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Symbian needs your help. Please

Especially on a Friday

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Symbian won't run unless a lot of volunteers get their hands dirty, with internal sources confirming it's most likely to be three months before the code can compile.

There are two issues here: getting the source code to compile, and getting v3 (once it's compiled) to boot into a GUI. The former needs an open source toolchain, based on GCC, but this throws up around 150 errors, and won't produce a working executable.

Before jetting off to Barcelona, Symbian's Mark Wilcox dropped us this note:

I'd be pretty disappointed if it took us three months to get GCC compatibility. If no-one but Symbian Foundation staff worked on it then it could take that long... We're trying to work with the community to fix these errors. We've already had one prominent hobbyist and some of the Qt team at Nokia volunteer to get involved (they have "creative Fridays" with 20% of their time to work on any relevant project of their choosing). This really is a case of many hands make light work. It's not the most interesting work though, so motivating volunteer effort is part of the challenge.

A source explained that the 30 packages which refuse to compile are packages 'owned' by Nokia, so it's very much a spare time effort for Finland's finest. "Three months is realistic," said a source close to Symbian. The Symbian Foundation claimed it had released the source "four months" early according to its release schedule, but if the code doesn't compile, then it's not ready for prime time.

As for the Symbian^3 graphics, which were shown in Barcelona in demos this week, Mark explained:

"Getting the new graphics adaptation working... is fairly ambitious for the end of February, although there are still plenty of unknowns at this point - it could be working next week! However, the graphics is purely our effort and its not easy for someone else to step in and help (we have some support from Nokia with their new code of course), whereas the compiler compatibility progress will be somewhat dependent on the level of volunteer effort."

So there you have it. Google and Microsoft have billions at their disposal, while poor old Symbian is calling for volunteers, and all hands on deck. You have to sympathise.

One developer and Symbian fan sounded pessimistic:

"Seeing Symbian effectively put to sleep like this is a shame: one of the few remaining alternatives to the Cult of Unix crashes off the speedway, leaving only Microsoft as the remaining competitor. I don't think this is healthy for the industry," he told us.

To complicate things, Nokia and Intel created a big splash, by combining their Linux efforts into one very ambitious project called MeeGo. This will be targeted at everything from phones to set top boxes. That's another temptation for a prospective volunteer.

Symbian denies the early release of the code - which doesn't compile - before Barcelona was timed to achieve executive's bonuses. Sources put this in the region of six figures per suit. ®

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