Saturday, March 19, 2005

The future of the ???? OS, its hard to see.

Before reading this article, note that it was not written by Tam Hanna, but by Brad Green, known as JJesusfreak01 on the 1src forums. You can always look at the bottom of the post to see the author.

Seeing the current situation of the Palm OS, and looking at the ongoing trend of Palm's PDA releases, it is becoming increasing difficult to see where the Palm OS is heading. Some say Cobalt, and some say Linux, and I say who knows, who cares, and good riddens.

Some may ask why I say good riddens. You will have to wait til the end of this article to find out, but I assure you that there is a good reason. There is also a summary at the end if you do not want to read the entire article.

Looking at the current situation, we can come up with two questions. What is likely to happen with the Palm OS, and what do we want to happen? Unfortunately, the first of these is unlikely, and the latter is not very pretty to behold.

What I personally would like to see is a good, stabile OS, with memory protection, advanced graphics features, and better connectivity. Now, seeing this, you may be thinking, "isnt that what Cobalt is designed for?". Well, the answer is yes, and no. In one sense Cobalt does exactly this. It provides a secure memory environment that prevents crashes that we often see now. It also increases the limit of RAM that the OS can handle, doing away with the strange memory configurations seen in the T5, as well as the Sony UX series. As for the graphics, it provides a new programming environment (which they title "Protein"), as well as other enhanced graphics features. As for the connectivity, it greatly improves on this. It has support for broadband wireless connections (this includes future wireless protocols), and Bluetooth built into the OS (though I beleive this feature is also in many OS5 devices). Cobalt devices will likely include a new browser based on Netfront (the browser currently on some Sony PDAs, made by a company called Access).

If this OS is was as great as it seems though, there would be devices with OS6 already out now.

Obviously, and unfortunately, there is a problem. As our friend Jeff Kirvin outlines in one of his Podcasts featured at 1src, we dont really want Cobalt. The simple reason is that it makes our "good" type of hacks much more difficult to do, because of some of the OS changes. There is also the problem that both users and developers fear change, and new programming environments give them more work to form a stabile program that spans multiple versions of the OS. This said, Palm has built a road block in front of themselves. What I mean by this is simple. Right now, Palm is sticking with Garnet (an updated form of OS5, on all recedently released devices that run OS5, such as the Treo 650, and the T5), because they are not ready to change, and more importantly, because we are not ready to change. When they do eventually move to Cobalt, it will in a way alienate alot of the hardcore Palm users, and we will, no doubt, continue to use our old, innovation happy, Garnet and OS5 devices. Depending on how good the Cobalt devices are, we may buy them anyway, but knowing how Palm tends to stick with low to mid-end devices, this may never be the case. We can only hope that someone like Tapwave may devise a completely innovative device.

Back to the roadblock analogy. What I would love to see is a short lived OS6, and a quick change to OS7, which hopefully will focus more on new features and innovation, and an easy way for users to customize their experiences as much as they would like. It is very likely that either late into OS6, or at the switch to OS7, Palm will be running on top of a linux kernel. At this time I will probably stop complaining. This will essentially be going around their own roadblock.

Now, what you all want to hear, and probably scrolled to the end of this article to see. The reason why I might say, good riddens to the Palm OS, is that some of us may decide to travel to the "dark side". Im sure the journey will be painful, but looking at some of the devices out right now, such as the very powerful Dell X50v, you have to wonder that maybe innovation is traveling alot faster on the other side of the fence. Their 2003 OS did not originally come with the ability to use VGA displays. When the demand became overwhelming, what did they do? They released an update to their core OS that did support VGA screens. What do I want Palm to do in the future, now is even better, is release OS updates that give important feature updates. This is the Windows Mobile example that Palm needs to take a look at, and needs to act on, for our benefit, and their survival.

