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Open Source Days – Community Day 2014

Posted in Jolla, Open Source Days by mschlander on 13/10/2014

Der har været stille omkring Open Source Days i noget tid, efter en pludselig, stor udskiftning i bestyrelsen. Nu sker der dog noget, lørdag den 8. november 2014 fra kl. 13-20 afholdes en Community Day på Symbion på Østerbro i København med gratis deltagelse (der kræves dog registrering).

Det skal nok blive hyggeligt, og så skader det jo ikke at Carsten Munk er på programmet – bl.a. kendt fra Jolla, Mer Project, libhybris og MeeGo – som vil oplyse os om skabelsen af Jolla og SailfishOS.

Four great technological advances

Posted in Jolla, kde, opensuse, software_freedom by mschlander on 15/08/2014

#1: openSUSE Factory Rolling Release Distribution

Over the course of the last several months a lot of changes were made to the development process for openSUSE Factory. Meaning it’s no longer a highly experimental testing dump, but it’s now a viable rolling release distribution in its own right. You can read all about the details here. I installed openSUSE Factory in a virtual machine yesterday and it seems to run pretty great. Of course to really judge a rolling release distribution you need to run it for a sustained period of time.

No rolling release distribution will ever be my preferred day-to-day operating system, but nevertheless I’m pretty excited about the “new” openSUSE Factory. I think the changes will enable version whores and bleeding edge explorers to finally have a truly symbiotic relationship with the users who value productivity and predictability in their PC operating system.

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#2: KDE Frameworks 5 and Plasma 5

Since I was already testing openSUSE Factory it was a great opportunity to finally get my feet wet with the new KDE Frameworks 5 and Qt5 based KDE Plasma 5 workspace, initially released about a month ago. Obviously it’s still lacking some features and polish, but it’s already usable for forgiving users who know what they’re doing and showing great promise.

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#3: 4G on the Jolla

My provider enabled 4G on my subscription and offered to send me a new SIM Card gratis. So now my Jolla is sporting 4G. Unfortunately it only took about 5-10 minutes of speed testing (peaking at 12 MB/s, averaging about 10 MB/s) to use all my available bandwidth for the month, so for the rest of August I’ve been speed dropped to 64 Kbps, but hey, it’s still 4G!

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#4: Richard Stallman presenting with a slideshow

Who’d have ever thought they’d see the day that Stallman would do a presentation with accompanying slides? Well it happened, and I think this great use of slides helps him communicate more effectively. Watch the video and judge for yourselves (27 MB, 13 minutes).

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Jolla and KDE Connect

Posted in hardware, Jolla, kde, opensuse by mschlander on 29/06/2014

KDE Connect

KDE Connect is a piece of software that integrates your KDE desktop with Android devices. It enables you to share the clipboard, share files, use your Android device as a mousepad or remote control for MPRIS enabled media players on your desktop, have a battery indicator for your Android device on your desktop and more. Even more features are planned. All this is done over wifi.

Jolla

Jolla is of course the coolest smartphone on the market, it runs SailfishOS, but it comes with an Android runtime (Alien Dalvik) which lets you run most Android apps perfectly fine on the Jolla.

KDE Connect on the Jolla

So I had to see if KDE Connect would work with the Jolla, and at least some of the main features work perfectly. I can now use my Jolla as a wireless mousepad for my KDE desktops, and I can use my Jolla as a remote control for e.g. Amarok. I can also work with the filesystem in the Dolphin file manager, but only the Android runtime folders of the Jolla filesystem are exposed to KDE this way.

Quite a few of the features don’t seem to work – notifications, battery indicator, sending files via the Dolphin context menu (right click) and clipboard sharing.

Media Player Remote Control

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How to set it up

1) Install KDE Connect on your desktop (on openSUSE install the package ‘kdeconnect-kde’ from the KDE:Extra repository. Also install ‘sshfs’ if you want to be able to mount the Android folders on the Jolla in Dolphin.

2) Install KDE Connect on your Jolla (personally I installed the binaries from the F-Droid app store, but binaries are also available in Google Play and 1MobileMarket).

3) Connect your Jolla to the wifi of the same network as your desktop computer and make sure you don’t have a firewall running (or allow traffic for the range of ports 1714-1764 for both TCP and UDP).

