In a talk at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe in Grenoble, France, a speaker took a critical look at the design and development model of Google's first step toward Linux.
Matthew Porter's talk at the Grenoble conference titled "Mythbusters: Android" tackled the question of how much Android is actually Linux, how functional it is, and what is the nature of the Android community. Porter came to two interesting conclusions. First, he concluded that Android is not Linux in the strict sense of the word because important userspace components are missing, thereby making Android comparatively inaccessible and inflexible. Second, he concluded that the Android community is lagging behind other Linux and open source communities, partly because the platform is commonly developed outside the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) tree and given less priority in the open repository.
Porter works as chief software architect at the open source firm Embedded Alley, which Mentor Graphics acquired the end of July 2009. He is a PowerPC specialist, thus viewing Android from a hardware perspective. According to Porter's observations, Android uses, for example, its own mount system that works with MMC subsystems out-of-box rather than with USB devices. Support is missing for udev, glibc, and SysV process communication, but are replaced by a somewhat hard to change, hard-coded implementation from the Open Handset Alliance. Porter further explains that Android makes no use of tslib for touchscreen support and lacks effective Ethernet support. More arguments are included in his set of slides.
The talk elicited at least two opposing reactions. In his blog, Harald Welte responded, "Executive summary: Android is a screwed, hard-coded, non-portable abomination." Opposing views came from participants in the Android Discuss Google group that maintained that Android's specialized and inflexible character was a result of performance and resource reasons.
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