The site uses cookies that you may not want. Continued use means acceptance. For more information see our privacy policy.

Again: Mobile Should Be Many semi-Independent Devices

Some reasons I believe that mobile devices should be split into individual, interoperable parts, instead of one, coupled device.

Edit (10 September 2013): You might like to look at a neat video, YouTube: Dave Hakkens: Phonebloks or the related website for one designer’s proposal for a first-generation fragmented phone platform.

You see people complain or make fun of people taking pictures with a tablet. You should complain at the tablet makers, though. They are the ones you should make fun of. If the camera wants to dock with the device, fine. But there’s really little reason the camera should be built into the device, other than selling a package for more than the parts, and anti-capitalist barriers to entry.

So yeah, a non-ten-item list of becauses.

Because you can hand someone your camera without handing them your digital life. They can borrow your camera for a trip, and not take your movies and books with them.

Because you can change the data you wear to work and the data you wear after work, just like you change your clothes when you get home.

Because batteries run out, and even if they didn’t, sharing extra battery with a friend or stranger is better than hording it.

Because everyone’s priorities are different, and I don’t want the most megapixels, and you don’t want the physical keyboard, and…

Because the Internet of Things depends on not shoving a screen, speaker, and camera into every toaster, refrigerator, and coffeemaker.

Because it will be easier to add new sensors, for science!

Because holding up a large rectangle to position a tiny camera sensor is just no fun.

Because different photos and recordings require different sensors, lenses, mics, lights…

Because buying your mobile kit one piece at a time costs less, and that’s a more democratic model for spreading technology to everyone.

Because you can hand-me-down your old components to your kids, or trade with your coworkers for the parts that suit you better.

Because it takes the power away from the few companies that can afford to build the bundled equivalents, and gives it back to you.

Because who wants to buy a whole new device when the next generation wireless networks come out?

Because then it will come in your favorite color.

Because a single brick isn’t as wearable as separate parts.

Because it undermines silly arguments against things like tethering, when the radio isn’t integrated to just your device.

Because your preferences in computing should mean more than two brands or the plastic case you wrap around your device.

Because laptops have never been as buildable as desktops, and that’s been a shame.

Because functional capitalism depends on finding ways of competing on the smallest set of differences possible at once.

Because the camera sensor makers will compete on camera sensing abilities, and the processor makers on processing abilities, and so-on.

Because all the parts will compete on price.

Because having a backup shouldn’t mean having an entire, separate device.

Because it will spread at least basic literacy of what a device consists of to the masses.

Because it reminds us that we can do more working together than any superman could ever do by herself.

Because nobody lives a standard-issue life.

Because it’s your equipment, not theirs.

Because I can’t think of everything, and neither can they.

Do you have your own reasons that mobile devices should be split into their parts? Disagree? Feel free to comment!

Brought to You by Windows Seven

Instead of writing about something more interesting, a short rant about hardware compatibility and computing.

Instead of writing about something more interesting, a short rant about hardware compatibility and computing.

People often complain about driver availability on GNU/Linux, but the situation can be far worse for the Microsoft Windows systems.

On Linux, when you need a driver, the only real problem you run into is the case where a driver was never created for it.  Almost all of the divers on Linux are Free (as in speech), meaning that once a driver was written, it can live forever.  If the systems change, it can be updated.  The bulk of the work’s been done, and the old source has most of what’s needed if an update is required.

On Windows, you have the opposite problem.  A driver was almost undoubtedly created, because the hardware vendors are in the business of selling Windows-compatible hardware.  But at some point they don’t want to maintain drivers for their old hardware, so they stop.

That’s a problem you can run into for Windows Seven for at least some vendors.  Some vendors keep updating, but others just drop support and you can have a perfectly functional computer without valid drivers.  The source is closed, and the vendors simply care not.

This is one of the ways that Free Software is undeniably superior to Closed Software.  Microsoft has no control over the situation, because they don’t require any source to be available.  While they may partner with specific vendors for specific hardware drivers, they can’t possibly do that for the whole ecosystem.  They’re just as stuck as you are for devices that have been orphaned by the manufacturer.

Unless Microsoft and that community decide to shift toward freedom, the long-term situation will be one of an ever-growing pile of completely useless-to-Windows hardware.  That’s not an environmental boon, that’s not a way to spread the technology to the poor, and it’s not a way to build the technology economy as high as we can.

It’s bad business, and it’s bad citizenship.

The other side of the situation is where Linux could conceivably help.  There’s likely a Linux driver for some of the hardware that people can’t get to run on Windows.  It’s at least possible that some of the information from the Linux drivers could be used to create free drivers for the orphaned hardware for Windows.

While I don’t have a Windows computer around and don’t have much driver experience, it would be interesting to know if that hunch is correct, and whether the free software community could use that as an inroad to spread freedom to Windows users.