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Embedded hackers tune Gnome to device requirements

Oct 10, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Contributions from embedded software hackers are improving the Gnome desktop, say Gnome Foundation directors Murray Cumming and Dave Neary, as quoted by ZDNet UK. Contributions include better touchscreen support, performance optimizations, and lower memory usage — all expected to improve Gnome for desktop users as well.

Embedded systems typically have constrained resources relative to desktop systems, yet require “appliance-like” reliability. These factors tend to result in leaner, faster, and more reliable software than is typically found in the world of desktop software, where flashy new features often drive development efforts.

Last week, three embedded software companies contracted by Nokia to improve Gnome for use in the slightly delayed Nokia 770 Internet Tablet announced that they had joined the Gnome Foundation's advisory board — these include Matthew Alum's OpenedHand, Imendio, and Fluendo.

Although not then a member of the Foundation's advisory board, Nokia sent representatives to a June advisory board meeting, in part to investigate how it could get involved in order to minimize changes from the core platform, while still achieving faster start-up time, reduced memory consumption, and better memory management.

According to ZDNet, Gnome Foundation executive director Murray Cumming and director Dave Neary are hopeful that Nokia-funded contributions will improve the Gnome environment for everyone, including desktop users. Neary also noted that Gnome is licensed under the LGPL, allowing it to be used to develop commercial software without paying license fees, as would be required of commercial software developers using KDE/Qt, according to ZDNet UK.

Unlike most small form-factor mobile devices, the Nokia 770 does not use a compact windowing environment such as Qtopia. Instead, it uses a pared down version of the same X window system used on desktop Linux machines, along with a lightweight X window manager optimized for small screens. The 770's X-based Linux environment should in theory allow developers, and even advanced users, to easily port any of thousands of available open source graphical programs to the device. However, one early report, based on a prototype, found performance to be slow.

Despite its delayed launch, the 770 passed muster with the FCC at the beginning of September, clearing the way for sales in the US. FCC approval stickers, available as part of public record, show that the device will be manufactured in Estonia.

The ZDNet UK story can be found here.

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