Episode 1

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
  • What happens when you merge Moblin (Intel) and Maemo (Nokia)? MeeGo!
  • Who is doing the port to Android using Lighthouse?

Mark Hatch and Justin Noel


Mark:Welcome to ICSNetwork's, This Week in Qt, the 15 minute podcast that keeps you informed about significant events that might impact your engineering projects. My name is Mark Hatch and I run the Qt Services business at Integrated Computer Solutions. If you've not previously heard about ICS, please visit our website at www.ics.com, and while you're there please make sure you visit the Professional Services section of the site and review some of our past engagements and what we've done for other people. And if you're just learning Qt, make sure you explore the ICSNetwork section and watch some of our free training videos on Qt. As an organization, I'm very proud of our accomplishments and believe we have the best independent team of Qt engineers in the world. Whether you're starting a new project, or need help removing some type of insurmountable object, contact us at sales@ics.com. The content for these podcasts are based on a variety of sources. Most often they'll be based on technical discussions that occur on the Qt-interest email list or Qt-IRC channel. In other cases, like today, they're based on public announcements by Nokia or other members of the Qt ecosphere. Justin Noel, one of our senior Qt engineers at ICS is here with my today and is going to interpret the events of the week from an engineering perspective. Good morning Justin.

Justin: Hi Mark. It's good to be here. You know there's nothing I like more than news, rumor, and conjecture.

M: Well that's why you were invited. Let's go right to it. First, let's talk about the Nokia announcement of MeeGo. So Justin, what is this announcement and what does it mean?

J: Well, this week in Barcelona at the World Mobile Conference, Intel announced that its product, Moblin, and Nokia's product called, Maemo, are going to merge into one product called MeeGo. Now both Moblin and Maemo are Linux-based operating systems that both, right now, are currently implemented in a graphical sense using the gtk library. Both of these projects were previously going to port their systems to Qt, but now they are going to merge into one project called MeeGo and move forward together with their Qt migration plans. This is most interesting, I think, because this is something where Intel is not a phone manufacturer, Nokia's major line of business is creating and selling phones, smartphones, and things of that nature. And Intel is more interested in selling things like toasters and set top boxes, and automotive systems. They're interested in putting Intel chips in everything that you use. So instead of Nokia partnering with competitors to either pitch more Symbian phones coming out of Sony Erickson, this is something where Qt is going to get into more everyday items.

M: Well that's very interesting. Why do you think they got together? It seems like, not necessarily oil and water, but people who don't necessarily have a common interest of any sort.

J: Well, they are both community-based, very open source, anybody can contribute to both of these projects right now, that are looking to go forward with a Qt strategy. And it makes sense for Nokia's perspective, where they really have one product, the N900, based on Maemo and Intel's agenda where they're going to be pushing this as a platform supported out of the box for someone to build something ground up with that they would take their small forces and join together and have a much larger development team.

M: Now MeeGo is also going to be porting not only to the Intel chip set but to ARM too. It's kind of interesting.

J: Yeah, in fact Maemo's primary platform right now is ARM. It's always run on ARM. And in fact, now that Intel is into the fold, we're going to see lot more development on the ATOM processor but Intel is making no steps to make this product more proprietary. It's in fact going to be even more open, and I think that's really a good thing.

M: Now you can take a Qt application and write it for a telephone, or for possibly in the future for a netbook, and just kind of move it across the platform if you're an ISV or internal developer.

J: Yeah, it's truly write once, compile everywhere.

M: This will be good. What do you think our friends at Google are thinking about this? And the Android folks?

J: Well Google has another big dog in the playground to contend with. Intel is huge and they tend to swing a large bat. So, I think that Google right now is focusing mostly on netbooks with Chrome OS and phones in particular with Android. I think Intel has a good niche in pretty much every other device that we use to become popular with.

M: So this relationship helps boost Intel in the netbook area and in much of the devices where it might have been up against Google's Chrome OS. I think it's Chromium actually I believe, right?

J: Oh yes, it is Chromium actually.

M: Chromium OS. And at the same time, it boosts Nokia because now they have another partner to go against Google's Android offering in the Smartphones. It actually looks pretty nice as an alliance.