4) Launch the KDE Connect app on the Jolla and go to KDE ‘systemsettings’ -> KDE Connect and pair your phone with the desktop.

Jolla Smartphone Part 2

Posted in hardware, opensuse by mschlander on 24/03/2014

Two months ago I gave an initial review of the Jolla smartphone after one week of use. This is just quick update to the original post.

A lot has happened in the meantime, two major updates have been released and SailfishOS is now officially out of beta. These updates have fixed many issues such as the power drain bug and added many new features including landscape support to the web browser and messaging app. MMS support has been promised for next month’s update. By then Jolla should have all the basic functionality covered.

There has been a steady trickle of nice new native apps to the Jolla Market, including some familiar ones ported from the Nokia N9. And I have also made new discoveries in the Android app world, among others the F-Droid appstore, offering free/open source applications only.

In my original post I claimed that the NavFree navigation app for Android worked well on the Jolla, but as it turns out I hadn’t tested it sufficiently. Instead I have found that the Android apps OsmAnd and MapFactor: GPS Navigation work quite well for gratis, offline, voice GPS Navigation.

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I still couldn’t be happier with my Jolla.

A Week with the Jolla Smartphone

Posted in hardware, opensuse by mschlander on 23/01/2014

One week ago today I received my Jolla smartphone. In case you haven’t heard of them, Jolla is a small upstart Finland based company, founded by former Nokia employees, and they just very recently released their first product, the much talked about Jolla smartphone, which can be seen as the successor of the Nokia N9 with the MeeGo operating system. Here’s my review.

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Hardware

The hardware specs are midrange (1.4 ghz dual core processor, 1 GB of ram, 4,5″ screen, 16 GB data storage), and the Jolla is priced at 399,- €. So far it’s only available for sale in the EU via the Jolla webshop and additionally in Finland it’s distributed by one provider.

The Jolla has an interesting concept called “The Other Half”. The back cover is replacable and communicates with the phone via NFC, this makes it possible for Jolla or 3rd parties to offer “Other Halves” in the future which add features to the phone, say wireless charging or a physical qwerty keyboard or maybe something radically new (if anyone is reading, I’m in the market for a green “Other Half” with rounded sides by the way).

The feel of the hardware is decent. Not excellent, but not horrible either. The battery is user replacable and you can insert your own micro-sd card.

The base OS

The Jolla is running SailfishOS, which is a GNU/Linux system, based on Mer Core (the continuation of MeeGo), using systemd and running Wayland. It comes with all the basic commandline utilities that you expect from a proper GNU/Linux system, and enabling developer mode in the settings provides you with a terminal, and offers you to set a root password and enabling an SSH daemon – no need to hack your own device to have a bit of control over it. Officially the OS is still beta.

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It includes some SUSE technologies e.g. libzypp is used for package management and Open Build Service is used in the development process. Zypper is not installed by default, but can easily be installed (‘pkcon install zypper’).

SailfishOS provides real multitasking. When you minimize apps they will keep working in the background until you actively close them.

The UI

Interacting with the Jolla is done with swipe gestures, which is great for one-handed operation (e.g. swipe from the top to lock or close apps, swipe from the side to minimize apps, swipe from the bottom to see event notifications etc.), much like the Nokia N9. But the Jolla takes the concept even further, with “pulley menus” and “cover actions” allowing you to perform certain actions on minimized apps. I absolutely love it.

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The UI is developed using Qt5 and it is incredibly fast and smooth. Significantly more so than the Nokia N9, which wasn’t bad either.

Coming from the N9 there was hardly any learning curve migrating to the Jolla UI, but it might take more effort if you’re switching from a different phone. You should save yourself some time and trouble and check out the instructional videos to learn all the neat features. A few of which are not very discoverable.

Apps

As you would expect from a brand new operating system, the number of (native) apps available for it is quite limited. And the apps which are available are still pretty basic. But they show quite a lot of promise and for me at least they get the job done. You can contribute by writing your own Qt/QML apps with the Jolla SDK of course.

Additionally the Jolla comes with an Android runtime enabling you to install and run Android apps. By default the Yandex store is included which offers roughly 75.000 Android apps, you can install other Android app stores, such as Aptoide or even Google Play. Or you can acquire the .apk files and install them by simply clicking them in the File Transfers view, or by manually copying them to /data/app/ – I promise you it feels good to install Android apps on a non-Android device using ssh/scp. I didn’t try installing any paid apps.

