With over 1,000,000 installs, Cyanogenmod has set the standard for custom ROMs. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Steve Kondik, the founder of CM, who answered some of your questions from twitter and gave some insight on what we might expect from the world of open source.
So, as everyone knows, you recently moved to Washington and are working in Research and Development with Samsung. How's the transition going?
Still working on selling the house, but all is good. Have a lot of friends that have ended up here, as well.
How did you get started with Android?
JesusFreke had a ROM for the Dream that was really popular. I started played around with the kernel a little bit and decided to put it on the internet. Before I knew it, the thread was over 150 pages long... guess I did something right.
We received a lot of requests from twitter on this one. How many devices do you own?
I’ve lost count. With what I own and with what I have at work, I don’t really even know what I own anymore.
Where did you go to college?
I didn’t. I learned to develop when I was pretty young, probably about 12. I lived in a small town, didn't really know anyone else doing it, so I got involved in BBS and started learning assembly and the general way to direct code. After high school, I worked my way up in IT, stayed there for about 10 years and then jumped around between a few start-ups.
Assembly... Holy frick... Editing smali gives me a headache.
(laughs) When i did it, the average computer was a lot simpler. Right now I’m starting to learn ARM assembly. It’s really elegant. Super efficient.
Aside from Android, what are your hobbies?
Snowboarding. A lot of snowboarding. Primarily Mt. Baker and Eagles Pass. Really want to head up to Whistler. Haven’t been there yet; hoping to head out there pretty soon.
When can we see you on Rootz, or has someone already kanged your username?
I’m on Rootz! I just really don’t post on forums anymore unless someone calls my attention to it. I used to be on all the time, but with work and family and CM, it’s just hard to find the time anymore. We do most of our work on IRC, nowadays.
Anyone in the development community that is just wowing you?
There’s really too many people to name... The nice thing about that is most of them are on the CM team. (laughs)
Anything you’d like to say to RootzWiki?
I’m honestly astounded by all the support your members are showing. The way you guys are giving out phones is awesome.
Our members astound us everyday, as well. The giveaways are just how we try to give back. -- "Yo Dawg, I heard you like to work on phones. Here’s a phone so you can work on your phone."
One thing a lot of people don't realize is how much money a developer spends on devices over the course of a year. It's really an expensive hobby. Are you guilty of giving the wife the hand-me-down device?
We have members at Rootz of all ages and backgrounds. Any advice?
Stick to it. Don’t give up. As a developer, your code is your resume. Open source your work. You don’t have to open up everything, but your github is your resume. You’ll get your name around. In open source, you use all these little libraries to do all of these trivial things. Ten years ago I wrote this little perl script to handle logging for websites. Now it’s in almost every control panel software out there. I had no idea that would happen. If you write something useful, people will use it, and it’ll get your name out there.
Any books you'd recommend for our developers?
The Pragmatic Programmer. The developer's bible, hands down. The best thing about it is that it teaches you the fundamentals of programming and how you should approach problems when they happen.
Are you purely an open source advocate?
I’m not really an open source Nazi. You can’t really create a business model from open source. You don’t have to put everything out there, like the UI and and what makes your project unique, but put out your framework, your algorithms, etc. You’ll get a return on your investment and be a part of the community.
So, we have to ask. What are your thoughts on MeeGo, ermm... Tizen?
I don’t really know, since I haven’t really been following it. They really need to build the infrastructure around it for anyone to give a shit about it. I remember when Nokia was handling MeeGo. It was really weird. Parts of it were open, parts were closed. It’ll be interesting to see how things go this time around. They really need to do something special.
If that happens and we see the development community rally around it, could we see a port of Cyanogenmod?
Yeah, it’s really cool. The platform itself is very much Linux. Android is Linux, but... yeah.
We've been seeing some alpha builds of CM9 for a few devices. Where are things at right now?
We’re working on adding a lot of new features ... the theme engine needs to be totally rebuilt. Overall things are going to be a lot cleaner. The CM settings will all be integrated into the stock control panel. Everything in it's place, where it should be. The hardeset thing about CM9 is that Google has changed so much internally with ICS. Issues with graphics drivers are an issue. We can’t even write a transition layer to use. We’re just waiting on Google at this point. I’ve ported CM9 to the galaxy tab 10.1, but with no hardware acceleration... well, it just sucks. A lot of things don't work. We're not going to release something at this stage of development.
What are your thoughts on the CM Market?
This is all koush’s idea. I just found out about it a few days ago. I think it’s a good idea, but scary. I’m not really sure I want to have every root app in the same place. For one, who’s going to police it? We couldn’t make it an open market. There could be a “Mr. Happy Face" App that could potentially brick everyone’s phone. There’s just too much potential for malware. That being said, a lot of the root apps out there aren't even needed for CM. The features are already there. For the stuff that isn’t, we’re thinking of ways to work around it.
Overall, we’re trying to get away from the need to have root. We're aiming to have an option in CM9 to enable root in the first place. It’s something we wanted to do with cm7, but didn’t want to change it on the fly. CM9 will be a different story. We’ll be able to start fresh.
Where do you see Android going?
I kind of expect Google to merge Android and Chrome OS. Probably see it on desktops. I mean, it’s a really nice environment to work in. It’s Linux-y, nice to work in, easy to write apps for. They’ll want it on everything. Refrigerators, cameras, you name it.