Sunday, February 3, 2008

New platform for Open Source?

The past few days, I've been happily enjoying the pleasures of a gadget that has become quite hard to find in stores over the past couple of months. With the help of a local "gadget" vendor that sets up shop in the York Cafeteria, I've landed myself a brand new Nintendo DS. But this post isn't about high scores or fun games, because after doing some research on these "homebrew" applications and firmware, I found that along with software for storing and playing music, videos and text files (like e-Books), some of these "homebrewers" have enabled the use of the Opera web browser on the DS.

Now you could also order the official "Nintendo DS Opera Browser" online, but where's the Open Source in that?
From what I've read about this "Team Cyclops" developer crew, they managed this by using firmware that utilizes both of the game cartridge slots (each with slots within the cartridges to insert mini/micro SD memory cards multiple gigabyte capacity), to get enough room to install and run the browser with the memory-eating firmware running at the same time.

More specifically, the memory card expansion slots (that can take either any MicroSD or MiniSD camera memory card) that allow (so far) anywhere from 1GB to 32GB of memory to be stuck into a DS, opens up the possibility of getting Firefox and other Mozilla applications to run on another very popular (and relatively cheap) handheld system. Some of you are probably perfectly happy with your Blackberry handhelds and whatnot, but for "economically challenged" people and students, this may be the shining answer we've been looking for to satisfy our need for more affordable portable Open Source computing entertainment.

Number wise, a DS costs about $130, and depending on the homebrew developer, a cartridge with firmware costs about $50 on average. Then if even paying for the firmware is too much, one group of developers (albeit the unpopular ones) have made their firmware code Open Source. Unfortunately, the other homebrew teams (that' I'm aware of so far) are still relying on the funds from selling their firmware, to pay off their own "economical challenges". In comparison, your average Blackberry lists at over $300 with 2-year service plans going for about $150 (if anybody knows much cheaper prices that still let Firefox work, please tell me), which doesn't look friendly at all to Open Source wallets.

I won't even bother with going into laptop prices, if only to spare myself from another "large-digit" induced depression.

Looking back on the optimistic side of things, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could spread the development of Firefox and Open Source in general, to the millions of young (or young at heart) minds that spend their usually unproductive hours, tapping away at their handheld games? With already versatile features such as WiFi connectivity and text reading and writing (through homebrew apps), I will be dreaming pleasantly of the day when I can connect with people not just with games, but with my own extensions (or other Open Source software) on one little versatile handheld device.

...Now if only I could find those watches that can do video calls. (futuristic Dick Tracy watches anybody?)

--View Andrew's project work at: OSD700-> Favicon Extension

1 comment:

Snow said...

Keep up the good work.