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New Linux smartphone OS 'Sailfish' passes the test

Yes, there's a new Linux smartphone operating system, and yes, you're right to get excited by that.

I was a huge, huge fan of Maemo – a Debian-based Linux distro focused on phones, such as the amazing Nokia N900 (the old Linux-powered one with a keyboard... you know, the one that Nokia killed off because they hate awesome things).

In fact, I still have that very phone sitting right next to my shiny new Samsung Galaxy S3. And, despite being several years old, the N900 still is my favorite. And the reason it is my favorite? The OS and software stack. It is just stellar. It's like having desktop Linux right in your pocket with a pretty UI.

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So when Nokia stopped working on Maemo... and then stopped working on Meego (the successor to Maemo), I was, to put it mildly, bummed out.

Luckily, a rag-tag group of engineers (who seem to feel the same way about Maemo/Meego that I do) left Nokia and started their own company to continue this important work. That company, Jolla, has just introduced the first version of its OS, named "Sailfish."

And, here is why all nerds should care about this: You get full, RPM-based package management. On your phone.

You see, Sailfish is based on a project called "Mer." Mer is based on MeeGo. And MeeGo utilized RPM as the package management system. (There's your technological genealogy lesson for the day.)

I hear you saying, "Bryan... that sounds great and all... but if there are no apps, then who cares?"

Sailfish has that taken care of. Not only can apps be built with HTML5 or C++/QT, but Alien Dalvik is also included. That means that a large number of Android apps should work right out of the freaking box. Sure, it may not have the Google Play Store built in, but with the ability to manually install apps and games from outside of the store (think “Humble Android Bundle”), this really isn't much of a problem at all.

In short, there are plenty of apps. And, from a tech-nerd perspective, it has all the right goodies.

But they've got one other thing to offer that looks, well, pretty damned slick.

They call it "true multitasking." If you are like me, you read that and immediately thought: “What the heck is that supposed to mean?” Well, as it turns out, this is actually pretty awesome.

The idea is simple. Running apps can be pinned to your main home screen as small-ish tiles. So you can keep interacting with multiple apps at the same time, without needing to switch back and forth between a bunch of full-screen apps. Which, at least for a demo, sounds like something I very much want on my phone.

At this point we're in a bit of a waiting pattern, hoping that devices powered by Sailfish hit the market sooner rather than later. But, if you'd like to kick the tires of the Linux Distro that Sailfish is based on, you can run Mer in VirtualBox.

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