[FoRK] Do Not Anger the Alpha Android

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Mar 31 17:50:27 PDT 2011

On 3/31/11 4:58 PM, Jeffrey Kay wrote:
> Not a lot of chat about this --- http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_15/b4223041200216.htm --- on the list.  Is anyone as incensed as John Gruber is about Google tightening control over Android or is everyone ho-hum about it like I am (I sort of expected that they’d either tighten control or lose interest and stop doing much Android development)?

Mostly ho-hum.  When comparing very open, very flexible Android to hyper-proprietary alternatives, you can hardly complain much 
about anything.  The system is more or less completely open source.  All they seem to be saying is that you don't get the early 
access versions unless you commit to having an OS that is compatible enough not to screw the market.  That's reasonable.  The 
various ways to get there are debatable.  Clearly, you could produce certification tests and then license / approve / certify 
certifiers who could be paid to independently evaluate things like a custom Facebook variant.

Google is going to get a pretty big pass because it is all pretty much open source, free, etc.  It's not likely they're going to 
want to, or be able to, implement AF (Applonian fascism, or, if you're generous or one of the flock, Apple Paternalism by Father 
Steve (hey, _I'm_ a father Steve!)).  More likely, this kind of 'guidance' will prevent the problematic kind of fragmentation, abuse 
of customers (Verizon controlling what apps you can have...), big security problems, etc. that we might get otherwise.

I'm sure Google knows they could sabotage Android if they're not careful.  This seems like an answer to problems that have been raised.

 From a technical point of view, there have already been some stupid, non-standard hacks released by second tier Android product 
companies that pollute the market.  For instance, there is a standard call to return the location of the sdcard mount, but it's 
broken on a number of devices.  And some vendors have done strange things with internal vs. external memory vs. dual sdcards.  (The 
API only anticipated significant storage at something like /mnt/sdcard, but a modern devices can have at least as many as 3 flash 
mounts.  So companies 'innovated', sometimes stupidly.)  The end result is that you make the call, but then start searching for 
writable directories to handle as many devices as possible.  On the Android dev list, the Android spokestechnies just say: "Those 
are rogue devices that do not implement the spec, so all bets are off."

And don't even get me started about the subset of devices (including some from Motorola) that dynamically unmount/remount the sdcard 
when you plug the device into a computer.  I haven't tracked down the spec for that, who started it, or whether they are going to do 
it right at some point.  But currently, it is very stupid and annoying.


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