Android Closed-Source Dependencies Removed

Google Roll Out Android 2.2

Jessica Thornsby

‘Froyo’ introduces security-minded and UI updates, and removes dependencies on closed-source software.

Google have announced that Nexus One users will now begin to receive the latest version of the Android software – 2.2, codenamed ‘Froyo’ – as an over-the-air software update. This update will be rolled out gradually, with most users expected to receive the download notification by the end of the week.

This release comes with a list of new features, including a number of updates to the Home screen. The 2.2 Home screen will feature a ‘screen tips widget’ aimed at helping new users configure their shortcuts and widgets, and general appearance of their home screen. The Phone, applications Launcher and Browser also have dedicated shortcuts on the Home screen.

There are also a number of security-minded updates. Security conscious users can implement a numeric pin or an alpha-numeric password to unlock the device, and ‘exchange administrators’ can reset the device remotely, to ensure data remains private should the Android device be lost or stolen.

The gallery stack now features a so-called ‘zoom gesture,’ and a new UI for controlling camera functionality such as flash, focus and exposure. Multi-lingual users can now add multiple languages to the keyboard and switch between several Latin-based input languages.

This release sees Google open sourcing some of the previously closed-source hardware-related libraries, including the recovery UI code for Dream, Sapphire and Passion. More information on the ‘Platform Highlights‘ is available at the Android Developers blog.

In a blog post, Jean-Baptiste Queru, discusses the release as happening in a “single step,” meaning that the entire Android 2.2 is now available, with full change history. It is also already merged into the open source master tree. “We can immediately review and accept platform contributions based on Froyo. That will therefore reduce the risk of merge conflicts between contributions to the open-source tree and changes in Google’s internal master tree where those contributions are meant to end up,” he writes.

There have been some changes to the structure of the source code. According to Jean-Baptiste Queru, the source tree has been restructured with the hope of more clearly defining closed-source Android modules from open source ones, and Google have made an effort to remove dependencies on closed-source software. All of the configuration files necessary to build the source code of Android Open Source Project, are now included in the core platform.

Moving beyond the source code, Google have created two new official Google Groups related to Android: Android-building for discussing build issues, and Android-contrib for discussing possible future contributions.

“With Android 2.2 now being available to the open-source world, and with the review process working smoothly, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more high-quality contributions that will be used to build future versions of Android,” concludes Queru.

Android 2.3 – aka Gingerbread – is currently set for a Q4 2010 release.

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