Maemo N’ Marble

After looking for a new phone for some years, I recently bought a Nokia N900. The combination of decent hardware (a fast CPU, built-in GPS, hardware keyboard and sane size)  and the open software stack convinced me to spend the money. Today I’m pretty satisfied with that decision. One of the great things about it is that it runs Linux and is extensible.

Marble’s properties — fast, visually appealing, easy to use, minimal hard- and software requirements, offline usable, free software and open standards — make it appealing for a Maemo port. Working on the base of earlier ports, we’re polishing things up for the N900 for some time now. Some parts of the user interface clearly need more work, but we do have a functional and reactive version running already.

In the spirit of “release early, release often” I’d go for a first release soon. We set up a Marble Garage Project for that. Give us some weeks for final polishing and we’ll have packages ready.

The internal GPS device and routing via are supported as well. Does that make it a navigation device? Kind of.

You can use Marble on the N900 to plan a route and track your current position. But there is no guidance yet and other features one expects from a real navigation device are lacking as well. Call that a chance: Until Friday, students can file an application for Google Summer of Code “Marble to Go (Navigation Mode)“. I’m happy to hear from you 🙂

20 Replies to “Maemo N’ Marble”

  1. Looks good for an initial step . Are there any plans to give some TLC to the UI of the non-mobile version? By TLC, I mean some usability improvements focusing on user interaction, especially the location and visual appearance of certain tools. For instance, the zoom slider and navigational arrows take up a lot of space and are separated from the map. They’d be more functional and better looking if they were overlayed somehow onto the map. Same with some of the other things in that sidebar.

    An interesting way to do it could be to borrow the sidebar-hiding overlay that Gwenview now uses. Instead of it having just an arrow, it could say, for example, “Legend.” Overlaying onto the map gives you more space to work with and more ways of distributing/presenting information to the user.

  2. Wow. This looks fantastic. And zooming/scrolling is smooth enough to be usable – great.

    My assumption would be that on a device like n900 openGL would be much faster, are the team considering openGL for the near future?

  3. maninalift: We are considering openGL. However we also need to take into account that Marble is a library and that we already have a unified render pipeline in Marble.
    The plan is to create a GeoGraphicsView (similar to the QGraphicsView) with several possible graphics systems supported:

    Now with the current pipeline we can use Qt’s OpenGL graphics backend in Marble already. But it doesn’t give an advantage on the N900 in terms of speed.
    Note also that on the N900 OviMaps (which is using OpenGL) isn’t any faster in 3D mode than Marble when showing the same amount of detail (in terms of vectors and textures) — rather the opposite.

  4. maniacmusician: Ease of use and good looks have always been important to the Marble Development Team. So I definetely agree that we still need to improve the UI and I agree with your suggestions. 🙂

  5. @Torsten Rahn

    I know that these things are important for the Marble team; I’ve been following its development, and it’s amazing what’s been done so far. You guys deserve a few serious rounds of beers for it.

    I was just specifically asking if there were any near-future plans to do some sort of usability/UI sprint or something.

    Didn’t mean to imply that usability wasn’t important to you guys 🙂

  6. @David: Basically for Symbian devices it should be just a matter of adding detection for the profile (which should be trivial) and adding a position provider plugin that either uses the existing Symbian framework or Qt Mobility.

    @maniacmusician: Ok, got that 🙂

  7. Hey – awesome work. I was actually looking into Marble for use with a university research project using the N900, as a replacement for QMapControl, which leaves something to be desired. We don’t need much more than some position markers on a (2D) map, with the capability of showing orientation – is Marble overkill for that on a phone?

  8. Sounds like a perfect fit to me. Then again I’m probably biased 😉

    Would you use development packages for armel if we provide them? I could extend the packaging to include them.

  9. @Dennis: Right now I’m debating the relative merits of sticking with what we have to save time v.s. rewriting a bunch of stuff for long-term benefit (e.g. Marble)); I would like to try out Marble, but I have no idea when I’ll get around to it. In any case, yes, if you could provide development packages, and, ideally, packages for the Marble Qt widget itself, that would be great. If/once you do, would you mind firing me an e-mail?

  10. @Dennis:
    We’ll be using the widget from QtMobility/Maps, so don’t worry about it. In any case, I follow PlanetKDE, so I heard about the initial ones anyway.

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