Monthly Archives: August 2006

Greenphone, the open source phone

Everytime I look at the net these last few days, something pretty cool pops up. This time was an announcement from Trolltech, the Qt people, about a new product they plan on releasing in September called Greenphone. This is a GSM/GPRS phone built on an embedded Linux kernel with Trolltech’s embedded version of Qt called Qtopia. It is really only sold as a development platform and comes with the necessary SDK.

Now, I think this is a bit different than the open source gaming device I talked about earlier. I don’t think Trolltech wants to get into the phone business. In some ways, I think they are just curious about the kind of applications people will build for such a device. And, of course, in the end their goal is to sell more Qtopia licenses to commercial developers.

But I’ve always wondered what kind of applications make sense on such a small platform. Web browsing when the screen is only 240 pixels wide makes even less sence than browsing the web on a TV. I’ll be watching along with Trolltech to see what people will come up with. And, as always, it’ll be interesting to see how many people use the CDT to develop for this platform.

Microsoft XNA Express, maybe they do get it…

Continuing on my vacation game development theme (and yes, I am spending a lot of time with my family and doing things around the house, it’s not all geek time ;), Microsoft has just announced that they will be releasing an Express version of their XNA Game Studio for free for Windows development and only $99 for Xbox 360 development. This offering will build on top of their free Visual C# Express IDE and will include some tools for integrating content as well as their XNA Framework game-engine-type-thing. They are really pushing for game development in C# and the CLR, even for the Xbox 360.

As the guy in their XNA Overview video mentioned, the game developer market is pretty small relative to others and selling tools to this market isn’t going to be a money maker. What’s important to Microsoft is that they help developers as much as they can to get them building content for Microsoft’s platforms. It doesn’t really matter how much they charge for the tooling and frameworks since they will make their money on the platforms. And with good free offerings, they’ll get the kids hooked making games for Microsoft platforms and that will carry that into their careers as professionals.

I am still of the opinion that Eclipse can be an even greater game development environment since it is truly multi-platform. There’s no reason why we couldn’t build a set of plug-ins that allow developers to target all of the consoles and all of the desktop platforms, including Microsoft’s.

Actually there may be one reason, who’s going to pay for it? Microsoft is busy devoting itself to Visual Studio, and I haven’t seen much interest from the other vendors in contributing to such an open source project (although I know from bug reports and one quick discussion years ago that Sony Playstation group is or at least has used the CDT). It would take some sort of consortium to organize and pay for the project and get involvement from the various players. It could be done and it would be cool for Eclipse but I’m not sure that industry is ready for such co-opetition as much as the embedded industry is.

GP2X – The open source handheld gaming system

Well, I’m on holidays right now but I still like to keep in touch with what’ s happening in the industry and still monitor a few Internet rag sites regularly, including my favorite, The Inquirer. Today, I saw in one of their Hardware Roundup postings a link to a review of the GP2X Personal Entertainment System which uses an ARM dual core processor that runs Linux. I’ve always been interested in game development, so finding a handheld gaming machine that ran Linux sent me off on a trail to find out more.

Well it turns out it’s made in Korea by Gamepark Holdings as a follow up to a previous edition handheld which was actually made by another company called Gamepark. Apparently the engineers didn’t like what the original company wanted to as a follow up so spun out and made an almost identical company to do it the way they wanted. Interesting inside story there, I’m sure.

Anyway, they advertise this machine as the “Open Source Gaming Device”, which I find pretty cool and again fits into the model I’ve seen over and over again with open source development. The company sells the device (and it’s pretty cheap at only about $200), and then fosters an open source community around writing software for it and manages an SDK of open source libraries to support them. They also use a number of the open source Linux apps to build up a suite of multi-media functions for video and audio for users to get started. I haven’t seen any analysis about how successful they’ve been but the community forums seem to be pretty active.

I was a bit disappointed, of course, when I saw that the SDK didn’t ship with Eclipse/CDT components, but I was happy to see someone in their community blogging about using the CDT in this environment. Of course, it’s a natural fit with CDT’s built-in support for gnu development, including cross-development for embedded operating systems such as Linux (and QNX Neutrino ;). I would be quite interested in helping anyone who would like to push to make the CDT a more formally “supported” development environment for this cool little box.