[kdepim-users] SURVEY: PDA with Embedded Linux?

Jonathan Wilson jw at mailsw.com
Wed Jan 30 21:34:50 GMT 2008

On Wednesday 30 January 2008 09:41:14 Adriaan de Groot wrote:

> The operative word in the paragraph above is
> "lurking". Near as I can tell, those folk who want this stuff don't care
> enough to do something about it,

I have offered hardware donations to both KDE PIM developers and OPIE 
developers. Couldn't get enough interest from anyone. Sorry I'm not rich 
enough to buy one for everybody :-D

> and those that do something can't cover 
> all the bases. Or to put it differently, in those eight years you
> (Jonathan? >> quote here) could have gone to college, learned C++, and
> implemented it yourself.

In those eight years I've learned to be a Linux System Administrator, which is 
now my job. I actually am learning programming a little at a time, but I 
don't have the resources to learn QT/C++/KDE all at once and do it myself. 

> I bear no particular malice to people who write "I'm waiting for stuff to
> be done"; that is your choice, but it reveals a rather dysfunctional choice
> in a participative project. Waiting for things to just happen is unlikely
> to make those things happen faster.

But the same could be said for each and every opensource program I use. 
I /have/ contributed to a variety or FOSS projects, but no one can contribute 
to everything (not in any meaningful way).

And actually, by "waiting", almost everything I ever needed in the Linux and 
even in the KDE world has come into being. When I first started using Linux, 
printer support was dismal: I waited, and now we have a most wonderful thing 
called CUPS. I desperately needed pop3 "leave mail on server for X number of 
days" options in KMail and even though every other mail client I ever tried 
had this option, KMail did not. Eventually someone did write it. I needed to 
read Word documents, and at one time this was not possible - now we have 

I could never have learned enough or spent enough time to do all these things 
myself. So waiting and asking is not really a bad idea in all cases.

There's a further point to be made that did not come out in my previous post. 
The applications for syncing do exist. This gives one the impression that 
someone, somewhere is working on it. Usually when a project exists, is new 
and has bugs, the bugs and needed features are being slowly worked on. This 
is very common, many users look forward to the Next Version hoping it will 
fix the bugs/add the features they wish for. I have actually communicated 
with some of the developers of these sync applications several times, and 
while no one made promises, over the years I have been given very specific 
roadmaps: "we are waiting on X to happen in the next version of FOOLIBS and 
then we can do Y". Of course that is not a promise or guarantee, but it does 
raise some hopes and expectations. There's nothing wrong with hopes and 
expectations and really there's nothing wrong with being disappointed either, 
but it does get discouraging after a while. Let me put this another way: 8 
years is quite a bit longer than I've had to wait for any other single FOSS 
project to come to a usable state. Much longer than I've had to wait for 
anything else inside KDE.

Also, in addition the the words I have received from developers, Sync support 
has been in the KDE road map several times. When you see it int he Offical 
KDE Roadmap it also makes one think that maybe the KDE project as a whole 
will take syncing seriously. I've been given the impression by the sync 
developers a few times that things would be / were working and then KDE Lib 
changes broke things completely, so the sync developers had to start over 
from scratch. At some point I would like to see the rest of the KDE 
developers develop a concern for the sync framework too. In other words, play 
nice with the sync developers. Think of it like this: If a change in KDE Libs 
broke Kontact/Kmail, or Konqueror, or the KPanel/Kicker, the KDE Libs 
developers would not say "Oh, tough luck, we're changing these libs anyway, 
and the Kontact/KMail/Konqueror/KPanel devs will just have to gut and 
re-write code, and if they can't fix it by the next release, oh well, we'll 
just have a broken Kontact/KMail/Konqueror/KPanel until next time". If they 
did that people would scream and throw fits, because 
Kontact/KMail/Konqueror/KPanel are too important to KDE and all of it's users 
to break in this manner. But Sync? "Phoo, no one uses sync, so never mind if 
we break it" ;-)

No I am not saying that sync is as important as 
Kontact/KMail/Konqueror/KPanel. But at some point it must be treated with the 
same level of respect ("we won't release a broken version/we won't release 
the next version of KDE without it"), because for many business people their 
PDA is just as important, or in some cases more important, then the PIM 
software that handles the desktop side of the same features. And syncing + 
PDA backups are extremely important to users like that. They cannot even 
think about using unstable sync software that might scramble all their notes, 
contact, appointments. 

