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Old 02-26-2009, 05:51 PM   #1
jrial
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Post iRex and Open Source

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Originally Posted by firekat View Post
To me, iRex gives me the impression that they see the iLiad as their child and they are not very willing to let anyone tell them what they can/cannot or should do with the device.
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Sorry, but I just have to react to this; the iRex team has sought contact with the open source community, but they don't come from the open source world, and there is indeed a cultural difference. At least, that was the case a couple of years ago, and from what I've seen on their website, it still is to some extent. As an organiser of FOSDEM (yearly open source convention held in Brussels, usually the last week of February) I can confirm that at least they tried in their own way. I think it was at FOSDEM 2006 when a bunch of iRex guys came to present their new toy to the Free and Open Source Software community with the intention of learning what the FOSS community was all about, and how they could work together with that community to foster new development for this new device.

In the end, we had to kick them out though because they were causing bottlenecks in the main hallway of the venue. It's in a university, and when you line the halls with booths, you're cutting off 1/3rd of the width of the hallways. The iRex guys came without announcing, without consulting us, and attracting large crowds around them (actually between them and the booths) that made passage through the main corridor difficult for our visitors. Personally, I felt a bit sad about this because it was clear they came with good intentions, but the wrong approach. They came because they had no clue how the open source community worked and wanted to make first contact, and see where that got them.

As far as I can see, they're willing, but just not on the same frequency as the rest of the FOSS community, and somewhat afraid to let too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the broth. It's a common fear with a lot of these companies: when third-party developers release crap that bricks their device or has other unintended but harmful side effects, it might reflect negatively on their product since the unwashed masses might not realise that it's the third party app that's at fault and not the device itself. So typically those companies open up only that which they're required to do under the GPL, which usually means just the patches to the Linux kernel since the rest is usually custom developed. But that's just my interpretation.

[edit] Woops, sorry, seems I resurrected an ancient thread. Followed a link from another discussion, and didn't check the dates to make sure my reply was still relevant. Is there a way to delete, 'coz edit/delete just lets me edit...

Last edited by jrial; 02-26-2009 at 05:57 PM.
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Old 02-26-2009, 08:13 PM   #2
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No need to delete. It's still interesting info. We don't discriminate against Thread Zombies here.

Edit: Moved these posts to a new thread, per request of members and because the topic seems to have migrated somewhat from the original post.
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Old 02-27-2009, 02:24 AM   #3
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We've come a long way since the very beginning of the iLiad days We've been defensive at times, but that has always been to protect the interests of the company. A lot has happened behind the scenes and a completely open approach would not have worked well with some of these things.

As of the start of the DR platform development, we've (tried to) take a different approach.

We were present at FOSDEM this year also and there was even a presentation by a Marco Barisone from Collabora who is working on our Webkit-based browser for the DR1000SW.

We also released all sources to the iLiad internals that we could legally release as GPL. For the DR, we GPLed them all from the start.
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Old 03-02-2009, 01:26 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthijs View Post
... We were present at FOSDEM this year also and there was even a presentation by a Marco Barisone from Collabora who is working on our Webkit-based browser for the DR1000SW....
With all due respect, I am much, much more interested in what iRex is doing for the iLiad, since this is what I recently purchased.

I am certainly not thrilled to find out that iRex has abandoned new development for a product they still sell, and which can still use a bit of help (start with power-management.)

So, what's going to happen when iRex comes out with DR3000 in a few months? Is the DRS1000 going to be left slightly unbaked too, hoping the open source community will take support and development off iRex's hands?

I love the size of the iLiad. I like reading on it, and for now can put up with its short-comings.

But in a few months, more reliable companies will have 9"+ options on the market, at significantly lower prices. Not a good time to p-off customers. I, personally, don't see myself ever getting another iRex product, based on the track record (and my limited experience with tech-support.)

Last edited by Sonist; 03-02-2009 at 01:28 AM.
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:02 AM   #5
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@Sonist, we had this through already many times and I don't think you can change iRex minds, when we couldn't with a much bigger effort. At that times it was a kind of deal, they release all (possible) SourceCode of the iRex so the community can improve it, and we shut up bickering about it. I was a bit from the stage, but it seems the OS-community didn't really break through. Okay, but its a bit bad behaviour from us to now come back to demand what we couldnt produce... remember they are not an enourmous company, and I guess are so and so struggling to survive. I gratulate them they still mange to and I think when they don't have the financial assets I can understand they concentrate on one product only. The financial crises all talk about is going to have victims, and I'll keep my fingers crossed iRex makes it through. It would be a real pitty if not.

@general, personally having been very enthusiastic about eReading and the iLiad I'm after a year back to paper . The screen is too small, the page turning to slow to be comfortable for explorative research reading. My biggest complaint reflexivity of the screen to high (cannot read in my moringtrain due to the toplights), the pen writes with a nasty gap, and I have trouble getting my relevant stuff in electronic form. Maybe when I get a chance to get hold of a 1000 I'll reevaluate (getting it with some business project), but I'm not going to buy another expensive eReader from my private budget any time soon...

