First impressions on a Neo FreeRunner
January 13th 2009

Yes, as the title implies, I am the fortunate owner of a Neo FreeRunner. For those not on the know, the NFR is a kind of mobile phone/PDA running free software, and aimed at being open, both from software and hardware perspective.

I bought it last week, and I already have things that I love, and others that I don't love that much. First thing that sucks: my 128kB Movistar SIM card is not supported, so I can't use the NFR to make calls! Apparently older versions of the SIM card are supported, so I will try to get hold of one (by the way, the simyo card I posted about some time ago works perfectly).

Another thing that is not so good is the stability of the software. However, I expected that, and I have no problem with it. Being open source, the software will evolve day by day, and I will love to see the evolution.

On the bright side: it is really great to be able to install different distros in your phone! I tried OpenMoko, FDOM, QtExtended (formerly Qtopia) and SHR, and all of them have good and bad things. It is like going back to when I tried different distros for my computers (now I mostly stick to Ubuntu or Debian). By the way, you can install Debian in the NFR (haven't tried it yet, because you have to install it in the microSD card, not in the main memory (it's too big for it). You can even try Google's Android, if you so wish.

But the really nice thing about it is that you can create your own apps for it. You can install Perl or Python interpreters, and then use the Command-line interface (yes, it does have command line) to run scripts. Or create icons on the desktop and link them to an action. For example, I created an icon that switches from portrait to landscape orientation when pressing it, and then back when pressing it again. I created another icon that launches mplayer when pressed, so I can watch a video in it by just pressing the icon.

I expect to blog more about the gadget, so stay tuned.

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4 Comments »

4 Responses to “First impressions on a Neo FreeRunner”

  1. Speed up PyGTK and Cairo by reusing images | handyfloss on 18 Mar 2010 at 14:15 pm #

    [...] you might have read in this blog, I own a Neo FreeRunner since one year ago. I have used it far less than I should have, mostly because it’s a wonderful toy, but a lousy [...]

  2. Super Jamie on 19 Mar 2010 at 3:40 am #

    Looks like it's got fairly capable hardware, shame about the half-complete software.

    I was just thinking that you'd love an Android phone, mine have been awesome, then you mention you can actually get Android going on the FreeRunner. It definitely has enough space in NAND, though I'd recommend sticking to Donut (v1.6) with 128Mb RAM.

    Maybe see if you can pickup a cheap secondhand Dream (G1) or Magic (myTouch 3G)?

  3. isilanes on 19 Mar 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Hi Super Jamie,

    Thanks a lot for recommending Android. I really don't need a super-phone, and I am happy with my Nokia 6300. I generally pick the "best" phone my company gives away for 0 eur, be it because I cash accumulated points, or because I switch companies. The thing with the Neo is that I love to play with a gadget, which I infer I would also be able to do with my android terminal. The advantage with it would be that it would also double as a usable telephony device. However, I'm a bit concerned with the openness of Android terminals and of the software itself. Android is advertised as "Linux-based" (the kernel is a modified Linux kernel), and "free software", but it is not completely so. Maybe the software of Android itself is FS, but as a platform, I am afraid of its freedom limitations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)#Restrictions_and_issues. For example, I want to be able to SSH to my phone, I want to have a proper shell on it (I have zsh in my Neo), I want an Xserver (I can run GNOME or KDE in my Neo!), I want to install packages from a Debian-like repo (I run Debian in my Neo), I want to run Python, Perl, bash, etc. scripts, or run cron, or compile Fortran or C (well, at least I want to be able to). I have no reasons to think you can't do that on Android... but I don't want to pay a lot to find out.

    Of course, I'll be happy to get one if by some trick (e.g. switching telecom) I can get one really cheap (read, for free), but I won't lose sleep over it. Your recommendation adds +1 to this desire, however :^)

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