The Two Faces of Android

Kevin Marks:

“The most remarkable thing about Android is that it is the first widely adopted Open Source client operating system. It’s long been clear that Open Source is the best way to preserve infrastructural code from the vicissitudes of corporate and governmental volatility, but using it for client applications has so far not taken off as well. There has often been a separation between an open source underlying layer and a proprietary user experience that is built atop it.
Android does follow this pattern to some extent – the underlying OS code is fully Open Source under an Apache License, so anyone can bend it to their own uses, but in order to get the “with Google” logo on your device, you need to conform to Google’s Compatibility Definition Document. That has changed over time; for example the 2.1 version specifies that your device MUST have a camera and 1.6 requires telephony.
If you do this, you might then get access to what I call the top half of Android – the closed source Google apps that integrate the device closely with their web services – Contacts, GMail, Talk, Android Market, Google Maps, Navigation, Listen, Earth, Places and so on. However, this requires an explicit partnership with Google.
a lot of the day-to day utility of an Android device is in the proprietary, partners-only layer – that you only get after doing a business development deal with Google of some kind. What we will start to see is alternatives for these Applications being developed. To some extent we’re already seeing this from US carriers, but I think this year we’ll see both an Open Source suite of apps to swap in many of these functions, and other proprietary offerings to compete with the Google upper half.” (

Criticism of the Openness of Android

“Android is proprietary, despite being marketed as open source. Android has a compatibility pledge, signed and kept behind closed doors. Android has no governance model, nor any indication there will be one. Android has no spec, and the license prohibits alternative implementations, as that’s not a use licensed by Google in the SDK license. Android is completely controlled by Google, and Google reserves the right to kill off competitors applications if they hurt Google financially, etc. It’s only as open as it is in Google’s financial interest to allow openness, by design.” (

From the Wikipedia:

“Android has been criticized for not being all open-source software despite what was announced by Google. Parts of the SDK are proprietary and closed source and some believe this is so that Google can control the platform. The Android Software Development Kit License Agreement states that:
– 3.2 You agree that Google (or Google’s licensors) own all legal right, title and interest in and to the SDK, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in the SDK. Use, reproduction and distribution of components of the SDK licensed under an open source software license are governed solely by the terms of that open source software license and not by this License Agreement. Until the SDK is released under an open source license, you may not extract the source code or create a derivative work of the SDK. [2]
However, Google has since announced that all parts of the OS will be released under the Apache License where applicable and under the GPL elsewhere. Google’s applications that interact with Google’s systems, such as their email service, are not open source.
Also, at least for now, software installed by users must be written in Java and will not have access to lower level device APIs.[41] This provides end-users with less control over their phone’s functionality than other free and open source phone platforms, such as OpenMoko.
Another issue is related to Android’s disregard of established Java standards, i.e. Java SE and ME. This prevents compatibility among Java applications written for those platforms and those for the Android platform. Android only reuses the Java language syntax, but does not provide the full-class libraries and APIs bundled with Java SE or ME.”


The creation of the Dalvik virtual machine which is the basis of the Android platform, has also raised concerns that the first major fracturing of the Java platform may be in progress.
Dalibor Topic on the Android License: “There is a bunch of other rather objectionable stuff, but dear me, this is pretty bad as far as license agreements for pseudo-open-source software go.” [3]

From LaForge:

“As many other people have been blogging and news sites have been reporting: The Android source code has been released. This is definitely good news. However, freedom-loving people already discover in blog posts that there’s a remote kill switch by which Google can disable an already installed application and that some features are reserved to vendor-signed applications.
To me, those things are not a big surprise. As soon as you try to get in bed with the big operators, they will require this level of control. Android is not set out to be a truly open source mobile phone platform, but it’s set out to be a sandbox environment for applications.
And even with all the android code out there, I bet almost (if not all) actual devices shipping with Android and manufactured by the big handset makers will have some kind of DRM scheme for the actual code: A bootloader that verifies that you did not modify the kernel, a kernel that ensures you do not run your own native applications.
Thus, Android so far was little more to me than yet-another-J2ME. Some sandbox virtual machine environment where people can write UI apps for. In other words: Nothing that gets me excited at all. I want a openness where I can touch and twist the bootloader, kernel, drivers, system-level software – and among other things, UI applications.
I actually think it’s a bit of an insult if people think of Motorola’s EZX or MAGX (and now Android) phones as “Linux phones”. Because all the freedoms of Linux (writing native applications against native Linux APIs that Linux developers know and love, being able to do Linux [kernel] development) are stripped.
In the end, to what good is Linux in those devices? Definitely not to any benefit of the user. It’s to the benefit of the handset maker, who can skip a pretty expensive Windows Mobile licensing fee. Oh and, yes, they get better memory management than on Symbian 😉
That’s the brave new world. It makes me sick.” (