Ill sum up my thoughts here. I love the Palm OS but there is a problem. Cobalt is a roadblock on Palms way to success. It has alot of great features, which I would love to see on a device, but it has some fatal flaws. No-one is developing Cobalt devices, though I believe with good reason. I wish that Palm would come out with a version of Cobalt with the memory protection features, VGA capability, and other tweaks, that did not destroy the "event loop" that is used for most types of hacks, such as YAHM. Where is the Palm OS heading, the future is still unclear.

Note: I dont support WM, but its a good example of a heavy duty OS, that supports very powerful hardware.

By the way, this is my first post on Tam Hanna's blog (thanks for letting me on), so any criticism, comments, and responses are welcome. Of course, you are always welcome to criticise, comment, and write whatever you please. Happy Palming, or whatever the verb is for it.


Anonymous Steven Fisher said...

I am trying to think of how to comment on this article, but it contains so many misunderstandings that I'm quite sure it isn't worth bothering with.

Except to say this: Tam, you should have kept your blog your own.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog was bad enough before and has gotten worse now!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Tam Hanna said...

indeed-Brad has not yet been an active Blogger-and thus is bound to make a few mistakes. I am currently discussing the article with him in order to get stuff cleared out-please apologize his mistakes for now.
Something else to anonymous-what don't you like about this blog? Also, when troling, please give your name next time. Posts like this really ring my bogometer.
Best regards
Tam Hanna

11:40 AM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

Yes, I dont mind criticism at all, but its not useful at all unless you give an idea of what the problem is. I cant fix it if I dont know whats broken. This was just a first article on the ongoing trends of the Palm OS. Its kinda an ubertask to undertake, but now thats its done, I dont have to do it again. I will definitely try to provide shorter, more interesting articles in the future, but thanks for you feedback. Ill look into how I can make the article more clear so it doesnt put a stain in the Tams Palm archives.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Markus said...

A secure memory protection and "hacks" are mutually exclusive, god thank you, that this times will be over with Cobalt!

When the first cobalt smartphones will be widespread and other platforms will fight with malicious code infiltrated on their devices, we will probably realize the advantages of a tight OS-Design!

Also this means less resets and more stable products. I have to reset my Garnet-device x-factors more often than my old 3.5 one. I doubt wm-users have to do more!

You are promoting the same arguments as always when migrating from one major os version to another:
PalmOS 3/4 to 5,
MS-DOS to WinXX,
WinXX to XP,
NT to 2000/XP...

For sure there will be problems. I had also to adapt sources when migrating from 2000 to XP, because of its more rigid memory protection. I´ve been cursing a few days, but the faults where located in my sourcecodes and so I HAD to close memory leaks for example, that
2000 bothered at all.

But progress is unstopable!

I remember people, that thought they could not live without the a20-gate...

So my main pov:

Clean software will also run on OS6, software floated with dirty hacks and tricks won´t!
I prefer high quality software designs, so should you!

Another note:
VGA on wm devices supports also only a small group of software, applications have to be modified as well...(...just to mention, that on "the other side" there will be problems as well when improving introducing a new major OS version)

5:43 PM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

To clarify, I never mean getting around stuff like software protection or anything like that with hacks. I am referring to the type of hack that allows Alex Pruss to design a piece of software that forces 16 bit mode in apps, or allows for AA fonts. I agree, a solid piece of software, with no memory bugs or errors is best, but sometimes you have to take what the OS gives you, and OS6 doesnt give too much. Im also not saying the software makers will have to put X amount more work into programs, because the protein invironment allows for better multimedia, wireless features, background tasks, and multi-threaded programs, all of which are good. The memory protection, in fact, is not what I have a problem with, simply the inability to trap system calls and such. A stabile OS is always good, and is essential for some users, but at home I have a Longhorn skin on my XP desktop, as well as other things that would not have been possible had Microsoft locked down the system any more tightly. Thanks for the comments, markus. :)

9:09 PM  
Blogger Tam Hanna said...

we need to think of sth else too:
Locking stuff down makes crackers alert to breaking it for a challenge. At the MIT, their time-sharing system had a simple command to shut the whole machine down-and nobody ever used it or hacked the machine otherwise.
Best regards
Tam Hanna

7:49 PM  
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