Saturday, November 26, 2011

New to Harmattan C-OBS and

*Disclaimer: I am not a developer, hacker, or programmer*

Part of the agreement made when I received the Nokia N950 developer device from Quim Gil was to get an application ready for Harmattan in the open source App Store,  Although I had the guts of MaeFlight ready a few months ago in QtQuick/QML, I held off on packaging it until there were some applications in the Community App Store.  Not being a developer, I hoped to learn how others faired overcoming the wrinkles in the processes before I ran into them.

My application, MaeFlight, is a simple utility that fetches the status of your airline flight, given the airline code and flight number.  It is a nicer looking version, with simpler guts, of the Maemo 5 version I had coded close to 2 years ago.  I decided to use QtQuick and QtCreator, these being (in theory) the most straightforward paths for Harmattan development.

QtCreator and QtQuick are a good combination of tools for Harmattan development.  I could code within QtCreator, and deploy to my N950 to test with a few clicks of the mouse.  There were a few hiccups with QtCreator that I learned to work around.  One annoying one was when it could no longer find the N950 via WLAN.  Resetting that connection solved that issue.

After I had the most basic application ready to distribute via, I started a painfully long attempt at getting MaeFlight's sources built by the MeeGo Community Online Build Service.  The first step in this is to get the source into a format suitable for the COBS.  The MeeGo wiki and Jaffa's wonderful mud2 utility proved very useful here.  The mud2 utility creates the 3 files you require for uploading to the COBS.  However, after carefully following the instructions in the wiki, my package would continually fail the build process.  I found out via trial and error that the Changelog and Desktop files had to contain version numbers in them that agreed with the version number that mud2 assigns to the source packages.  Once I changed that, the build process worked, and the COBS built a .deb for my application, complete with its own repository!

I logically assumed that since the build process worked, my next step was to upload the package to the testing repository of  This is a straightforward process, and well documented in the MeeGo wiki. 

However, once MaeFlight was in the testing repository, it would install to my N950 from the Apps Client, but would not deploy the desktop file and launcher icon.  I reached out for help on, and found a suggestion from user rlinfati that seemed to work.  It involved additions to the top of the QtCreator 'pro' file.  This seemed to be the answer, as MaeFlight was then able to be built by COBS and be deployed to the device correctly from client application on the N950.  Success!

I have observed some peculiar things with the MeeGo COBS and the client:
  • COBS fails builds sometimes, but then when restarted, the build works fine.  Perhaps there is a good reason for this, but it doesn't inspire much confidence in a novice like myself.
  • The client application on the N950 has a mind of its own sometimes.  For instance, MaeFlight has shown up multiple times at the same version, and has failed to install at all, in spite of the .deb installing correctly from my personal MeeGo COBS repository.  I am not sure why this is the case, but it also makes me feel unsettled.  The current v1.0.1 of MaeFlight built properly on COBS, installs fine from the .deb in my repository, but does not install from the client application on the N950 !

At the end of the day, I now have a process which can work, if the stars align themselves properly.  But, I think it should be easier.  That will hopefully come in due time. 

As for MaeFlight, it has proven to be an interesting experience for me in learning the ropes of open source development using QtQuick, QtCreator, and COBS. 

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

N9 and MeeGo Harmattan: Loss of Widgets

Having thought about the Harmattan UI a bit more, I realized that since there are no 'desktop screens' as the N900 has, there are also no widgets!  The demonstration at #nokiacnxn showed the three aspects of the UI: Events, Applications, and Open Applications.  It appears that certain application events can populate the Events View.  For instance, the AccuWeather application puts the current weather conditions in the Events View. 

One of the most useful N900 widgets I use is the contact card, providing one-touch access to frequent contacts from the desktop.  It will be interesting to see if users will miss the N900-style widgets, and if Events View and/or the Swipe UI can make up the difference. 

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N9 Excitement in #nokiacnxn

It was like a group of friends watching Superbowl, or World Cup, or Olympic Gold Hockey. Last night, a bunch of Maemo veterans gathered on #nokiacnxn on freenode to watch Nokia Connection 2011 go down. When the N9 was announced, irc erupted with joy, URL's to Nokia's 'swipe' pages were revealed and shared, and the banter went on into the night. It was exciting, and also somewhat disappointing once the realization sunk in that MeeGo-Harmattan could be a game changing OS for end users.

It remains to be seen how 'disruptive' this device will be. I hope it is, and so do others. Let us pass this message back to Nokia executives: We Want Nokia to Keep Meego. That is all.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Confusions of a Maemo Enthusiast (Post 2/11)

I have been with Maemo since 2007, when I purchased the fabulous N800 Internet Tablet. It stayed with me through Chinook, Diablo and even through the 'Elephanta year'. The N810 started shipping in late 2007 with Chinook. If you recall, a rumoured OS named Elephanta and an associated device were dropped after the N810 came out, eating up about a year in the process. Rationale for this was not officially conveyed, but could be assumed to be due to a shift in strategy for Maemo, focussing on mobile phones rather than Internet Tablets. Fine with me at the time - let us regroup and Maemo will come back stronger and more resiliant at the start of the 'new' smartphone era.

Nearly 2 years later, Maemo 5 and the N900 entered my gadget bag, I finally had the mobile computer I always wanted. An evolution of the tablet I loved, now with 3G data, cellular phone, hardware keyboard and an OS that rocked. Things were looking good as Maemo was entering Prime Time.

That was late 2009, and the promise of Maemo 6 / MeeGo Harmattan has not yet materialized, in spite of official roadmaps presented at Maemo Summit in Amsterdam. In addition, no other devices running Maemo 5 ever surfaced from Nokia, not even the RX-71 mentioned in the source code. Maemo had momentum at that time, and a second product offering would have done the platform wonders. It would have established Maemo as a real OS, attracted more users and developers. And most of all, prevented the product from going stale.

February seems like a gear shifting time for Maemo/MeeGo. Last year, we were dropped with the news of the Intel partnership which created MeeGo. Understandably, this caused some shifting around of plans, and delays. But MeeGo Harmattan was supposed to be an instance of MeeGo, and not true MeeGo, an evolution of Maemo 5. From my point of view, an evolutionary jump like that was well within Nokia's capability to execute and deliver by Nokia World. Seems like that OS and device have also been dropped, ala Elephanta.

This February 11, a day that will live in infamy, we learned that MeeGo would be relegated to a research project, and not the OS of choice for Nokia's high end devices. A sad day, for sure. Yes, one MeeGo device will be released this year by Nokia, and will hopefully blow us away as the previous Maemo devices did. And again, we are waiting.

But, what happened? Where did the corporate vision for Open Source disappear? Why has Maemo/MeeGo floundered within Nokia's walls? Why has the one-two punch of successive product launches not happened in this segment, like competitors have been able to pull off? Why the sudden alienation of users and developers with one fell swoop? Is this a game winning decision or suicide?

Where do Maemo enthusiasts go from here? I still like the N900, so one obvious spot to contribute is the Community SSU. That should realistically give longer life to this platform. What about the MeeGo project? Will Nokia be contributing as much 'post 2/11' as they have? Will the Handset UX development slow down now that Nokia's focus has shifted? And lastly, is it time to shift gears ourselves, and move to competing platforms such as the Big 2, or Mr. Jaaksi's Handheld Project?

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