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Hold the phone

August 14, 2013

First things first: I actually have a smartphone that, well, isn’t exactly used to its full intelligent potential. It’s old — an HTC G2 hand-me-down running Android — and it does for me only what a phone is supposed to do: Ring when there’s a call, stay connected while I’m talking (for the most part) and disconnect when I’m finished.

It’s a fairly feature-stocked phone. I could take pictures of, say, cats or what I’m eating and post them on social media, but I don’t.

You’re welcome.

Something that has been lost in the tsunami of Ubuntu Edge hype over the past several weeks is that an actual working smartphone with a FOSS-based OS will soon be available for about 10 percent of what you may have already paid for Canonical’s someday-to-be-produced-maybe product.

On Monday, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reported on ZDNet that a phone company called ZTE is making available a Firefox OS-based phone, which is supposed to be for sale on the company’s eBay store in the US for $80.

[However a visit to the ZTE U.S. eBay store has the phone up to just over $162 in bidding, so I am not sure who is right here.]

Regardless of what the real price is, I understand that it’s apples and oranges to compare the two. The ZTE is just a smartphone with Firefox OS, while the Ubuntu Edge concept, should it ever go into production, will be a computer that also acts like a phone.

Still, I’m not sold on the “revolutionary” aspect of Ubuntu Edge. I’m not sure how revolutionary it is to have your entire digital life on a device you can hold in your hand and, by accident, easily drop into a toilet; or as a news colleague did recently, drop her device irretrievably into a deep lake high in the Sierra Nevada.

I’m not convinced that spending $800 — OK, to be fair, marked down to $675 — on a not-yet-existing computer/phone that I stand a good chance of losing is prudent. But I would be willing to support Firefox OS and buy a ready-for-prime-time $80 smartphone — heck, even if it’s really $160.

We’ll have to see how this pans out.

Hey, Ubuntu Edge was mentioned again: This blog mentioned Ubuntu Edge and, of course, you know the drill by now.

Want to give some money to projects that really make a difference? Give instead to:

Reglue (especially Reglue, which is creating a new generation of FOSS users as you read this sentence)

Partimus (bringing Linux boxes to classrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area, or any other project like it)

CrunchBang (or your favorite distro, if it accepts donations)

Tux4Kids (the folks who bring you Tux Paint and other educational FOSS programs across platforms)

Or even taking a look at the list of projects at Software for the Public Interest and choose one of those.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

  1. Colonel Panik
    August 15, 2013 at 6:38 am

    The other day I stopped for a quick cuppa and saw a 30 something sitting there
    with a tablet sitting on top of her laptop. She was working hard at something on
    her phone. Not for me, no. Larry don’t roll that way either.

    There are people that can and will do more with their smartphone than The Free
    Software Guy can do on his computer. Those tablets are a super tool, in the
    right hands. I don’t have those kind of hands. I take calls and make calls with
    my dumb phone, the answering machine function is great when I can get it to
    work. On my computer I read emails all the time sent from phones, I can read the emails just fine, it works. My daughter is working full time in the public health field and working on a PhD in nursing/public health, she lives on her phone. Without that smart phone my daughter would not be able to juggle work, school and family.

    When I was in sales, around the time the dinosaurs started dying, all the coffee
    shops would have 3 or 4 guys lined up to use the phone, pockets bulging with
    quarters. Now they sit at the table, making appointments and emailing orders
    back to the office while enjoying their coffee. Slick.

    The hardware evolution has just started, this stuff just keeps getting better
    even if guys like Larry and the Colonel can’t keep up.

    The Free Software Guy says “Choice is good” when he talks about distros and
    most of us agree. But damnit that goes for hardware also. Your choice.

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