Yahoo Hack Day

This was my first Hack Day and it was very special to me. I had never been to any hack days before and the moment I entered the arena, I was very amazed to see so many developers in Bangalore and all under one roof.

There were two categories at the event:

– Info Geeks
– Hacker Guru

Info Geeks
This category included of only those people who were there to attend only the Tech Talks and had to leave the arena after the tech talks get over which was by noon.

Hacker Gurus:
These were the people in which Yahoo was very interested. I was one these chosen ones. At the entrance itself we where handed 2 tokens for free BEER and one token for SWAG. Hacker Gurus are supposed to hack using yahoo apis and present their hack in 2 mins, pretty short, and no powerpoint presentations were allowed(Anti Microsoft uh hah!!).

The tech talk kicked off by a talk from Chris Heillman(YDN Evangelists) on Hacking 101. It was an awesome talk, he displayed us the yahoo open API’s(YUI, YQL, YAP) and other things yahoo has to offer to the developers. He displayed us, and many more stuff that he has done. It was really good. At the end of his talk he demoed on how to present a hack in 90 seconds, that was brisk.

This tech talk was given by Subramanyam who is a YUI developer in yahoo for 5 years. He was explaining about the yui-library and its cross-platform consistency on different browsers.

After the YUI talks a US evangelists of yahoo had also come and he kicked off the Hacking session and every one rushed to do things that they liked the most.

Nokia people had also come to party but when they were talking hardly any one was listening as the hacking session started.

These people followed after the nokia people and still people were not much interested as all this was happening after the kick off of hacking session. People got interest in PAYPAL apis when PAYPAL announced that they are having a developer contest going on till November and the prize money is for US$ 100,000. I could see some stunned faces. People started to listen then to those PAYPAL folks.

All in all it was a fun event because me along with my teammate were supposed to make a hack using yahoo apis but eventually we made a android game and were testing it on all the android phones that people had at the event.

The food at Taj was pretty decent atleast in the afternoon but the dinner was awesome specially the deserts were just out of this world. I could see people starting their food with deserts rather than soups.

BAUG – Bangalore Android User Group

Bangalore Android User Group

Meet Up 3: Learn and Network amongst Android Fans

It has always been my interest to learn about mobiles but I was not able to dwell into it because of all the proprietary issues. Now with android in the market people like me who have an interest in mobile application development can lay their hands on it. I came to know about this user group from one of my friend when they had their second meet up but because of some undue circumstances I wasn’t able to attend but when I was juggling through the INTERNET as I always do, I came to know that this group is having a meet up on 24th April, then I got the opportunity to attend it by registering to it. I was lucky because I came to know about this at 1:30 am.

When I reached the venue, thanks to Neeraj who is an organizer of the event, I saw a bunch of people talking about android then I realized I that I have reached the right place. One of them is Rohan Thimappa who is an Advisory IT Architect at IBM, then there was Amit who is assisting Rohan and there were others too. We then went to the training room in MISYS, where the event was being held. There were some sessions lined up for the event.

  • Android Trends
  • Enterprise Mobility
  • Android Internals

Android trends:

This session mainly focused on the current trends happening in the field of android. This session was taken by Ankit who is working in Broadcom and also a member of organizing committee. He really brought up new aspects of android and new applications. He also showed some hacks that people have done using android, new projects coming up for Android. He informed us about the hack that a company named Planetbeing has done by running Android on iPhone. His talk was really informative on android front.