J: Yeah, and it's actually interesting that both at the same time where Nokia is a competitor of Android's and so is Intel now - the waters get muddled a little bit because another huge bit of news that's sort of been floating around the blogosphere this week has been that there's actually been an Adroid port that works, of Qt, to the Android operating system. It's actually based on a new system called Lighthouse, which I believe Nokia probably has scheduled to come out around 4.7. And Lighthouse is a way to port Qt from one windowing system to another windowing system pretty easily, so if you're running straight EGL or you're running X11 or Windows, all these things would be Lighthouse types of plugins. And there's one actually in the works right now out called Lighthouse Android.

M: Something that's been a real problem, or certainly a challenge, for Trolltech for a long time is whenever you have Qt and you have a new platform, the only people that could actually port it was Trolltech. Nobody else could do this. Now who's porting this Lighthouse version of Qt to Android? Can you tell?

J: Yeah, well things get really interesting actually. I first saw this on a blog on KDEdevelopers.org this week, and I'm about to butcher a name but the blog is by Jaroslaw Staniek. He pointed me in the direction of a Google code project called Lighthouse-Android who seems to be spearheaded by a user who goes by the name of BogDan Vatra on Gitorious and by Taipan Romania on Google Code and what this person has done is they've branched Qt and have actually implemented a Lighthouse plugin. Now keep in mind that Lighthouse isn't even a finished project itself, yet third parties seem to be able to write plugins for it already. That's a good sign. And if you go to the Google Code project called Lighthouse Android you'll see that there's a link to a Gitorious branch that includes the code. It is in a user branch called taipan. And you'll also notice a rather large bug tracker that's been used to track features and bugs. It seems to be mostly complete.

M: But these aren't Nokia folks, or Trolls on this?

J: It doesn't seem to be. Not to say that there couldn't be some Trolls working on this discretely, but I don't see anything that would say this is a Nokia-sponsored project.

M: That's strange because when we were at Developer's Days, the rumor floating around was that there was an Android port based around Lighthouse in the works. I thought that was going to be a Troll-based thing, not independent.

J: Well, I heard that there was a research project and they were having some problems getting the graphics to work, you know that's all just rumor. Although, at the end of September, Google did come out with their native development kit 1.6, which is supposed to have more hooks in it to run more native C++ and OpenGL code. Who knows, Nokia may still be running that research project and not telling anybody but this is definitely something that works. In fact, there are screencasts all over a site called Blip TV showing Qt running in the Android emulator.

M: It wouldn't be the first time that Nokia has a port that they were doing in one place while an independent, like ICS, was doing another. Remember that one we did to QNX at one point. We did a port for one of their customers to QNX and then about a year later we find that there was this port underway within Nokia to do it too.

J: Yes, I think that really just shows that we're so far on the bleeding edge of Qt that Trolltech is getting feedback from the users that they want new features and new platforms and these same customers are coming to us getting new platforms and new features.

M: So we're kind of the early warning sign for them that they need to get going on this. So I have one last question because we've got to wrap up here. If I'm a new user, from an engineering perspective not necessarily from marketing, if I want to get into the Qt community as an engineer where do you go? What do you look for?

J: I think the best places for questions and information is the Qt-interest mailing list at lists.trolltech.com and the Qt IRC channel. For newbies that are just coming on to the scene, I would highly suggest the ICSNetwork's videocasts and QtCentre which is a web forum with very high traffic. If you post a question there, there will probably be hundreds of people who end up seeing it.

M: Great, well how about Facebook or other sites?

J: Yes, there have actually been a couple of cool things that have popped up on Facebook and LinkedIn. There are two nice pages on facebook: one is the official Qt fan page with 300 and something members, and then there also a group called Qt Underground which is more of a community-based based thing, more involved in speculation and question and answer types of things and anybody can post to that page.

M: So, Qt uncensored in some ways.

J: Yes.

M: Thank you, Justin. That was really great for you to help us interpret some of these events here.

J: Well thanks, Mark for inviting me to do this. I hope to do it again soon.

M: I hope you guys found this podcast useful. If you have any comments, please feel free to send Justin and me an email at pocast@ics.com. I look forward to talking with you guys next week.