Last edited by axel77; 03-03-2009 at 06:29 AM.
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Old 03-02-2009, 03:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by axel77 View Post
... @Sonist, we had this through already many times and I don't think you can change iRex minds, when we couldn't with a much bigger effort. At that times it was a kind of deal, they release all (possible) SourceCode of the iRex so the community can improve it, and we shut up bickering about it. I was a bit from the stage, but it seems the OS-community didn't really break through. Okay, but its a bit bad behaviour from us to now come back to demand what we couldnt produce....
I was not aware that there was a previous discussion, but I do understand your point, Axel.

On the other hand, my post was from the perspective of an end-consumer, who only recently purchased an iLiad.

I was merely responding to a post from iRex, on an iLiad-related thread, about a new feature they are working on for the DR1000. To me, this is akin to adding salt to the iLiad injuries.

At this point, I don't hold any hope for goodwill from iRex (nor should they expect any from me.)

Instead, I am keeping my fingers crossed, that some of the developers here will find the time and interest, to remedy some of the issues with the iLiad. If somebody created a pot as incentive for development, I'd be happy to contribute.

Last edited by Sonist; 03-02-2009 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 03-02-2009, 04:23 PM   #7
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Well, I'm sorry if this sounds pessimistic, but I also own a Nokia 770 webtablet and something similar happened there. Nokia released an updated version, the N800, with an updated OS which made good use of the extra horsepower the little machine offered, an updated browser which was more stable than the one on the previous model and a more recent Flash version. Nothing got backported to the 770 by Nokia, they just abandoned the 770 as soon as the N800 came out. Now, consider that this machine was way smaller and had a normal LCD touchscreen, so it was far cheaper to produce. Yet still was in the same ballpark price-wise than the iLiad.

Sure, the opensource community created some sort of backport of the OS used in the N800 and N810, but it wasn't nearly as snappy nor stable as on the original 800/810 devices.

Nokia left its customers in the cold, and the FOSS community tried but failed to fix Nokia's mistakes. If iRex decides to do the same, I'm afraid we're SOL; there just aren't enough geeks with an iLiad and the platform isn't very frienly to code for. Even if iRex decides to open up more (and I wonder what more they could do, except make the device easier to reflash if you brick it), we'd still have a way too small hacker community to get some real cool stuff going. We're too scattered, everybody is working on their own pet projects, but noone is tackling the hard stuff where the real gains are to be had.

Where are all the alternative front-ends for example? The one iRex built in is horrible (no offense, guys). Six titles fit on the screen at any given time. There's no way to search. There's no way to keep track of what you've read and what you haven't. The settings screens are extensive. But there's no easy way to know which kind of settings are grouped where, so you end up flipping several pages to find the one setting you're looking for. While reading a book, you can always see what page you're on. But there's no easy way to check the title again without losing your position in the book, unless it's printed on every page. I'm sorry, but the reason I remember the titles of the paper books I read is because every time I pick them up to read on, I see the cover again.

All these little things bug me. Other people might have a different set of pet peeves. Yet the only real improvement I've seen from the community so far, other than some ported readers which can do more formats, is a full-screen PDF viewer. And not even an advanced one that toggles the bottom bar based on the pen being inside or out of it's holder, which we can detect, apparently.

And don't get me wrong: this is no criticism towards the iLiad community. We are a small community due to the pricey nature of the device, and the iLiad is not very hacker friendly either so the few hackers we do have are cautious lest they break their expensive toy.
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Old 03-03-2009, 06:33 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sonist View Post
I was not aware that there was a previous discussion, but I do understand your point, Axel.
We had a very large many pages long petition on their website going on for weeks when they released the 1000 and announced to release no more new features for the iLiad (only bugfixes and new languages). ( http://forum.irexnet.com/viewtopic.php?t=2854 )

At the end they conceded to open the source code for the internals (and removed any misleading texts on various places from the early iLiad days full of visions and dreams that announced continously new features). It was IMHO a fair compromise and they did offer what was in their power to do. Unlike Nokia iRex is not a huge concern with unlimeted development power to work on all fields at once.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrial
If iRex decides to do the same
They have decided already quite a while ago, we had long discussions about this already. Sometimes the timeline of humanity went already along, and you cannot anymore go back and take another path. IMHO there is no sense in continuing to beat dead horses and we should rather make the best of what we have.

Last edited by axel77; 03-03-2009 at 06:58 AM.
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Old 03-03-2009, 10:34 AM   #9
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The iLiad developer community here is actually pretty active. We have a new Content Lister that can display up to 20 items (rather than 6) already, and active efforts to port the latest FBReader, just to name two projects of many. I'm still hoping for a real all-in-one iPDF, but at least we've got several versions with different features to choose from.
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