Saturday, June 5, 2010

Things to consider when hacking on Android - a highly effective team running Linux, git and vim or emacs to edit C code.

Things to consider in your project

If you're porting Android to a new device, we recommend you consider the following points:

First, this is a just a milestone along the way to any kind of shipping product. We still have work to do before the N810 will be good enough for us to develop custom applications. Likewise, the N810 isn't a phone, so we didn't have to spend time debugging the call stack. And then there are the pieces that don't work -- power management, WiFi, etc. -- that could all take more time to make work than we spent on this initial port. So the hard work is ahead, not behind.

Second, the N810 is a shipped commercial product that has gone through Nokia's strenuous quality control processes and is well loved by lots of hackers. We have worked on other projects with flakey hardware and no vendor support (yeah, that was a huge mistake -- and it was made even worse by doing it fixed-bid). If you are porting Android to your own hardware, be sure to factor time and resources into dealing with hardware risks. We highly recommend that you make sure there are software people assigned to making the hardware drivers work.

Third, figure out which baseline kernel version you will use at the start. This way, you can verify or add tasks for making sure your hardware has the kernel drivers developed for that version of the Linux kernel. And since an outside vendor often provides binary drivers, make certain that you will have those drivers compiled against your Linux kernel when you need them.

Fourth, use the right tools and processes -- preferably the same ones that the Linux and Android developers use. We've worked with big companies who import open-source software into closed-source development models. While this makes it easier to get started, these teams later pay a price when they are not able to easily merge new versions of open-source software into their code base. Additionally, if your developers want to use Windows at all, we recommend you push them out of their cocoon and into the Linux world. A highly effective team would be one running Linux on their desktop, git for source control, and vim or emacs to edit 'C' code.

Finally, assemble the right team. While we're new to Android, we've been hacking embedded Linux systems for a long time. So check your teams' experience and plan accordingly.

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