Enterprize Mobility:

This session was taken by Rohan Thimappa. He was taking about taking the enterprise applications to the mobile. He gave us the example by taking Big Bazaar as example, he told us that it would be really great if we could bill the item that we pick in big bazaar and bill it instantly instead of standing in the queue for billing. This would make life easy for many people and also for big bazaar because it would increase the ratings for providing customer satisfaction. He also told us that how android could be used in Automotive industry. Android is open source and hence the cost of using the proprietary systems in vehicles could be cut down. He also told us that the support provided by android is much larger than provided by the existing systems and only thing that is hindering this is the performance factor that android is facing in this field and hence a lot of ground work is required to make this dream come true. His talk mainly focused on using android with an industry perspective but it showed us the various fields were android’s extensive potential lies.

Android Internals:

This session was the best. I liked it the most because of my love towards LINUX. This session was taken by  Kaiwan Billimoria. He was not an application developer as such but had a great knowledge of the kernel that runs underneath the application layer which developers are not much aware of. He gave us really really low level details of android kernel by saying that android uses the linux kernel and thats about it, it doesn’t use the basic linux utilities like glibc, gdb, etc, but instead it uses its own version of glibc, gdb, etc. He told us about the enhancements that google has done to the kernel like the Low On Memory Killer, ashmem, Android Debug Bridge, and many more. He also covered the differences between the general JVM and android specific DVM. The session was so informative that on the end of the session every one gave him a big round of applause and every one went personally and thanked him for giving such a wonderfull session.


We all had a group photo and then every one went socializing with other people and discuss on android and its applications. We all had a very good time and never felt even a bit that we wasted a day of our weekend. After all its the weekend that we all look forward to in a week 😉 .

CMRIT_GLUG (April 2010)

FOSS For Budding Developers

Free Software Movement-Karnataka (FSMK) which is one of the member organization of FSMI & in association with IBM Software Labs had organized the encore workshop on ‘FOSS for budding developers’ at CMR Institute of Technology. It mainly focused on motivating and providing the necessary skills to aspiring developers to contribute towards FOSS community. The event was a 2 day event with the following break up as shown below.

Day 1

  • Eclipse (Software Development Environment related)
  • Linux Kernel workshop
  • OpenPegasus (System Management Development related)

Day 2

  • Linux Test Project (Test development/testing for Linux OS related)
  • Linux Kernel workshop
  • Apache Geronimo (Web Server/Web Applications development related)

Inaugural session was presided over by  :

  • Prof. Gopinath, IISc, Vice President, FSMI.
  • Venkata Jagana, Chief Architect, IBM.
  • Mr. Senthil Sundaram, FSMK.
  • Dr. K V S Ananda Babu Principal, CMRIT.

Prof. Gopinath gave the first inspiring speech for the day. He told us about FOSS and its benefits that helped him in his earlier projects. He gave us a brief history of Free Software and Open Source. He said to follow the “Falsify Theory” which is nothing but to try and prove that a theory is not perfect which in turn makes you to fix bugs in the theory, improve the existing theory or even it might lead you to come up with a completely diametric theory. He also introduced the budding developers about the various fields varying from website hosting to genetics to GIS systems, where free and open source softwares are being used. He also addressed the fact that how patent system is completely unnecessary in Free and Open Source community.

Next speech was given by Mr. Venkata Jagana. His main theme was LINUX. He described the evolution of LINUX, he also told us that how, many companies are now contributing towards Free and Open source projects because, its the future. He also spoke about the Linux Technology Center at IBM and how they are working and contributing to FOSS by contributing through Eclipse, Linux Test Project, OpenPegasus and many more projects.

After all the  inspiring speeches, came the turn of our very own Mr. Senthil. He is just too good with his sense of humor. He made the environment a little lighter by his humor and then we continued with the sessions and the workshop.

Day 1

Linux Kernel workshop:

In this workshop we were introduced with the basics of kernel. Students were taught how a kernel can be build and compiled in our existing system. Students were also introduced to certain tools that might come in handy in debugging. Some of the tools that were mentioned were : Cscope, GDB, LD_PRELOAD, etc. Students were then made to explore these tools by making them write simple programs and explore the tools by using them against there programs.

As all the other session were running in parallel I could not attend those sessions but i didn’t bother because I have already worked with Eclipse and Apache so I already have a fair bit of idea on those topics and these topics were taught to students to give them an introductory idea about these tools.