Running apps in a non-native environment usually isn’t optimal, and this is no exception. For me roughly 1/3 of the apps work flawlessly, 1/3 work with limited functionality (front camera upside down, only works with wifi but not with 3g, no sound etc.) and 1/3 are not usable at all. Usually the problems are related to hardware features (GPS, sound, cameras etc.), i.e. apps not requiring hardware features are more likely to work well.

I did manage to find some useful Android apps which work very well, including Navfree, an offline, OpenStreetMap based voice navigation app. The Jolla Maps app does not have full fledged voice navigation, only route planning.

Battery Life

Out of the box the battery life is not good at all. At the time of writing there’s a bug meaning the battery gets drained very quickly, luckily an official update fixing the issue should be out soon, and there is a fairly simple workaround in the meantime. Applying that workaround improves battery life significantly, and puts it on par or better, with the dominant smartphone brands, though still not quite as good as the Nokia N9.

The Jolla is still missing some good power saving settings, so I manually turn off wifi/3g connections at night or in other situations where I don’t need them.

Problems

Besides the issues mentioned above with battery life and apps, the Jolla has some more issues as you should expect from a brand new product, from a small upstart company running an OS labeled as a beta.

When I got the phone it was unable to update, that was solved pretty easily, but still, this means SUSE Linux 10.1 is no longer the only OS in history too broken to patch itself.

There are still some pretty dire limitations. No support for 4g and MMS (will be provided via updates later). The default web browser doesn’t support landscape mode yet (a WebKit based browser supporting landscape mode is availabe in Jolla Market), the sms/texting app also doesn’t support landscape mode yet, which means I’m unable to text using two fingers, luckily texting is not my main occupation, or this would be a serious problem.

Conclusion

I actually bought the Jolla as an investment for the future and to support the company, even though my Nokia N9 is still good as new only two and half years old, and doing everything I need it to do just fine. I was unsure if the Jolla was ready to replace the Nokia N9 yet, or if it needed some time to mature first. But I very quickly retired the N9 and I’m absolutely thrilled with the Jolla. I’m happy to recommend it to any moderately technical and slightly forgiving user, for whom a few papercuts are not showstoppers.

For aunt Tillie the Jolla is not quite there yet, but the potential is huge, and it will be very interesting to follow the progress.

All about openSUSE 13.1

Posted in opensuse, sslug by mschlander on 24/11/2013

openSUSE 13.1

This Tuesday openSUSE 13.1 was released. So far I’m quite happy with it personally. It has some interesting new things, some of which are not obvious or easily discoverable or well-publicized, like KDE Connect for doing interesting things with your Android phone and your KDE desktop, the new KScreen monitor/xrandr tool, a preview version of the upcoming QtQuick/QML based NetworkManager widget and the inclusion of VLC in the official distro (naturally it’s a crippled build because of patent issues).

It also has a few problems of course, the KDE bluetooth tool, BlueDevil, is not yet fully ported to BlueZ5, an update should fix this fairly soon. The proprietary Nvidia graphics drivers are not yet available as RPMs for easy installation, which should also be taken care of rather soon also. And of course PulseAudio has some surprises in store.

As always, join our community and help make 13.2 due 8 months from now, i.e. July 2014, even better than 13.1.

openSUSE-Guide.org 13.1

openSUSE-Guide.org was updated for the new release and had a record of over 2000 unique visitors on Tuesday 19 November. That’s up about 10% compared to the 12.3 release in March.

openSUSE 13.1 Launch Party

On Wednesday was the combined open, informal weekly SSLUG meeting and openSUSE 13.1 Launch Party, which was fun.

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openSUSE 13.1 Launch Party Copenhagen

Posted in opensuse, sslug by mschlander on 14/11/2013

SSLUG has weekly, informal, open meetings every Wednesday on Copenhagen Business School. On Wednesday 20 November 2013, this meeting will double as an openSUSE 13.1 Launch Party.

As usual there won’t be any formal agenda. Just chatting, voluntary consumption of take-out food – and the possibility to install the new openSUSE release in good company. And of course we’ll have a lot of fun.

The address is:

CBS, DIT-LAB
Howitzvej 60, stuen
2000 Frederiksberg

We kick off at 18.00.

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