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Free Linux handheld app stack to gain easier porting

Feb 24, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

A free application environment for Linux-based handheld and mobile devices may support lots more devices in the future, including Linux mobile phones. The GPE (GPE palmtop environment) project is planning a “device abstraction” layer aimed at simplying new device ports, according to maintainer Florian Boor.

The GPE project integrates a variety of free software components, including the X window system, GTK+ graphics toolkit, matchbox window manager, and MiniMo browser. It also maintains its own login and configuration programs, as well as widget and type libraries, screenshot and other utilities, and a PIM (personal information manager) application suite.

The project earlier this month released a 2.7 version, the product of “many hours” spent fixing bugs and improving applications, libraries, and documentation, according to Boor. New features include a “gpe-mini-browser” (not based on MiniMo), a new help browser, gaim and gkdial integration, OpenSync plugin, and full PIM data abstraction.

A 2.8 maintenance release planned for June promises more bugfixes, updated “backends,” and closer integration with two forthcoming mobile application stacks — OpenZaurus 3.5.4 and Familiar 0.8.3. It may also include technology aimed at simplifying ports to new devices, such as Linux-based mobile phones, according to Boor.

Boor explains, “There are plans for a kind of device abstraction layer which should make it much easier to have full GPE support on a new device. This would be very important because of the speed new devices appear and disappear on the market.”

He adds, “Just think of the more and more powerful smartphones which might be very interesting platforms for GPE, especially because several approaches for Linux-based software stacks for these devices use GTK (like e.g. ALP).”

ALP, or Access Linux Platform, is a codename for a joint development effort between Access and its wholly owned PalmSource susidiary. The companies hope it will be used in phones reaching market in 2007.

Another mobile environment that supports GTK+ — the Nokia-sponsored Maemo project — has already gained ports of core GPE applications, including gpe-todo, gpe-contacts, gpe-calendar, and gpe-mini-browser. And, Boor notes that GPE was recently selected as “the default GUI application stack” for the fledgling EmbeddedUbuntu project.

A complete list of changes in GPE 2.7, and planned features for 2.8, can be found here.

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