Day 2

Linux Test Project:

This was the best sessions so far, we were introduced to a project which was introduced by SGI(Silicon Graphics) and which is now maintained by IBM. This project is Linux Test Project. Main aim of project is to test and improving Linux. The project’s goal is to deliver a suite of automated testing tools for Linux as well as publishing the results of tests we run. Rishi is the maintainer of LTP at IBM. He introduced the students to LTP and its installation, he also made us to run one of his test cases. The twist in the tail was that he had introduced a bug in his own test case and made us to find it. Me and my friend(Vignesh) were very close in finding the bug but rishi himself debugged the code, were I felt a bit disappointed but I think the schedule was going haywire therefore he debugged the code himself. I met rishi during lunch, he is a nice guy, he was asking me about how did we felt about the session, he was also very satisfied by the commitment that he saw among the students in debugging the code. He was also telling us that he wants to join FSMK and help our students to excel in there career by improving in there technical knowledge as well as to be aware of the new technologies storming the world.


In afternoon, we had a session on OpenPegasus by Venkat, security administrator at IBM. This open source project is a System Management Software. It is used to manage different network components as well as computer systems using the Open Standards like DMTF(Distributed Management Task Force) and CIM(Common Information Model). This project reminded me of SNMP. When I asked the speaker about the difference in SNMP and OpenPegasus, he told me that this can be considered as the Advanced Version of SNMP. He also told me that this has a better scalability as compared to SNMP, as this session proceeded students felt the subject more and more alien, then some one in the crowd told the speaker that they are not following anything then speaker stopped and Mr. Venkata Jagana started by explaining the students about the managing of network components and computer systems by giving simple examples of managing components in college and some other student understandable examples, after some time the students also felt interested and session ended with every one having understood OpenPegasus.

I really felt satisfied with the 2 day event that I had attended. I came to know about the kernel, some open source projects where we have a scope of contributing in an easy way so that we could build up on this to a major contribution.

    Team Partners

CMRIT_GLUG (April 8, 2009)


Hi guys, this is my first blog on the internet.

I got to know about FSMKfrom one of our lecturer Prabodh CP,  he knew them because some of his friends were a member of FSMK so me, Probodh sir, Sudhakar Sir(CSE HOD) and along with my friends Nuthan, Aditya, Harsha, and many of the juniors contributed together to form CMRIT_GLUG in our college which was the first time that our college was introduced to opensource community, we transformed atleast our department to be completely on LINUX, all our lecturers and juniors were trained to use LINUX, they were provided  with free DVD’s of Ubuntu 8.10 as sovienier.

It was really a great event, many of the FSMK active members came to the event, Senthil and Co really brought new ideas that would change our lives, we were no more the servants of a single windows operating system but now we had choice, choice of freedom. We invited our college management folks as well so that we could encourage them to invest open source softwares and to implement them in our college. Now our department CSE runs completely on LINUX, our HOD himself uses LINUX to do his daily work, even now when we go to our department we find him telling people to switch to LINUX and use LINUX, he transformed all the LABS to use LINUX, he made all the lab curriculum to be implemented on LINUX, we make use of  Fedora to compile, run any programs that are their in syllabus, Prabodh Sir proposed Nctuns software against NetSim which is a paid software to the University and our college is one the few colleges that implemented this software to train students to simulate a network. Now many of the colleges have moved from NetSim to Nctuns.

There was a guy named Mani(physically challenged) showed us some really cool things that you can do with GIMP. People were amazed that open source software can be that good, as in the movie Kung-fu Panda says, “There is no charge for awesomeness or attractiveness” . He was in a village near Bangalore when FSMK people went to that village for helping them and making them computer aware, he was so excited to learn about computers that FSMK folks taught him how to use LINUX and GIMP and he made a sketch of Richard Stallman and it was mailed to him and Richard was so impressed that when he came to india he called Mani to Delhi and honoured him.

Two students have come in that event who were studying in third year of their engineering but started their own software firm and were providing enterprise solutions on Drupal. It was inspirational for all of us their. It also showed the financial scope of using LINUX.

I feel proud of being a part of that college and the team that set up the CMRIT GLUG.