it.

“Depending on how it is rolled out, we may see some sources, but likely we’ll never have a chance to apply a patch to the OS actually in the device, or build an application outside of whatever sandbox they put in the OS,” siddesu added. “There will likely be APIs (application programming interfaces) and widgets tied to the Google servers and services, but hardly much freedom beyond that.”

Operators in Control

Indeed, “Google has to work with the existing operators in place, and they’re the ones putting up these walled gardens,” Richard Monson-Haefel, senior analyst with Burton Group, told LinuxInsider. “Operators in the end still have complete control over what’s going on.”

For a truly open platform to happen, Google would either have to capture 700 MHz wireless spectrum in the upcoming Federal Communications Commission auction, or it would have to “convince another carrier to completely change their business model,” Monson-Haefel added.

Until that happens, “Google is glossing over the fact that it really doesn’t control the platform,” he said.

Still, “this validates how Linux is the right platform for mobile devices,” Dan Cauchy, director of marketing for MontaVista and the new chairman of the Linux Foundation’s Carrier Grade Linux Workgroup, told LinuxInsider. “It’s really good for the industry, and it will mean that handset manufacturers can build a phone in a few months rather than a year.”

Ubuntu vs. the Rest

A veritable tempest broke out on Linux Today’s blog when Mark Hinkle posted “Top 10 Reasons Not to Use Ubuntu” last week. Included in his post, which actually extolled Ubuntu, were such “objections” as “too few viruses,” “no expensive office suites” and “too well documented.”

Bproffitt wrote: “I really dislike how articles/blogs like this act as if Ubuntu is the only Linux out there. These same statements apply to pretty much all Linux distros available, yet the author centers it around Ubuntu. Can the Ubuntu fanboy crowd get over themselves and join the rest of the Linux community for a change?”

Others, however, took a more pragmatic approach. “It’s really funny that I see forum after forum always the same arguments between Taliban-geeks attacking each other trying to have ‘the only true: my linux is better than yours’ … meanwhile, users are like sheeps, they don’t care about how the grass grows, as long as they can eat it,” wrote Terrell Prude’ Jr. “What a waste of energy.”

Ubuntu has taken a different route than other distributions with its focus on user-friendliness, Carl Richell, cofounder of System76, told LinuxInsider. System76 provides Ubuntu preloaded laptops, desktops and servers.

That’s not to say, however, that it’s the only distribution, he added. “It isn’t going to be a fit for everyone,” Richell said. “But choice is an excellent thing, and that’s a large part of what Linux is all about.”

CentOS vs. Red Hat

Finally, the coexistence of Red Hat and CentOS also drew a lot of debate on the blogs. Slashdot’s CmdrTaco posed the question “Is CentOS Hurting Red Hat?” on Sunday, and no fewer than 361 comments have followed.

“Even if we accept that CentOS does hurt Red Hat, what can Red Hat actually do about it?” wrote Jezz. “The GPL (General Public License) stops them from squashing the product — which is exactly the point of the GPL. The GPL provides CentOS with a cast-iron defense from Red Hat’s legal team. Even if it didn’t the reaction of users if RedHat did move against CentOS would be quite something.

“I’m pretty sure RedHat hate[s] CentOS, why all the coy legal mumbo jumbo about who the upstream vendor is otherwise?” Jezz continued. “But actually I see no real downside for RedHat. If you want to “learn” RedHat then CentOS is as good as the real thing — for that — and it really doesn’t hurt RedHat to have more people skilled in their product,” Jezz added.

“I love it … when somebody decides to say in the press that “CentOS is killing Red Hat!” wrote Red Hat blogger Greg DeKoenigsberg in response. “Which leads to Slashdot articles where people say things like, ‘I’m pretty sure that RedHat — sic — hates CentOS.’

“No, we don’t. At least, not most of us — because most of us actually *understand* the business we’re in,” DeKoenigsberg added. “That’s why we’re making all this nice money. If we *did* hate CentOS, we could make it awfully difficult for them in any number of ways — delaying updates, hiding marks and making them play ‘Where’s Waldo’ every release, that sort of thing.

“Here’s a question: why is there no CentOS equivalent based on Suse products?” he went on. “Think about it.”

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