> That means that the direction of development depends
> entirely on what the developers do;

But all developers/release coordinators surley hold some basic values in 
common? See my Kmail/Konqueror example above.

> The upshot is, the trick is creating developer incentive to work on some
> given problem. Unfortunately, the return on working on device syncing is
> really lousy -- however much I would like to shake your hand when you are a
> happy user, that doesn't motivate me to spend years of time and thousands
> of dollars on devices I don't actually need or use. 

I would hope that at least one or two KDE developers own a PDA themselves, and 
so they would be "scratching their own itch", which is the most commonly 
cited reason for FOSS devs to code something :-) Apparently there is no such 
person (though KPilot seems to stay in better condition than all the other 
sync stuff,  so someone out there must own a Palm Pilot ;-) )

> Since device 
> manufacturers really actively don't care about the Free Software desktop,
> it's been tail-light chasing and reverse engineering since forever.

I know, and probably always will be. And it's worse since HP dropped the 
Linux-friendly iPaq labs. Though maybe - just maybe! - Nokia will help - if 
they start using Qtopia on devices, maybe they will care to make syncing 
work. Yeah I know, pie in the sky . . .

> O, for a dedicated developer .. I can echo your plaintive cry. We all wish
> that 20 new talented C++ developers would show up with a pressing desire to
> make handheld device syncing in KDE better. We'd cuddle them to death.

Hugs all around . . .

> Again, what I mostly see is people who want stuff, but aren't doing
> anything about it except fence-sitting. I've grown pessimistic over the
> years.

I've considered growing pessimistic myself, but as you can see, I'm STILL 
lurking on the list :-D

> > and switch to a Linux-embedded-based PDA. I suspected that running the
> > same applications on both the desktop & the PDA might make
> > synchronization simpler.
> I don't think so -- I think going to Linux on the HH puts you in the grip
> of SyncML & OpenSync, neither of which have reached the "Just Works" stage
> (last I checked -- again, pessimist at the podium here).

That's a fact, or was last sumer. Maybe it's better now.

> Jason and I -- KPilot guys -- were actually talking about exactly that in
> SFO last week. Blackberries are all over the place and kind of shiny and
> sexy, and could probably stand some good integration work. All it takes is
> .. gee, $630 each .. to get one.

I'm about to get a PDA phone (tired of carrying around a PDA a cell phone). 
When do that I'll give my iPaq to my wife. After I do that, I'll have an iPaq 
with THE WORKS available for Linux testing: serial cord, Dual CF sleeve, 
Bluetooth and SD card clost. I would LOVE to loan it to a KDE PIM developer.

I will note that old iPaq are pretty cheap on eBay these days. Aren't there 
any old blackberries too?

Also, I learned something from a salesman I used to work for. He used to get 
the most incredible things - stuff I wouldn't believe - just by asking. I 
remember him doing things like calling certain companies and asking them to 
remove charges from his credit account and stuff like that. And they'd do it! 
When I expressed my amazement, he'd laugh and say "You have not because you 
ask not". I've tried it and found it to be true quite often. And why am I 
saying this? Because I wonder: have you called blackberry and asked for a 
donation or loan of blackberry to develop with? If not, you should. If you're 
turned down on the first try, be presistent keep trying periodically. Go to 
some conference or expo where Blackberry is showing off and find a person to 
talk to and ask them. Be sure to explain what you want it for, so they don't 
think you're just looking for a hand out. Most importantly, do not write a 
letter, email or leave a voice mail. Speak to a real human being, in person 
(best), or on the phone.



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