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I would like to donate a lot of my time over the next few years to helping open source hold its own against closed systems like the iPhone and iPad in the mobile and appliance computing space.

If that's my goal, what's the better strategy -- to do development work for Android or for Ubuntu? I know Ubuntu is behind on the mobile front, but they work great on netbooks and are gradually moving into the tablet space.

And there are questions over whether Android is really faithful to the spirit of open source. http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/10/is-android-open/

Any suggestions? I'm primarily a Ruby programmer who has done a lot of iOS programming.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, GlenH7, MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Kilian Foth Sep 2 at 11:00

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What does the future look like if you win? It's hard to suggest solutions when you haven't defined the goal concretely. –  benzado Aug 4 '11 at 0:41
    
Define "win". I'd think there is a place for both. What is "hold its own"? More apps? Wider adoption? More stable and reliable? Seeing Linux on a phone? Not criticizing your question, just wondering exactly what you want to see. –  aceinthehole Aug 4 '11 at 0:41
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@benzado looks like great minds think alike :-) –  aceinthehole Aug 4 '11 at 0:42
    
I read the question title as "win the future", and thought Obama's slogan was catching on after all. –  benzado Aug 4 '11 at 0:50

4 Answers 4

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I wouldn't go into thing like ubuntu. This can fall down as fast as it goes up. Go for debian, (which ubuntu is based on so will also benefit from your actions) or cross distro/plateforms tools (helping gnome/kde for exemple). Anyway, just testing, submiting patches when you encounter a problem, this is already something !

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Why is Ubuntu more likely to fall down than Debian? –  Anna Lear Aug 4 '11 at 1:27
    
Because ubuntu is based on debian. If debian falls, ubuntu falls too or at least suffer a lot. This is not true the other way around. Just like red hat is less likely to fall than mandriva. –  deadalnix Aug 4 '11 at 23:51

Android is licensed as free software, but as you say it is not community-controlled nor transparently-operated. Also, an Android device as sold is not a free operating system by default: it almost always has non-free apps, and almost certainly has non-free drivers.

The Replicant project aims to make a free-software operating system based on Android. They need assistance to get the OS working on more devices, perhaps you can get your hacking groove on with them.

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If you're worried about iOS specifically, one interesting idea would be to support GNUstep in building an open source implementation of the Cocoa touch libraries. It predates the iPhone, so it is mostly focused on the Mac desktop API, but there's no reason why it couldn't be extended to create an iOS compatibility library.

This would give software written for closed systems a chance to live outside of them, if you could, for example, use it to compile a Cocoa touch that runs on Android. You may also fear that it would reduce the incentive to write software for a more open platform, but that's a trade-off, there are no perfect solutions.

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It predates MacOS X too. In fact, there's less and less NeXT on Apple every day. –  Javier Aug 4 '11 at 4:24
    
True, but if it weren't for Apple, Objective-C would likely still be an obscure footnote in the story of C++. –  benzado Aug 4 '11 at 4:40

And there are questions over whether Android is really faithful to the spirit of open source. http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/10/is-android-open/

That article is so wrong as hell. There are lots of community contributions in Android development, just see xda-developers.com, samdroid.com, miuiandroid.com, etc and many other communities releasing their own versions of Android.

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Lots of forks isn't necessarily a good sign, it indicates a fragmented community. –  benzado Aug 4 '11 at 4:38
    
@benzado: well, there are thousands of Linux distros, but Linux is doing pretty damn well. The custom ROM communities are pushing down innovation as well; features such as tethering and app2sd initially comes from the custom ROM community. They do not just simply skin/theme the OS. I'd vouch that it's a healthy open source community; it's just slightly different than what we're used to seeing. –  Lie Ryan Aug 5 '11 at 0:04
    
There are a lot of Linux distros, but they are all using the same kernel, not forking their own. The question is, how many of these Android forks will see patches go back upstream to Google? It doesn't seem like Google is managing the project in a way that is amenable to that. –  benzado Aug 5 '11 at 0:42
    
@benzado: the same kernel? Ok, when I look up in my package manager in Gentoo, I can see at least vanilla-kernel, gentoo-kernel, xen-kernel, ck-kernel, hardened-kernel, etc. That's just from a single distro, and I'm quite sure all the other distros also has their own version of customized kernel. –  Lie Ryan Aug 5 '11 at 0:52
    
Those aren't forks. –  benzado Aug 5 '11 at 0:59

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