Freerunner With Android, New Case, Battery

[Dennis] got snowed in after the biggest storm in the history of the state hit. Like any good hacker he didn’t let the time go to waste. He decided to dig out his Neo Freerunner to give it a decent battery and a new OS.

The original battery for the Freerunner has a controller board integrated into the package. [Dennis] pulled out the board and attached it to a portable DVD player battery. After running it through a discharge cycle with another hack of his, the board learned the new battery capacity. The larger battery plus a fast-charger from SparkFun required a larger case. He made it happen by combining a 2.5″ HDD case with the original body courtesy of some JB weld. The final portion of the hack was to load up Android which is as simple as untarring the package onto an SD card.

It’s a bit big, but the battery will last and he’s got an open platform. Nice work!

$100 Portable Wikipedia


OpenMoko, the company behind the FreeRunner open-source phone, released their latest product today: WikiReader. It’s a small mobile device for browsing Wikipedia. Rather than use a wireless network to pull data off of the web, it has local copy of the database on a 8GB microSD card. This approach has been used before, and it lets the WikiReader be compact and really cheap. It uses a Kindle-esque touch-screen display that allows it to run on 3 AAA’s for about a year. The device itself costs just $99, but you can choose to¬†receive¬†updates by snail mail for just $29/year. Alternatively, you can just download the +4GB file and dump it on the card.

Like the FreeRunner, this project is also open-source. The code isn’t available yet, but they say it will be released soon. With luck, the device will be really easy to hack.

OpenMoko Usability Review

[Dave Fayram] has put out two videos covering the interface of the FreeRunner from OpenMoko. For those unfamiliar, we’ve covered it a few times before. It is an opensource mobile platform that includes a full X server. They encourage people to make their own software and even release the CAD files for chassis modification.

He points out some glaring faults and compares it to his iPhone. Some of the major faults he has listed and shown are:

  • Bezel around screen makes input difficult.
  • Extremely slow interface
  • Can’t play mp3s.
  • On screen keyboard is tiny.

It is marketed at around $400 so the comparison to an iPhone seems legitimate. We do need to keep in mind, however, that the FreeRunner is opensource. The more support we show to them, the better it will get. The thought of an opensource handheld platform, comparable to an iPhone is quite enticing. At this point though, the comparison is pretty one sided. Hopefully more software development and support from the community will make this device something to get very excited about.

[via Daring Fireball]

Neo FreeRunner Software Review

A first look from Ars Technica at the newly released Neo FreeRunner phone by OpenMoko reveals some interesting information. There are three different software stacks available to use; the Neo FreeRunner will ship with the GTK-based stack, referred to as om2007.2. It offers conventional smartphone applications, but most importantly, it includes “full root access to a Busybox shell with all of the standard scripting tools like sed and awk”. The ASU stack is what OpenMoko developers are currently working on; there are promises of a more user-friendly experience. The FSO stack, also currently in development, aims to resolve the issues brought up by having different software stacks for the same phone. Since none of the stacks are considered “fully functional”, OpenMoko may have a difficult time attracting a mainstream audience. Hackers may be hampered by the lack of available documentation, although there are resources for OpenMoko enthusiasts, if you just search hard enough. The final conclusion? While OpenMoko may be difficult to use, it compares favorably to competitors such as Google’s Android platform, which is less flexible.

Openmoko FreeRunner Now Available

Openmoko began selling Neo 1973 phones direct to developers last July. The phone is an open source project designed to ease development on mobile platforms. The Neo 1973 has since sold out, but a new Linux phone intended for the mass market has been released, the FreeRunner for ~$399. The screen is 640×480 with 3D acceleration and a 500MHz Samsung processor. The new phone has WiFi and 2.5G GSM support. It has some truly unique features like USB host mode support. You can find the differences between the two phones here. This new phone release should help strengthen the community since average users were discouraged from purchasing the original. Pictures of the phone’s internals and a component diagram can be found on the Openmoko wiki. We wish more manufacturers would explicitly tell us how to get console access.

[via Slashdot]