OpenMoko to start taking orders

So around this week OpenMoko is supposed to start selling the Neo1973 developer preview (aka. Phase 1) devices. It’s hard to say if they will make it this week but either way it shouldn’t take very long now.

It just so happens there is a Phase 1 Neo1973 phone sitting on my desk and I have a couple of comments on it for those who are planning to get one for themselves too. Firstly, at least one person expressed amazement about the fact that now, three days before shipping, things like SMS support are being worked on and are nowhere near finished on the software side. Apparently it wasn’t made clear enough that this Neo1973 release is *really* a developer version and is targeted for ambitious developers who would otherwise be disappointed if the device they get comes packed with all software ready to use. And I’m sure there will be a lot more people who didn’t get it and are going to be giving OpenMoko bad reviews and this is annoying, because what they will be reviewing is not even the OpenMoko platform yet, it’s a developer snapshot. (This is similar to those folks who beg you to let them taste what you have in your pot when you’re in the middle of cooking something, and then they’ll say something about not liking the soup or worse, about your cooking skills, based on this. The thing is they are tasting a development snapshot of the soup, not the soup. It might even be poisonous, and the final dish still be perfectly fine. Guess I’m hungry…)

Another thing, when you get your device it’s a good idea to back up the factory contents of the Flash chip so you don’t lose some of the files on it before flashing an update later. Updates will overwrite all of the data in the Flash and there is a couple of files there that are not available from internet (don’t ask me why). A simple way I found to make a backup is using netcat from under Linux after it boots for the first time. It will take about 30 minutes and here’s how it’s done: connect the device to your PC with a USB cable or Bluetooth and run the following spell on the PC side:

$ for i in 0 1 2 3 4; do netcat -l -p 20000 > mtdblock$i; done

Netcat will listen for the backup data on TCP and write the five chunks (Flash partitions) to files named mtblockN in the current directory. Log into the phone through ssh and do:

# for i in /dev/mtdblock?; do cat $i | nc 20000; done

These files should be enough to restore the original state of the phone’s memory at any later time.

One more comment I have is that with the current Neo1973 kernel it doesn’t make much sense suspending and waking the system up when you’re coding something on the PC and are periodically testing it on the phone. Leave it running, power the device off entirely after you’ve finished. There’s something seriously wrong with power usage in suspend/resume. I have not made any measures and the battery I’m using is not 100% compatible but I risk to say it draws more power when suspended than when fully on. There is a curiously looking patch on the mailing lists that might explain this but I haven’t tried it yet. On the other hand I²C peripherals alone shouldn’t have that much impact.

For comparison, a different ARM-based device I own can live ~4 hours powered on and over two months suspended (i.e. with only RAM constantly on), from a full battery. The Neo will have the additional sucking from the GSM modem, but it didn’t seem to make much difference when I powered the GSM off through GPIO (assuming I did it correctly).


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